Hitting All the Notes

What a season and a world we live in!

I started this post content Pre-Covid and this season has broken many of the rules we've operated by in past seasons. 

As a rep, the opportunity to hear and see so many shops in action around the country has shed some light on the best practices employed by the shops that are finding success in these changing times of retail and specialty service. I'm no genius. My shops are! And these ideas below come from years of just observing what works. 

Instead of referring to these findings as the "key ingredients" I'm going to go with a system closer to my heart. The 7 interval musical scale used in music as denoted by the lettered notes A to G.

Always on the Water with clients
Be in Stock
Follow Up
Give Back

"A"  Always be on the Water

Morning Fitness Paddles. Weekday Social Paddles. Sunrise Paddles. Sunset Paddles. Full Moon Paddles. Stroke Clinics. Guest paddler paddles. Scavenger paddle hunts. Race series paddles. Demo days. Fishing tournaments. Overnight paddles. Weekend get-aways. 2 for 1 Rental Nights. Singles paddle (water is romantic). And so many more...

The shops and staff that create non-stop reasons for their customers to keep their watercraft on the water are winning right now. Big time. It is exponential in that the folks that they take paddling are thrilled and more invested in the sport and that leads to more community and more follow up sales. The act of passionate customers of your store posting and sharing their fun experience spreads a little "wish I was there" sprinkles across their social circles. It goes without saying that the store itself needs to share these stories too.

Actionable Items: Determine who in your store can be in charge of tracking how often on-water events take place. Have them be in charge of pushing for more and pulling in staff and resources to take up aspects of this. They also have to make sure that these are being marketing before and after. A fitness guru in the shop can take on the workout paddles. A photographer can take on the Sunset/Sunrise paddles. Etc.

Real World Example: My favorite story that I have heard lately is about a shop owner who has a very small retail space and bare bones staffing. But this shop has some beautiful water right out there door and this owner of the shop paddles every sunrise and every sunset and simply invites their customers! You have to respect this disciplined commitment. I bet it totally sets this owner into the right mood to be behind the counter too.

"B" Be in Stock
Easy for a sales rep to say right?! The challenge with being out of stock of an essential item is that when your customer makes the effort to drive down to their independent retailer to purchase something they could easily have purchased at home, striking out is a “see I told you so” moment. “ I should have stayed on the couch.” Every time a customer takes time out of their day to then come away empty handed creates a new habit of buying online. Countless phone interactions with customers on the back end of this has taught me the costs of missing even tiny accessory sales of products that should be on hand at all times.  Bilge pumps, boater sponges, skirts, carts, drybags, seat pads, gloves, socks, etc.

In the Covid economy, the buyer's job has to be even more forward looking! We need to be thinking 6-8 weeks out at minimum and for many stores this may mean bringing in deeper re-stocks than usual on essential items. The good news is, I'm seeing customers "share" when a store is well stocked on their social feeds. Your customers are advertising your investment of being in stock! That's awesome huh?

In the past, it has often been the policy of an independent retailer to charge freight on special orders. If this is an item that should be admittedly on the floor then I think you need to take a different stance:
Thank the customer for coming to the store, apologize for not having a common item which you usually stock on hand, offer a discount and possibly a drop ship to their home. This may seem like a sale that could end up in the red quite quickly but it won't take many times for your customer's buying habits to change if you don't try to Stay In Stock and go the extra mile when you are not in stock.

Actionable Items: Make an exhaustive list of must-have items and have your staff do the same. Edit this list and leave it in a place near the check out counter where staff can add to it. Eventually expand your list further.
Delegate category managers to various areas of the store. This individual is the one that will have to gulp when something is out of stock in their department without your knowledge. PFD stock manager, Gloves/Socks/Apparel stock manager, Auto Rack stock manager, Paddle stock manager. This staff member can also be responsible for training staff on their department.

Real World Example:
I love when I hear from a sales staff that they "need a few things" and could you follow up with our buyer? 

