Canadian Music Trade - April / May 2018 - Page 29

“The reason why people are so attract- ed to customer reviews on those third- party sites is because they’re willing to look at both sides of the coin. So let’s look at music for a second, and let’s look at a gui- tar. So if you’re selling a guitar and you’re smart about it – and you’re producing a video or an article or review of the guitar – well it’s dumb to just say why it’s awesome, but most companies will say why it’s great and they only want to talk about the good elements of it,” explains Sheridan. “The smart businesses that are thinking like a Yelp [reviewer] are very open to saying, ‘Look, you’re trying to figure out if this Gib- son XYZ model is a good fit for you, so let’s look at who it is and who it’s not a good fit for and by the end of this video, hopefully you’ll be able to decide if this is a great choice for you.’ That’s what the buyer wants. They want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. Most retailers don’t yet understand that and so therefore they’ve caused buyers to shift to third-party websites instead of the main hubs of the brands and retailers because they’re just not being unbiased enough.” Sheridan points out that in the last two years, “for me” searches have exploded on Google. An example would be, “What is the best beginner acoustic guitar for me?” This is exactly the type of information customers want, and retailers are very well placed to provide it. They have the diversity of brands/products, experience, and ex- pertise to answer these questions honestly. But that doesn’t mean they have to be negative; they just have to be honest using the facts they have. Here’s a great example from one of Sheridan’s clients, Yale Appliance in Massachusetts. They sell home appliances like washing machines and dryers from all the major brands. Try googling “least serviced refrigerator brands,” and you’ll likely see a blog post from Yale Appliance. Their brilliant idea was to take the data from their repairs department and give customers the information they want. “What they do every year – and this is a huge annual article they do on their website – is they take the data from the year and they say, ‘We sold this many units from this particular brand – Miele, Bosch, GE, whatever – we sold this many units, we went on this many service calls, and therefore here is the percentage of units serviced.’ You can see the most- MARCUS SHERIDAN PRESENTS AT THE NAMM SHOW serviced and the least-serviced appliances that they sell,” Sheridan explains. “Now, does this piss off the vendor? Well maybe it does. Now, if the vendor is doing well, maybe it doesn’t, but you see, Yale has released their fear of the vendor because they know they have all the leverage. That one article gets read 50,000 times a month. A month! I’m not exaggerating. They were willing to do things that nobody else in that retail appli- ance space was willing to do.” And that customer-focused article doesn’t just generate online traffic; it gen- erates sales. By being totally transparent, Yale Appliance transformed their business. During the NAMM U session, Sheridan re- vealed that Yale Appliance had $37 million in revenue in 2011 and hit $85 million in 2016 while spending $700,000 less per year in advertising. They grew from one store to two and their margins are up five per cent. They can account for at least $10 million a year in revenue coming from people who first visit the website – and they don’t do any e-commerce. So customers want transparency and honesty in comparisons, reviews, and drawbacks. But what about the other two pillars, cost and what’s best? Cost is about more than slapping a price on something, though not showing a price creates uncertainty and customers hate that. (Just think of how you feel when you look at a restaurant’s menu online and there are no prices.) “Nobody has talked about the need to discuss costs openly as much as I have over the last seven years. It’s been one of my major points of conversation, but it’s always coming back to this: buyers don’t like to be embarrassed and they don’t like to feel stupid. They don’t want to make a mistake and so they need to understand param- eters. They want to know what drives the cost up, what keeps it down, why are some companies or brands expensive, and why are others cheap? This is what they want to know,” says Sheridan. “So it’s no different than I might start off playing guitar and the guitar that I get is $500 and then after I get into it, the guitar I get might be $1,500, and then once I get really serious about it, it could be $5,000. But each time I do that, I go through another process of saying, ‘OK, help me understand the parameters. What should I be looking for? Why is this one $5,000 and this one $4,000? I just want to understand.’ This is what’s most important about price – not so much the specific number. Ranges matter a lot, but ranges in context of why is what we need to be willing to talk about, and not be so stinking embarrassed about it!” The last pillar, “what’s best,” is, like much of Sheridan’s advice, about under- standing the psychology of customers’ web search behaviour. “When we search for things, we always like to know what is at the top of the food chain and work our way down. We don’t start at the bottom. So in other words, you’ll never search for ‘worst guitars for beginners.’ Nobody has ever searched that phrase, ever. They’ll search for ‘best acoustic guitars for beginners,’” he explains. “Once you’re able to see what the best is, you’re able to work off that point and say either, ‘I can afford it; it’s a good fit,’ or ‘It’s not.’ But at least we want to know what that top looks like so we can work our way down.” To boil down Sheridan’s approach to shaping a retailer’s web presence, it’s about being in the mindset of a customer search- ing Google. If they’re looking for a product, what questions will they have? Now answer those questions honestly. It’s that simple. Michael Raine is the Senior Editor of Canadian Music Trade CANADIAN MUSIC TRADE 29