Welcome to the first installment of Hey Sendler, our brand new webinar series. Over the coming episodes, we will talk to small business experts and owners to learn tips and tricks for growing your business, in the good times and the bad.

This time, our Community Manager, Jenn Magofna, spoke with Chris Guillot of The Merchant Method all about developing great relationships with your paying customers. Check it out below!

Hey Sendler: A Webinar Series (Developing Relationships with Paying Customers) from Sendle on Vimeo.

Important links

Send it with Sendle

Developing relationships with paying customers, a chat with Chris Guillot of Merchant Method (full transcript)

Jenn: Hello, everyone. Welcome to our very first Hey Sendler. I'm Jenn. I'm Sendle's Community Manager. 

We are a 100% carbon neutral shipping company that was founded in Australia and launched in the US last year. 

I'm just gonna hop in to some quick housekeeping notes and then introduce Chris, and then we will get to it. So if you can please keep yourself muted and turn off your cameras, that would be lovely. 

Feel free to use speaker view so that you can see the two of us, mostly Chris while she's chatting and answering questions. We'll have time for questions at the end. 

So, if you have them, please feel free to share them in the chat and we'll get through as many as possible at the very end. 

Apologies in advance if there are video or streaming issues. We are living in new times, so this is the reality of video conferencing at the moment. 

You will get a link to the video and resources later. So if your internet is funky or anything like that, no worries. Feel free to hop back in or wait until you get the link.

I would like to acknowledge that we are on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, Chris and I are both in Seattle, the Duwamish people past and present, and I wanna honor with gratitude the land itself and the Duwamish tribe. 

With that, I'm so excited to introduce Chris Guillot of Merchant Method. She's a retail coach, a small business advocate, one of my favorite people of 2020.

It's been a weird year, and I am so excited to be connected with her and have learned so much from her, and I'm just really excited to chat about ways that we can connect with customers and that we can be providing resources and services to customers in a way that feels genuine and empathetic and caring. 

I think all of us right now are hopefully being a little bit more kind with ourselves and with others. And for small businesses, I think that it can be a really scary time. 

It's really fraught with a lot of... There's a lot of information out there right now and things have changed astronomically in the first few months.

And so when we first went to work from home, I think we thought four weeks, and now we're going on five months. 

And so for folks who work in an office, that's very different than folks who own small businesses and are reliant on foot traffic or the regular calendar year of what retail looks like and what you can expect, and those ebbs and flows and high and lows are very different this year. 

So Chris, if you wanna take a second to introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your expertise, and then we'll hop right in.

Chris Guillot: Perfect. Hi everyone, my name is Chris Guillot and I am a retailer at heart. 

When I say retail is my hustle, I mean it. I am the founder and CEO of a small consultancy called Merchant Method, and it really is a place where small and medium-sized businesses can learn how to earn an honest profit, truly an honest profit, in very simple and very achievable steps. 

I'm an educator, a retail veteran, and a huge fan of Sendle, so I'm really excited to be here. 

I will just say that I hope that you are ready to roll up your sleeves, that you've got something to take notes with, so that you can listen fast along with me because Jenn has asked me some really, really valuable questions, and I'm ready to dig in. Y'all, I'm ready to dig in.

Jenn: I am here for it. We're just gonna start. We're just gonna go for it. 

If people have questions, pop them in. And so one of the first things that I asked you or stuff that I wanted to talk about was how to be genuine and empathetic while also saying, "Please buy this. Please buy all of my things." 

And so I would love to hear you tell us a little bit about some of the advice you're sharing with your merchants about how they're meeting customers where they are right now and ways to ask people legitimately without pretense to buy things because they need to move inventory, but also in a way that feels very kind and genuine and empathetic and honest.

CG: Okay, perfect. I am going to share my screen.

Jenn: Chris came prepared.

CG: Are we ready here? I am prepared.

Okay, so I'm gonna start at the top and talk about content marketing in general. And then you, among your Sendle community and your resources, have people whose full-time job is content marketing. 

I'm just gonna break it down for you in everyday terms. 

For me, it's connecting the dots between you and your customer with very easy to understand solutions. 

Customers have problems and all manner of problems, not just very big social justice, societal, environmental issue problems, but problems as in, "I live stream all the time, and how do I do it better?" 

And so you position yourself as a natural solution to one of your many customer problems, and you can do that, and you can do it well with a lot of heart. 

So I'm just gonna start it there from the top and then I wanna provide a little bit of context around how I think small and medium-sized businesses can do this well. 

So, the Merchant Method really developed over 23 years. I have 23 years of experience in the industry, in retailing, product development, manufacturing, learning and development, and a huge heart for micro-enterprise, microfinance, micro-entrepreneurship.

Now, what I've come to learn is that even though we may niche down and be very specific about our product offering, we must be generalists in the way that we run our businesses because there are so many levers that will help you unlock cash flow. 

