Are You Ready?

By Eric Goranson

With 2020 in our sights, we have all heard that technology will be taking over our industry. In some cases, that might be true, but there are some larger challenges ahead you should count on.

Is your retail business ready for the future? This is not just putting together a well-thought-out business plan but where you are with the future of your company. I recently helped shoot some video for one of my clients, a family-run hardware company, for its 140th anniversary. Having a successful fifth-generation business is quite the feat. I asked HOW they did this, and they said that each generation has a duty to mold the next one into the managers that they need to be for success. It sounds so easy, but why do so many families have a hard time pulling it off? I think we all know of at least one company that has failed at this transition because the kids just took advantage of the situation. How are you molding your family members or even your employees to continue with such a transition? Are your managers tasked with building a solid plan? Or are you the manager who should be making that plan? Every business should be actively working on the future with the people inside the building.

What if you had a natural disaster or a fire at your location? Is all your information backed up off site or in cloud storage? Do you have a disaster plan for your company? Every region has its own sets of risks. It could be a tornado or a snowstorm in the Midwest or a hurricane on the East Coast or an earthquake on the West Coast. You should have a solid plan in place for continuation of your company, servicing the needs of your customers, and serving your community. How many hours does it take to get back open? Do you have enough inventory to be able to help if something bad was to happen? Do you have power backup for key systems? What key people are tasked to head for the office when things go badly and when? These are all things that you should have in place today.

Now that we have figured out how to keep your business alive, let’s chat a bit about how to bring more people in. Today we have advertising mediums changing quicker than anyone realizes. When it comes to television, so many people outside of sporting events are cutting the cord, going to a streaming service, or watching their favorite shows on DVR when they have time. The days of changing your schedule around your favorite TV series are over. Therefore, doing a television ad that performs is more challenging with so many people not watching or fast through the commercials.

So how do you market your company? Today, the most cost-effective ways are via digital advertising, social media, and radio advertising. I can already hear some people asking, “Why radio?” Did you know that in the last year more music was purchased from vinyl records than on CDs? These legacy mediums are still going. Our cell phones and streaming music were supposed to be the death of radio. There is a reason why that has not yet happened. With the slow death of local newspapers, people still like to know what is going on during the day. In most states, it is illegal to grab that phone and change a station on your streaming service while you are in your car. Therefore, radio will continue to be a great value in advertising. All you must do is refine your message.

You can refine that message by coming up with an ad campaign that tells people WHY they should be doing business with you. To put it frankly: What do they get? How are you going to solve their problems? It might be that they are paying too much or the people they work with don’t have the knowledge they are looking for. Be that solution, and let everyone know you are open for business.

If you do business-to-business transactions, places like LinkedIn can connect you to decision-makers of potential clients. Do not underestimate the power of this social media platform. For example, let’s say you wanted to bring in more remodeling contractors into your lumberyard. You define the companies you would love to begin selling to and literally jump on there and connect to your decision-makers. In one afternoon, you could have the top 10 companies you wanted to do business with right in front of you. Then create some helpful content that will help drive THEIR business. This is not a sales pitch for your company directly. Do something that creates value for them without an appearance of you directly being the beneficiary.

With digital marketing, you can pull some amazing magic tricks. You can place an ad and then target every single person who was within 100 feet of the big box retailer or who searched “lumberyard” in Google. Even better, you can retarget builders who have been on specific websites. Then as they continue their online searches, your ad just keeps coming up everywhere. If those sentences don’t make sense to you, it’s a good idea to hire a consultant, or at least have someone on-hand who has a good understanding of digital marketing. For example: You can have someone run a digital report card on your website, which will give you an instant grade on the quality of information you are showing to potential customers.  

Looking into the future with your company can be easy at times, but the hardest part is making that first step and doing something about it.