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The three most loving things you can do for your business

by Team Holly & Co

What would be the business equivalent of being loved beyond measure? How can you ensure you are doing all you can to help your brand flourish and grow? What’s the best way to help your business be the fullest version of itself it can possibly be so that people can’t help but love it as much as you do? Over the years, many successful founders have shared their views on this and the same three factors consistently come up…

1) Always keep customers at the heart of what you do

Yes there are the practical things that customers want from your business: value for money, good quality, speedy delivery… In fact, speaking of the latter, Smarter HQ reported that a sturdy 87% of Amazon Prime subscribers said they would cancel their subscription without free two-day shipping¹ so that’s clearly important for people. Many small businesses can’t compete with the big guys on convenience or even price in fact. But what we absolutely can win on is the personal, creative, human experience we give our customers.

We can also provide them with one-of-a-kind, soulfully made products too — but to do all of this, we need to put them first, and really get to know our customers and what they want. There are several ways to do this.

Gain insight then apply it

One of the greatest strategic whoopsie daisies that some founders make is to focus on what their business needs rather than what their customer needs. If you don’t fulfil the wishes of your consumers, they’ll disappear and you need them to exist. That’s why empathy is key. This may sound obvious but consider this: When did you last survey your customers on how they’re feeling or the one thing you could do to make their lives better? 

You need to put yourself in their shoes regularly. Feedback is your friend and it’s free. Good or bad, the more you know, the greater your chances are of getting it right. It’s wise to always keep a clear picture of your customers in your mind.  Not just what they want to buy but what are their goals in life? What excites them? Makes them happy? Drives them mad? Knowing more about them and using this information cleverly can give you a clear advantage over your competitors. 

Also, things changed so much during the pandemic, that how people were feeling two years ago might well be a world away from how they are feeling now. Yes there are the more practical elements like the fact that people are taking fewer holidays and more have been working from home and so on, but A) have you applied that knowledge (ie. if people are no longer commuting as much, have you changed the time you post your social media or send emails to reflect that)? And B) How have these points changed how customers look at the world and what they respond to? Some of the most successful campaigns were born out of nuggets of insight (like Bloom & Wild’s brave move to not sell red roses for Valentine’s Day, for example, as customers fed back that it felt clichéd — and the idea flew). So gather yours.

Know your customer journey inside out

Use whatever data you can get to guide you (and check this consistently as it will change). Do people often click through from your emails to your site and then not buy? If so, what could you change to help reverse this? Do they add to the basket often but then abandon it? If so, could you simplify the checkout process perhaps? Where are you losing them? If you’re able to predict their patterns, you’ll be better placed to deliver what they need. Similarly, think about when and how they like to consume media. If Instagram is starting to overwhelm some people, have you thought about sending a newsletter instead? Find out and build your communications around their preferences. 

Talk with people, not just to them

Thanks to being stuck indoors for so long, many of us are craving human connection more than ever. Are you starting conversations and inviting comments, for example? Really listening and responding? Popping a card in with orders and asking customers to share their thoughts? Now is the time to go out of your way and exceed expectations when people need you most. 

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Make sure you’re being inclusive

Again, this is where empathy comes in. How would you feel if nobody ever looked like you in a company’s adverts or you felt constantly left out by their marketing? Chances are you’d choose another brand. Make sure you’re talking to, welcoming in and celebrating your whole audience if that’s who you are intending to appeal to. 

Remember to have fun

As Maya Angelou famously said, “People won’t always remember what you do or even what you say but they will always remember how you made them feel.” How can you lift spirits? Our news is filled with gloom every day. Can you think of three things you could weave into your marketing to cheer them up? As Harvard Professor, Gerald Zaltman ascertained, 95% of purchasing decisions are based on emotion² — and the feelings that people most want in this climate are things like reassurance and fun — how can you tap into this?

Make it personal

Wherever possible, personalise your customer experience. People like to be treated as individuals. In fact, 71% of consumers said they feel frustrated when a shopping experience feels impersonal³. From using someone’s name where relevant to using data to sift out content that’s unlikely to interest them.