And so the four pillars of merchandising really are... It starts with the people, for sure, because when we think back to that diagram of those concentric circles, it's the customer and it's you. 

So we have to be emotionally intelligent, we have to understand that anything that we use on a tech side is as valuable as the emotion and as valuable as the relationships that we imbue it with. 

Then we've got your products. That is... All day every day, every merchant I've ever worked with is extremely passionate and knows a whole heck of a lot about the products.

Then it's about process and being internally consistent with your values. 

Not just using your values to pick products, but using your values to reply to email, using your values to pick your email service provider or your shipping provider. 

And then lastly, it's about profit, and these four things work in tandem to unlock your cash flow. 

The reason why it's important for me to tell you that is because when we develop paying relationships with customers, we really need to understand that in order to be genuine and empathetic, to start to listen so much more to the customer than tell them about you and your solutions. 

Everyone's heard this, like, "Marketing is about offering solutions." How do you actually break that down? 

You break it down with some real mind reading, and in order to get to a space where you say, "Ah, my customer, of course, my customer's gonna ask this," is by listening a lot. 

I really challenge you to get to know 100 of your customers really, really well.

Jenn: That's amazing. I'm writing all this down. 100 customers, everyone.

CG: In 2019, my project was to listen to 100 merchants really, really, really well. 

Because when you do, you can really start to understand what the real problem is. So I'm gonna give you an example because I'm nothing if not a practitioner. 

Here's the problem I have, I will be honest with you, my problem is that... Let me turn my camera back on because I want you to know that I'm for real here. 

My problem is that I have a minimalist wardrobe. Since 2016, I have like nine things that I wear and I do a lot of live stream video, and so if you look back to old videos, even my first videos in 2014, I have those clothes. 

And I don't have special wardrobe and the passage of time is only how short or long my hair is. And so in order to keep things fresh, my problems can be solved by so many things. Is it jewelry? Is it...

Jenn: Accessories.

CG: Right, accessories. 

Is it hair color? Could a hairstylist solve my problem? 

Makeup? Could a furnishings place solve my problem? Could an artist or a textile weaver solve my problem? 

Can someone who understands the psychology of live streaming videos... You can see where... I'm really wanting to keep things fresh and there are multiple ways to solve a problem I have. 

And so the listening piece, getting to know 100 customers, will allow you to understand which of your customers are aware that they have a problem. 

And then how do you put yourself in front of them as a solution to your problem? So it starts by just listening. I just said "listening" a bajillion times so write that down.

Jenn: I love it.

CG: Listening. Circle. 

I hope that answers your question because then that way, the words that come out of your mouth, or the words that come out of your fingers, or the pictures that get posted from your camera roll, with that information, it's gonna be almost impossible not to try and triangulate those things towards your customer.

Jenn: Yes. So listening, really, everyone, is what Chris is telling us. 

Just kind of listen to what your customers are saying and really intuitively get to know your customers and find out what they're looking for. 

Also, I would like to point out that I wore lipstick for Chris today because I feel like she always looks so lovely and fresh and vibrant on camera, and I changed three times because these are things you think about when you're going on camera. 

And so I appreciate her there.

One of the other things I wanted to talk to you about was how your merchants, how clients, retailers are pivoting in the times of COVID.

And so we talked in the very beginning of our now budding friendship about a live stream that you did with Velouria, which is here in Seattle. 

And the chat that I saw was about ways to sell online, so ways to sell product on video. 

And I've mentioned this a few times in different places, but the thing I love about Velouria the most is how tactile the store is. It's beautiful, it's gorgeous, they carry things only made in the US and Canada, the fabrics are very lovely. 

I like to go in and touch things. 

And so when you don't have that opportunity, yes, what can you do? And so the live stream I saw was you talking with them about like, "Hey, this is this top. This is how it feels, this is what the fabric is, this is how it drapes." 

And I thought, "This is genius," and also, I love Chris's energy, and so I reached out. 

So I'm really curious, from the beginning of when we started talking and everything was so brand new, how people have pivoted what they're doing, and what things look like now in August, which is basically almost holiday.

CG: Okay, so I wanna ask a question first for all of you that are with us live. 

If you feel like your pivot is complete, type in the chat "done." If you feel like you are still pivoting, like Ross and Rachel with that sofa on Friends, "pivot," and you're still in the middle of it, write "pivoting." 

So I wanna know if you're "done" or if you're still "pivoting." I myself am still pivoting.

Jenn: Pivoting. Yes.

CG: Yes, Moji, pivoting. Yeah, pivoting, but I also... I'm mostly like, "Pivoting."

And that's the thing too. It's like, yep, that's the thing too, it's still happening. So let's talk a little bit... Look at me going back through my slides. And I'm gonna...

Jenn: You will get these slides. We'll send them to you all, just in case you're hoping to doodle what's happening, we will give you the slides.

CG: So I wanna make sure that you know who my community is. I just wanna make sure that you feel really comfortable with that. 

