I enjoy making and selling aromatherapy Mood Sprays™ but I have to be honest - I wake up many mornings wondering if I should keep the store open or shut it down. The website makes some money, but not nearly "enough." Just about the time I have the bookkeeping licked, something happens that shifts the financial picture into a nose dive: like my distributor dilutes the essential oils to save money on his end and I have to write off the purchase and find another wholesaler three weeks before Christmas; the USPS no longer accepts my small box for the minis and I have to rethink packaging in its entirety. It's tough. And the work is never finished.
Providing good customer service from an Internet store can also be pretty challenging at times. Internet shoppers don't see that you're just one person barely making ends meet - with another full-time job and a house to clean. The expectation is that you will serve them like Amazon and though you do your very best, sometimes you'll inevitably fall short. You're not Amazon. But you've got to refund their money for things you can't control and do it with a smile. And you do. But sometimes they still think you suck. And they hate your email and your one-on-one efforts to reach out and make them happy. It's just a couple of people in a sea of wonderful folks, to tell the truth. But it's still hard. When you're just one person, trying your very best.
When I get discouraged in the business, it's actually my customers that keep me going. Their feedback helps me improve my business. They get that I'm small and that when I send an email it's actually ME that's sending it - from my messy desk in Winchester, Virginia. Not a marketing bot with a super-slick strategy. I mean, I'm capable of designing a great marketing strategy but I never seem to have the time. I tend to send random emails when the weather is too yucky to do yard work. That's my marketing strategy, so far.
What I love about my customers most of all is the process of getting to know them. When you're small it's actually possible to get to know people better. I dropped a note to a new customer in Montana to let her know I'd visited her town many times when I lived there and she wrote back to say she'd had lunch at my favorite restaurant just that afternoon. When you're small you can do that. You can friend each other on Facebook or Twitter; follow each other on Pinterest. Marina P. and Robin H. are two customers I talk to almost every week online. James B. sent me an encouraging email at just the right time and two years later I still think of those encouraging words when I need them. Many, many customers took time out to write reviews of the products for the website which has really helped my sales.
I love the conversations I have with my customers - and as time passes, I think of so many of them as my friends and I hope they do the same. If you're a customer and you're reading this - know that getting to know you is my favorite part of the business. Thanks for taking a chance on my products but thank you, most of all, for making the effort to connect with me. That's the part of the business I enjoy the most.