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Back to Basics: A refresher to reignite your enthusiasm for engaging with your customers.

As a newbie to the KWIB team, I thought I could “kill two birds with one stone” and tell you a little more about myself, whilst also offering a few quick refreshers on successfully engaging with your target audience. As successful business women, I am sure you already know and employ these strategies on a daily basis, but I always find a little recap brings those skills back to the forefront of your mind and gives you a renewed sense of motivation (it’s no secret that, over time, as our enthusiasm and motivation is depleted by “challenging” customers, our love for alcohol and chocolate increases!).

Whilst musicians of The Jive Aces’ stature are well-paid for gigs, events are intermittent and so sales of merchandise top-up the band’s funds for other investments, such as studio hire. As part of my role with The Jive Aces, I am invited to tour with them, to promote the band and to assist with merchandise sales. Primarily, this involves being a confident sales representative, up-selling to increase turnover and generate more profit, but underneath that superficial facade, we all know that networking is at the core, particularly in the music industry. It’s true what they say, it’s not necessarily “what you know, but who you know”. Each interaction we encounter provides us with an opening to create repeat business, nurture new business relationships and seize potential opportunities.

Our audience, clients, end-users (whichever business term you prefer) are the ones investing in us and our businesses, so keeping them engaged is key. I don’t know about you, ladies, but I adore the term “engaged“: from its traditional use, meaning “engaged to be wed“, to the modern-day business term, meaning “keeping your audience actively invested“. For me, it summons connotations of “courting” your audience. By that, I mean getting to know them, understanding their interests, what they like and don’t like, and then applying that knowledge to ensure the product/service meets their needs.

Our customers are in relationships with our products/services. We are the spokeswomen for our products/services and we want to ensure that our audience remain in a committed, preferably monogamous, relationship.

With new products/services flooding the market every day, we all know how tough it can be to weather the storms of competitive business, however, the music industry is renowned for its fickle nature and, in order to stay at the top, it is important to develop, at the very least, the appearance of a personal relationship with each fan. It seems an impossible task, at times, but they are the ones buying the CDs and concert tickets, so taking the time to interact with them, taking requests to be read out on stage, or ensuring the band signs the CD, ensures they feel a sense of personal investment and as a result, they remain engaged.

(Don’t forget that even something as simple as remembering somebody’s name, can have a massive impact on their impression of us. If, like me, you struggle to remember names, try repeating their name several times during your conversation – at appropriate points, obviously! E.g. address them when you ask a question – “Alex, what are you looking for, today?”)

The Jive Aces use a model called ARC in their daily interactions, and it proves to be an effective tool for engaging with their audiences. Affinity, Reality and Communication are the three corners of the triangle, and contribute to developing Understanding. The basic principle being that, we can use communication (verbal, written, body language etc…) in order to share our reality with one another (things we have in common and “agree on”) and develop an affinity with one another. By ensuring we balance these factors, we are able to reach a mutual understanding of one another, and form the basis of a solid working relationship.

So, let’s get down to business… from my personal experience, here are my Top 5 Refreshers for engaging your audience:

1. Know your product/service inside-out and its value.

Sounds obvious, but eat, sleep, breathe, live the product/service. You are the expert, so customers value your wealth of knowledge, and will look to you for answers to reassure them that they are investing their money wisely. I know that The Jive Aces’ target demographic usually dress in a vintage style, so I always pay meticulous attention to trends of the era, and spend the time to dress appropriately. I find this consolidates customers’ trust in me as somebody who really “lives” what they are selling. Customers are always looking for signs that they can trust us as suppliers, so honesty is important. (Customer loyalty will disappear along with their trust if they can’t look to you to be honest.)

Equally, don’t negotiate your profits away just to get another name on the books – remember the value of what you’ve got. I often get asked to do a deal on multiple CD purchases when I’m manning the merchandise stall. The discounts are pre-calculated, but sometimes I have to take into consideration the original production cost, venues have varying rates of commission, and occasionally a product becomes redundant after damage in transit, so the take-home value of the CD is not accurately represented by the face value. Unfortunately, The Jive Aces don’t have the same level of publicity as Justin Bieber or Beyoncé, whose CDs (downloads) fly off the shelves (out of the apple store), just because it has their face on the front cover. So, product knowledge is key in cinching those sales.

If you’ve been pushing your product/service for a long time, it can be easy to forget why you were so enamoured with it in the first place. Why not clear some space in your diary to do an MOT and fall back in love with the product/service you have to offer. Your relationship with your business is like a marriage – after a while, it’s easy to fall into the “comfy slippers” zone and let things go a bit stale! Spice things up again – do some research, hold a focus group, and re-ignite the passion and enthusiasm for your product/service. Your customers will notice the difference!

