Colleen Hannegan

Finding the words....and the perfect pair of glasses.

retail business success

Old-Fashioned Customer Care

FeaturedColleen HanneganComment

A SMILE and a friendly HELLO is the most common reason (59 percent) why consumers feel loyal towards small and independent retailers. Yet only 54 percent of small and medium size enterprises (SME) businesses stated their business employed this practice.

In this new study of over 2,000 consumers from Kingston University Small Business Centre, 36 percent of consumers said they were loyal to small retailers due to “brilliant customer service” and highly valued businesses remembering their usual order. (Bacon and egg quesadilla, no bacon, easy cheese, yes on the green sauce. My breakfast at Del Taco.)

Yet! Only around HALF of the SME respondents are taking advantage of their position to foster loyalty with shoppers.

“While the majority of decision makers recognize the importance of personal relations with customers, they are failing to develope their own customer loyalty strategies,” said Kingston University Professor Robert Blackburn. “SMEs should consciously build on their natural competitive advantage of being a smaller business as this can make a real difference to business survival and growth.”

Other tidbits of findings:

* Only 50 percent of SME respondents encourage referrals by their regular customers

*Sixty percent of consumers are willing to pay MORE! for a similiar product from a small independent retailer compared to a cheaper product from big box corporate retailers.

*Less than a third of respondents are retaining or growing their current customer base as their business’ main priority to achieve growth. (email addresses and contact information!)

I believe SMALL BUSINESS success is all about knowing your customers who walk in your front door and greeting them warmly. We all have our favorite digs that serve and satisfy our innate desire to connect, create community and supply our basic needs and wants.

Understanding SEO and FB and LinkedIn and weekly blogging and receiving positive postings on yelp are icing on the top of what should be your main ingredient……
good OLD-FASHIONED personalized, smiling, warm hearted, arms wide open (so to speak), efficient, effective, over-the-top excellence in delivering top quality goods and services.

Your wide world web is only as good as the smile and warm, heart-filled greeting behind it.

This note includes a big SMILE!
And a thank you for your referrals of friends and fellow business owners.

Stay cool this summer and find time to be renewed and restored by spending time in nature!

I read Forbes but I don’t care

Featured, Spirited WorkColleen HanneganComment

The recent March 2013 issue of Forbes cover informs us that there are 1,426 people who control the world. They are billionaires. Their combined  net worth is 5.4 trillion dollars. Give or take a billion. Now what does this mean to you and me, small business owners happy to cover expenses and put some money in our savings account each month? Nothing, really.  I find it interesting reading to get a feel of the work pulse on where we spend our money and how the finances of the world shape our ideas, dreams and vision.

But the idea that less than 1,450 people control the daily lives and choices of 7+billion people had me thinking about my own life. And your life. Who is in control? What choices are ours alone that determine the quality of our lives and of our loved ones and not determined by 1,426 strangers from across the globe?

As an independent business owner, or entrepreneur if you prefer, our daily waking goal is to maintain our lives controlled by no one but ourselves. Yes, I understand how we have no choice about gas prices to fill our tanks, other than choosing the gas station closest to our home or to drive over to Costco to say $1.75 a tank. Someone, a BIG someone is controlling gas prices. But we can control where we buy gas and how well  we organize our trips in the car.

Home prices, mortgage rates, rents, leases, price of pork bellies; in the hands of someone else. BIG someone else’s.  Yes, THEY control that.

But in my life and  in you life, dear small business owners, your world’s daily choices in creating your own plans, productivity and profits lie within your own power. The richest people on earth are not all listed in Forbes issue this month. Even if Forbes says they are.

The richest people on earth are the people who follow their dreams, love easily and find purpose in all they put their hands to.

I live in a world of the brave, the talented and the creative breed of small business owners who face each day believing in the bigness of their heart and the unlimited riches of possibilities and purpose and watching it grow into beautiful realities they can deposit into the hearts and their bank accounts.

I don’t care about how many billionaires “control the world.” But I do care about the choices I make for myself today that control my world and make it the best place to live for me. And I care about your choices and that you are thinking smart and happy for your own net worth.

Be your own thrillionaire. Nothing stopping us there.

Or controlling us.

You’ve got 3 seconds! How are you making that first impression?

Featured, Spirited WorkColleen HanneganComment

Walking into most retail store these days, you are often greeted with “Hello.” It appears management is well aware of the need customers have for feeling welcomed and recognized when they enter. They could be sitting at home ordering those office supplies, two new blouses, running shoes and golf clubs on line, but instead have taken the time and  gas to drive through traffic, find a perfect parking spot, and walk themselves into the possibility of buying from you. Even if these potential buyers, are showrooming, comparing your prices to prices of your competition by phone, right in front of you; they are potential buyers if you know the 3 things they care about more than anything when it comes time to pulling out the plastic and cash. It begins before Hello.

