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Making the Most of a Street Event

Tonight the classic cars cruise into downtown Jackson. The fourth Friday of every month May through September is a Cruise-In. Most every downtown in America has some type of event that closes the streets and draws a lot of traffic. Many malls have special events also designed to draw new traffic.

The key phrase in there is “new traffic.”

DDA’s, Chambers, and other groups organize and host these events for three reasons:

  • As a fundraiser
  • To draw new traffic to the area
  • To make the area seem like a hip and fun place to be
Market sign by artist Laura Joy Warrior

That first reason explains why these events are not always retailer-friendly or in the best interest of you, the downtown business owner. Sure, you might be a downtown restaurant, but they brought in food trucks. Sure you might be a downtown gift shop but they brought in crafter booths. Sure, you might be an expensive luxury store but they brought in a middle income crowd (or vice versa). Those things are bound to happen.

But those other two reasons more than offset the problems of the first if you embrace the event and turn it into farming for new customers.

There are two types of new customers you’ll meet at an event like this:

  • People who don’t know you
  • People who think they know you

THEY DON’T KNOW YOU

That first group includes out-of-towners, newcomers to town, and people you haven’t yet reached with your marketing efforts. What do they need to know about you to be enticed to come back? What special services or products do you offer that would make someone want to drive to visit you? (Note: if all you can say is, “we’re friendly,” that isn’t enough to make people drive.)

You need to highlight what makes you unique, special and worthwhile.

  • Have large signs outside your business that are easily readable telling people about your unique brands they won’t find elsewhere.
  • Have large signs outside your business telling people of special services they won’t find at your competitors.
  • Put a table outside with the kind of products on it that make people want to cross the street to see.
  • Put a table outside with the kind of products on it that make people want to drag their friends over to see.

Put your best, most friendly people out front. Make sure they are fired up about the event and ready to meet new people. Make sure they are well-versed in what makes your store special. Make sure they understand how critical is their mission to make a positive first impression. (Notice how I didn’t say how critical it is to make a sale? Sales are secondary to impressions during an event.)

THEY THINK THEY KNOW YOU

The second group has already formed an opinion (usually negative) about you. Either they’ve previously had a bad experience, or someone they know had a bad experience, or it just might be a perception that because you are an indie business you have to be more expensive.

With this group you have to change their minds if you want to turn them into customers. You have to begin building trust with those people. One of the easiest ways is to use the concept of FREE. It doesn’t have to be FREE product, but just some giving of your time and energy away for free.

  • If you are a jewelry store, for instance, you could put out a sandwich board that says “FREE RING CLEANING WHILE YOU WAIT!” Get people in the door, clean and polish their rings while they look at all the fancy display cases, and make them feel more comfortable with your business.
  • If you are a shoe store, have a free gait analysis or foot sizing. Show them you really know your stuff when it comes to getting the proper footwear for them.
  • If you are a hardware store, have a power tools demonstration. Show people how to safely use different saws, drills, or yard equipment.
  • If you are a toy store have a make-and-take demo. Or even easier, give away free helium balloons from inside your store. When kids see other kids with helium balloons, parents will ask where they got those balloons.
  • If you are a restaurant, set up an appetizer or quick-bite stand outside. Serve only your best stuff. Give away tastes for free or a stupidly small fee. Set up some outside seating, too, for people who want to hang out and watch the other people at the event. (If it is a family-friendly event, put out a special family-friendly menu.)
  • If you are a clothing store, have a fashion show in front of your store. (Use local celebrities or kids from the high school sports teams as your models for added excitement.)
  • If you are a comic book store, have a comic swap, a drawing contest, or a photo op with one of your best cardboard cutouts.

Be creative, understanding that you are trying to make a positive first impression on a crowd of “new traffic.”

WHAT NOT TO DO

  • Don’t be closed. No matter what your normal hours, be open for the event. This will be the cheapest form of marketing and advertising you will get all year because the event organizers are paying all the money to draw the crowd.
  • Don’t put out a table of just your clearance stuff. Your tired, worn-out, dead merchandise is not the best first impression you can make.
  • Don’t be open, but do nothing. More people switch from their favorite stores because of perceived apathy than any other reason.
  • Don’t give away coupons and discounts just to try to make sales during the event. You’ll only attract a small handful of transactional customers who won’t spend much, and likely won’t be back until the next offer.

