A question about sales ...

Discussion in 'TM Lounge' started by MUSICandCHARACTER, Aug 4, 2004.


    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    OK, I have a general question about sales.

    Many of you know I run an online store on my website. The website is filled with information. But in addition I try to sell some high quality items that will help brass players.

    I only sell products I think will really help players. I started with Kelly Mouthpieces (one of the first) and now carry several brands of mouthpieces, Torpedo bags, Googalies cleaning cloths, Peak music stands and several other items.

    I figure I could never compete with WWBW, Dillons, Giardinellis, Brook Mays, etc. If you want a Bach mouthpiece for example, you can buy it just about anywhere. Nothing wrong with a Bach mouthpiece -- I just don't need to stand toe-to-toe with the "big boys."

    Some of you also know that I did sell ZeuS for awhile. Great horns. But I had my (non-public) reasons for discontinuing that relationship.

    So I ask ... what would make anyone shop in a small store? I can never compete on selection. Instead I offer quality products always. I am fairly competitive price wise. Most of my products include shipping so there is no guessing. I have the opportunity to pick up some more lines. Any input before I jump would be helpful.

  2. camelbrass

    camelbrass Mezzo Forte User

    Nov 5, 2003
    Dubai, UAE

    I realise the dollar is comparatively weak but why not look at some of the high end UK and European makers. Wiseman cases, brass bags, Wick mouthpieces and mutes (realise this is more corporate). Heck, why not some of the horn makers-WWBW doesn't seem to be doing Taylor any favours. Hub van Laar makes a nice item and costs about the same as Roy Lawler. Bruno Tilz pieces. Michael Rath trombones..I'm sure there's is lots of guys in Europe who would love a presence, particularly a sympathetic one who's in the business and is respected.

    Sort of the role that Bruce Lee has adopted with Eclipse. I think that's a great model. Small, quality custom maker represented by a respected player.

    Just my thoughts.


  3. djm6701

    djm6701 Pianissimo User

    I can answer that in general terms - service, service, service. I much prefer dealing with stores where they know me and are willing to 'go the extra mile'. As an example, there is a chain of electronics stores in my area that really do have the lowest prices around. However, when you enter the store, the salespeople descend on you like wolves because they are paid by commission (they have to enter their employee number into a terminal along with your purchase in order to get the extra pay, so they end up following people around). When you ask them a question, it becomes obvious they don't really have any product knowledge. So, I don't shop there, and I go somewhere where I may pay a little more but I am not treated like a fresh kill by the staff.

    I have dealt with staff at both Kanstul and Dillon Music and find them to be extremely helpful, offering personalized service. There are three music stores in my area. One I won't deal with because they don't know about their own product lines (they didn't know about the Yamaha 8310z being out as late as a week ago), and they don't seem too motivated to find out. #2 has noticeably higher prices (probably because they serve a more isolated area), and #3 is quite good. Having said that, if I'm going to buy something bigger than a mute or valve oil, I'm probably going to go through Dillon's (and have done so - note that we're not even in the same country :shock:).
  4. Tootsall

    Tootsall Fortissimo User

    Oct 25, 2003
    Yee HAW!
    Why shop at a small store? Well, for the same reasons that I prefer to avoid places like Wal-Mart, Costco, etc. QUALITY, SERVICE, LOYALTY. One of my "other" hobbies is downhill skiing. Sure, I can buy skis or boots or whatever at the "Sport Mart", or one of the larger department stores. But I've learned that the person selling me the stuff in those places almost always has NO idea what he's talking about, hasn't got a clue how to properly fit a ski boot, and is only interested in pushing invoices through the cash register. Likewise the serviceman has probably only been there since the season began and won't be there when the season is over. He's had a crash course in how to screw bindings onto a flat board and couldn't find his south end with both hands behind his back. The products handled by the large chains TEND to be of the "low-cost, fancy decoration, high profit, limited durability" type rather than the "high quality, hand fitted, long lasting" style. Particle board, not plywood or solid wood. (In other words, "cheap is not always least expensive")

    The small store will charge me 5, 10, sometimes 15% more for equal goods. BUT they will take the time necessary and have the knowledge to properly ensure that I'm happy with my purchase... and not just happy as I walk out the door but happy for years after. The sales and service guys will remember me in two or three years time OR MORE when I go back to upgrade or replace or "have fixed". If I have to leave something overnight because I'm going away on a ski trip the next day I know they'll have it ready for me to pick up in the morning (rather than having excuses ready in the morning). If they haven't got it, they'll get it. And I like it like that.

    Sometimes the small store is quirky... things aren't always laid out in "patterns designed by social psychologists and marketers" to entice you to buy what you don't want. You might actually have to LOOK for it (proving that you really do WANT to buy it). That's great... makes life interesting, not bland. The owner and employees might be my neighbours and, if I 'tap them' for a small donation to one of our band events I know they'll usually come through...not "refer me to head office".