 2. Anticipate potential obstacles.

When I first started working with The Jive Aces, my immediate suggestion was to invest in a card machine, as I knew that “I don’t have any cash on me” would be one of the major obstacles I would face. Whilst the boys had an order form that could be filled out, so they could take payment at a later date, or sometimes they instructed fans to go online to make their purchase, we discussed how, once the customer has returned home from their evening of musical entertainment, the opportunity to make a sale has passed. (P.S. I finally got the card machine, and it was a tremendous success on the first evening, thankfully!)

As predatory as it may sound, you need to strike whilst the iron is hot. The concert-goers burst from the auditorium, having had a fantastic night, and are on a natural high from the thumping bass lines and the energy from the stage. The last thing they are thinking about is whether or not they need more merchandise… they want the whole stand! However, once they go home and rest, the concert becomes a faded memory and their impulse to go online to make a purchase is virtually non-existent. Not because they didn’t enjoy the concert, just because they are “out of the zone”.

I love the saying “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail“. Whether you are a brand new business, or if you’ve been running for decades, it’s always great to evaluate the major obstacles that customers put in the way.

I don’t have cash on me I have a card machine, if you prefer?
I left my wallet at home I can reserve these for you. If you’re happy to write your details down, I can give you a call tomorrow, and take payment over the phone?

Just something as simple as having a pre-prepared solution, can increase your chances of making that sale.

 3. Smile and maintain eye contact.

As I mentioned in point one, customers are always looking for signs that you are a trustworthy and reputable supplier, and sometimes those signs can be given away by your body language. Maintaining positive, open body language means that you are more likely to receive a positive reaction from potential clients. Think about your own experiences: are you more likely to approach somebody who is smiling, and looks enthusiastic about what they are doing, or with somebody that resembles a grumpy teenager and can’t be “bovvered” (to quote Catherine Tate)?

I find that catching somebody’s eye and smiling encourages them to approach the merchandise stand at a gig, and that’s when I can launch phase 4 of engagement (see below). Of course, it might not always be appropriate to smile – occasionally concert-goers need a sympathetic ear, and grinning like a Cheshire cat might not be the appropriate reaction to their story. I am an extension of The Jive Aces, and so I am happy to act as a shoulder to cry on, not only because I’m a big softy, but because the customer then associates that positive interaction, with the band. (Meaning they are more likely to buy merchandise and concert tickets in the future.)

Similarly, whilst maintaining eye contact shows that you are interested and focussed on the customer, some may find it intimidating (e.g. if somebody is an introvert). So, take the lead from the customer, mirror them. If they are happy to maintain eye contact, brilliant. If not, glance away so as not to be overly-dominant. Once you begin to mirror your customer, it is very easy to turn the tables and get them to mirror you. (If this interests you, read this article). 

4. Ask questions.

Asking questions is a great way to casually open a conversation and allows to gage the potential for a sales or networking opportunity. At larger scale, A-lister concerts, the merchandise stall is usually run by venue staff, whereas I act as a direct contact to the band, which is unusual in the music industry. I believe this to be one of the primary reasons the band have such fantastic customer retention – they make acquaintances with their followers and make time to get to know them on a level beyond simply business.

Asking questions can be a fantastic way to:

  • Find out what your customer wants/needs and make recommendations.
  • Find out what your customer likes/dislikes about your product/service and this information can be used to feed further product development, or inspire a new idea.
  • Build a strong rapport with your customer.
  • Overcome obstacles that you might not have anticipated.
  • Network and discover new trends or “inside information” about up-and-coming competitors or add-ons that could enhance your product/service.

There are many other benefits of asking questions, and whilst the underlying tone of the conversation might be business-led, on the surface, it is advantageous to make it feel more like a conversation between acquaintances. Making interactions a more “personal” experience, in my industry certainly, has helped to create a lasting impression on our audience.

 5. Bring your product/service to life.

Amid the stress of trying to sell-out concerts and fighting to remain at the top of the charts for your music genre, it can be difficult to find the energy to inject a bit of life and personality into your interactions with customers.

In the music industry a memorable personality, or a wild outfit can really help you to stand out from the rest. (Just think of all the times celebs are rated and/or hated for what they’re wearing!) I always try to bring a bit of “me” to the party, whether that’s by teaching some of the less-experienced swing/jive dancers a simple Charleston Stroll, or by wearing my dance shoes with flashing LEDs in the soles (which have received many compliments, I hasten to add!). If you’re too embarrassed to try something a bit “out-there”, give it a go and if anyone says anything, blame it on the millennials in marketing!

All too often, we are taught that to be professional you must do X,Y and Z… and yes, there are frameworks we must adhere to, but outside of that, don’t be afraid to be yourself.

Use the ARC model, communicate to share your experiences with your clients, build an affinity with one another and develop a mutual understanding of what each other wants, needs and is trying to achieve. Don’t be afraid to let your customers see the real mastermind behind your successful business. You might be a business woman, but you’re also that wildly creative, extra-ordinarily determined and passionate creature behind the idea that all your customers see value in and want to invest in!

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