If you are going to give away anything to get customers in the store, give out gift certificates that are only redeemable after the event. If you give out gift certificates redeemable during the event, people will only spend the minimum. If you give them out to be used later, not as many will be redeemed, but the ones that are redeemed will be for a much higher ticket, and you’ll have a much better chance of winning them over with your excellent customer service.  People at an event are not necessarily there to shop. Get them back in the store when they are ready to shop and the promo will be far more productive.

FOOD

A lot of businesses will give away free food like popcorn, bottled water, or cookies during an event to draw customers through the door. It is effective for getting people in the store, but you need to do some of the other stuff listed above to get them to want to come back.

Remember that these events are not about today’s sales. They are marketing events designed to farm for new customers for future sales. Make that awesome first impression and the events will pay off in the long run.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The worst is when the event is taking place downtown, but not on your street. The event may only physically close one block, but perceptually it closes all of downtown to your regular traffic. Unfortunately, since you aren’t in the one block, you don’t get the benefit of the new traffic. If this is your situation, you have two options. First, petition the organizers to have a free booth at the event. Go mobile and make it the kind of booth that drives people to your booth and also to your store. Second, if you can’t have a booth, send people up and down the street with tons of helium balloons and gift certificates that encourage the event attendees to visit you later.

I Didn’t Steal a Bunch of Candy

I didn’t steal a bunch of candy. Oh, I could have. I bought some over-priced M&Ms at a candy shop on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. The checkout was at the back of the store in the most awkward place. I had to walk up a ramp, stand in a line, then stand in the entry way to the nostalgic candy area near the back of the store to pay for my purchases.

I watched customer after customer walk away from the checkout with a decorative paper bag into which they could have tossed tens or even hundreds of dollars worth of loose candy from multiple displays on their way to the front of the store. I don’t think they did. I didn’t. But I could have.

Sure, the store had cameras near the front door. But with the crowd that was in that store on a Saturday afternoon, beating those cameras would have been a breeze worthy of the Windy City.

It wasn’t just the shoplifting aspect that bothered me with the layout of this particular store.

The registers were side by side, but the line to get to them was beside them, not in front of them. If someone was at the first register, by the time it was your turn, you had to scootch around them to get to the second register. If someone big, or a party of two or more was at the first register, you couldn’t even see the tiny little cashier at the open register.

The registers were also poorly placed in the doorway to a special section of nostalgic candy. You know Nostalgia is one of my Core Values. I was excited to enter that section. I was a lot less excited waiting for the gal at checkout with her stroller that was blocking my entry to the area.

I suppose if you’re in a large city like Chicago, catering to the tourist crowd, you can overcharge for your goods to offset your shrinkage and create a layout that frustrates the heck out of customers knowing that they likely won’t be back anyway.

If you’re not in this situation, you might want to plan your layout more carefully.

Put the cash-wrap where you can see everything and everyone in the store, but also close enough so that once people check out, they can easily leave. More importantly, plan the line of customers for checkout so that they don’t block other customers trying to shop. Best of all, make it easy and intuitive for customers to know where to go and what to do when they are ready to check out.

I know there is a train of thought that says you want a layout that gets people to the back of the store. Using your checkout as the lure, though, is not the best way to accomplish this, especially in a store that has a ton of traffic and sells easily-pocketed items.

This kid definitely wasn’t as enthralled with this candy shop.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I will give them props on the centerpiece display. The giant lollipop tree pictured here was worthy of the stop and a good example of Over-the-Top-Design. They also had several choose-your-own-flavor stands for things like Jelly Bellies, M&Ms, and other candies. But then again, the last feeling of the experience is the lasting feeling of the experience. Don’t let your customers walk out unhappy, confused, frustrated, or befuddled.

What to Do With the First Quarter Blues

I went for a walk/jog down the Falling Waters Trail a couple days ago. It was sunny and in the mid-50’s. My dog, Samantha, and I enjoyed getting out of the house. There is something about those early spring days when you get that sense of renewal, that rebirth of energy. Of course, today, I stare out at five inches of snow courtesy of our bipolar vortex. Just when you think you’ve turned the corner on winter, Mother Nature smothers you with another blanket of white. So much for that rebirth of energy.

