Turning your music store into a meaningful contributor to your community and an integral part of your customers’ lives is not as difficult as you might think.
We’ve talked with owners to discover how they’ve adapted to the changing world of music retailing to stay relevant and connected with their customers and communities.
Here’s what we learned:
1. Be relevant.
If your sales have stalled in recent years, think about your inventory.
Maybe your stock is outdated. What customers wanted a few years ago may not be what they want now.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Get to know what they want now. What kind of music are they following? What are the hot bands around town? What kind of instruments do they feature? How have styles changed? These are all relevant questions.
Getting answers is as easy as asking your customers. Discover what they want and what you can do to provide that. If you have customers who haven’t stopped by in a long time, find out why.
The people you reach out to will appreciate that you care enough to ask them about their interests and needs. That’s an important step toward making your shop relevant to them. Be willing to accept and implement valuable suggestions, so people see that you acted on their recommendations.
2. Be an experience.
Turn your store into a place people want to visit even when they don’t want to buy. Become a destination for music lovers in your community. Opening your doors for something beyond selling will get potential customers to visit and give them an opportunity to browse and get to know you. Those are powerful incentives to return when they are ready to buy.
Bookstores do it by hosting readings, signings, and clubs. Some have reading nooks and make coffee and snacks available. Gourmet shops become destinations by offering cooking classes, tastings, and lessons on how to pair beverages with food. Jewelers and gown and formalwear shops have wedding events to attract brides, grooms, and their families. Relevance builds connections.
It works for them, so follow their model.
Hold trunk shows of unique, antique, or high-tech instruments.
Sponsor in-store musical performances featuring local talent playing instruments you sell.
Host group discussions with music teachers and parents whose kids are interested in learning an instrument.
Your options are limited only by your imagination. Think about what people in your ideal customer base might be interested in and give it a try. It could keep you relevant with them. A small investment in an event could generate a lot of sales. Just make sure you promote it ahead of time using cost-effective means like signage, social media, and email.
3. Be a resource.
Give potential buyers a place to sit with an instrument and play it without a salesperson hanging over them.
Give them a chance to learn about your inventory and an opportunity to find the instrument that fits them. Maybe they don’t need the most expensive piece in the store, but those who find the right one leave the store happy.
Making the consumer experience simple, easy, and comfortable gives customers a chance to try out instruments, accessories, and the other things you sell. Taking a low-pressure approach to selling will get many more people into your store to try things out, providing additional opportunities to make sales.
4. Be flexible.
People changed the way they shop during the pandemic lockdowns. They got used to doing things THEIR way, whether in person, online, over the phone, through chat, or by text messages.
Are you still running a brick-and-mortar music shop with nothing but phone support?
If so, you are running the risk of becoming irrelevant and limiting your sales possibilities.
Meet your buyers where they are. Ask them how they prefer to work with you. You’ll likely need to increase your digital presence, make yourself readily available over the phone or through chat, and share more information via social media and other electronic means.
The easier you make it for customers to do business with you, the more business they’ll want to do with you.
If you don’t make it simple, they’ll turn to competitors who do.
5. Be different.
That has been Apple’s advertising message since its 1984 Superbowl ad featuring the hammer thrower. People still line up around the corner whenever they trot out a new product.
Use your expertise to make the customer experience unique. It could be as simple as offering instruments in new colors or blinged-out styles for musicians who want to stand out and get noticed.
Offering standout products and services will set you apart from the crowd and ensure your music business stays relevant.
6. Be relational.
Selling is transactional. Building relationships is good business.
Consider the sale your first step in strengthening connections with your customers. If you offer lessons, make sure they are aware of that. Give a new buyer the one-time option to bundle discounted lessons with the instrument. People want to improve their playing and helping them do that will keep the instruments in their hands instead of parked in a corner as a reminder of a bad decision. You might even make more sales when it comes time to upgrade their instruments, and the per-hour revenue from lessons probably exceeds that of time spent on the floor.
7. Be helpful.
Everybody has downtime when traffic slacks off, even the busiest stores.
Use it to tune and repair instruments. Helpful service after a sale not only builds strong customer relationships, but it can also bring future buyers through the door. Oh, yes, it’s also another revenue stream.
Check out some repair class options that could be right for you.
Offering repairs could make you relevant to a whole new customer base.
8. Earn online ratings and reviews.
According to some studies, almost eight out of ten people check online ratings and reviews before purchasing. Even if yours is an in-person music operation, ask your best customers to provide you with five-star ratings and rave reviews. It’s the only way you will make it onto most people’s consideration list.
Taking these steps will help ensure your music store is relevant today and long into the future.