The principle of Buy-ology

Published 11:49 pm Saturday, February 14, 2009

NATCHEZ — Business is a science, according to John Brandon, and he teaches business owners how to be the scientist.

Understanding and utilizing the science of business is essential in not only surviving an economic downturn but being able to thrive in an economic climate that has businesses shutting doors all over the United States, said Brandon, associate manager of existing business and industry at the Mississippi Development Authority.

Brandon presented his seminar “BUY-OLOGY of business: Thriving in hard economic times” to local business owners Wednesday in the first free business workshop sponsored by the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce and Natchez Downtown Development.

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His overwhelming message was that 2009 was not the year to sit back and wait. He said during times in which people are more frugal with their money, it is important to work harder to attract them.

“There are pockets of people out there that are still going to spend,” Brandon said. “What we have to do is locate them and ask ourselves ‘How do we get them here?’”

To attract customers who do have money to spend, Brandon suggests business owners take a look inside before acting. He said getting back to the reason an individual opened his business is the first step to making that business as profitable as possible.

“What are you deeply passionate about?” Brandon said to the business owners. “What would you still do if there wasn’t a check attached to it or a business attached to it?”

Brandon said that after reconnecting with their passion, business owners need to identify a way to make that passion purchasable.

“You have to find something that your customer base is willing to buy and spend money for,” he said.

Just as important as being passionate about the chosen business or product, Brandon said business owners and business professionals should focus their energy and attention on factors that they can in fact control. He said time spent focusing on things like the economy and the competition is wasted time.

“You can control four things and four things only,” he said. “And those four things all happen to start with the letter P — product, price, place and promotion.”

One other factor, Brandon said business owners and their employees can control is providing exemplary customer service.

“Our customers deserve that we be more caring,” he said.

Caring, according to Brandon, can be broken down in an acronym that would give workers a model for customer service.

– Consistent customer service to every customer every time.

– Attentive focus on a customer’s needs.

– Reliable business practices. Brandon said businesses need to keep promises.

– Individualized attention to each customer.

“You need to understand what is important to them and give it to them,” Brandon said.

– Noteworthy — Brandon said to provide something customers can brag about.

– Generosity will leave a good feeling with customers.

“Give something more when you can,” Brandon said.

But while customer service can go a long way in getting potential purchasers into a store, business owners need to be attentive to all parts of their business, Brandon said.

This includes the appearance on the inside and outside of the store. Brandon said he was doing a consultation with a business owner outside of Natchez when he discovered some less than attractive features of the business’s window display.

He said the clothing store was displaying a “beautiful women’s suit” on a mannequin without any shoes.

“The store owner said that they didn’t see it as a problem because they didn’t sell shoes,” Brandon said. “But any woman that is going to buy that $400 suit is going to wear shoes.”

And on top of that oversight, Brandon said the store front display seemed less than tidy with two dead insects on the ground next to the shoeless mannequin.

“A lot of times store owners come in the back door,” Brandon said. “And they don’t always take the time to walk outside and look at what customers see.”

And what’s on the outside certainly counts since, Brandon said, stores only have about three seconds to attract customers.

“The outside has to be simple and eye catching,” he said. “Because if they pass us by, they are gone.”

Once customers are in the store, Brandon said store employees must work hard to keep them there. And one way to do that, he said, is to step out from behind the counter and interact with the customers.

“Make it a mission to greet customers within 10 seconds,” Brandon said. “Stop and take care of the customer. Tell them the minute they walk in the door ‘I’m glad you are here.’”

Having a well-trained staff that makes the effort to greet a customer and to help with their purchases, will make a positive impact on whether or not a customer returns to a store.

Brandon said a study done for Nordstrom department store revealed that the main reason shoppers don’t return to a store is because they weren’t happy with the service they received.

“The study revealed that 68 percent of customers don’t come back because they think you don’t care,” Brandon said. “You have to make sure people know you care.”