“C” Community

The spring of 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic has taught me how important it is for your store to create a community of paddlers. We all want to be part of something. If you can create a community of paddlers and aspiring paddlers associated with your store, you will find many benefits:
*Members of the community become your best ambassadors. The welcome new paddlers. They share new places to paddle. They add a social component to getting on the water together. They help endorse the products you sell with real testimonials.
*A tight community for your shop allows for them to be part of weekend sales and swaps. They can bring in deals that you wouldn't normally have on hand and this helps new paddlers enter your doors that might be very bargain oriented. 

Actionable Items: Have a staff meeting and ask the question "what are the things you like about the communities you are part of in your personal life". Start building first an "emotion/feeling" brainstorm list. Then, start applying this flavor to events in your store and out on the water. During Covid times, dedicate a part of your marketing to hitting the "feeling" and "community"aspect of your store. Not product featured posts but instead posts that inspire your store's cohesive and supportive social structure.

Real World Example: 
One store began several years ago an event that offered basic demoes/on-water time from 3-6pm followed by live music on their back porch from 7-10pm. Covid safety now restricts this kind of event to some extent but not all the way. During Covid times, I recommend brining this to social media with photo contests, coloring contests, video submission events and more. Could your store actually have a separate social media page that was dedicated to the community you have created? That is when you know you are doing it right. Check out "Headwaters Yak Life" on FB to see what I mean.

"D" Diversify
As Jim Cramer from CNBC's Mad Money says, "Diversification is the only free lunch".

You have to have various income streams. The current Covid crisis has proved this once again. Dealers who relied on rental income in the early spring and summer were less insulated than dealers who had multiple revenue sources rental/retail/instruction/used-gear/etc. 

Actionable Items:
Take a good peak at your revenue sources:
Retail New
Retail Used
Retail Store Front
Retail Online

Real World Example:
This was the year where this lesson was taught to each and every one of us! 

"E" Educate

A paddlesports sale is a high dollar technical sale and customers need to have confidence that they are being guided to the right gear for their purposes. Your staff is the guide. They can't be looking at the "map" while doing this process. Think if you were being river guided and the guide had to consult his guide book for each upcoming section!

Fumbling on product details and features can look unprofessional and completely runs counter to everything your store spends marketing efforts upon. You are the experts.

Actionable Items:
Have each category manager (from "A") email their corresponding reps/brands and ask for 10-15 mins of concise training videos and materials. This category manager is in charge of making sure all shop employees eat this stuff up and report back. Put together a ring binder with all consumer catalogs and training docs by category. Schedule clinics and invite your vendors to help you educate your staff!

Real World Example:
One retailer I work with does a campout every year for 3 days where all vendors are invited to teach and share with staff. This can be done safely in Covid times too. 

"F" Follow Up
So often missed! Your customer just spent $1000s with your store. Give it a couple weeks and give them a call, email or voicemail to check in! Thank them for the business once again. Invite them to future events and extend any additional accessory promotions or instructional opportunities. And make sure you add them to your contact lists for future events and promotions

Actionable Items:
Figure out a way that you can manage your customers into a Follow up List. This might have to be easier than using your POS software. Perhaps just a clipboard that staff can scribble customer info on so that they can follow up. Each staff must be told they are responsible for following up with each customer they sell over $X.XX amount.

Real World Example:
One of my stores came up with a small list of follow up sales items- safety, security, storage, on-water luxury items and give a coupon for a return purchase within a certain amount of days of the original sale. They call the customer after the sale and then conclude that "check in" call with a coupon code.

"G" Give Back
Donating your time, services and products to your community and underserved demographics might on the surface seem like an act of generosity but it is also one of the fastest ways to refill your own "passion tanks". Win Win! 
Most stores I work with already do all of this but perhaps encouraging your staff to come with ways they want to give back could even add to the output and cohesiveness of your charitable efforts.

Actionable Items:
Go camping and in those soft moments under the stars think long and hard about how you wish you could give back. Take notes of your soft-hearted brainstorm and then make sure to try to fit it into your shop's to-do list when you get back. Before it gets crazy with other to-dos. 

Real World Example:
River Clean-Up Bag given to customers that have made a kayak/canoe/sup purchase.
Children's camp scholarships to underserved segments within your community
School raffles. Waterway conservation. 


Popular Posts