While in New York City recently, I attended a Billy Joel concert at Madison Square Garden. It was my first time at the MSG, but not the first time seeing Billy Joel. The whole experience was thrilling and will be a memory for a lifetime, but it also got me thinking about the "staying power” of certain artists, and certain businesses. I listened to his music all throughout high school, college and even shared it with my son as he grew up. Now, 40 years later, I am sitting in a packed arena of people of all ages singing along with the music, even though Billy Joel has not had a top 10 song on the charts since the 90's! He has still sold out Madison Square Garden straight for the last 14 months. His music has obviously appealed to generations, and at least on this evening, his voice was still pretty good. The product was still good after all these years, and the customers still line up to pay a premium for it. What is it that keeps clients coming back day after day, month after month, decade after decade... what is the secret to staying relevant when everything changes around you? To be successful as a business, you must weather some considerable economic storms, market changes, and intense competition. How do you do it? Let's break it down with 4 steps:
1) Listening to Your Client
In every industry, clients will tell you what they like and what they want to buy. The key to success is listening to them! Every long term success is built on learning what your clients want and then giving them what they want, when they want it, and at a price that they are willing to pay. I go out of my way to shop at places who listen to my questions and concerns and even my complaints. Most clients will shop with you again if you listen to a complaint and address it right there on the spot. American Express, Delta, and Disney have a legendary reputation of listening to their clients, and that is key to success for every small business. We shop where we can find the special products, services, foods, or brands that we like!
Have you ever had one of those experiences where it was so good you could not believe it? Today, there are so many examples of poor service, faulty products, and just plain inefficiency that when you encounter a wonderful retail experience, you remember it and return for more! I have come to anticipate my shopping trips to Trader Joe’s because I find really unique products, at a fair price, with very knowledgeable employees. They actually seem to want me to ask them questions! My local family-owned camera store has salespeople that take the time to listen to what I want and then offer me options and explain the choices. I don’t mind spending money when I am valued as a customer. As for Billy Joel, he sang for just over 2 hours and was joined on stage by the great violinist, Itzhak Perlman as a special surprise that night. Now, that is over delivering!
3) Make a Relationship not a Sale
Many sales training class teach attendees how to “sell” and they focus on getting a client to say “Yes!" in the least amount of time as possible. However, a sale may happen one time, but if you take the time to build a relationship with a client, they will buy from you for a lifetime! There's a local hardware store near me (Miller's Hardware) that always amazes me as most clients will be addressed by their name when they enter the store. Not just a general greeting, they know their names, and even as you may browse the store, they are going to learn your name too! It seems as if you are part of the family and part of a family business… and you are. When customers are treated like family, not a client, it creates a different environment... and it is one that I definitely don’t experience at the big box hardware stores.
Billy Joel similarly a different relationship with his audience. You see, I have attended many concerts but not many artists are able to play for 2+ and have 18,000 people from 4 different decades sing along, By having a variety of songs for fans over 40 years, there is shared experience that develops with a single thread of unity… a love of the music. Each song ignited a different memory for those in the audience. Billy Joel allowed us all to re-visit those good times while we were creating new memories all over again. Is there a way for you to create a special relationship with your clients and creates a good feeling or a special memory? Who knows, it might be the music you play, a personalized service, or even a great smell in your shop, but when you focus on making a relationship rather than a single sale, you will begin to see clients returning to you store or business and maybe then you can call them all by name!
The hardest part of serving returning clients for years to come is being consistent in what you deliver. Many times as our businesses grow, we become busy with the daily activities and forget to do those special things that allowed you to grow in the first place. Being consistent is the key to creating a business that lasts. I have experienced many restaurants where I had a fabulous experience on my first several visits and then returned later to find the initial excitement seems to have declined along with the service! Maybe it was the waiter, the chef, the selection, or the table location, but when something changes between visits that is less than what you expect, you seldom return. However, when you can repeat a great experience over and over again, you are on your way to happy clients, growing sales and a business that will last!
Follow these 4 steps, and build a business that truly lasts...! As for me, I think I will put a little Billy Joel on as I head to Miller’s... I have some work to do around the house :)
Until Next Time...