If there is one complaint that my area local businesses state, it is the lack of customers they see. Their complaints aggravate me to no end because these same businesses keep hours that only apply to folks with leisure time to spare, such as wealthy housewives or retirees with money to blow. For those full-time workers who cannot easily leave their jobs between the hours of 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM, these businesses are missing potential customers. I now see the reason why the “big bad box stores” of Target, Wal-mart, Best Buy, and Lowes are frequented. Their hours of availability offer everyday workers a chance to buy the same goods that could be purchased from a small local shop. Even if the shop offered one day of later hours, a difference would be made.
My first real-life scenario to share is the experience of Jennifer Redifer, the proprietor and owner of Beadsburg, located in Blacksburg, VA. Running a small business takes a lot of time, and her shop’s hours reflect the consideration she has for her customers. Open five days a week, the shop opens at 10:00 AM, and closes at 6:00 PM. However on Thursdays, she stays until 8:00 PM (sometimes later) to accommodate those folks who cannot make it into the store before the usual closing time. Jennifer and I discussed her schedule and she shared her view: “Being open in the retail market can be tricky. I realized long ago that working career folks like my former self were getting frustrated because they could not always get to my shop on Saturdays due to other activities. Staying later on Thursdays offers them a chance to purchase what they need when they otherwise could not.” Jennifer kept the potential customers in mind and gave them the opportunity to shop with later hours. The result of more happy customers means more business for Beadsburg.
One would think that a smaller business with lighter hours could make up for the early closing time by offering an online presence in some shape or form. Even if a customer could not walk in during the “10-5” business hours, a physically posted email address or a website (this term includes a blog, Facebook page, or similar sites) gives the customer a chance to ask questions about a product or service. By giving the customer a direct link back to them, businesses can connect for a more profitable market.
The investment of being online will definitely tap into money and (most of all) time. I often hear about these businesses not having enough of both. I reply with this response to those complaints:
- Use a free blog host such as Blogger, Typepad, or WordPress. Not only are they free, but they empower their clients with the ability to tailor each space accordingly.
There are multiple real-life examples regarding the use of free online blogsites. Though customers may not be able to purchase a product or service, they can still communicate with a business by either sending a message via the “Contact us” page, a Facebook fan page, Twitter, or email. Whatever the access, these businesses have made themselves available to their customers. By doing so, there is an intimate link between the parties.
In the end, a business that can turn a profit will succeed. Whenever I hear or read about the local smaller shops closing their doors, they blame the bunch of “big box stores” in the next town. Yet these same shops could easily be on the same level of the Goliaths by opening themselves to communicate with consumers. Blogsites, Facebook, Twitter, forums, and a basic email address all offer a chance for potential and current customers to reach these Davids. So here is my question to them: I’m available, but are you? =:8