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As we start another year, the newspaper headlines are awash with yet more bankrupt brands. It was Comet before Christmas. Jessops starts the year, closely followed by HMV and Blockbusters.

Sad news?

It would seem to be the opinion of some as many of us have grown up with these brands.

I have fond memories in particular of HMV. It was the place to meet up with school friends on a Saturday afternoon, back before days of mobile phones and Facebook updates. We didn’t even need to arrange a time. We would simply congregate outside HMV in Swan Lane, next door to Athena (oh, yes … remember them??!) and once we were all together, we would wonder off up and down the cobbled High Street of Guildford.

Happy times 🙂

So it’s of no surprise to me that I have heard and read comments about how sad it is that some brands are now struggling to the point that they have to admit defeat and give up.

Is the fault of the economy? Perhaps the Government haven’t done enough to help businesses in the UK? Can we blame the exchange rates?

Or should we blame ourselves for not shopping in there more often?

There are many theories running as to why these High Street brands are going under. And I am sure each business has it’s own story to tell. But essentially, what all these recent bankrupt brands have in common is that they all failed to move their business online.

HMV were doomed ten years ago by not making the internet part of their business strategy.

Blockbusters had more hope in selling ice to the Eskimos than to continue with their nostalgic hope that customers would continue to walk in through their doors to rent a DVD on a Friday night.

Jessops’ apparent poor customer service and Woolworth’s approach to pricing, meant they were destined to give up and go under.

So what has this got to do with you?

I know you don’t have a High Street presence. Nor do you have a couple of thousand people on your payroll to man your retail outlets or face the challenge of paying thousands of pounds on business rates week in, week out.

Surely, you can afford to keep doing what you are doing and stick to your brochure-style website, crossing your fingers that enough people recommend you to their friends.

Well, that “word of mouth” marketing strategy is fast becoming the same nostalgic wish that Jessops, HMV and Blockbusters were all praying … but ended up failing at.

John Lewis, in complete contrast, is not only going strong on the High Street but reported a 6.2% increase from last year’s trading figures. And although they report much of this is due to three new stores opening up last year, their online shopping experience is, I’m sure you will agree, most excellent. In fact, report that their online trade has increased by 44%.

John Lewis have invested huge sums in building an online shop that is easy to get around, has a simple checkout process and well designed product pages. In fact, the article is well worth a read, whether you are an online retailer or not. There are great lessons to learn and apply in your own website, and without the need to be spending tens of thousands with web design agencies.

So whether you offer your services as a coach or massage therapist; sell baby clothes online or aromatherapy soaps; sell yourself as a marketing consultant or corporate trainer … your website needs to sell.

Not in the brochure “it’s all about me me me” way. That kind of website is doomed to follow the failure of HMV, Jessops and Blockbusters.

I am talking about a website that offers something in exchange for an email address. A website that sells a start of a relationship. A website that reaches out and talks directly to your target client so that when they do end up on one of your pages, they jump up and down for joy for having found you.

Wake up and smell the coffee.

You can no longer rely on that nostalgic “word of mouth” marketing strategy (in fact, I find it hard to even refer to it as a marketing strategy!!). You have to evolve and change and realise that your customers are looking for you online, whether you like it or not.

And are you putting the plans in place to make sure that’s it you that they find?

How has the New Year news of yet more big brands going under affected you and the way you think about your business? Has it made you do anything different? Or is it just causing you to go in to blind panic?

Leave your thoughts and comments below. I love to know what you think.

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