My dad retired about two years ago, after owning his own sporting good store (West Side Sport Shop) for twenty five years. I worked part time for my dad from age 14 to until he retired. I learned a lot about business from my dad, especially how to treat a customer. My dad would often bend over backwards to make sure any athlete big or small had the right equipment to excel on the field or ice. He would almost feel ashamed if we didn't have the exact size or style the customer needed. I remember one year a young boy came in and he needed a size 14 soccer cleat, which isn't a common size for soccer, and to my dad's dismay we didn't have it. Being the dedicated man that he is, my dad ended up special ordering one size 14 from Adidas, so this young boy could compete just like the other boys. Of course, each year to follow, when it was time to place the fall soccer order my dad made sure he had one size 14 on the order to ensure that if that same boy or a similar boy came in he would be prepared.
From my experience, being part of a small business is a beautiful thing. Unlike the big chain stores, small businesses are able to make real life connections that are more of an impact than being able to offer a cheap price or product. I believe with the connections you make a loyalty develops. Now I could be wrong, but I don't think you would be able to find the kind of customer service my dad offered from a sporting good store like Dick's.
Small businesses today are so LUCKY!
The other day I was sitting down with my dad talking about life, work I'm currently working on, etc. We both started reminiscing about the old store and how great it would have been if we had used Inbound Marketing for the sport store. The store had a very basic website that had an online store where we sold a few things. We were one in tens of thousand other sport stores. We weren't going to have the lowest prices like www.soccer.com and as the web guru of the family, I was trying to balance a full time job, part time. Looking back at it now, we were going at it all wrong. As we discussed the inbound marketing and sales methodology, the brainstorming began to flow out of us like the good old days and we were suddenly sitting in his wood paneled office.
Here are just a few of the ideas that we came up with in five minutes:
- Product experience blog posts - My brother, sister and I were/are pretty athletic and luckily we got to test out a lot of the products my dad sold. Puma Kings (soccer cleats) were my favorite and therefore my father, would highly recommend them. It would have been brilliant if I wrote a blog post about my experience with the cleats and why I like them. I played in college, which my proud father noted to his customers, so I was a credible source.
- Facebook company page - Facebook would have been great to put photos of up of new equipment that came in the store. The store was filled with a lot of great products for soccer, lacrosse, hockey, baseball, etc. It would have been great if we could have highlighted the latest products or products that were on sale. We couldn't afford doing this kind of marketing in the Sunday News. Small businesses are so lucky to have these amazing FREE tools at their fingertips.
- Google+ company page - Google has changed so much in the past few years, that we would have benefited just by the simple local search improvements. Having a Google+ company page would have extremely improved our local traffic. We were in the same town for twenty five years and some people never knew we existed until we were gone.
My dad and I got so excited about the opportunity that we had missed and felt a little bitter that it didn't come earlier. This is such an exciting time for small businesses, like my dad's sport store, to make a connection (that leads to a sale) with people you may have otherwise never had the opportunity to reach.