Surprise people

If more than half of customers (57%) go to Amazon for an item they already know they need, another area that small businesses can win on is inspiration. So over deliver. How can you give people an experience that nobody else does? How can you make them smile? How can you spring the unexpected? The good news is, this doesn’t need to be expensive but it does take some thinking about. Whether it’s through funny content, imaginative window displays or web pages, or even magical touches like spontaneous refunds, customers love nice surprises.

Reward loyalty

It’s important to find fresh ways to attract new faces to your brand, but also bear in mind that as it costs more to acquire a customer than it does to keep hold of one, it’s wise to really look after the ones you’ve got. Here are some key ways to do that. Rewarding loyalty is important. This doesn’t have to be with offers either. It could be sharing exclusive content with them earlier than you do with the rest of your audience perhaps or making sure they see your new items first. There are all kinds of ways to encourage customers to keep coming back for more. 

It’s wise to always keep a clear picture of your customers in your mind. Not just what they want to buy but what are their goals in life? What excites them? Makes them happy? Drives them mad? Knowing more about them and using this information cleverly can give you a clear advantage over your competitors.

Have a point of view

Act, don’t just react. People go with brands that align with their values and they expect you to have a point of view. According to Forbes, a global study revealed consumers are four to six times more likely to not only purchase from, but also protect and champion, purpose-driven companies⁵. So think about what you stand for. Then the second most loving thing you can do for your business is as follows. 

2) Protect your secret sauce and make time to stay inspired

This is something that often falls off our lists but protecting your vision and ideas time is vital. It’s what will give you that edge. Plus if your competitors are doing this and you are not, customers will soon see the difference. With passion comes optimism, and that’s a secret fuel so many don’t possess. It puts you at a distinct advantage because you will be the one innovating new products, ideas and ways of inspiring others. 

The company vision is also highly likely to be the part you’re most passionate about and rarely get to do because the day-to-day, business-as-usual stuff always takes priority but it’s smart not to let it. Passion spreads. It’s the lifeblood of your business. It’s what all great leaders have in common. People naturally warm to those with energy and an authentic drive for what they do. This is also the bit that’s most ‘you’ so don’t let it fall by the wayside. 

Block out regular time in your diary and keep it for this. You’ll be surprised by how many of the smaller tasks still manage to get done. Also take a step back for a moment and do this quick exercise: Take a look at your current things-to-do list. Then write next to each item whether the task will help your business in the short-term or the long-term. 

As Maya Angelou famously said, “People won’t always remember what you do or even what you say but they will always remember how you made them feel.”

Very often we find we’re firefighting and prioritising the most immediate jobs but having a long-term, bigger picture vision is often more beneficial than just getting through the week. Think of it as futureproofing your business. What can you do today that your future self will thank you for? If you’re lucky enough to have anyone else working with you, what could you delegate to make room for this? Here’s the final point. 

3) Don’t give up when times get tough

The third most loving thing you can do for your business is to love it unconditionally. When David Hieatt (founder of Howies, The Do Lectures and Hiut Denim) was on our Conversations of Inspiration podcast he said, “One of the biggest gifts you can give your ideas is not to quit on them.”

Similarly, chef, author and TV presenter Nadiya Hussain MBE, also touched on this with Holly and said she’d come to a similar realisation, “I’m never going to put boundaries on myself ever again. I’m never going to say ‘I can’t do it’. I’m never going to say ‘maybe’. I’m never going to say ‘I don’t think I can’. I can and I will.”

You’ve got to stick at it to reap the rewards. Lucy Sparrow, founder of Sew Your Soul, is a walking example of this. “I was 28 and working three jobs when Cornershop [her career defining exhibition] happened and I’d been trying to sell my art from when I was 18… Over the next seven years I would take my felt all over the world from Beijing to New York… I would live out every hope for my career… I would have an agent and a publicist and an eight page spread in the Sunday Times Magazine, be on TV and the radio simultaneously… One day, I would be standing in one of my felt shops and Tracey Emin (the artist that I had plastered all over my teenage bedroom walls) would walk into my show and tell me that my work is amazing and that I should keep going. So keep going. The hours will be long and life will be dominated by hard work but every stitch will be worth it.”

Put your customers first, protect your secret sauce and don’t give up. That’s the secret to giving your business the love it deserves. 

Flourishing in a traditional industry

Bloom & Wild’s co-founder Aron Gelbard, talks about finding fresh ways to make customers happy in this insightful podcast episode.

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