Frustrated by your own declining sales?

Earlier this week we talked about the client who told me, by way of dismissing my instant read of his business, “But my customers love it.”

(To that dear client: If you are reading this—and we both know you are not—but if you are reading this, this post is not for you. Seriously.)

Well, what if your customers do love it, and what if they’re right?

You’ve read Tuesday’s post. You know that you’re focused. You’re polished and professional and the go-to guy, girl, or multinational firm   😉  for what you offer. Your customers do love it, and you don’t smell like fish.

Particularly pike. I have recently added to my infinitesimal knowledge of fish, the fact that pike are losers, and I couldn’t wait to share this strange lesson with you. So don’t smell like pike.

But I digress…

What’s going on if your customers love you, but your business is still on the decline? Below, my top ten sight-unseen instant reads for your business, in no particular order. See if you recognize your company:

1. Your hard-won customer base is aging. Your Ideal Customer, of course, does not. But you’re still talking to all those folks who are getting too old for what you offer, and neglecting to bring in the Ideal Customer, because those folks who don’t need what you have anymore are like friends and family to you. They love you, but hey, at 37 they don’t get on skateboards that much anymore.

2. Your neighborhood is on the decline. The folks who’ll brave the area—or who come in every day and don’t notice the gradual changes, like you—still love you. But every day fewer people are will to make your place a destination in the middle of all that yuck, no matter what kind of wonderland your store is.

3. You’ve stopped reaching out. This can be marketing activities like networking, real old-fashioned ads, or various online activities like, say, blogging. It happens to almost everyone at some point—they forget to stay hungry, and they stop prospecting for new business, coasting on their old customers instead. Are you becoming a contented cat?

4. You aren’t actively encouraging word-of-mouth. While coasting on old customers will lead to a decline, not having the sunshine-y faith in your company to ask customers if they know someone else you can help can be just as bad. People who love you best, should love to share your goodness with others.

5. You or your staff is undermining your mission. You’ve got great stuff. Man, the customers love it. But they feel like they’re intruding on you or on your employees by asking for help—or worse yet, they feel unwanted. This can be as subtle as making phone calls look more important than a live human being right in front of you, or as obvious as rude or undertrained staff. If your stuff is really awesome, some customers will retreat to your website. Some customers will find someone else’s website on their way…

6. Your heart’s not in it. I see this way, way too often. The customers do love what you have to offer, but it’s clear that you don’t love offering it anymore. They don’t stop coming in, they just stop coming in as often.

7. They love it but they can’t find it. The clients we were discussing earlier in the week had a mishmosh of products, haphazardly arranged in his store, so that no one could get a feel for what he was best at, but you could be well-known for your Pinpoint focus, selling flavored massage oils and manuals on how best to use them and still make walking around such a disaster that only the very determined will pick anything out. (Don’t ask me how I know that.) This happens on the web as often as it happens in bricks-and-mortars, so take a look at your website, as well.

8. Your hours no longer make sense. The world is moving on. Forty years ago you could have “housewife’s hours.” The gent of the house will find out about the new appliance choices from the brochures the wife brings home. This doesn’t apply to a lot of today’s businesses, but if you’ve been around a long time, you may be expecting your customers to work around your very old-fashioned idea of proper hours. There are a lot fewer of them now, but even stay-at-home mothers and fathers are (a) very busy by day and (b) interested in their partner’s input, so insisting people twist themselves around for your limited schedule is a way to guarantee that your business declines, year after year.

9. Related to #8: You’re refusing to meet people where they start their search, on the web. Think of it as the first door to doing business with you. It doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles, but you’ve got to be here, or many people won’t find their way in. ‘Nuff said.

10. You aren’t delivering delight. Sure, your customers love you, but folks, love can get stale without work. If you aren’t wooing anymore—going beyond their expectations to serve up Maximum Customer Experience—don’t be surprised if your customers stop swooning. When was the last time you did something so delightful that you heard a laugh from a customer, or a simple “I wasn’t expecting that” or a “No, really, you don’t have to”? Make it a point to create a little customer glee on a regular basis. You will be as energized by hearing it as they will by experiencing it—and that’s what customer love is all about.

Did I miss any?

Can you think of a company whose products or services you love, where you find yourself buying less and less often—is it because of one of these reasons, or is something else missing in their customer experience? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!


Grow and be well,

Kelly Erickson