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Story of an Incredible Store: 5 Ways to Connect with your Customers

Posted by STEVE DURAN on


by STEVE DURAN Director of Business Development, 5 Stone/St. Joseph Communications

      IF YOU ARE ANYTHING LIKE ME, THERE IS A tendency to get lost in the administrative and operational details of your business because, let’s face it, in small business we wear a ton of hats. I’m equal parts the platform director, secretary, accountant, and intern. On a regular workday, I can be found drowning in purchase orders, P&Ls, and texts from my wife who’s informed me that my two year old has been throwing a tantrum all day. However, on the days, weeks, and months I find myself the most successful is when I am deeply invested in the mission of my apostolate or the “why” behind why I go to work every morning. 

     Our why is the reason and heart behind what we do. My why is the thing that is life-giving and propels me forward. The “what” is the way to get there, but our why is the reason we’re in business in the first place and gives us the destination. As a bookstore, gift shop, or Catholic business, it is critical that we connect our customers to our why. In order to be successful in this space, we need to be constantly finding ways to draw customers into the mission of our Catholic business. As this begins to happen, these customers begin to become brand ambassadors of our business which ultimate drives more leads to us in the long run. As an incredible store, here are five easy ways to connect with our customers:

     1) Write down your “Why” for being in business - Our why must be clearly articulated and shared with our staff. Without this, we’ll never have a clear set of principles for making decisions. For me, this comes down entirely to leadership. As leaders at our companies, we have to be the ones to set the tone for our business. Keep in mind that anyone can follow a map, but it takes a captain of a ship to chart out a navigation plan.

     2) Outline your story of how your got started- Our story is something that is unique and can be used to draw people into the mission of our business. Once these customers become fans of our story, these customers ultimately become ambassadors for our businesses. In the age of social media, every new customer that walks into our store has access to about 2,000 people in their circle that we have not even met yet. Again, the key is to draw them into our story, make them fans of our mission (our why) and watch as they bring business to us. 

     3) Look to be a “destination” of sorts - It really helps to find ways to create an environment where people want to come back to our stores. Ideas that we have found successful include screening films, running book clubs, and hosting events. Once we’ve clearly articulated this why, it is a good idea to have a physical manifestation of this mission in the form of an event. 

    4) Parish partnerships - Anecdotally, I have found that bookstores are oftentimes the frontlines of evangelization. Of the people I have met who have had conversions or reversions, the first place they went to when looking into the Catholic Faith, was not the adoration chapel, but instead a place where they could be fed spiritually such as their local Catholic shop or bookstore. If this tends to be the case, then we can begin to create this relationship with our local parishes where people come into the store and then are referred to the parish. Parishes in turn would be incentivized to send people to the store when they are looking for materials on a certain topic.

      5) Build a sacred space - The key for me here is to not be afraid to put prayer at the center of all we do. My advice is to carve out a literal sacred space in your shop for prayer and meditation. I like this for three reasons, it is on brand for what we are trying to do as Catholic businesses; as a Catholic bookstore, we already have the sacramentals in the shop to adorn the space; and lastly (most importantly), it gives people an excuse to return to your store and you never know who could use a moment of prayer. When it comes to any type of business, there are those that manipulate and those that inspire. As Catholic business owners, we need to inspire people. There is a reason you got into business into the first place and I am willing to bet that it is somehow connected with the story of how you got your start. If you want to be successful in this space and you want to be one of the 10% of businesses that remain in business after the first ten years, you need to focus on your story and start with your why.

 *This is an excerpt from Steve’s Retailer Education Day presentation at the 2017 CMN Trade Show.