As a music store owner, you’d think offering retail sales backed by related services would be enough to get your revenues where you want them. But whether you’re selling instruments or servicing them, brick-and-mortar stores are limited by time: there are only 24 hours in a day and very, very few music stores are open around the clock.
Opening more stores will drive more sales but it also means more costs—and headaches that come with hiring, payroll, insurance, and permits, utilities … well, you know the drill. Moneywise, it’s a push. Hasselwise, who needs it?
Here’s an idea: Open just one new “location” and the address starts with https.
An online store surely lacks a brick-and-mortar’s sense of community, which you clearly worked hard to build. But there’s no reason why convenience for your customers and additional revenue for you should compromise those critical qualities of your business. Online stores are so prevalent for a multitude of individuals and big businesses alike that there are multiple resources for establishing your online retail presence and generating revenue quickly. One of the most popular is Shopify. For as little as $29 per month, you could have an online store up and running the same day.
But people love coming into my store and the personal attention they receive. You’re not closing your doors, and the social, personal atmosphere inside them will still be there. You’re expanding your market. People—whether they are across town or on the other side of the world—who have never heard of your store can now find it online.
Not only that, but now you are open 24/7 for your established customers. You have clients that go to school, work, and have other obligations that don’t always make it easy for them to shop during set business hours. Your dot-com means they can shop at their convenience and have items shipped or held for pick up.
Bottom line: Online means opportunities to make more money while working less.
An online store can be equally effective for service-oriented business as well. Your online store can feature a pricelist of standard repairs, etc., or maybe link to troubleshooting tips and replacement parts needed. Customers can even mail in their instruments in need of repair and have them shipped back.
Also, there’s nothing to prevent an online store from providing excellent customer service. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Amazon got to where they are today not only because of the convenience of finding almost anything anyone could never need or want online, but because their customer service was once superb.
Returns and refunds are still a snap, but automation and their reliance on artificial intelligence can be infuriating. Forget about trying to get anyone on the phone. That’s a problem of scale—they’d need an entire phone-bank-nation to handle inbound calls—that you can worry about when you hit $127 billion in quarterly sales. In the meantime, online need not put a dent in your personal service after the sale.
You may think that you’re not ready to take on all the extra business that will come from having an online store. Rest assured, just because you have launched an online presence doesn’t mean business will increase exponentially and create more work than you can handle. Yes, Amazon makes a fortune—but it took a fortune to get them to where they are today. (This is another thing you don’t have to worry about until you have suppliers from around the world competing tooth-and-nail for “shelf space” on your ecommerce site.) Having said that, don’t be surprised if you enjoy the reduced overhead costs and convenience of doing business online. Unlike live employees, dropdown menus don’t call in sick at the last minute.
Marketing is essential to growing your business and enabling you to make more while working less. Consumers are inundated with advertising, which is why it’s important to develop and execute a custom marketing plan for your particular music store. We highly recommend reading the musicbusinessahead.com article “Marketing 101 for Music Store Owners” which will help take you from A to Z of putting together your marketing plan. One of the critical aspects of developing your marketing plan is social media.
The internet never sleeps so if you’re effectively marketing through social media, you’re effectively marketing 24/7—and what a nice coincidence because your online store is open 24/7!
Don’t flinch at this next make-more/work-less suggestion. Hire good people. Top performers are revenue generators. With sites like ZipRecruiter and Indeed, it’s easy to access a selection of potential candidates. You could also tap your customer pool for referrals. Chances are if they like coming to your store, they’ll only want to refer people who would treat a fellow customer well. During the interview process, ask open-ended questions, and don’t be afraid to ask non-business questions like what their favorite movie or book is (beware of getting too personal; federal privacy laws draw bright lines that are crossed at one’s own peril.) Still, having a conversation puts both sides of the interview at ease, which helps determine fit.
You can even go slow with a new hire. A mutually agreed upon probationary period will give you the opportunity to assess their skills and aptitudes. Are they good with customers? Do they take pride in your store like cleaning counters or dusting without being asked? Are they eager and adept at learning how to use the systems you have in place regarding payment processing and inventory? Do you they show up on time? It also gives new employees time to discover if they want to work for you. If not, no hard feelings. If it works out for both sides hire them.
Once you’ve hired them, keep an eye on the numbers. Did they generate more sales compared to what you’re paying them? And let’s not forget that time is money. Were they able to free up more of your time to provide extra lessons or service more instrument repairs during regular business hours? Or perhaps your star employee was able to work the floor and handle the register while you were in the back office adding more items to your online store, which generated more income—or maybe he or she is better at the online stuff and is building your internet presence while you work the floor of your shop!
Working less and making more is not a pipe dream. Expanding your business online, executing a solid marketing plan, and hiring good people could turn that wish into a sustainable reality. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel—you may just have to push past your comfort zone to reap the potential rewards.