We’ve all read stories about how young entrepreneurs who started off small and through hard work and perseverance, became household names.

The websites of most big retailers proudly tell the stories of how their founders started off with one small shop, and how they are now multi-billion pound empires.

We should encourage people to work hard and come up with ideas so they too can become famous success stories.

The retail business model is to sell products and services from existing suppliers, but to also to find new young start-ups so they can sell new products and services – things that will keep customers coming back to the shops over and over again.

After all, aren’t retailers going through a big change right now? They need to keep one step ahead of their competitors.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? There’s only one problem. Many retailers don’t want to know you if you try to get in touch with them.

Getting heard

I looked at lots of corporate retail websites and it’s easy to find the postal address and Twitter, Facebook and Instagram links.

“Treat everyone like a customer. If you can’t help them, at least get back to them and say so”

I can even find the story of the chief exec and where they used to work before they joined and what university they attended.

All that stuff is good, but what if I’ve got a new product that I think is great, I don’t really care about that other stuff, I just want you to listen to me.

Retailers make it easy for customers to walk through their doors. The messaging is great, the design is great, the shops look great.

All this makes it easy for customers to spend money with them, but what about the people with new ideas or products who want to talk to them?

I bet many conversations take place where the boss says: ‘Have you seen what our competitors are doing, why didn’t we do that first?’.

Then some excuse is made up about why that didn’t happen. What if people tried to engage with you, but you didn’t even open the door, so they went elsewhere.

How do I know this? Because I ‘mystery shopped’ some retailers, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find out how I was supposed to get in touch and how to get someone to listen to me.

Well connected

I’m fed up of watching Dragons’ Den when one of the Dragons’ excuses for wanting a large equity share in the business is that they’ve got lots of contacts.

Did I hear you correctly? ‘You’ve got lots of contacts?’ They won’t listen to me but they’ll listen to you because you’re a Dragon. That says it all, doesn’t it?

So what’s the solution? Try adding this to your website: ‘If you want to talk to us about selling a new product or service, we would love to hear from you, we promise to get someone to reply’.

Treat everyone like a customer. If you can’t help them, at least get back to them and say so.

Ask yourself this: ‘Do I need my customers more than they need me?’

I’ll let you figure that out. I hope to see some changes on corporate websites.

  • Ajaz Ahmed launched Freeserve and is the founder of Legal365.com