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What Is Your Customer Thinking?

Written by CMG News Contributor, Doug Carleton

As the money starts to flow in and all these positive things are happening – more vaccinated people, stimulus checks, warmer weather, and consumer confidence rising, what are some of the things that might affect your customer’s thinking? Here are a couple of things to think about:

  • For most businesses that sell “things” – cars, boats, groceries, clothes, you name it, customers can buy those "things" today online, and they are probably among the people who have. It’s partly because most people are still wary of Covid and partly because it’s so damn easy. Why bother to get up off the couch when your toilet paper can magically show up at your front door?

  • What can you do to get them up off the couch?

  • Large segments of the population, around 40% by some estimates, say that they currently don’t plan to get vaccinated. So if yours is a customer-facing business such as a retail operation, a lot of your customers may not be ready to come back to your store even if they want to.

  • If they don’t, is your e-commerce platform maximized to make purchases as absolutely easy as possible?

  • For customers who do plan to go back to physical locations, proper health and safety protocols are going to need to be mandatory and obvious by the establishment. Masks should be required knowing that there are people who refuse to wear a mask and that there is nothing you can do about it. Disinfections such as hand sanitizers for shoppers should be readily and widely available within your space if it is good-sized. Social distancing should be enforced as much as possible, and you should have Plexiglas barriers at checkout stations if possible. If your customers feel even the slightest doubt about your safety protocols, they may decide to go to another place of business. And sometimes, that message is conveyed right at your entrance as a customer walks in. Here, I’m going to take the liberty of giving a personal example.

One of my doctors has his office located in an office building attached to a hospital. I have been there several times and park in the parking deck. The staircase has three floors and never looks clean. At the bottom of the steps by the door to the outside, there is always trash. It’s very little but enough to make my sense of arrival at that hospital facility so negative because of the dirt and trash that I have seriously thought about changing doctors to stay away from that building. Sense of arrival can speak volumes to a person.

Even though you probably would have never thought about it before, somehow promoting your safety protocols could be an additional marketing tool.

  • So if you did get your customer up off the couch, can they possibly avoid having to make the effort to get out of their car to pick up their purchase?

  • Tongue in cheek aside, the easier you can make it for your customer to get your sale into their hands, the more likely they may be to come. How many ways can you execute your last-mile strategy?

Consumer buying habits have changed dramatically, some possibly permanently.

Can you successfully adapt your business model to meet those changes?


This blog entry is a slightly edited excerpt from Doug Carleton's 'The Daily Life Of A Small Business Owner' series. Doug was a mentor with SCORE, Startup Virginia, and Lighthouse Labs, and has 25+ years of experience in small business finance including 12 years in SBA lending. To contact Doug directly, please email him at


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