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Is Your Business a Lie?

NEW ORLEANS – MARCH 29: Members of the Story Ville Stompers perform as they ‘second line’ through Wal-Mart as it re-opens on March 29, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Hurricane Katrina hit the area seven months ago, closing this store as well as many others. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

My wife and I like to explore new businesses when they come to town. We had seen Grand Opening ads on TV, and in our newspaper, for a particular store that appeared to have some items we were interested in, so we thought we’d check them out. Imagine our surprise when we got to the store and discovered that the physical plant looked nothing like what we saw in the ads.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Creative camera angles were used to make shelves look fuller and longer than they actually were. The huge selection that appeared on TV was dwarfed when confronted with things in actual size. Sort of like seeing your favorite movie star you thought was over six feet tall only to find they are much shorter.

I began to wonder how much money this storeowner had spent trying to make the best possible first impression when he or she must have known that the business image had been greatly embellished. Or, were they only seeing what they wanted to see?

You Are Selling Your Image

No matter what the reasoning, the point is still the same. When you present your image to a customer in the form of advertising it must be an accurate image. Advertising and marketing messages are tools. They are, in a sense, employees of your company.

Their job is to bring customers into your place of business to make a purchase and tell their friends about their positive shopping experience. Their other job is to build confidence in potential customers before they arrive at your doorstep.

Communicate With Your Employees

We brought one of the stores ads with us and asked one of the clerks about the sale that had caught my wife’s eye. The employee looked at her like a deer caught in headlights. He looked at the ad, then back at her, and told her he had not seen the ad and would have to check and see where the item was and if it was actually in stock.

As it turned out they were out of the item because they had underestimated the power of the ad and had sold out soon after the store opened. There was no alternative product they could offer, and the out of stock item was a special close out buy and was no longer available.

Step Up Your Customer Service

These kinds of customer service mistakes simply cannot happen in the current economic climate we’re experiencing. Every customer is critical. Opening the store with incompetent people behind the counter might have worked OK during good times but today’s customer knows how important it is that you take care of them.

You must have advertised products in stock with a back up alternative of equal or greater quality if you run out. Customers are watching every penny and confidence in the place of business plays a large part in their buying decision. If your place of business is not “As Advertised” your customers will happily go somewhere that is.

I realize that when a new company opens its doors for the first time there are a lot of unknowns. But there is no excuse for poor planning and lack of customer service training. If you don’t have these things in place then you should not open. Or at least have a “soft unadvertised opening” to work out any kinks or problems before you spend big bucks for a grand opening.

Some Final Thoughts

The critical time frame for any company is the time between the opening day of business until the “break-even” level is reached and the store is self-sustaining. The shorter that time frame is, the more successful the business will be. Each day you perform below customer expectations, the time to reach that break-even day lengthens, and your chances of business success are greatly diminished.

Business, like athletics, is executing fundamentals. Customer service, merchandising, marketing and advertising all have to work together. Learn these fundamentals.

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