My community is part retailers and part makers or creators. And the commonality is that every single person in my community sells a finished good. 

And when it came time to understand and support my merchants through the pivot, it was so important for everyone to understand what your natural style is. 

Because you can listen and try and do what I suggest, and if it's never gonna work for you, it's never gonna work for you, right? You have to put your own flavor on it 'cause you have secret sauce. 

So I'd say about almost half, 46% of my audience is what I call a creative director, who really likes to collaborate, really likes to think on things, is open to input, but maybe takes a while to, what I call, land the plane. 

Just like circling.

Jenn: Yes.

CG: 38% of my community are renegade merchants. 

And there's so much a piece of me that is like that. It's like, "Yeah, let's do it. I will figure it out along the way, and if it doesn't work out well, I can make another choice." 

And then 16% are what I call head strategists or chief retail officers, like planners through and through. 

And the pivot... I'm a planner. If you saw my... My seven and 12-year-old have hourly plans, and they have since March in my house. But we have fun and games. 

The pivot was very hard for planners because we have no visibility, but we never did. We just never did. We never did. And so the pivot looked like, "Ugh, I'm uncomfortable." 

And then we hit what we thought was a solution followed by more discomfort and more discomfort and more discomfort. 

And the most obvious kind of thing that merchants did was just go online. Right? Video is so much faster, I think, and it can also help make a heavy lift a lot lighter.

Because if your customers already know you, really the job of video is to pull customers even closer. Like, "Whew!" 

And I wanted to wait until they got to July and August now for my merchants to start thinking about customer acquisition, but it was all about loyalty, loyalty, and loyalty. And so, change is difficult. 

Jenn and I were talking about it, the way that people manage change has been showing a lot of different types of pivots, right? And wherever you are is where you are. It's okay, you don't need to be anywhere else, if it's not on your own time. 

So on one end, I did a webinar for the Alliance of Flinders Square in Israel, and one of the member merchants really quickly went to live video in a way that is so extremely impressive. 

Then I have another client that got a PPP loan but was closed, mandatory shutdown. She smartly put a general contractor and a web developer on her payroll so that she can use her loan money and continue to make progress in the middle of this pivot. 

And then I also have other clients that are just not ready to sell and not ready to do the grind because for many...

Jenn: It's a very different grind.

CG: It's a very different grind, but also too, genuinely, we can't assume that everyone loved their business or the business that's built around them, right? 

Cause sometimes the business gets away from you, or we find ourselves doing things we didn't like. I have been in that position, and I needed to really evaluate, like, "What did I create? And did I like it?" 

Also on this other end, a lot of businesses are really spending a lot of time thinking about their values and how to lead with values, and that's a long conversation, and that requires a lot of exploratory ideating. 

And so everyone's pivoting differently and however you're pivoting it's okay, but video has been the fastest way that people are able to pull closer.

Jenn: I love that. And also, welcome. That's exactly what we're doing here, so...

Like the beginning of the year, I had very big plans for Sendle and my role as a community manager to be out in the community and meeting people and talking to people and going to different trade shows and craft fairs and connecting with sellers and retailers in their spaces, like going to their stores, meeting them at these places. 

And so this is our pivot. This is how we're pivoting, is bringing people online and holding them closer and hopefully trying to provide resources and services to people in a way that still shows we're here and we care about you, and we want to know more about what you're going through and how to help. 

But yeah, I think obviously the pivot to video has been crucial, even for me in my role. And so that's interesting how you can look at that as a strategy if you don't have a tangible good too, right? If you have a service that you're providing.

CG: Right. I think a lot of people hopped on to more robust eCommerce websites or feeling that they were caught off guard and not having an eCommerce website and trying to get one really quickly.

Jenn: Really quickly, yeah.

CG: Yeah. And the reason why to optimize that was not my first recommendation is because, I promise you, if someone tells you they wanna give you money, yeah, we'll figure that out, you do not need a website.

Jenn: Right. Yes.

CG: But if you don't have a relationship with them, they're not gonna wanna give you their money. And so for me, it was people first, and then we can figure out the process on the backend. 

But in this time of pivot, in the same way that we give students learning from home some grace, we need to give ourselves some grace. We don't need to be optimizing things right now. [chuckle] Right? 

Jenn: Right. No, I love that. 

We have a customer out of Destin, Florida and they have two shops, one specifically for tweens and one that sells very curated beautiful kids products. 

And they don't have a website, and most of their foot traffic is spring break, so all of these times when the beach is really exciting and a great place to be. 

And in the beginning, they were selling specifically on Instagram, and that's the platform that they were using. They were posting photos, they were posting stories, and marking things as sold, and people were supporting them. 

It was amazing to see, but yeah, it speaks exactly to that point. You don't have to have a website to start these things. If people wanna buy things and you wanna sell things, it is possible. 

As we're talking about buying things, I'd love to talk about holiday. It's here, basically. 

