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Retail Marketing – Increasing Traffic Part I

Bringing Traffic in your Front Door
Articles on Successful Retail Marketing / Part 1 of 2

Retailers, Storefronts and Service Business Owners – You Gotta Be Crazy!  Why in the world would you want to go into retail?  Did the long hours attract you?  Was it spending all day in a 20- by 40-foot room that sounded so good?  Or was it “never being able to go away on vacations” that drove you to opening your own retail business?

What?  A restaurant?  Wait then, let me guess: you wanted to own a restaurant so the thought of “prosper or die by how good your last meal is” drives you to open your doors each morning, a?  Or tell me, was it getting up at 4AM so you could be the first at the wholesale produce market to get the best vegetables that appealed to you?  Or having everything rely on a cranky chef?  Exactly what continues to make you want to prepare fresh food for the elite group of customers who continue to eat there and yet still complain?

And hey, you in the service business, not so fast, buddy:  While arrogant people with the breath of kerosene don’t show up at your door, you’ve got to show up at theirs.  You know who I mean – the ones that want you to quote every little job six ways to China, then demand you take $100 off their $200 bill once the job is completed. Yes, I get my share of those customers, too. Don’t we all?

The resolution is to get more customers, and get better customers, so you can pick and choose who you want to deal with.  Tell the cranky customers if they really don’t like it, don’t come back, or better yet – visit the Northern most parts of the United States – as my Italian friend Carlo calls it, “Uppa U.S.!”  Just a few thousand words from now you can have the luxury to bid really high on jobs you don’t want – so at least if you get them, they’ll be worth dealing with the irate, the nasty, and the smelly-breath people who seem to have nothing better to do than stand over you and complain.

Nice dream?  Yea, I guess so.  But face it:

Business is lousy.  The economy is tanked. “Poised for growth,” is what the government says — when we’re in a recession like this.  And the Fed can’t lower the prime rate any more or they’ll be paying us to borrow money. I know, that’s not what you’re thinking.  You’re looking around your store and saying, “Where is everybody?”

Good News:  If you’re a retailer, here’s how to get people to show up at your door.  If you’re in a service business, here’s how to get your phone to ring.  If you’re a restauranteur, here’s my phone number: 610-642-1000 – I usually get hungry around 7PM.  If the campaign works really well, I’ll be bringing a few friends.

The very first part of the campaign – as with all advertising or marketing campaigns – you have track the response of anything you do.  A nasty little necessary part of any campaign is to learn what’s working, and just as important, what isn’t.

Without accurate tracking, you won’t be able to make intelligent (= less costly) decisions about which parts of the campaign to stop and which ones to continue. You need to track response to determine what media you’ll use again because it’s most effective (= you made money.)  Without tracking, you won’t be able to figure out what worked, what didn’t work – and to what extent – and exactly how many people and how much revenue each part of the campaign brought in.  So reliable tracking must be built into each campaign.

I’ll try to make this tracking business as painless as possible, because… well, it is.  It’s easy to track response if you know this simple trick: leave a memo pad by each phone and when you receive a call – in the very beginning of the conversation – say, “And how did you hear of our company/store?”  Write down the response on the memo pad, along with the customer’s name and any other information you can capture, and throw that slip of paper in a drawer and forget about it.  At the end of the month tally them up and you’ll have a pretty darn good idea which ads or campaigns brought in the most customers.

With the customer’s names on each tracking sheet you’ll be able to figure out which campaign brought in the best quality of customers – and no they’re not all the same.  With tight tracking you can even figure out how much each customer (from which source) brought in the most revenue.

The same tracking method can be used when people come into your shop or restaurant, or called you for service. Hey, instead of saying “Store, shop, restaurant or service business” and so forth in each paragraph – when I say store or shop I mean all of these, OK?  Thanks.

The campaign

Marketing options vary in effectiveness and cost from industry to industry, business type to business type, but some are definitely more effective than others across the board.  I’ll start with these in a loosely defined order, with the most effective at the top.

So here’s the first, the most effective you can be in marketing:

Mailing to your house list.

No matter what industry, what you’re selling, or what type of business, restaurant or storefront you have, mailing to your house list is the lowest cost and most effective marketing you can do. Lowest cost.  Most effective.  Any questions?

Let’s ramp this end of our marketing up.  Start by collecting current customer’s names and addresses.  If you don’t have a customer house file – a list of the names and addresses of all your customers – start one now.  This will be your most valuable asset.  Add fresh new names to this list every day, every week, every time you possibly can.

Whenever people come into your store, make sure you have a “Would you like to sign up for our FREE mailing list!” card by the cash register, or by the front door, or both.  Don’t be afraid to recommend they fill out the card.

As customers check-out, recommend the mailing list by saying that you offer special deals and private sales to preferred customers.  On the top of  the card write “Preferred Customer” then ask for name, address, phone, email.  You might offer a “$5 Gift Certificate! Good on your next visit!” as an incentive for filling out the card.  I also like to ask “And where did you hear of us?” as a question on the card.  Most people won’t know – but a few will.  Even the ones that don’t know will give you a clue as to the magazines and newspaper they read.

Next, mail to your Prospect list

If you don’t have a good prospect list, start one of those lists now, too.  This is a database containing the name and address of the absolute best prospects you can think of.  Write down the names and addresses of 5 or 6 new prospects each day and mail to them all next month.  If you write 5 a day, times 20 weekdays in a month – you’ll have 100 new prospect each month.

Get a customer for $.82.  Send a Gift Certificate

Feel free to ask any of your better customers if they have friends they would like you to send a $5 gift certificate to, with their compliments of course.  As an added incentive, mail and additional gift certificate to the first customer with a nice letter of “Thanks for the referral.”  Then send the referral prospect a nice letter – and of course the gift certificate – compliments of your original customer and from you, personally.

Nice campaign, isn’t it.  Customer acquisition cost: $.82,  (postage, you know.)  Then the five bucks that is taken off the goods, merchandise, or food bill didn’t really cost you five bucks, did it?  It was just the discounted costs of your goods.

Best of all, the $5 gift is an expense only if the customer actually shows up and redeems the gift certificate.  The gift certificate campaign doesn’t cost you anything if it doesn’t generate a sale.  So put this under a “Big Added Bonus”  If no original customer comes in to claim his gift, there is no cost.  And no new customer, no cost.  But you still get the branding message: leaving your image by reaching and touching your original customer – and subtly reminding him of your service and how great it is.  Plus, you leave a nice impression on the new prospect.  A referral is the best way to get a new customer who immediately has faith and trust in you, your firm, your services.

The gift certificate is inexpensive to print and low cost to mail.  The letter, same. The goodwill it generates, invaluable.  It’s a triple function piece. Good for the customer, good for a referral, and great for you, too.

Continue to Part II:  Finding your best prospects.

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