Are Your Suppliers Letting You Down on the Web?

If, as I suspect, you’re a web-savvy entrepreneur, (If you’re not, how did you find this post?) it’s in your best interest to find the manufacturers who think the same way that you do.  The fact that you’re a blog reader tells me that you know how to find relevant information and that you know what to do with it.

Whether we like it or not, (and we should like it) the way business is done in the US and in the entire world is changing.  You can pretend that you’re customers can’t find the lowest price on anything with just a few minutes of web surfing, but you’d be sadly mistaken.  You can assume that your customers have to leave their homes to shop, but you’d be very wrong.  Maybe you don’t think that eBay and Craigslist are your competitors, but I promise you that they are.

Wise manufacturers are working with their dealers to provide them with the best, most up-to-date tools and information.  We’re in the midst of an economic crisis yet many retailers are thriving.  Often, but not always, these dealers are supported by like-thinking vendors.  Some dealers thrive in spite of their vendors, not because of them.

By way of disclaimer, I don’t claim to be the most knowledgeable person on the subject of social media, but I have been a blogger, podcaster, and forum administrator for quite a while.  Between this blog and its predecessor, I’m approaching my 900th post.  I regularly follow dozens of blogs and podcasts.  Obviously I’ve invested a lot of time and effort in providing information to small business owners.  I guess that, since you’re reading this, you must find some value in the content of Mining the Store.

Sadly, there seem to be a lot of manufacturers who just don’t get it.  Twenty-first century business owners want and need help.  The climate is just too hostile for each of us to reinvent the wheel every day.  Likewise, very few suppliers have all the answers.  (even if they think they do)

The key to success in the year 2010 is community; communities of people with common interests who get together online to share information.  Whether it’s politics, sports, health matters, or business, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can find communities of interest where any question can find its answer.

A wise supplier will get involved in the communities that affect his/her market and become a contributor.  Simply lurking, seeing what people are saying, is critical but it’s far from sufficient.  The days of a company looking down at its customers, considering them necessary evils, are over.  There are too many other vendors who treat their dealers as partners in the supply chain.  They will be successful.  Make no mistake, the same rules apply to retailers and their communities.

The bottom line here is that you have to hold your vendors feet to the fire.  Demand that they give you the help that you need or you’ll take your business elsewhere.  I don’t want to generalize too much, but there are vendors whose sales are down who actually blame their dealers.  They have such a perfect product and such infallible marketing programs that the problem couldn’t possibly lie with them.  Therefor the fault must be yours.  One sales manager actually wondered on an industry forum why “the better dealers” aren’t participating.  Maybe it’s because “the better vendors” aren’t participating?  I’m just sayin’…….

I’m not advocating for insurrection here.  But I am suggesting that you insist that your suppliers give you the help you need to move the product through the marketing chain to your/their customers.  History has shown, even with the help of the Internet, that it’s very difficult for a vendor to go directly to the consumer.  They need you more than you need them.  If they aren’t giving you what you need, they’re not doing their job.

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Step Away From the Computer

This blog focuses on small business, quality, and social media.  We try to provide an equal balance of all three.  But as I look at the various blogs, podcasts, twitter streams, and other social media that I follow I’m noticing that there’s way too much coverage of social media.  I mean, how many posts about using Twitter in your small business can you read anyway.  My apologies for contributing to this glut of redundant information.

Today I’d like to offer a short, simple piece of advise for your business.  Close this page, get up from your chair, and go find a customer.  If you’re in retail it should be easy.  There’s probably a customer under your roof as you read this.  If you don’t operate out of a storefront, you may have to do a little more.  You may have to make a phone call.  You may have to actually leave the building.

As I write this many of you are past the half-way point of your work day.  Set the paperwork aside and actually communicate face-to-face, or at least by phone with another human being who might  buy your product or service or refer you to someone who will.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m still a big believer in using the internet, especially the web 2.0 tools, to market your business.  But you can fall into a viscious trap if you spend your whole day staring at a computer monitor.  Life is all about balance.

That’s it for today.  I’m outta here.

Manny’s Christmas

mannys_christmas

Manny's Christmas by Kyle Crane

Ten years ago, Kyle Crane wrote a little book called “Manny’s Christmas.”  Like a lot of little books, some copies were sold, some weren’t.  Recently Kyle’s son Benton came across the remaining supply of his dad’s book and decided to put up a web site and surprise his dad with some enexpected sales.

I’ve ordered the book but haven’t received it yet so I can’t offer a review.  So, you may be wondering why I’m mentioning it here.  Plus, it’s a Christmas book, not a business book.  So, what’s the deal?

It’s simple, really.  This site is all about entrepreneurship and social media. Benton’s site is an excellent example of both. He’s turning an unproductive asset (the unsold books) into a revenue stream.  He’s using word-of-mouth and social media to promote sales.

So, good luck to Benton. I hope he sells a ton of books.  At just $9.95 a copy, I thought it was a good investment to buy a book, just to have it around for a last-minute Christmas gift.  Besides, anyone who puts web 2.0 to such good use deserves a plug.