My experience working in retail is that you start planning holiday in July, and so now we're in August and what's holiday gonna look like? 

Yeah, what are people thinking? What are people saying? 

CG: Okay. There are early trend forecasts for holiday, but they're really much too early. And so I feel like any real valuable forecast is not gonna happen until about October, but the short story is, no one knows. 

The data is dirty. It's very, very different. And so here's an aggregated outlook of what I've been researching, but just know, if you really wanna dive in, dive in in October once back-to-school is done, because that's the last of what all the forecasters are looking at. 

So we obviously know that there's gonna be significantly increased online shopping, and it grows every year, it's gonna grow even more now. Like, triple. The trend increases... It continues to steadily increase. Number two...

Jenn: Ship all your packages with Sendle.

Start shipping with Sendle

CG: Yeah, ship all your packages with Sendle. 

Number two, there is still a global pandemic and number three, people with purchasing power, there's a whole segment of that community at home with their kids. 

And so, there's triple increase, it's gonna be a steep increase. Again, now is the time to start thinking about that. 

So if you wanna move away from maybe some minimal things and start to fine tune, know that. 

Number two, the demand is going to happen earlier in the season, because retailers are really trying to recover all of their lost profit. And so promotions are gonna happen earlier, which means email inboxes are gonna get clogged with marketing messages and paid ads are gonna start coming up. 

I'm not necessarily gonna recommend that you offer really deep holiday discounts or holiday spending. What I'm trying to say is, just sell more now. Don't wait for the holidays to recover, literally don't wait. 

I have clients that are highly concerned because they have big weekends in the holidays. "How am I gonna make a $10,000 weekend happen again if the fair doesn't happen or if customers aren't coming into my store because I'm not comfortable being open during cold and flu season in a global pandemic environment?"

And I say, "Well, let's do some math. It might mean 20 $500 days or 40 $250 days or maybe 100 $25 days." 

So I think at the end of this, if we're really thinking about pulling the demand earlier in the season, when you look at your year-over-year comparable sales, 2020 for everyone will be an anomaly, but I would much rather have you work it out earlier and Steady Eddie, and then worry less about your year-over-year variances. 

You're just trying to get to an overall year number, and that means working a little harder, and maybe your holidays is down a little bit, that's okay. 

Number three, shipping will be at capacity. 

Ship early with Sendle. Ship early and know that. Part of our roles as merchants and the service that we provide is to inform customers of those things. 

That's a huge service, to say, "Hey, I've got your back. If you want it there by X date, you're gonna wanna ship it by this date." It will take longer, overall, globally, longer and will be at capacity. So keep that in mind, because that's part of the customer experience from end to end.

Jenn: Yes.

CG: Number four, we know personalized marketing is key and I'm not here to talk to you about the next app. 

And I'm not gonna talk to you about optimizing. What I wanna talk to you about is personalizing with the voice people forward, that's why you've gotta get to know 100 customers. 

So when I think about, "What does that actually look like?" where I actually think the hidden ROI on Instagram is, is not new followers, it's the current customers that are commenting on whatever you put out there. 

Pretty Frank photo

I seriously don't care if you have 200 followers and don't have the two million that you want. Or if you only get five hearts and one comment, that one is gold.

Jenn: Yes.

CG: When we talk about presence, I'm not talking about the algorithm. 

I'm talking about, imagine you're in a brick and mortar shop and a customer comes in, the little bell rings on the shop door. 

You've been that person, 'cause I know you have, 'cause I have a million times where, whoever is working in the store ignores me, and I don't feel good about that. 

I have many times... 80% of customers enter spaces with an openness to spend money, all that stuff is still true online. It is still so very true online, and the distraction is higher online. 

So just, dance with the one that brung ya. Intimacy over romance. 

Just love up on those customers and worry less about acquisition, acquisition. Because I promise you, the magnetic piece is the fact that you are present and you are engaging. 

People will take notice. They just do. Right, Jenn? 

Jenn: Yes, this was my mic drop when I chatted with Chris on Retail Charm School. It's so true. 

I think one of my biggest pet peeves as a consumer is... I can't think of the word right now, but participating or going online and doing this thing and having a conversation and being an active participant and then getting ignored. 

It drives me crazy. It drives me crazy in stores too, but particularly online. 

Pretty Frank photo

And I think one of the things... I'm gonna mess up our format, but I think that I really wanna talk about what that means right now, because I see so much of this on social media, specifically of people who are only talking to their friends. 

They're only talking to their other small business friends on Instagram. They respond to those comments. They're not responding to comments from customers or looking at tags. 

I look at tags on people's pages all the time, and are you hearting those pages or photos, or are you actually saying, "You look amazing", or "Thank you so much"? What are you doing to engage with these people? 

Because they are your people.

And so I think there's this misconception that your people is your community or your cohort of other small business sellers, which is true, but I asked Chris the other day, "Are you putting that same energy into people who are buying things from you at full price?" 

