Crazy Idea: Does your business look open?

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I once heard of a retail guru who asked an audience of business owners to walk outside of their stores or offices, turn around and look.  She then asked them to answer the question, “Are you open, does your business look open?”

I took this to mean a number of different things:

First, does it look like you actually are open. Are the lights on? Is there activity to be seen? Does your store look inviting? Is there anything that would compel someone passing by to want to stop and visit? Does your business look fresh and up-to-date, maybe even properly nostalgic?  Or does it look obsolete like, “there is no way you are going to be able to help me”.

Does your signage make it clear what you do, what you have to offer? Does it look like you only serve a particular niche audience? Is that a good thing? Are you excluding a wider customer base by the look of your business and your signage? Perhaps it’s possible to tweak your public image in a way that other people would say, “oh, this business is for me too; that’s great!”

Again, by open I don’t just mean your physical presence on the street either. The same interest and clarity and simplicity has to carry over to all of your other touch points: business cards, your web site, all of your social media pages, any advertising you do, your marketing outreach, how your employees and staff talk about your business, and of course how you yourself represent your business when you’re networking. Consistency, which really is about your brand, is paramount.

Potential customers need to understand what it is you do and what you offer in 3 seconds or less; if they don’t they are gone. That is just as true on the Internet as it is driving down the street; everybody surfs now and knows that there are a lot more options than there used to be. So if you can’t find a compelling way to get them quickly interested in what you do, they won’t even walk through the door.

Identifying, finding, and communicating with your niche audience is extremely important and social media is one way of doing that. The general process is you first find a platform that you want to participate in such as Twitter.

You join and create your own Twitter page, then you find people to listen to by using the search function, you follow their conversations, then you slowly and politely join the conversation by adding your own pearls of wisdom, which will make people more interested in you, which will get them to follow you and thus build your audience, eventually driving them to your content rich website, where you have established yourself as an expert and the go-to person in your field, which will help to lead to an expansion of your business.

Until the proliferation of the Internet, advertising and marketing was pretty much one way…not anymore. If someone has an opinion and decides to post it, thousands of potential customers will hear about it by the end of the day, maybe sooner.  Customer service has taken on a whole new meaning.

You can’t control it, but you can actively participate in it by quickly addressing issues both on and off the web.

So whether you have a brick and mortar presence, or exist purely as a virtual business, always remember to go ‘outside’ every day, turn around and look, then ask yourself the question, “Am I open?”

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