    It's all about personal relationships, service and quality product.
  5. Dr G

    Dr G Pianissimo User

    Nov 9, 2003
    I can only speak from my experience but there is probably no way you can compete on price directly with the larger stores. They have capital investment, acquired good will, etc. that would require many dollars to overcome. Then, presuming success, you have another big store.

    I have looked over your website a number of times and find it informative, accurate, interesting, and --- what is probably more important --- it seems to reflect your personality. Seems to me you are well on the way to developing a "niche" market to that extent.

    As an aside, the traditional business approach has been to try to sell lots of stuff at low prices or not much stuff at high prices, both of which will generate hopefully adequate profits.

    I would "play to your strengths" to the greatest extent possible. You, and you alone, are responsible for your business. Go with what you think is the best for the market.

    Long ago I learned a simple adage --- "Take care of your business and it will take care of you."

    good luck
  6. Happy Canuck

    Happy Canuck Piano User

    Oct 31, 2003
    Toronto, ON Canada
    I agree with everyone, Service, Expertise, Interest!!

    Some of the trombones in my community band wanted to get new horns. They went to one of the best repair guys in Toronto/Canada, Ron Partch. Ron not only sells Yamaha but plays trombone as his main instrument. They picked his brain, then walked 2 blocks down the street and bought their horns at a large Canadian music store, and saved $150/horn.

    WELL, there was some problem with the horns, not set up correctly or somthing else and they had to take them back for repairs. Ron would have set the up perfectly, gone that little bit further and made sure they played excellently.

    I'll go small store anytime, especially when they are the experts!
  7. trumpetpimp

    trumpetpimp Piano User

    Dec 6, 2003
    1. Keep the website updated and easy to use. I find everything I'm looking for on the web. Have pictures of things on there as well as info and pricing. Make the efford to have more pictures than your competition. It's tough to find info on some product on the net and good quality pictures sell gear(especially cases and horns).

    2. Keep up with your email. People aren't impressed if you take a week to answer a simple question. Your competition may have already taken care of the customer by then.

    3. Be fair in pricing. People shop around and if you're primarily on the net then it takes no effort to make an online order somewhere else if you're too high. Just because you offer better service or a better site doesn't mean people won't take your info and get the better deal elsewhere once they've learned everything they need to know. Also, don't try to make money on shipping and handling.

    4. If you make a mistake and you can afford to, take the hit and make things right for the customer. I'll say no end of good about a store that screwed up an order and then quickly, courteously, and free of charge fixed it. It's almost more effective for word of mouth advertising than getting it right the first time!

    I've been working in retail for about 5 years now and I getting a good idea of what makes people walk out of the store and what makes them come back. Just because you're small doesn't mean you can't be quite successful and it doesn't mean you won't some day be one of the big boys.

    MUSICandCHARACTER Forte User

    Jan 31, 2004
    Newburgh, Indiana
    Dr. G

    You have to have a lot of capital to compete at that level. I don't want to anyway. I could not sell some of the low end stuff some of the big boys sell. I don't want to make money off of unsuspecting people. I have to charge a dollar or two more for some items. Some items I sell the big boys don't care about.

    If I cannot whole heartily say the product is terrific, I will not sell it. My sales line has been "Your Friendly Local Music Store on the Net". That is what I want to be. Not another big store. Putting out information is more important to me than sales. I get a least one or two emails a day asking for advice from parents, students and players. I respond always. I often get a return email saying something like "wow, I didn't even expect a response and certainly not is an hour or two." It is a fun position to be in.

  9. Yoder

    Yoder Piano User

    Aug 2, 2004
    Digital Domain
    Doc Fox: You got mail! 8)
  10. FreshBrewed

    FreshBrewed Mezzo Piano User

    Nov 11, 2003
    Houston, TX

    I know this may be a little difficult but try just letting your products speak for themselves. I have seen too many salesmen/women try to push a certain brand in their store and it drives the customer crazy. Each player out there pretty much knows what they want in a trumpet. It's not your job to tell them what they want.....it's your job, as a saleman, to give them what they want. I know if I had a store, online or not, I would let the customer ask the questions and let my inventory do the talking. Once the deal is done you may want to ask if there is anything the customer would like to see in the store that you don't carry. They may even let you know without you asking.

    Answering those emails from parents and beginning musicians is a great way to get them in the door. It's also a great way to teach them something that most retailers have no clue about.......musicianship. Once the questions have been answered though, don't constantly email them about products unless they ask. A pushy salesman is a customer's worst nightmare!

    I'm sure you already know all this, as you seem to be an intelligent and curteous guy. But just in case others were looking for advice as well....
    My mother turned her small lingerie business into a giant by doing some of these things.

    Good luck!

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