And a lot of times, it's looks like no, because if you're only talking to your friends, I'm assuming you have an industry discount or you hook people up with a discount 'cause you know them or you go to their store. Whatever. 

All of this stuff, that's fantastic for those people. What are you doing for the people who paid full price? 

And so I wanna talk about that. I wanna talk about that resistance to the new or to the current commenters who are there and being ignored.

CG: Right. It's so interesting because you're actually allowed to ask questions in the comments. Questions are not just reserved for captions, right? So in the same way that if you were walking on the street and someone said, genuinely, because I've had this encounter with women many times and I've complemented women. I will walk up to a woman and just give her a compliment.

Jenn: Yes.

CG: There's always a conversation. 

There's never a side smirk or a heart in the way that we drop emojis online. If someone's dropping an emoji, I'm like, "I love that. What's your other favorite emoji?" or, "Your game is strong. What does that mean for you?" 

That's how you can engage with just the emoji droppers. But truly, if someone is putting something and posting it online and it is public, it's okay for you to ask questions. 

So for me, if I'm really looking at a retailer or a maker's site or why was that someone helping with that strategy, I would actually go and really comment, really learn, really listen and treat it evenly. 

That's the piece around if we're really talking about inclusivity and presence and equity, why would we be picking and choosing comments? Clearly, you know what a bot is. You have your way of dealing with a bot or a spammer. That's not what Jenn and I are talking about. 

But this way of managing a conversation should feel as light as if you've got invited to coffee with a friend. You know your people. And so it's okay. Jenn, what's your phrase? Drop your phrase.

Jenn: Talk typing!

CG: Okay, write that down. So we said listening, talk typing.

Jenn: Yes.

CG: Get conversational. 

So that's what I mean by personalized marketing is key. You don't have to be the most strategic person, but for sure you need to be present. 

And then lastly, customers will need your cues for their milestones because we're so used to having this multi-sensory cue that, "Oh, it's now time to shop. It's now time for the holiday season." 

Because everything is wonkadoodle, customers now, more than ever, need some additional support to become problem-aware, to become solution-aware, to understand when they need to order things or buy things so it can get shipped on time. 

They need help managing, I don't know if you like that word, but managing consumption. 

If I use shampoo or if I use bar soap, I love buying bar soap from makers, I should have one in the waiting or two in the waiting before I run out, and I would hope that my soap maker could help me manage my own cue and understand that piece. 

So these things I think is how the holidays will change this year.

Visualize shipping with Sendle

Jenn: Yeah. What is something you're telling everyone to think about? What is the one thing you want everyone to take with them? The wisdom you are imparting on people for holiday 2020 with coronavirus and everything.

CG: No one knows, and it's different, but I think back to what you and I were talking about, like dance with the ones that brung ya.

Jenn: Yes.

CG: Also, thinking through, and we're gonna get really strategic here because you're gonna ask an awesome question because I know it and I'm excited for it, but truly, profit really is about revenue minus costs.

We know this, we know this over and over again. Thinking through it now, if you have inventory liability now, and to me, all inventory is liability because it doesn't get... 

It's like milk. You put milk in the refrigerator at the grocery store and it has an expiry date. Thinking through your most seasonal goods, things that can't be sold in December, things that can't be sold in January and they won't make sense, to be really strategic about what you feature now, what you highlight in a different way and what you talk about in a different way before you trigger any kind of promotion or markdown strategy. 

And then also really think about what you have now that's not selling that... And I don't recommend this often, but now I'm recommending it. 

If you've got a full-size run or if you've enough assortment for it to make sense, set it aside for next Spring.

Jenn: That's interesting, yeah.

CG: Be really smart about what inventory you're buying and taking on for the holiday season and what risk you're willing to assume. 

So that's more tactical, but thinking through what's easy to sell and what is just going to be something that you take less and less and less and less and less margin on. I want y'all to be thinking about that.

Jenn: Okay, so when we talk about less and less and less margin on, I wanna talk about gift cards.

CG: Yes! 

Jenn: 'Cause I think the pandemic happened and I saw everyone say, "Buy gift cards, buy gift cards, buy gift cards. Please buy gift cards from us. We need your support." 

Which I love, I think that there's a lot of truth and value and honesty in saying, "Please support us." And to be very transparent, my partner is a chef, and so the restaurant industry is also sort of dealing with the pandemic in ways that are very similar to merchants. 

And gift cards are really interesting and so I wanna talk about, what were you telling people? Do you ask people to buy them? What does it really mean for you? 

I will be honest as a consumer, yes, I get a gift card and it's for $50 and I say, "I'mma spend $50," because that's what the gift card is for. But for that retailer, I have put no more money into their pocket. 

And so what does that look like? What's happening with them? Are people using them now? Should they? Should they not? I feel really uncomfortable using them right now at small businesses because they need my support twice.

CG: And actual dollars. Yes.

Jenn: Yeah.

CG: Okay.

