Strategy Sessions: There’s Something About a Smile

Strategy Sessions: There’s Something About a Smile


With holiday retail sales firmly behind us, and spring just around the corner, it’s that time of year when we all start to take stock of what’s ahead.  

Most of us have weathered the toughest economic downturn since the Great Depression. And if you think people haven’t been changed because of it, then take a good look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re the same person. I know I’m not.

The consumers walking into your store this spring will be a bit more cautious with their money. They may have been a part of the one-out-of-every-ten people who lost their jobs and couldn’t find another, no matter how hard they tried. They could very well have thought “it could never happen to me”—and then were saddled with debt and uncertainty. 

Maybe they used to be free spenders, always figuring the equity in their homes would be a buffer for their retirement years. They may now be breathing a little easier, but they still wear the scars that Lehman Brothers, Bernie Madoff and the crash of 2009 left on them.

People walking into stores today, and even those just rubbing shoulders on the street, are looking for a lot less conflict—and a lot more comfort. It’s not lost on me that Simon Cowell is gone as a judge from American Idol; I’m not sure his nastiness would be playing very well right now, especially after the tragic shooting in Tucson. And just like we saw Republicans and Democrats sitting side by side during the president’s State of the Union message last month, I believe that civility may reign for a while.

So how does this translate to our world? I think it does in a number of different ways.

First, people will be more appreciative of customer service that goes beyond the expected. They’re looking for you to help them through their buying decisions. They’re going to be a lot more careful with how they part with their money, and they’re going to be looking to do business with people who show a real desire to do business with them.

Customer service has never been more important, and the more ways in which you can prove that you are there for them, the more successful you’ll be. Simple things like follow-up phone calls after the sale, or free classes to help your customers learn to use their new products are easy ways in which you can show your appreciation. Maybe organizing a photo trek in your own neighborhood, followed by a wine and cheese reception in your store, might be in order. Make it fun, and make people appreciate what you as a store owner or salesperson has to give. 

Also, start to talk to people about preserving their memories. Nothing brings more smiles to faces than old images of days gone by. Show them how to enhance their photos and how to make them seem new again. Help them build a photo book that will extend the smiles to other members of their family. Canvas prints and family collages make wonderful gifts, and maybe offer something just one step better than what your customers may have seen before. 

Help them turn their old VHS tapes into DVDs they can share with their families (how many of us still have VHS players in our homes that we use regularly). Tell them to bring in their old 35mm slides, and convert them as well. They won’t think to do this, because in most cases, they don’t even realize that they can. But when the images of days gone by pop up on a large-screen television at family gatherings, it’s magic. 

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. We’re lucky that we don’t sell widgets, auto parts or office supplies. We sell memories—both those that have already happened and those that are about to. And most memories are accompanied with a smile.

Maybe my outlook is a little simplistic for some, but I’m a firm believer that blue skies always feel brighter after a rainy day.

Happy spring!