How a Traditional Business is Succeeding Online

How a Traditional Business is Succeeding Online

ViolinShopping for Violins

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, I had originally intended to write about shopping for my daughter’s new violin. Perhaps a strange subject for a website mainly focussed on wordpress websites and social media, but bear with me.

My daughter is 12 years old, and has been playing violin for about 5 years now, progressing at a rate of a grade per year. Her progress has been very good so far, with merits and distinctions in the grade exams so far. With her hands now big enough to cope with a full-sized instrument, we have been looking for a violin that will take her through to Grade 8 and beyond. As you can probably imagine, they start becoming ‘investments’ at that point!

Tradition in the internet age

Before embarking on this exercise, my wife and I were expecting to have to trawl around the premises of a number of specialist retailers. However, even though my wife and daughter did end up visiting one shop, the instrument was eventually purchased from a shop that does a lot of business online.

So how does the purveyor of such traditional instruments do it? They have recognised that there are two important aspects to selling violins:

1. Offering a good range in the price bracket
2. Giving the student time to explore the instrument(s), especially with a trusted advisor (e.g. their teacher)

Interestingly, the second point is often difficult to achieve if the selection process happens in the shop.

Flexibility

The chosen vendor, The String Zone, offered something unusual. Following a brief telephone consultation with my wife to determine my daughter’s capability, they sent through 4 violins and 4 bows that, in their opinion, were appropriate. There was a small charge for this service, which covered delivery and insurance. We were then allowed to hang on to them for a week to give my daughter a chance to try them out as much as she liked, and more importantly to get her teacher’s view on the equipment.

By focussing on the important aspects of selling violins, and recognising that individuals really appreciate time to get comfortable with an instument that will be an extension of themselves for some time, The String Zone have successfully altered their business in such a way that their geographic contraint has been lifted. No longer will the majority of their instrument sales be to people within a relatively short drive.

As a result she was able to choose a violin and bow that she is immediately comfortable with, and that her teacher is confident will serve her well for years to come.

Lessons

So what’s the lesson for your business? I think it’s pretty simple:

– understand how your customers make their decision to buy
– focus on those aspects that are most important
– carry on listening to your customers
– be prepared to change things if they aren’t working

Perhaps you too can steal a march on your competitors by doing something out of the ordinary?

Hangouts

Before signing off for the week, I’d like to remind you about our regular Google+ Hangouts (video chat sessions) over at The Business Hangout. They are a great way to meet like-minded business people for networking purposes, and often I get subject-area experts involved to explore a business or technology topic. They are also streamed live on YouTube, and the records are saved to our YouTube Channel.

This coming Monday (11th), however, will be an Open Forum session where anything goes. So if you’d like to try a hangout for the first time, or are a veteran and want to join us again, then please do drop in.

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Wordpress developer, social media advocate and a bit of a geek, Colman lives in Kent and loves helping small and mediums businesses (SMBs) make sense of doing business online. He is a recent, and slightly evangelical, convert to cycling.

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