So before I dive into it, because I've got a giant diagram and we're gonna talk about it, for those of us who are joining us live, can you just type in the comments if you like gifting gift cards, just type in "buying," And if you like getting gift cards, type in "using." So do you like to buy? 

Jenn: That's a good question.

CG: Or do you like to use them? We get them and I actually save them. And I use them as currency for my family.

Jenn: Oh, fun.

CG: I use them as like mini-escapes. Like, "Yay! We're gonna have pizza for pizza night." 

Okay, so Trang says, "Buy." So, Trang buys. Cam feels like they're not personally enough to give. Let's get into this. So what I wanna do is I want to... Jenn asked a really, really interesting question and I wanna get a little bit more academic on it. 

So the question is, is it a good gift or is it a lazy gift? 'Cause some people like getting them, some like giving them. All the data tells us that recipients really like gift cards. 

By and large, if you're looking at out of all the aggregated data year-over-year, people like getting them. And people are getting them more and more and more. 

That data has climbed steadily from 2015 all the way through 2019. So, though it may feel like a lazy gift. 

Really, when we think about how we guide our customers to be gift-giving heroes, chances are the data tells us that you could be a gift-giving hero if you had a customer who doesn't know what else to get. 

And there are all kinds of strategies around add-ons and making that feel special but they're good. So then we think through, "Okay, so what are the benefits?" The historic benefits for SMBs are really... You know you can't really... 

There's some accounting things around how you book it in the revenue. But really the benefit for SMBs is that it allows a business to get to know other customers that they might not know. Right? 

So there's a potential for customer acquisition and there's definitely a potential for bounce back, which is why small businesses like them. Plus it is another way to add to a gift giving assortment without having to buy inventory. 

So they're continuing to increase in popularity. And my past coaching has really been, "Small businesses, y'all need to get on this. You need to get on it. It's a service." 

But to Jenn's point, in the full circle of gift cards, the dangerous part about gift cards or the way that I saw them being used during COVID is it was the quickest way to get support and they were used almost as a micro loan.

Small micro loans, zero-interest micro loans from your community. And it was a way for the community to do something that felt really meaningful to the asker. And that's where really being very clear about, "I'm asking for help. I'm giving help. Thank you." 

But the challenge, and where I see danger ahead, to Jenn's point, is at some point you have to have either the inventory or you have to have the materials or the payroll to service that gift card. 

And because by and large, particularly for retailers, we are carrying a ton of inventory and inventory liability, it could very well make it be not as valuable because what we needed to do was to decrease our holding cost.

The amount of runway that it takes to run a brick and mortar, and the amount of money and cash that is pent up in all of your inventory, that actually was going to be more valuable. 

And so when we think about profit is revenue minus costs, what is my current coaching for the year. Because I've been hearing it. I'm hearing it from businesses saying, "Thank you for supporting me with gift cards, but really, I want you to wait to use it for a while. Send me the cash." 

I hear it from customers say, "I wanna support my favorite businesses but are they still gonna be in business? And am I gonna lose my money? Is that what's gonna happen?" And so the current coaching really is to sell the inventory that you have. 

Really sell the inventory that you have and then you can decide really what's right for your values in terms of returns and exchanges. And being very transparent because you can... The transparency is just as important, if not more important, than the actual policy and procedure.

Jenn: Listening. Listening to what your customers are saying. Yes.

CG: And so now really, my recommendations are, for this year all I could want for you is to squeeze out any profitability in your inventory, and I'm not recommending the strong push on gift cards. 

Pretty Frank photo

Maybe it's about scheduling an appointment, an appointment for your customer, and it's a personalized shopping appointment versus holding out this amount that might not serve you in the end.

Jenn: And that personalized shopping appointment is something that folks can do even without a brick and mortar. 

It's such a great way to kind of... I guess we're not going anywhere, but that has not stopped for purchasing anything. 

So if you have something that you want to match or anything like that, I think it's such a great idea to be able to say, "I have this thing. What do you have that goes with it?" And really being able to kind of look people up and provide that expertise, which I think is amazing. 

Those were all of my questions. We have about 15 minutes left, so I did wanna save some time if anyone here has questions or if there's anything else that Chris feels like gracing us with her knowledge.

She is so smart. And I think there are some other gift card things, good gift because you get the option to choose, which I think is very true, many people prefer cash over specific gifts right now. So gift cards are a happy medium, which also feels very true. 

As a consumer, I love receiving them, but I feel like they're not personally enough for giving, which is just kind of hysterical 'cause I'm kind of anti-my own message, right? I like getting them, but I don't always wanna give them. 

And so I think that that's really interesting. So yeah, if you have questions, feel free to pop them in or if you're comfortable hopping on camera and unmuting yourself. 

Chris loves to put people on the spot on the Instagram Lives. And then I'll let her tell you all of the places that you can find her. 

And we are very excited to be giving away a session or a spot to Chris' Merchant Map, which is coming up. And so she can chat a little bit about that. 