Episode 13–Back from Ireland

Welcome to Mining the Store, the podcast for small business owners who want to mine more gold from their businesses. This is Episode 14.  This episode’s contents:

00:00  An audio clip from the hilarious movie classic, “Waking Ned Devine.”
01:00  Some thoughts from our trip to Ireland.
01:30  There are similarities between Irish and American culture and there are differences.  Has Ireland benefited from the exchange?
03:20  Two weeks on the Emerald Isle aren’t enough to see everything.
03:48  Podcamp Ireland.  Surprise, most of the people in my session were boomers.
05:30  Social media should be a tool that fits the task at hand.  Are we altering the task to fit the tool?
09:00  If you aren’t using Skype, you may be missing a real money-saving opportunity.
10:45  Changes are coming to Mining the Store
13:10  We need your comments to make MTS a real conversation.

Direct download: EPISODE_13.mp3

Episode 9, Our First Remote

Episode 9 Our First Remote
Welcome to Mining the Store, the podcast for small business owners who want to mine more gold from their businesses.  This is Episode 9.There’s no “I” in podcast, so your comments are very important.  You can leave a comment here on the show notes page.  Or, you can email your comment to mike@miningthestore.com.  If you’d like to leave an audio comment, you can attach an mp3 file to your email.

Skype users can leave an audio comment at mike.buckley3.

My Twitter ID is michaelbuckley and you can also find me on Friendfeed.

Mining the Store is a member of the blubrry podcast network, http://www.blubrry.com.

This time on Mining the Store

:50    Me whining about being hot.
1:25  Call for comments
1:48  Help a Reporter Out
You could be come famous or at least recognized for your expertise.
4:02  Would you fly an airline called Derrie-Air
People respond to creative advertising, even when the company’s made up.  Thanks to              Patrick  Byers at the Responsible Marketing blog.
6:00  Mark Cuban’s tax plan.  You’re going to like it.
7:34  Podcamp Ireland.  I’m going to camp.
9:25  Common Craft, computer stuff for dummies.
10:32 The Podcast Sisters
Krishna De
Anna Farmery
Heather Goringe

Episode 6

Welcome to Mining the Store, the podcast for small business owners who want to mine more gold from their businesses.  This is Episode 5.

There’s no “I” in podcast, so your comments are very important.  You can leave a comment here on the show notes page.  Or, you can email your comment to mike@miningthestore.com.  If you’d like to leave an audio comment, you can attach an mp3 file to your email.

Skype users can leave an audio comment at mike.buckley3.

Our music is called “Shenandoah” and it’s by Larry Allen Brown from the Garage Band web site, find it here.

Mining the Store is a member of the blubrry podcast network, http://www.blubrry.com.

Happy Father’s Day!

1:50  The long-awaited Firefox version 3.0 will be available this coming Tuesday, June 17.  They hope to set a world record for the most copies of software downloaded in one day.  The new version is said to be more secure, faster, and less of a memory hog.  There are other new features as well.

4:17  LifeClever offers a list of ten free on-line photo editing applications.  We tried one, Splashup, and it worked pretty well.

5:35  High gas prices, the economy, the Internet, and small business.

10:00 Question of the week.  Do your loved ones take your on-line work seriously?  If not, how do you deal with it?  Let’s talk about it.

Direct download: Episode_6.mp3

Episode 1

Welcome to Mining the Store, the podcast for small business owners who want to mine more gold from their businesses.  This is Episode 1, our first official program.

There’s no “I” in podcast, so your comments are very important.  You can leave a comment here on the show notes page.  Or, you can email your comment to mike@miningthestore.com.  If you’d like to leave an audio comment, you can attach an mp3 file to your email.

Skype users can leave an audio comment at mike.buckley3.

Our music is called “Shenandoah” and it’s by Larry Allen Brown from the Garage Band web site, http://www.garageband.com/song?%7Cpe1%7CS8LTM0LdsaSlZFO_ZGE.

Mining the Store is a member of the blubrry podcast network, http://www.blubrry.com.

Show notes:

Backup and Save–Don’t do as I say, do as I do. Save your work regularly and whatever you do, backup your files and store the backup media away in a location away from your computer. Mine Your Own Business is the Tacony Corporation blog.

MyMoney.gov
Here’s something free from your favorite uncle, Uncle Sam. Good consumer advice available by mail or download.

Keith Burtis’ Magic Woodworks
Keith used the power of social media to sell out of his hand turned wooden bowls and earn enough money to pay off his fiancee’s engagement ring, just in time to pop the question at Podcamp Toronto.

Joseph Jaffee is a social media guru, and author of Join the Conversation.

Kappy’s Department Store–My first job (at age 14) introduced me to the best retailer I’ve ever known. And he didn’t even own a computer. Social media tools are just that—tools. Don’t let the tool get in the way of the conversation.

Download the podcast here:

Mining the Store-Episode 1