May 19, 2016
I attended an event a few weeks ago where a number of handcrafted vendors were selling their wares. Overall it was a fun evening but one business in particular got me thinking. To set the stage for you, this small food producer had 5 different flavors of her product that she was sampling and selling. Now I know that it can be very hard, as an entrepreneur, to find someone to help you at these events or even be able to afford/beg someone to help you, and this case was no different. This producer was working by herself which meant that she was trying to juggle numerous tasting demands from customers and then also interact with each customer, tell them about her company, and fulfill orders. That’s a lot for one person to manage.
To top it off though, she was also trying to fulfill orders but rather than having her boxes of 4, 8, and 12 items already made up, she was allowing customers to pick and choose. That customization and personalization feature is nice but it was also incredibly time-consuming. No joke, it took 17 minutes from the time I placed my order to the time I had it in my hand and was able to walk away. That’s a long time for a customer to be standing there.
I wasn’t the only one. While I was there – between sampling and tasting – I saw one customer walk away in frustration, and another had to bug the entrepreneur 4 times before she was able to get the business owner to run her credit card correctly because the entrepreneur was juggling so many different things all at once.
Just like all of you, I understand how hard it is to work events like this – especially by yourself, but in a marketplace where there literally are hundreds or thousands of artisan products available, having a great product in and of itself is not enough. You need to also be thinking through what your interaction with your customers is like – whether that’s in person interaction, how they interact with your product on a store shelf, how they interact with it online and via your shipping cart – but if you don’t have a streamlined process it’s going to be very hard to keep customers happy and they’ll just as soon go spend their money elsewhere.
My recommendation, take the time to walk through your customer-facing operations and see what limitations and realities you face and then see what you can do to overcome that. You may not be able to offset the fact that you’re working by yourself or with a small staff at an event like this, but then maybe you need to take the customization piece out of the equation. Come with your boxes already made up and offer just a few different options to customers so as to speed up the process. Ultimately, you want to make sure that when a customer walks away or when they receive your product in the mail, that they are even happier then when they first started their interaction with you.