Inside Sweetwater


By Chuck and Brenda Surack Owners, Sweetwater Sound
We're living in what is being called "the information age." With more and more people buying and using computers and connecting to the World Wide Web, you can easily see why information is indeed power. But it's not just electronic information that is growing exponentially. With faster and less expensive printing processes now available - even small printers now offer full-color - manufacturers, retailers and service providers are able to put their literature right in your mailbox at a fraction of what it used to cost even a year ago.

Of course, competition for your dollar is getting fiercer every day. While the 1970s and early 80s saw many businesses closing their doors, the 1990s will always be remembered for the enormous number of new businesses that were started up thanks to this information revolution. These days, all you need is a computer and a modem and you're up and running and ready to take people's orders (and cash).

But you have to ask yourself this question: are these new companies going to be able to survive over the long haul? Sure, it's absurdly easy to get started, but being able to maintain a high level of service and keeping a loyal customer base is a lot tougher than just tossing a Web Site on the Internet. Those of you who have been longtime customers know that Sweetwater got its start in the economically-lean late 1970s, at a time when many other music retailers were barely hanging on or even going out of business for good. We survived for two simple reasons: We offered our customers the best possible products at affordable prices and we backed up each and every sale with technical support and customer service that was then - and is still now - the very best in the industry. In fact, we actually started Sweetwater Sound because we couldn't find retailers in the music industry who could provide us with the quality products and dependable services we needed for our own studio!

Mackie page on Sweetwater Site

As most of you are well aware, we've flourished over the years thanks to the support of our many thousands of customers. Sure there will always be a tiny percentage of musicians who are interested in one thing only: getting the absolute lowest price. Usually, but not always, that's our price. But they'll spend hours on the phone (and lots of long distance charges) calling all over the country, pitting retailers against each other just to eventually save a few extra dollars on their purchase ("Say, I got this price from Sweetwater. Can you beat it?"). Unfortunately, these people usually discover that saving ten bucks on that new keyboard (or mixer or multitrack, etc.) is not such a big deal when they find out that they can't get the answers they need to their questions ("Why am I not getting any audio from the XLR outputs?") or when they find out that they actually got a product that wasn't exactly right for their particular needs. Suddenly those few dollars saved are rather insignificant. Sadly, many small retailers also suffer because they have to cut back on customer service in order to compete for the lowest price. Then again, most dealers don't have any customer service or technical support to begin with.

We're not saying that there aren't any other good retailers out there. There certainly are (in fact, some of them are our friends) and that's good for everyone in this business. It keeps us all on our toes and reminds us that it is indeed the customer who determines the success (or lack of success) of any business, whether it's musical instruments they're selling or automobiles, sports equipment or insurance.

And now that we're all cruising into this new era of powerful communications, we're all going to have to work that much harder to keep our customers coming back. That's why Sweetwater has committed a huge amount of resources and manpower to not only maintaining our position as the fastest growing music retailer in the country (according to Inc. magazine, among others), but actually providing even more quality services. Case in point: our Web Site ("http://www."). If you haven't checked it out recently, please do so. We've added a ton of new features to make it more interesting (like animation - check out our home page and the Mackie page, seen above in in its unanimated state) and more informative (you'll find our product information index is now organized alphabetically for your convenience). And by the time you read this, we will likely have even more features up and running.

We've also installed a high speed Risograph for printing special product announcements and doing informational mailings. Risography is a new technology. It's a simple, yet sophisticated, printing process using direct transfer, water-based ink, light pressure and no heat. This means we're actually producing printed materials now in-house without consuming vast quantities of energy (as in traditional xerography or laser printing) or using potentially harmful solvent-based inks and chemicals. Sure, this may be the information age, but it's also the "environmentally-conscious" age. We want to get these materials into your hands, but not at the expense of the environment - it's the only one we've got!

What this all means is that everyone here at Sweetwater realizes just how important it is to keep you, the customer, well-informed, whether it's here in our Sweet Notes newsletter or online via the World Wide Web or through the U.S. mail. So with all the new, revolutionary products being released on a daily basis, you can always depend on Sweetwater Sound to keep you up-to-date on all the latest developments in the exciting world of modern music technology.

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