“How do they do it?” we ask ourselves. “I heard their son/daughter is helping them…”

Don’t kid yourself. It has nothing to do with “age” or “their kids.”

Think back to when your business was booming and people were always in your shop.

That business, those people, they were the ones who had a pager strapped to their belt and you smirked because you had a life outside of your business and didn’t want anyone paging you!
That business, those people, they were always painting and remodeling and you were happy to put that extra cash into more merchandise.

That business, those people, they were always training “their people” and “attending industry shows” which you knew was just a write-off for them.
And what is it with all their new people? That business has a steady stream of younger people! You tried “younger” people a few years ago but they were always on their phones and it wasn’t worth the bother.

Now you are strapped to your register and the admin screen on your website. 24/7 you work with no free time. You curse Amazon like you use to curse Walmart. The Mall is half empty and now Sears is closing and that other business? That business, those people, are painting again and upgrading their website again! You saw iPads replaced the cash register and you are not certain but their store manager has more tattoos than brains!

Look closely: They are not Sears, you are!

According to Motley Fool Investment Research, there are three things we can learn from Sears:

1. Don’t date yourself–always be evolving with the times. New colors, new technology, new people, new ways to market your business to all the new generations of customers. New is harder but it is what makes a business successful.

2. Don’t cut expenses to save money – reinvest, reinvent, streamline. Paint costs money. Fixtures cost money. Websites cost money. iPads cost money. Employees cost money. But simple accounting looks for ROI. When was the last time you actually sat down to figure out your true “return on investment?” When was the last time you actually “invested” in something other than more merchandise?

3. Guard against complacency–tiny cracks are what destroyed this icon. The greatest gift you can learn from Sears is that you don’t know what you don’t know. Just because you are experienced, had success, know what you are doing, are an “icon” doesn’t insure success ever!

Remember when JC Penney hired and then fired (after one year) the fancy new CEO? He came in and “changed everything” and all those bright lights and minimalist displays were uncomfortable. The website didn’t reflect their “true nature” and he was trying to change the pricing. So being the smart experienced folk they were….they slowly went back to “what worked before” because an aging segment of their business complained. Look for them to Follow Sears.

Today You Don’t Have An Online Business and An Offline Business

They both must be the same. Exactly the same! It took a while but the digital sphere is now mirroring the physical one. And both need attention.

If you have too much stuff on display (online and in-store)–no one can see anything to buy. Where is the urgency? Where is the creative experience? Where is your expertise to guide me through the buyer’s journey?

You do not need the latest technological gadgets but if you don’t respond quickly and offer answers – online and in-store – you will be publicly shamed with 1-star reviews (or worse, no reviews at all.)

Where is your FAQ section? When was it last updated? And where are all the employees? Look at your business with the eyes of an 18-year old, a 28-year old, a 35-year old, and then a 50+. Are you welcoming? Educating? Updating? Offering good customer service to all?

If you don’t work together as a business/community/town you cannot be a destination because neighboring towns will gladly take all your foot traffic away by offering a unified experience. Getting involved with the merchant’s group, the movers and shakers who see the future and want to invest in it– is the only way to avoid “Searsing” your business.

Get out from behind the counter and actually welcome people into your community. Be a community first, then worry about your survival.

Sears stopped training, stopped hiring a community of people who wanted to help others in their community to solve problems (aka sell merchandise).

Employees were few and far between, untrained, unmotivated, disinterested, and too busy to be of service. But the real disconnect was that their online store was not connected to their brick-and-mortar one.

The last time I personally went into a Sears store I chose a refrigerator that I had seen on their website but wanted to actually “see” in person. But after all the paperwork was done the store was going to charge me for delivery. “The website says delivery is free this month,” I told her. “Oh,” she said. “The website has promotions we don’t have in store.”

REALLY? Really! No amount of pleading from me, or her to the department manager could get me that $55 delivery fee reversed. So I got in my car and ordered the same fridge online.

Do you see the problem? They had me. Instore and at their mercy. I was “shopping” and “buying” and they threw me back to my computer at home. I left annoyed. Disappointed. I didn’t walk through the store or any store. I went home to shop online.

I actually felt bad for the sales clerk and called her in a last-ditch effort to see if she could order me that fridge and get the credit. Repeat: I felt bad for their employee. Why didn’t they?

“Individual commitment to a group effort–that is what makes a teamwork, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” –Vince Lombardi
Working together is how it all gets done. Being on the same team. Learning social media, promoting events, sharing ideas, coping with what’s working, celebrating together, and offering a unified experience that customers today CRAVE. Sears forgot they are a community inside and outside.
It is a business’s job to give people what they want, not what you want!
Learn from Sears, please!
#SearsBankrupt #community #digitalmarketing

Maria Bereket, Digital Social Media Marketing Strategy, and Management for Small Business. Speaker and Trainer. Call me if you want to talk about a strategy for your business. (213) 262-9858