I’m currently working at a shop that was opened up a little less than a year ago.
It’s located in a golf resort that is also an upscale housing community. This is the first winter, and with just the home-owners to bring in business at the moment, business has BOMBED. We made a total of $35 in sales yesterday. This is completely opposite (or so I’ve been told, as I just started working) of the summertime sales, when resort guests are around.
Now, we are outside of a town of about 35,000 (maybe more), and located just off the main highway. I’m wondering what kind of marketing strategies I should look into (I’ve been given the job to research) to get the winter business up and going. What are some of your advertising musts? What about Facebook, Twitter, etc? Do you hire outside of the company or do it yourself?
After reading her post and knowing from experience that many shops face dilemmas very similar to this one, I thought it would be nice to share a small list of ideas on how I would tackle this marketing problem if I were in the same situation (the theme is local, local, local):
Start-up a Customer Database! Too many small business owners just don’t do that, but there’s no excuse not to with so many options and price-points available. A free CRM is ZohoCRM, but there’s a good comparison at BusinessInsider.com. I personally use Act by Sage, Outlook & OneNote because those fit best into my work-flow on my tablet pc (which I LOVE).
- Have a website, preferably a blogsite. Even if you just have a 1 to 3 page informational website, it’s better than nothing and will make your company appear more professional and trustworthy. Blogsites are best because you can easily update them with fresh content … even if you only do so once a month … that’s probably 11 times more than most small businesses that have to rely upon and pay a dedicated website designer. Make sure you submit the website to Google Places, Yahoo Local, and Yelp.
- Neighborhood Marketing. Obvious right? But have you ever thought about creating a bartering network with other local businesses for goods and services? It’s not only a way to form great partnerships, but it also helps to expand your customer base because all members make an agreement to post a simple letter or poster sized ad near the check-out counters of each business stating that the businesses are part of the barter network. Also take advantage of area outdoor-advertising opportunities like billboards, bus-stops, park benches … anywhere that your customer base would likely see your ad and that you can afford to place one there. Sponsor a school group or sports league. You need to get your brand in front of the locals however you can afford it.
- Social Marketing targeting Locals.At least use Facebook and Twitter. Update! Sign up and use Google+ Pages for Businesses. You can do a simple location-based search in most social networking services in order to find local customers. Ask the locals to follow, friend, like you, etcetera and offer them up a sweet discount for doing so … make sure it’s enough to truly entice them because not only are they sharing their personal information with you, but they are opening the door to you sending them future incentives (not too many or too often though). Also remember that “social marketing” doesn’t just mean online communities and services, but also means activities and groups in your local community. Get into that little town of 35,000 and become an active member and get talked about!
- Use Guerrilla Marketing tactics. Go pass out coupons around the largest shopping centers. Put fliers announcing specials in local laundry-mats and other places where people tend to congregate. Take a couple of donations of coffees and sweets to the area community center and/or churches. Donate to a local radio station and just be honest that you would like to get the word out about the shop but don’t have a lot of funds, but you’re happy to provide refreshments for a small mention. Donate coffees to the local newspaper, call them up and ask if they feel a coffee-related story would interest their readers.
- Create a Referral Loyalty program. Give area employees (with some restrictions) a nice discount and 6 referral cards, put them onto a ledger and let them know that once they’ve sent 6 people your way, you’ll reward them … with whatever you think 6 new customers could be worth … at least a couple of free drinks, perhaps a few pounds of coffee. New customers sent your way via referrals are already primed to develop an ongoing rapport with you.
- Celebrate the Holidays & Throw a Party. Have a grand re-opening party or winter wonderland extravaganza. Friday’s are Family Day with free drinks for kids under 10. Have a pre-Christmas, a post-Christmas and even a New Year’s party and sale events … then it’s Valentine’s day, then St. Patrick’s …
- Educate your Customers, don’t just Sell to them. Education is a huge part of the retail coffee industry. Try hosting a seminar at the local library on the proper storage and use of coffee and/or tea. Or a seminar on different coffee brewing methods. Have a monthly coffee cupping and learning session. Have a “Coffee of the Month” where you not only serve that coffee, but where you educate the customers about the coffee’s origin country, the most popular growing regions, how the coffee industry directly affects the people and economy of that country.
Of course there are many other individual factors that must be taken into account which vary from shop to shop, like space, parking, hours, ease of access … far too many factors to list the possibilities here … which you’ll need to adapt to your particular situation for any good marketing ideas to succeed.
What other tips would you give to Ronette? Join the conversation in the comments.