Published on March 13th, 2014 | by Kim Stiglitz0
Small Business Lessons That Are Anything but Cliché
In 2011, Dani Sheehan-Meyer decided to open an upscale gift shop called Cliché Noe Gift Store in Noe Valley, a neighborhood in San Francisco. With a background in sales, marketing and advertising, Meyer brought a certain marketing savvy that not all small business owners have since most business owners are not marketers.
In a few short years Meyer learned a great deal about what she did and didn’t want her store to be, and she spends seven days a week working toward that goal. Over shrimp salad and a glass of sauv blanc in her home above the shop, Meyer broke down what she’s learned that any small business can relate to.
Be Known for Something
Meyer decided that she would never compete against the “big guys” because she felt it would be a losing battle. She didn’t want to fall into a “Gap” mentality where she was constantly discounting her products, or having to mark things down in order to sell them. She decided early on that Cliché Noe would differentiate itself from the competition by becoming known for their high level of service and customer experience.
But first, Cliché Noe had to get found by potential customers. Meyer focused her energy on being a part of the community where her store is located. She joined the local merchants association, the larger San Francisco Council District Merchants Association and worked with other local merchants and businesses to create a guide to help market the neighborhood to locals and tourists alike. Meyer took it a step further by connecting with the local tourism agencies and became part of the Northern California Concierge Association and connected with San Francisco travel writers. These efforts helped focus on drawing people to the neighborhood as a destination where they could then experience Cliché Noe amongst other local offerings and gave people reasons to return again and again.
Quality Trumps Quantity
In her first year in business, Meyer focused on volume, not necessarily quality and she learned an important lesson from a $6 knife. After Thanksgiving, a customer came into the store with a $6 knife he had purchased that broke. He was disappointed given he had purchased it to carve his Thanksgiving turkey. Meyer decided in that moment to stay true to her desire to provide an incredible customer experience and to give the level of service her upscale urban customers expected. She refunded the customer’s money and made sure he left satisfied with the interaction. 2 years later, he’s still one of her best customers and comes in often to purchase gifts. If she had refused the return, she would have surely lost his loyalty. Meyer also decided she would stop carrying low quality items that could be a liability for the store, instead refocusing on items that carried a level of brand recognition, prestige and value based on quality.
You Gotta Market Your Biz
Even though Meyer, like most small business owners works 7 days a week and never seems to have enough time, she admits that “you have to market your business – whether you like it or not!” Meyer keeps her focus by using email from VerticalResponse to send out invitations to events at the shop (including the popular Chocolate and Prosecco Night) to her list of about 1,000 subscribers, which she is aggressively growing. Cliché Noe is also active on social media networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Yelp. Meyer saves time by linking her Twitter and Facebook accounts so she can post once and publish the content to both sites. She also takes advantage of SixDoors, an app that aggregates local vendors, and provides them with access to mobile commerce services. Six Doors has 70+ unique stores and brands that represent the very best of what San Francisco has to offer.
So where does Meyer go from here? She’s determined to make her small business anything but cliché!
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