Getting Back to Basics – How to seize opportunity in a time of uncertainty

            It can be a powerful exercise to pause and reflect on ways we can improve our lives, especially during times where there’s uncertainty. Specifically, in music instrument retail, we have to do this consistently because our world is constantly shifting with technology, what’s popular on the charts, and what’s making a resurgence in the vintage market.  In order to stay ahead of the curve and appeal to our customers, we need to look to ways where we can look inward and focus on how the customer views us. 

            I wanted to share some tips that I’ve picked up through my years in music retail and also as a critical customer.  There are many tools out there for folks to use to boost their profile in the world, and sometimes good-ole fashioned elbow grease can do the trick as well. 

A Clean Store is a Friendly Store

            During this time of uncertainty in our world, one thing we can control is our environment.  Due to State-imposed lockdowns or personal decisions, many music stores are shut-down at the moment.  This is a perfect opportunity to turn a negative into a positive by giving your store a facelift, or at the very least, a nice deep cleaning.  Like the title of this tip, a clean store truly is a friendly store.  Customers appreciate cleanliness and look for it when shopping, I know I do.  Here’s a few chores I would o – clean the floors, disinfect the counters, and be sure to wash the doorknobs!

A great way to further seize this opportunity is by documenting your store cleaning initiative on Social Media, like Facebook, Reverb, Instagram, and even Youtube.  When customers see that, they will want to visit your location once we’re allowed back out into the wild. 

Embrace Social Media

            It’s extremely important to stay in touch with your customers where they are, social media platforms.  The great thing about those social media tools is that they are completely free and have the ability to reach people in a large geographic area via a paid, boosted post.  While you’re doing your Spring Cleaning/Sterilization initiative, document that on those social media platforms.  Customers will love that you’re taking steps to ensure their safety.  It also solidifies your connection in your community. 

            Beyond cleaning, I would make it a point to engage with customers and post at least once a day.  This can be a short video clip highlighting a new piece of gear you received into stock, it could be a picture of a sexy amp, or even a post saying thanks to a specific customer and throwing them a shout out on social media. 

Spread your wings and try something new

The music retail industry is constantly changing and is always introducing new items into the market.  We’re blessed to be operating in an industry where the product mix and offerings available are constantly shifting.  I would try new products and lines that you haven’t tried before, be it wireless microphones, ukuleles, or bass amps.  You can’t wait for customers to show up at the door asking for a specific piece of gear, you have to drive that interest.

Appeal to customers and spread your wings by getting into a new product category.  This could be trying out a new line of acoustic guitars, or a new line of pedals.  In fact, why not combine a couple tips and make a social media post highlighting some new guitar pedals you’re carrying that would make for great additions to your synthesizer customer’s rig.  Be creative and don’t be scared to try new ways to connect with your customers.

Basic Information

            This is a straightforward tip – make sure your website is up to date and has current information regarding store hours, phone number, contact email, directions, and most importantly, what you have in stock.  Even during this unfortunate shut down period, this is a great time to document what you offer in your store.  The days of simply having pictures of logos of the brands you carry are gone.  Customers want to see what a store specifically has in stock and being able to communicate that cleanly, and effectively, is extremely important.  Have a clean website, have up to date information, and be sure to tie your social media platforms to your website as well.

            I would go one step further and make sure the staff all have current biographies and photos.  Make light of each employee’s strengths and give a little information about them – the personal touch is what makes the difference here.  A cool idea would be to have your guitar-guy employee make a quick video a couple times a week highlighting a guitar that they’re really enjoying.  You can expand this for whatever the individual’s strengths may be – keyboards, bass guitar, drums, etc.

Pick/Strum

            A practical to improve your store would be to introduce a new feel and style.  This can be many different things – painting the walls, put new flooring in, take out that shelving that’s been there for 20 years, and even putting some new, current posters on the wall.  A great store owner I know recently improved his store by ripping out the old flooring and tearing down the dated wood-paneled walls, putting in new laminated wood floors, as well as installing hip wall coverings.  This made his store feel fresh and new, and much more inviting.  He already mentioned the huge uptick in foot-traffic as well the compliments.

            Another idea would be to change the layout of the store by moving shelving and countertops around.  Instead of relying on how things have been, try changing it up and introducing a new view for your customers.  At the very least, it will drive conversation and if done properly, will entice more customers to visit your location. 

            Those were 5 simple tools that you can use during this time of uncertainty.  I urge you to seek out opportunity during these stressful times.  You will feel better about your situation and your customers will thank you for “switching it up.”  Always look to embrace new communication methods and be sure to connect with customers as often as possible.  Like I said before, your customers will thank you for it.

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