Reg was worried.
He’d just been going through his accounts for his bookshop. His business of over thirty years was only just breaking even. In the past, he’d always made a healthy profit. If business continued as it was, then he was going to go bust.
His bookshop was located on the high street of a small town. In the last few years, he’d noticed a growing decline in the number of customers coming into his shop. His mixture of new and secondhand books had always been popular in the past. .
“Must be Amazon”, he said to himself, “but what can I do?”
Reg put his financial problems to the back of his mind. But he still had no idea what to do.
The following Sunday, Reg drove to see his sister who lived in another small town, seventy miles away. Reg was very traditional about his shop opening hours: the shop was always closed on Wednesdays and Sundays.
As Reg approached the town where his sister lived, a roadworks sign diverted him through the town centre. He didn’t normally drive down the high street, as the two sets of traffic lights there usually made progress slow.
Reg stopped at one set of lights. As he did so, he noticed a bookshop. There were plenty of people going in and out and the shop seemed popular. “I wonder what they’re doing?” thought Reg. The lights changed to green, so Reg had to pull away. But this shop had got him thinking.
“What’s the shop’s owner doing?” he wondered.
Over the next few days, Reg’s curiosity got greater and greater. So the next Sunday, he visited the bookshop. He definitely needed some small business marketing ideas. Unlike his bookshop, it was open seven days a week.
As he walked into the shop, his nostrils were hit with the smell of fresh coffee. He noticed that there was a small coffee bar at the back of the shop. It was busy.
“Ah”, thought Reg, “they’re making money from being a coffee shop rather than being a bookshop”. He was about to go when he saw notices in the coffee shop advertising a reading circle and a seminar for writers. They had the bookshop’s logo on them. Looking more closely at them, Reg saw that the events were taking place in the bookshop.
Reg then saw another notice that took him a back. It said “Go To Our Online Bookshop At Amazon” and gave all the details. “How can this bookshop be selling on Amazon?”, he thought.
“What’s going on?”
There was a young woman who appeared to be running the bookshop. Reg went up to her and introduced himself. The bookshop owner turned out to be called Jen and was only too keen to help a fellow bookshop owner with small business marketing tips
“I quickly realised that Amazon is the first call for many book buyers now. I decided to take Amazon on in two ways: by giving adding value and, this is the surprising bit, by using Amazon itself” Jen said.
They went upstairs where there was a small seminar room. Jen explained that the reading circle met there each week. There were ten people in the group, who all bought their books from the bookshop. Once they’d finished them, Jen would buy them back at a discount and sell them on Amazon Marketplace. Reg had never heard of Amazon Marketplace. He didn’t want to look stupid in front of Jen, so he made a mental note to find out what it was later.
Jen then told him that the seminar room was also used for paid weekend literary seminars. “People who love books usually love learning, so I’m just offering learning in different formats”.
They walked back downstairs on to the main shopfloor. Reg saw a notice by the till that intrigued him. It offered a ten percent discount for signing up to the bookshop’s newsletter. Under it was a tablet set in a mounting. Jen explained that it was important to build an ongoing relationship with his customers.
She offered them a one-time discount in return for entering their name and email into the tablet. The information was then collected by an autoresponder service. Whenever there was an event going on or a new title arrived in the shop, Jen would send out an email to her customer list. She had about a hundred names on her list.
Reg thought that sounded like a lot of work. But Jen smiled. “The autoresponder system means that I only have to write one email and the system automatically puts in the right names and email addresses”, she said.
Jen continued, “I also get people to tick boxes with their interests when they sign up. When a title is published that matches one of the interests, I send an email to all the people with that interest telling them that the book is available from me. I bring in lots of business that way”.
‘What’s Amazon Marketplace?’ Reg finally asked. His curiosity had got the better of him. Jen explained that not just Amazon uses its system to sell products. Anyone can use Amazon Marketplace to sell their products. Even better, for a fee, she went on, the products can be sent directly to Amazon’s warehouse so that Amazon can deal with fulfillment of orders.
‘But how do you know what will sell on Amazon?’ asked Reg.
‘By using Amazon itself’, replied Jen.
She told Reg that she would go through the bestsellers in Amazon for both new and second-hand books. She would then make a list of the most profitable titles. For the second-hand books, she would make a ‘picking’ list and once a month scour second-hand bookshops looking for them.
Jen also made the most of events during the year, not just Christmas. She told Reg that what she did was to put together packages of goods for such events. The last St Valentine’s Day, she had done a deal with a local florist. She had a sold a package of ten red roses and a book of love poems. It had been a great success.
Reg thanked Jen for her time and went back to his own shop.
One year later…
Reg had been interested in Jen’s business model, but had written it off.
“I’m not good at computers, I can’t do that”, he had told himself. This was despite him having no problems using a word processor and spreadsheet.
Reg’s bookshop no longer existed. It was now a coffee shop. His financial situation had deteriorated so much that he’d had to sell up.
And the moral of the tale…
If you run a small business, you can’t afford to ignore new ways of marketing and the creation of different streams of income from that business.
You can’t afford to remain in your comfort zone.
If you do, you’re likely to end up like Reg.