So maybe while we're waiting to see if anybody wants to hop on, if you wanna talk to us a little bit about the Merchant Map and then we'll go from there.

Ship sustainably with Sendle

CG: Oh, yes. 

Yeah, so the Merchant Map really takes the product management that you're good at and that you wanna really fine-tune and the project management, those two things, 'cause they have overlap, but managing projects and managing product are very different. 

And it puts it in the context of the environment that is retail, so that you can actually create a quarterly calendar that finally starts to make sense, and a calendar that you can actually commit to. 

So it's perfect if you're managing multiple assortments or managing multiple product lines, or if you feel like everything starts to bunch up in February or a specific time of year because you're placing orders and photographing and trying to run through clearance. 

It makes sense of the madness and give you strategies for planning. So that's what the Merchant Map is.

Jenn: I love that. I'm just doing another call out. Anybody? 

CG: Anybody? Any questions? Or you can also share... Oh yay! 

Trang: I have a question. What do you recommend for businesses that sell things that usually people wanna see in person before they buy it? 

Like sunglasses or things that people wanna try on, and now that everything's online and... I guess, do you recommend that people have better return policies, or I guess, what are your thoughts on that? 

CG: Have you tried certain things and then finding no success or do you find that customers aren't coming with you to the online journey 'cause they're afraid? 

Trang: I guess as a consumer, I find that the buying... It's just there's a lot of anxiety around, "Oh, will it fit? Is it gonna look nice in my apartment?" 

I was trying to buy a rug. And so I'm just wondering if it continues to be online shopping, what people can do to make the consumer feel a little bit better about that.

CG: Okay. Oh my gosh, I love this question. 

So I feel like every day, all day, whether we're in person or online, or even if something's made to order, all that a spending customer could ever want is to feel confident that what they think about the product is actually what they get. Right? 

I could buy a $3,000 rug and I wanna know it's a $3,000 rug, but I could also buy a $1 bottle of water and I wanna make sure that it actually tastes pretty good for $1. It doesn't matter what amount we're talking about. 

And so I think that our role as folks who sell things online is to help reassure that without selling hard. And so I think there's a couple of different ways that we do that. 

One way is really through the descriptions and really through the visuals to help people imagine. And so I think oftentimes for things that require scale, like sized items, glasses, rugs, it's about featuring visually with scale to help people understand. 

I think galleries, fine art galleries, often run into this issue where the challenge is not about buying the fine art, it's about understanding where it goes in the home. And so showing a lot of different ways to show scale is one way to help boost confidence. 

The second way is this very subtle client feature, or customer feature, features on social, testimonials. And so even things like customer-generated content features, anything that signals, "This is a good brand to work with, and if I have issues, it's gonna be okay." 

Because the policy is the policy. Whatever is the policy, it's the execution of the policy that people wanna understand. It's not gonna be a hassle, it's gonna be easy. 

So I kinda feel like that's the third thing, is "What's the transparency of the policy?" And so I think in-between the visuals to understand scale, and all of the copy that goes with it, customers that help to say, "It's totally trustworthy, it's gonna be okay," and then the clear policy that gets executed in a way that's aligned with your values, that helps. 

But it's really interesting because I have been chatting with clients where even when customers come in, it's a lot of the same like, "Oh, my hands look fat in this ring," or, "I'm not having a skinny day in this outfit."

I think some of that is customers feeling personally insecure in the way that we might feel insecure showing up online and just extending solutions that are wrapped in forgiveness. 

Like, "These sunglasses look great on this face, and this face, and this face. And probably some other faces I'm not showing you." Or, "This rug looks good this way, this way and this way, and probably some other ways I'm not showing you." 

So I think the undertow in the content marketing becomes really, really good. It's like, "It's okay if you don't know what you don't know. We're gonna muddle through it. It's okay if you don't know if it'll look good, it's okay if you don't know if it'll fit you. 

But these are all the things I'm putting in front of you that makes me feel confident it's gonna fit you and look good. Try it. Buy it."

Jenn: I love that.

CG: Does that answer your question? 

Trang: Yeah, totally. Thank you.

CG: Okay. Yeah, good question. I'm glad you asked it.

Jenn: Anybody? 

CG: Gold star. Don't be shy, I like questions.

Jenn: Anyone else have any questions? 

Pam: I do.

Jenn: Hi, Pam.

Pam: Oh gosh, oh my. Okay.

Jenn: Oh, you look beautiful.

Pam: Well, good afternoon. I really had to pivot my retail store, which is what I was passionate about, my physical location. 

Got off the ground October, and then essentially closed in March, and so now I'm really kind of doing... And pivoted to online, and let go of the lease. 

I didn't build my customers up yet, and while I do have a handful of them. When you said, "Take care of your 100," I wish I had 100. So my question is, right now the best way to build up my customer base, is that gonna be through me and through video and through reaching out in that way? 

