Lessons From Retail

I spent the last week at a trade show for my day job. In some ways, I love trade shows–they are an opportunity to get out of the office and really talk to people about what’s going on in my industry. In other ways, they’re difficult–you have to be “on” all the time.

However, while there I intentionally didn’t work on anything not related to the show. I gave my brain the week off. And what resulted was a plethora of ideas for posts here and over at my freelance writing website.

Today’s inspiration came from a Retailer Idea Exchange Seminar I attended, hosted by Two Hat Marketing’s Steve Miller. One of the things Steve talked about was the fond farewell. Now, keep in mind that this particular seminar was for retail stores — mostly brick & mortar retail stores.

See, there are two times during your interaction with your customer that are particularly important: their first impression and their last impression.

All About Impressions

Customers begin to form impressions within 13 seconds. The impression they make initially can set you up for a long lasting, mutually beneficial relationship or it can become something you need to overcome. As Steve pointed out, we’ve all been into stores that we decided to leave almost as soon as we entered them. No one greets us at the door or the store is a disaster with clothing on the floor, etc. A customer who leaves immediately isn’t going to buy anything. The goal is to make a good impression so the customer will stay and look around.

A customer’s last impression is what decides if they will return. And it is significantly cheaper to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. A good last impression will remind the customer why they shop there and increase the likelihood for repeat business.

So What? I’m A Freelancer, I Don’t Have a Store

As a freelancer, most of my interactions with customers occur in two places, both of which are online. I may not have a brick and mortar store, but the same ideas can be applied. I want to make sure every interaction I have with a customer (or potential customer) begins on a positive note and ends on a positive note.

While I haven’t always done this in the past, after listening to Steve talk, I’ve begin to think about how I can change my current interactions with my customers to reflect these ideas.

For example:

I’m sending a client an email, pitching them on my services. We’ve already chatted once on the phone and I know most of the details of the project. The email is to tell them what my bid is for the project in mind.

So I should begin positive–”I really enjoyed talking to you about [subject] on Monday and I’m excited about working together. I think you have some really great ideas and together we will be able to create a great [type of project].”

The next paragraph tells the client the information they need for the next step in the process–it may allude to an attached pitch, if the projects complicated, or it may just outline the things we discussed so that I can make sure we are both still on the same page.

Then, the close should also be positive. “Thanks for taking the time to chat on Monday and for allowing me to put in a bid on this project. I’m looking forward to [next step]!”

Stepping Back–Think Big and Small

The same philosophy can be applied to the “bigger picture.” If a client finds me through my website, I should make sure that the copy there is helpful to them and positive; and after I’ve finished a client project, I should make a point to follow up with an email, thanking them for the opportunity to work together and making sure they were pleased with the final result.

It’s even made me decide to change what may seem to be a insignificant detail–my signature line. For a long time now, I’ve signed emails:


But the example I came up with above (“I’m looking forward to [next step]!”) is so much stronger and leaves off on a much more positive note.

How do you make a good impression on clients? Any horror stories from shops you’ll never go to again? Share in the comments!

[Image from here]


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