From my point of view…

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After three months of our new system of ordering, we should be more familiar with the simplicity of our new website.  Yes, it has come with a few challenges, but along with a new way of doing things, it has made ordering so much easier, faster and more efficient.  Are you using it to its full potential?

We’ve heard many comments and suggestions, some of them plausible, some not so much. We welcome your input and are working to implement some of the suggestions you have given. As reps we have been given a new way of servicing our customers, a more efficient and up-to-date system. We all remember how slow and limited our old portals system was, how refreshing it is to have the ability to see in-stock items and to give our customers the quick return orders and products that they want. With these changes, have you made changes in the way you operate your business to keep up?

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In my own personal rep business, these changes have required me to change some of the ways that I run my business. One thing that has not changed is the need to contact each one of my customers.  I use texting, messaging and email to accomplish this. No response does not mean “NO”, it just means that they didn’t see my message. I don’t stop until I reach them. I have found that when I speak to them in person or on the phone, the orders are bigger. Maybe saying “NO” to me is harder than it is to the text. Give it a try. Set a goal and personally contact your customers this month. Say something like, “With the holiday season, I know that you are as busy as I am, but I didn’t want you to miss out on anything you need for your dinner, like the ham or sweet potato casserole or of course our beehive rolls. Did you need anything?”   See if your orders are a bit higher and if you get more of them. I also plan and watch the calendar so that I know of the holidays and vacations of my customers. I must be up to date so that I don’t miss out on the important personal contact. I have taken advantage of the mailing program that the company offers to mail out my catalogs each month to all my customers. Even though this has saved me hours of drive time, gas, and wear and tear on my car, this doesn’t replace that personal contact.   It does however, relieve the stress of seeing the catalogs sit on my table begging for me to find the time to deliver them. My customers love it and are so happy to receive them. I love it too!  It is well worth the investment in my business. We all know that our customers like to hold and see the catalogs. What are you waiting for? Get on the mailings!! Your time is worth it!

When it comes to getting my customers to order online themselves.  Patience is the key Each month the customers ordering has increased. As they get comfortable with the process, it will get easier.  I have offered contests and gifts as incentive to place the orders themselves. The first month I had 5 customers place their own order, 2nd month 10 customers, and this last month I had 14 that did it. The name of my game is customer service and I am happy to offer the best to my customer. In my eyes, the customer is always right (even when they aren’t). I want them to be happy and I am willing to do what is best and easiest for them. If this means that they aren’t comfortable with online ordering, then I will continue to offer my services as in the past. This has required me to have the means to pay for the orders for them with a credit card. I know that operating a business at times requires risk but this is something that I am willing to do. You must do what is best for you.  With time it is my hope that my customers will warm up to the idea of online ordering. My suggestion to you is to maintain the relationship, be flexible and work at making ordering a pleasurable thing. People don’t like hard things. Make working with you the easy and rewarding.

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Advertising is key to your business. What do you do to advertise? We are a quiet company; our advertising lies in our reps. If you don’t talk about it, then no one else is either. You must put yourself out there. Find boutiques or craft fairs to attend for the visibility. You may not sell much product there; in fact, I choose to not sell.  I find it takes some of the fear out of approaching customers; they are more likely to feel less pressure. I explain that I am there to spread the news of AP in that area. Would they like to learn more?  Do you have advertising on your biggest advertising ability- your car? Why not?  It’s easy and we have all the clip art that you need to accomplish this. A nice window banner is about $30 dollars. Once again, all tax deductible. I also like to advertise at auctions, car shows, etc. I offer a giveaway basket in exchange for an advertising plug about my business. You can also donate to your high school booster club in exchange for a banner at the high school and receive advertising on a Friday night football game. These are just a few ideas that I have embraced to help me in establishing my business in my area.

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Just like we like to hear “thank you”, so do our customers. I freely give my appreciation for their support. I wouldn’t be in business without them and I know this. I thank them regularly with words and gifts and returning the support to them in their endeavors. During Christmas I offer gifts for all, just a small token of my appreciation for them. I also reward the most dedicated customers with a nice gift. These gifts are tax deductible as a business expense. They go a long way in securing my connection with  the customer. I also like to offer samples regularly. Along with building sales and trying new things, they are a feel good for them customer.

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Alison’s Pantry is a simple business. Simple yes, but it will still take determination, thought and action to build a successful and lasting business. I hope that I have given you a few ideas to help you establish growth. For more ideas contact your RSM. She is always willing to listen and help you. Good Luck.

Stacee Izatt RSM

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