Gary Ray: The Success Cycle
By Gary Ray, owner of Black Diamond Games
The goal of any store is to reach "top of mind" status with their customers.
Top of mind means when customers think of their game, they think of your store. There are many subjective components to obtaining this—superior customer service, well-run events, a clean and well-lit store.
But most stores who reach top of mind status do so because they reliably satisfy the demands of their customers. They have what customers want, when they want it, and in the right quantities. They've perfected what I call the "Success Cycle."
The Success Cycle is composed of these four elements:
- Knowing what customers want
- Having the budget to buy
- Receiving it on time
- Satisfying demand
It's a cycle because there's a feedback loop where satisfied customers provide data for future purchasing. Each step enables the next.
1. Knowing what customers want
This means keeping an open dialogue with them, both in the store and online.
It might include watching the same movies as them, going to game conventions, and following what's happening in forums (I use customer Facebook groups.) If you can tune in to what delights them, you can predict what they'll like and bring in product they didn't even know they needed.
It's also based on past experience—running reports and determining demand for new products based on past performance of similar products. All that prepares you for the next step: having the budget.
2. Having the budget to buy
Getting ahead of demand in that way helps you buy product in the quantities you need, at the right time. This requires cash reserves or lines of credit, and it rewards stores who develop their finances.
Some owners only buy product after the bills are paid—their purchasing budget is integrated with their general budget. Keeping a separate purchasing budget using tools like Open to Buy lets you plan for big purchases and avoid expensive overstock.
From there, the next step—receiving product on time—follows naturally.
3. Receiving product on time
This means you hit the street date on every major product.
When you're top of mind, customers know you'll have their game on release date. They don't need to hedge with another store or with an online purchase. You will absolutely have it on the right day, because that's what you do.
When customers begin to rely on you for their purchases, they'll start telling you what they want, which feeds back into this cycle. You are top of mind.
4. Satisfying demand
Once you've got the other parts figured out, you're satisfying demand. You know what customers want—not just how many but for how long. And you've got cash on hand to buy it.
This only works when you consistently deliver on time. Your data becomes useless if you don't hit the dates. Stores wonder why their customers aren't buying the new stuff, but many miss street date or have a high level of out-of-stock items. Well, there's your explanation.
I have written thousands of blog posts about running a game store, but it fundamentally comes down to this: obtain top of mind status by having what customers want, when they want it, in the right quantities.
Gary is the owner of Black Diamond Games in Concord, California. He writes the game industry blog, Quest for Fun, has a YouTube channel, and is writing a book on starting and profiting from a hobby game store, due out in December.
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