After eight years in the business, I must say I have witnessed a lot of change in the world of technology. Working with computers puts you in the front seat to observe any changes in tech and how they affect our lives over time.
From my perspective, I was able to see firsthand, just how people react to a new operating system release, a feature update, or something like a new line of computers from Apple or Microsoft. Whether or not I was the one in charge of creating these new innovations, I always seemed to be on the receiving end of any feedback that end-users had for these products, be it love or hate. But whichever way the sentiment leaned, as a computer repair store, new prospects were always there to be had no matter if it was servicing a defective product, or selling a popular and in-demand new release.
2022 has provided a greater challenge than any other year thus far, and it is an entirely new beast for my business, TVH Computers, to tackle. Between chip shortages, over-priced graphics cards, and money running thinner than usual for most of my prospective clients, it has been a lesson in adapting to change for my business. Typically, most of my store’s income came from the sales of refurbished computers. This was a simple and effective way to bring in revenue. All one had to do was source enough computers to keep up with demand, refurbish them, and ensure there was enough marketing to support whatever inventory level I had on hand. When selling refurbished computers, for the most part, the product sells itself, and your customer seeks you out on the internet. The quest to save money leads people to buy a refurbished system, as opposed to a new one, and that brings them right to my shop.
When you are faced with a financial situation that makes even buying a refurbished computer a challenge, you might not consider buying a computer at all, unless absolutely necessary. That is what my shop experienced over the past year. From easily selling refurbished computers all day in 2020, to being hard-pressed to make even the smallest sale in 2021, I realized there had been a change in the market.
When money is tight, you don’t buy a new computer just because you want to. You may consider a refurbished computer if you are extremely motivated, but when money is even tighter for people, they are compelled to go with the most penny-pinching option of all: repairing their old computer. Contrary to some widely held beliefs, it is typically more cost-effective to fix an old system than to buy another one.
Those who are not aware of this may think all hope is lost, but my realization was that there was a vast pool of clientele out there who were on the fence about what to do, and didn’t realize that getting their computer fixed for cheap could make it last a few more years until they needed a new one. By that time, hopefully, most people’s financial situations would improve. My challenge was how to find these people and reach out to them.
Shifting gears from sales to service
My focus in the past year shifted from relying on system sales to make ends meet to drumming up enough repairs and services to bridge the gap. There were holes in my repair processes, from the marketing to the support that I needed to figure out. Furthermore, I hardly dedicated any of my advertising budgets to ads targeting repairs and services. This needed to change.
When talking about advertising, it is important to realize that I mean almost exclusively online advertising or even search engine marketing. I had experienced success with search engine marketing in the past by creating ads for refurbished computers on Google, so I logged back into my Google ads account and began crafting a new campaign. This is where a tool like Google Keyword Planner comes in handy. Keyword Planner is a free tool that you can use to discover new keywords related to your business and view estimates of the number of searches they receive and how much it would cost to target them. Targeting means having your ad show up whenever someone searches for that keyword. After deciding on the best keywords for my particular case, I began my new campaign and set a generous budget. Now I needed to look at my other focus in online advertising: social media.
I had always used Facebook to post updates about the business and run the occasional ad, but I wanted to supercharge my social networking. This involved not only creating a new advertising campaign with a more specifically targeted audience but also increasing my engagement with my followers by responding to comments and messages faster and more frequently. Basically, I just planned to be more attentive to my client’s requests on the platform. I simply wanted to garner more reviews and positive mentions, and it worked! Having just a few of your clients say good things about your business on their profile can lead to an exponential increase in word-of-mouth advertising efficacy.
Since implementing these new practices, however minor they may seem, I have noticed a shift in the focus of my business. We now perform far more computer repairs than we used to, and it more than makes up for the slowdown in system sales. The increase in foot traffic has the added effect of system sales not being sparked by someone coming in because they saw an ad, but because they can witness firsthand our level of service and support.
This leads to most of our sales now coming from our repair clients, who are encouraged to buy a refurbished system from us because they are more comfortable knowing that they can reach out to us for help and support when they need it, unlike what you may find when you buy a new computer from a retailer.
I can’t forget about the extra income generated from building websites either. Ever since I first started learning web development and how to build WordPress sites a few years ago, I have been getting more and more requests to build websites for local businesses. What makes web development so exciting, is that there is so much to learn, and a whole new field to discover and explore. Overall, it is one of the most exciting parts of my business journey that I am looking forward to over the next several years.
Even with all the challenges that I faced with my business over the past year, I found there is still a place for the computer store in today’s economy. It is just a matter of knowing that you have to adapt to changing winds and setting a course of action for how to get there.