By: Tim Roche
Last issue we covered the importance of having knowledgeable employees who artfully engage our customers. A big part of engagement today goes well beyond simply talking to customers who have entered the store. While that is certainly important it belies the reality that in a cutting-edge market it pays dividends to engage customers before and after they have left the store.
There are many platforms people use today, broadly referred to as social media, to engage with friends and other people with common affinities. On the Internet, more so than almost anywhere else, information is exchanged, opinions form and decisions are made. Users of social media, while gathering information and seeking to express their own opinions, are ultimately in search of a sense of validation. When it comes to vape they want to find out what’s new and hot, and they want feel that their purchase decisions are made wisely.
While not all customers may spend a great deal of time on the Internet, a lot of them do. The ones who do spend a great deal of time engaging with people online are likely to be the ones with the greatest influence on how others spend their money. The personalities on YouTube with hundreds of thousands of subscribers – some with millions – have an inordinate amount of influence, and they are making a lot of money for themselves due to this influence.
Savvy shops charge employees with engaging customers online. Aside from answering questions and responding to comments, offering a coupon in a newsletter or on Facebook is one example of this. Some shops hold in-store events with giveaways and prizes. We have several customers who have held “cloud blowing” competitions and others who have held raffles for charities such as Wounded Warriors, with hundreds of vapers in attendance. Wholesalers are often willing to get involved by donating items to a raffle, especially if it is for a good cause. Adding value to your customers’ vaping experience allows them to develop a passion for your business. The goodwill you engender by engaging with customers online and at appreciation events is a powerful way to take your shop to the next level. It is just plain good for business.
There are many items a typical Smoke Shop might carry, but it is vape sales that have taken off for many. There are some who have suggested vaping is a fad and that this too shall pass. Maybe. I think that vaping is something people will continue to enjoy for an indeterminate amount of time. Will people be so engaged such that there always will be popular and successful online forums that cater to vaping? Will many savvy shops continue to meaningfully engage their customers on Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and other platforms, increasing their bottom line? No one knows for certain how long any market continues to grow before it starts to eat her young. The vicissitudes of the market are simply a fact of business. Perhaps it is merely the nature of things, but it will always be that some of the questions themselves are unknowable.
One immutable thing we can know is that if we do not show our customers some love, we can expect very little in return. If you are in it for the short term, it really does not matter. If you want to build a sustainable, thriving long-term business, then going the extra mile needs to be part of the credo. It is required.
If your customers are not telling you how much they love what you are doing, how much fun are you having? If your business is only focused on the bottom line, how much love could your customers have for it? There is in business as in life such a thing as a virtuous circle. Our business started off five years ago in a burgeoning community of vaping enthusiasts. It was all about sharing, and giving back begat love in the form of more business for us vendors. This is an important lesson to keep in mind, no matter how large the community and industry may become.
Working smarter vs working harder is a platitude with which we are all familiar. Being earnest in one’s desire to help the customer, to give a little extra, may be the smartest way to increase the bottom line in the long run. Return can be measured though in ways other than the bottom line. If you truly enjoy what you do, maybe one day laid out on the tumbrel you’ll honestly say, “I should have spent more time at the vape shop.” SVBS
Tim Roche founded Hot Vapes in January of 2010 to serve tobacco and head shops, and later vape shops, across the U.S. HotVapes has two retail locations and remains committed to helping its wholesale and distribution customers stay on top of market trends. He can be reached at 775.468.8273, or [email protected], or visit their website at www.hotvapes.com.