As a small business owner, I understand the dark cloud of big competition that may hang over your head like a thunderhead waiting to drown your business progress. After running my own retail business for over 22 years, sometimes single handedly, I absolutely understand the worry. But this is what I know about customers and saw its’ results for myself, over and over again. And it’s how I beat the big competition, daily.

1. It begins before Hello.

Consider how your potential customer  first makes contact with you. Is it by phone? Are they checking over your website? Or have they decided to walk into your store and check you out in person? In the first three seconds of making contact, your customers subconscious mind has already signaled a positive or a negative message to their conscious mind. When they phoned the store, was their call answered within 3 rings, by a welcoming voice and message? Or were they promptly stuck on hold while three other callers vied for attention? Positive or negative, you’ve got 3 seconds.

Is your website up to date with current store hours and easy to find phone numbers and information. Would you feel welcomed by the appearance of your website introduction if you were a customer?  Step back and be objective or ask trusted friends and customers. Updating your site when necessary, is a sound investment and doesn’t have to be expensive.

BEFORE, they walk into your store, as they approach the entrance, does it invite them in? Is it swept of debris? Are your windows cleaned routinely? Are there fingerprints and smudges on the front door or is it wiped clean as needed? Is there a welcome sign? Is the entrance free of clutter and your hours of business are easy to read and replaced when worn? Is your front entry telling your potential customers they are expected and welcomed? Are they picking up “warm and fuzzies” before the door swings open or do they instantly feel  they may be just another inconvenience to you because they don’t feel welcomed. Because, dear hard working, small business owners, that is where you make your sales with your customers. In their heart, where they feel pleasure in purchasing your wares and services. Because you make them feel good within 3 seconds. You initiate trust. It’s safe to do business with the those who really care about how I feel.

2. Secondly; they want to be acknowledged.

“How can we help you?” becomes the invitation to explore how you are going to take care of them. “Can I help you?” Only leaves space for yes, or no. Invite them into the wonderful possibilities of doing business with you. Find out what they want and need. Show them you’re listening.

3. “May I know your name?”

“My name is  (you) and I can take care of you today” Ask permission to get to know them so you can start a conversation that’s worth both your time. A gentle hand on their shoulder or forearm melts resistance and offers a safe place to solve their problem. Dialog is a boring ping pong game of words bounced back and forth that have no feeling or desire. When you offer to have a “conversation” you open the space between the two of you to get to the heart of their need. “A conversation of equals……inside the intensity of creative originality,” so writes David Whyte in his book, “Crossing the Unknown Sea, Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity.”

Pay attention to their name. If you practice deep listening and repeat their name and use it throughout the sale, 8 out of 10 times you will have a new customer. There’s always the 2 that got away. But they make good practice and help sharpen your skill of listening.

Test out these principles next time it’s your turn to be a potential customer. Start paying attention to how your subconscious mind is making you feel and directing your choices. Where do you love to shop? Why? Where do you avoid having to walk in?

Understanding these 3 crucial needs of your customers can revolutionize those 3 seconds in your favor and chase that dark cloud of big competition away, forever.

You can do today, all year!

Featured, Spirited WorkColleen HanneganComment

What if we released your grip a bit on handling everything yourself and began delegating some of the work load to your employees? But what if you don’t have any employees and you work solo?

Try and remember two things I wish to share with you.

1. Never give up. 2. We can do today.

So often we easily overwhelm ourselves at 9 a.m. on Monday morning, thinking about what has to be done by Friday at 5pm. If we carry the thought we will never give up and that we can do today what needs to be done, we can cast off the heavy burden of 4 extra days of work and stay clear about todays’ job duties only. Being a business owner is a thrilling adventure of  a lifetime. As difficult and tiring as some days were when I ran my own retail business, I was always so fulfilled and proud to be own my own business.

During a time when I had to handle a difficult divorce, show up in court frequently, address mounting financial pressure the divorce brought, deal with the IRS audit that showed up at the same time and run my business 6 days a week with 1 part time helper, I was given a very important reminder from my sister. “You can do today, Colleen.” I was at the end of my sanity and mental strength when I phoned her to say I couldn’t take it anymore. There seemed no end in sight to my troubles, honestly! I felt my prayers were unanswered and my ship was sinking! But her advice that morning got me up out of bed with a re-awakened strength. I could do today. I’ve applied that simple principle often since that day seven years ago.

Making new and exciting plans for your beloved business is what a New Year is all about. How exciting! Focus on what needs your personal attention today. TODAY, that’s all there really is, you know!

Let me know how I can assist. I am here for you! Stay happy; stay OPEN!