Published in the spring 2014 edition of Vintage KC Magazine
Written by Michael and James Fry
No matter whether you are a vintage shop owner, antique booth dealer, or online seller, your business only works when you reach your customers and they buy your wares. You can have the coolest shop in the world or the best selection of the rarest finds, but if you don’t connect with the customers and give them a reason to buy from you, then all you have is an expensive collecting hobby.
So then the question becomes, how do you connect? How do you engage your customers? How do you market yourself and your shop (online or on-street) so that you stand apart and draw buyers? The answer, in a word, Marketing. By marketing we don’t just mean billboards, ads, and social media (although it does include that); we mean every single thing that represents you and your shop to the public. On his blog, Seth Godin defines marketing as, “the name we use to describe the promise a company makes, the story it tells, the authentic way it delivers on that promise.” What are you promising? How are you delivering? If you are not delivering what you are promising then what needs to change?
The number one way to market your shop is to be…awesome. Excellence is in short supply these days. When you consistently deliver an experience beyond customer’s expectations they take notice. They come back. They buy. Being better doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does mean being purposeful. Our friends, Dave & Gail, who each have a booth at the River Market Antique Mall, understand excellence and their booth stands out. They have a standard for what goes in their booth, they maintain a unifying look and feel, and they constantly update and refresh their booth. For the online seller, excellence means quality photos and detailed description. Pay attention to lighting and photo backgrounds. One of the Brown Button regulars was telling us that he likes to find items on Ebay that have poor descriptions and even worse photos. He buys them at a bargain, and then relists them on Ebay with professional photos. He can usually sell the same item for two to three times what he bought it for, all because he operates with excellence.
Most people understand that marketing your business in the 21st century means having an online presence. However, just having a basic website and posting links once a week on your shop Facebook page won’t get you much traction with your customer base. To engage customers online you must be engaging. You must post great content that is worthy of being shared. One of the brands that we admire online is IndustrialArtifacts.net. In addition to their website, they sell on Ebay & Etsy and post to Facebook, YouTube & Twitter. There are several things worth noting about Industrial Artifacts’ online presence. First, they and their products are remarkable (see excellence, above). Secondly, they have a consistent brand feel across all of the websites that they use to engage customers. You will see the company logo and colors everywhere. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, their content is interesting and worth sharing. They have social media momentum and will continue to attract customers because they have an online presence worth following.
An often overlooked, but significant, part of marketing is customer care. In these days of Angie’s List and Yelp, an unhappy customer can do a lot of damage to your reputation. We don’t believe that the customer is always right and we know that you can’t make everyone happy all the time, but a policy of caring for your customer, interacting with integrity, and solving problems will take you far. For the vintage shop owner, customer care includes proactivelyassisting customers and answering questions, having an inviting atmosphere, and plain old fashioned friendliness. Online sellers need honest descriptions, timely shipping, and detailed refund/exchange policies. Putting customer needs above profitability will ultimately put profit where you need it to be.
There are so many incredible vintage sellers in Kansas City. From the West Bottoms to the suburban antique malls you can see pieces of this engagement marketing in play. For your shop/booth/online store, take time to ask yourself what are you promising? How are you delivering? What do you need to change?