There's so many things I need to do, I need to figure out how to channel what's gonna give me the biggest reward. And I'm thinking that certainly you gotta start with the customer.

CG: Yeah. Well, I wanna say congratulations for starting a new business in 2019 and then pivoting it in the middle of all that's happening in 2020. Congratulations, that's amazing.

Pam: Thank you.

CG: You need to know that that's awesome.

Pam: I thought so too. It was a great plan originally.

CG: And I'm really glad you asked that question because, yeah, if you don't have a 100 customers, or if you're not sure who your customer base is and you're not even aware of their problem, the strategy that I shared isn't gonna work. 

And so that strategy is fantastic if you understand your customer. So for you I'm going to recommend another one. 

And it's a strategy I recommend for brands that are doing a hard pivot, or they also started new businesses much like you did. And it's a strategy that... Because when people pay attention to Pam, they're already interested. The ones that pay are more highly invested...

Pam: Whoops.

Jenn: Internet.

Pam: Chris froze.

Jenn: I know, she froze. Oh no. Chris, we can't see you anymore. Or I can see you, but no one can hear you anymore. I feel like she was just getting to a really good spot.

Pam: Yeah, it was just...

Jenn: Like, "What's that?"

Pam: Like, "Oh man."

Jenn: She is delightful, and I know that she will still answer your question. So if it doesn't happen in the next few minutes where she's not able to pop back on, then I'll send an email connecting the two of you so that you guys can chat.

Pam: Thank you.

Jenn: Yeah, of course, a little bit more and she can answer everything directly because it is a really great question too. 

Oh yeah, we've lost her. No worries. If she can hop back on for a second, but if not, I do wanna say thank you to everyone for being here and joining for our first Hey Sendler, very exciting. 

We'll be back again in two weeks with Boon Sauce, which is a hot sauce chili oil based out of LA, made by a chef who is in Thailand right now, which is really cool. And so, chatting a little bit about their journey from having an idea to making an actual good to then selling it. So I'm really excited to chat with them. 

And then expect to get a little survey in the email boxes shortly after this just asking about your experience. Okay, it looks like we lost Chris, but that's totally fine. So I wanna say thanks to everyone for coming. Pam, like I said, I will connect the both of you via email and... 

Oh, here she is. Can we hear you? Oh, we can't hear you. Oh my gosh.

CG: Here we go.

Jenn: Yes, perfect.

CG: Excuse me. See, technology. 

Okay, it's okay. So what I was saying was we're gonna get people more highly invested in you, so I would recommend some caption categories that allow you to do this in mutual community, growing together. 

So maybe you might talk about your why, and maybe you might talk about behind the scenes, or what I like to call behind the screens. And then maybe you might talk about your community, or maybe you might talk about that you love coffee. 

Whatever, you can talk about whatever. And if you just go on Pinterest, you will be fine. But the whole idea is that you are revealing and asking at the same time. So usually the formula is, "I'm gonna hook you in, then I'm gonna give you some information, and then I'm gonna call you to action." 

And your call to action should really... I would recommend being to have anyone answer a question. So, "What do you do?" or "What do you like?" or "What are you drinking?"

That's how you can get to know more about your customer over time. And because you're co-creating this experience together, you're both becoming more highly invested, you and your customer's more highly invested, you're gonna earn the know, like, and trust without needing a whole host of customers to validate, because you've developed a one-on-one relationship. 

So that would be my recommendation. Because that will get you to this like, "Oh, I now know what problems you're facing, and I now know how to position." And so you'll be able to write on this other end with the voice of the customer, but you need to get there first. And so that's what I would recommend.

Pam: Thank you.

CG: Yeah, you're welcome.

Jenn: I love that. And we are at time. Thank you, thank you, thank you so much for being here. This was delightful. Thank you to Chris for being here. You are...

CG: Thank you for having me.

Jenn: Yes, of course, love it. 

And like I said, we'll have a survey out in a little bit, you'll get some information from Chris, resources, we'll share her slides. And if anyone has questions, feel free to send me an email. And I'll include Chris's email address as well. I don't have fun music to send us out too like you do, but thank you.

CG: Thank you.

Jenn: Bye everyone, have a good day.

CG: Bye, have a good day.

Jenn: Bye.

Ship sustainably with Sendle

You might also like to read

Customer Experience | 38 min read
June 17, 2024

An e-commerce dream team: How Stacked Commerce and Sendle save small businesses 20% on costs

An e-commerce business will need more support as it grows, but that doesn’t mean a business owner must do it alone – or spend beyond their budget. For Nick Andreas and his ...
Read more
Customer Experience | 38 min read
June 6, 2024

Unlocking the secrets to meeting customers’ evolving expectations – and fueling business growth

In today’s fast-paced world of eCommerce, the ability to understand and adapt to customers’ evolving expectations is vital to driving business growth. This was the central ...
Read more

Get small biz tips in your inbox. Join us!

Never spammy, always pleasant.