Near the end of 2022, national average prices for:
Gasoline rose to $3.72 from $2.25 in 2020, a jump of 65%
Food was five times more expensive than it was at the beginning of 2020
Houses rose to $428,700 from $329,00 in 2020, a 30% increase
For music store owners, the good news is the cost of musical instruments and accessories is one of the few things that has remained steady year in and year out. It ticked up by only 2.4% in the past 25 years.
Still, when families are pinching pennies to get to work and school, put food on the table, and a roof over their heads, budgets for musical instruments likely will not be a high priority. And music stores may not be immune from inflation for much longer. If ongoing supply chain issues force costs up, prices at the point of sale will follow, and buyers will become even scarcer.
Even if all that comes to pass, there are some tried-and-true methods to boost sales without discounting prices or incurring additional costs.
Improve Your Service-after-the-sale Offer
Discounts are great. Who doesn’t like a sale? But buyers in the market for high-quality instruments are more concerned with value. Price figures into value—"you get what you pay for” reflects that, so cutting prices might actually turn off potential buyers.
Instead of thinking about the sale, try thinking beyond it.
Nobody buys a big-ticket item without a warranty. And the more a car, or appliance, or home costs, the more warranty coverage people want. In the case of auto sales, dealerships supplement the manufacturers’ warranties by offering free oil changes, complimentary fluid checks and replacements, and other routine maintenance.
Think of ways you can sweeten the warranties on the products you sell. Instruments typically come with a one- or two-year warranty. Follow the auto industry’s lead: Offer extra services like periodic complimentary inspections or tune-ups. (Notice how we didn’t use the word free. It’s subtle, but free sometimes implies little to no value, something that can be given away. “Complimentary” on the other hand implies something of value being offered at no cost to the consumer.)
You might even think about extending the terms of the manufacturer’s warranties. Extend the period for covered repairs for a limited time, or discount them for your most loyal customers. If you employ a repair technician, you’ll have to cover the cost … or you could learn to do the repairs yourself. For example, Lisa’s Clarinet Shop offers comprehensive woodwind repair classes. A side benefit is that in addition to better servicing your clients, you won’t have to wait for a repair technician when your own instruments need repairs.
Offer “Frequent Buyer” Benefits
You know how loyalty programs work. In the credit card industry, for instance, issuers offer miles, reward points, cash-back, and other incentives to keep their cards in the front of buyers’ wallets. Your local coffee shop probably has the same kind of deal: Buy nine, get the 10th free.
Do they work? If they didn’t, why would businesses from national retailers to neighborhood restaurants use them?
Here’s how it can work for you: When someone purchases a new instrument, sign them up for a loyalty program. Customers who make big purchases are your VIPs, so treat them accordingly. According to the Pareto principle, 20% of customers generate 80% of revenue, and an exclusive loyalty program will keep your best customers coming in. It might reduce margins in the short run, but the customer lifetime value will more than cover it.
Your loyalty program can also include complimentary, password-protected access to online videos with tips, tricks, and instructions for their respective instrument.
Video-sharing platforms like Vimeo allow you to password-protect your content. You could also offer an exclusive newsletter or host “members only” jam sessions/workshops for your loyal customers. Anything to keep them engaged adds value.
Personalize the Customer Experience
It’s old-school customer relations and a great opportunity to cross-sell your other value-adds.
Call customers after the purchase. “Thank you for trusting us with your business. To show our gratitude, we are extending the warranty on your instrument and inviting you to join our complimentary VIP loyalty program.”
Call your VIPs to remind them it’s time for a complimentary inspection or tune up.
Call them if you have a buyer for an instrument like theirs to see if they’d be interested in selling.
Any reason you can think of to call them—as long as you can offer value for their time on the phone—is an opportunity to remind customers why doing business with you makes sense.
The Value of Adding Value to the Customer Experience
Adding value is a great way to keep existing customers, acquire new ones, facilitate repeat business, and increase profits despite a challenging economy and price-competitive online marketplace. When it comes to purchasing instruments, saving money is a factor but a great experience that continues after the purchase is priceless.