Wait! Don't read another word. First, take a sip.
Ahhh! Now let it all go. To say 2020 was a rollercoaster of year would be a definite understatement. Last year was more undesirable than a Japanese Sencha steeped with boiling water for 10 minutes and sweetened with honey. Tea jokes are so technical, aren't they?
Make no mistake, it is no accident why I thought it necessary to begin this article with a casual sense of humor. In fact, it is these kinds of natural human dynamics and characteristics that I believe will be of utmost importance for all tea retailers and tea businesses to connect with their audiences successfully throughout 2021. Humanity has been shaken, business as usual no longer exists and consumers are more interested in supporting the businesses that present themselves as “people” not “policy.”
As a tea retailer myself for the last 10 years, it has always been my No. 1 priority to put people first. Not customers. People. There's a distinct difference in this perspective. Simply put, people means everybody. Customer refers to individuals that have purchased my products or shown interest in purchasing my products. By taking the approach of showing kindness to people – or being attentive to people and, in some cases redirecting people to the “right products” they're looking for (whether we stock it or not) – we have built a company that has a strong image of positivity and trust.
You're probably thinking, ok? This is really warm and fuzzy, and I bet you're a pretty nice guy, but how will this help my business be successful in 2021? Well, take another sip and let me explain.
I call it the human dynamics of selling.
Contrary to its name, it doesn't really involve selling at all. The human dynamics of selling is more about investing key elements of your character into your business practices and conversations and transactions. These elements are things like: attentiveness, building emotional equity, honesty and transparency.
A good example could be spending a little more time getting to know your potential business partners and clients or networks on a more personal level. How have they been affected by the COVID-19 restrictions? Do you know of any funding or financial aid that may be useful to them? Got any good children’s book recommendations for your customers with kids, who have been given the challenge of home schooling? By investing time and effort in people, you are in turn building a very large bank of meaningful relationships.
At T By Daniel, we've always focused on creating positive content and putting it out there for our friends, followers, fans and anyone else who was willing to take a look or take a listen. The goal has always been to simply provide easy to consume content for people to be inspired, rejuvenated, motivated or educated. This kind of content goes beyond tea and does not always appear in the way of revenue. The return on this kind of investment comes in the way of strong and loyal support.
Our investment into people has been the sole reason why we were able to stay afloat throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. How so you ask? Well, when things were normal and times were good, we were thinking of others and how we can make their lives better. Whether that meant their health and wellness (insert tea) or perhaps their mental and emotional well-being (insert motivational content, books, videos etc.) by any means necessary. When things got bad for business and the lockdowns started rolling in during the course of 2020, guess who came to our rescue? All the people and customers we had invested in over the years! The laws of reciprocation.
Our loyal customers started ordering more of our teas online. First-time customers increased, and even people we've interacted with over the years who don't like tea or drink tea (we're working on them) referred friends and family and even their employers to our business. The month the pandemic hit, we hit record sales online. I'd be delusional to think this was on account of my sharp good looks and glistening smile (self-proclaimed.) but true. Nope, this was just humans doing what humans do best – supporting others in a time of need.
Tea retailers and tea businesses have a great opportunity in 2021 to be the shimmering light of hope for their customers, for their families and for their communities. We all sell a product that promotes and is well associated with the thought of relaxation, calmness, tranquility, friendship and great conversations. So, it's up to us to push that narrative more than ever. This is our time to shine. People are scared, worried and troubled by all the uncertainty that's going on (I mean, who isn't?). But could a good cup of tea and an inspirational read be a part of the remedy? I think so.
Tea retailers and tea businesses should aim to infuse their business content and social media presence with a good dosage of genuine personality and add a double shot of kindness and humanity to their business practices, because in a world filled with tragedy, negative news, social distancing, lockdowns and chaos, a little kindness can go a long way.
Daniel M. Lewis is a certified tea sommelier, tea master, author, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. He’s the proud founder of the award-winning tea company, T By Daniel. His people-focused outlook on entrepreneurship and his experiential business tactics have garnered him and his company nationwide recognition and many awards and honors, such as a 2016 Business Excellence Award and a 2017 Top 40 Under 40 Entrepreneurs. Lewis’ success with his retail tea brand have even landed him an opportunity to serve HRH The Prince of Wales during his 2017 Royal Tour in Canada. With his official public speaking platform, he touches on his non-traditional approaches to retail, marketing, customer service, sales and the world of entrepreneurship with audiences all across Canada and abroad.