It’s easy to get the blues.

Image result for cabin fever clip artEspecially if you’re a fourth-quarter retailer. January feels like a relief from the exhausting marathon of Christmas. But by February, when the bills have all been paid and it doesn’t seem like any new cash is coming in, it gets to be a drag.

If you’re a jeweler or florist, you get Valentine’s Day. If you’re a toy retailer or candy shop you get Easter. But that isn’t a lot to carry you through the First Quarter Blues.

Here is a list of different things you can do during the quiet times to combat the blues.

  • Paint the store. A fresh coat of paint brightens the mood and lifts the morale of the staff.
  • Re-do all your signs. Print new ones, change wording, make them more fun and in alignment with your Core Values.
  • Work on new selling techniques. Hold trainings, do role playing, practice new techniques.
  • Make displays for out-of-your-category gifts. For instance, January-March are big baby shower months (no one wants to hold them in November/December because of the holidays). Put together an endcap of great “baby shower” gifts – even if you don’t sell baby products! A hardware store could do a display of “build your nursery the right way”. You could also do “gifts for the mom/dad-to-be.” Get creative. The same is true for weddings. The bridal shows are January-February. Bridal showers are March-June. Put together “bridal/wedding gifts” like board games if you’re a toy store (the family that plays together, stays together), or tool kits. I got a drill as a wedding gift from a thoughtful friend.
  • Get creative with your social media. Post often about a wide variety of things (not all related to selling your products). Have a contest among your staff. Make them all admins. Allow them two posts a day. See who can get more comments and shares in a week. Pay the winner $20. Do it for five weeks. It will be the best $100 bucks you spend on social media this year because you’ll see what kind of posts move the needle.
  • Have a contest of some kind. Maybe a raffle for charity. Maybe a “taste-test” where you put two competing products side by side. (I can see this for tools, for toys, for shoes, for cleaning products, for foods, for strollers …) Maybe a competition. We did a five-week March Games Madness where we pitted four games against each other for four consecutive Friday nights. The game voted the best each week made it to the final four. The fifth week we crowned the champion.
  • Spend more time networking. Send everyone on your team to different networking events.
  • Rearrange the floor layout. Stand at the front door and look around. See what catches your eye. Redesign the store so that your customers can see farther into your store. And make sure something cool and compelling is in those sight lines.
  • Clean and fix everything. Everything.
  • Make your bathroom cool. When George Whalin wrote Retail Superstars: Inside the 25 Best independent Stores in America, he mentioned the really cool bathrooms for 14 of the 25 stores.
  • Make a list of your top 50 or 100 customers with phone numbers. Assign them to your staff to call each person and personally thank them for shopping in your store. No sales pitch. Just a simple, “I want to thank you for being a customer last year. We truly appreciate your business. Have a great day!”
  • Make a goodie-bag for those same top 50 or 100 and personally deliver them. Free. No questions asked. (Thank you Brandy & Eric for this idea!)

The customers will be back soon enough. You have new products rolling in. Take this time to plant the seeds for future sales by refreshing the store, training the staff, and getting creative with your marketing.

That’s how you beat the First Quarter Blues.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I would love to hear your suggestions for additions to this list. I know there are some really good ideas out there. Help me share them with the world.

Few Things Go As Planned

Back in the early 1990’s I ran a wilderness trip program out at YMCA Storer Camps. I had a team of trip leaders who would plot out backpacking, biking, rock climbing, and canoeing trips around the Midwest and Ontario. One of the planning stages for the trip leaders was to build an itinerary showing what they would be doing each day, where they would be camping each night, and what goals they hoped to accomplish on the trip.

Papa Moose and family on the Missinaibi River, Northern Ontario 1987

Before each trip I would go through their itinerary with them, making sure the trip looked sound on paper. Then I would have them fold up the itinerary, place it in a Ziploc bag, and stick it in the bottom of their rucksack to only pull out if necessary.

Rarely if ever did a trip turn out exactly as it was written on paper. Flat tires, flash flooding, lost canoes, or other unexpected obstacles would always throw the itinerary off track. Sometimes the itinerary had to be adjusted to meet the needs of the group. One of my bike trips added an extra 100 miles to their trip because the kids had the skills to make that extra jaunt. There was always something.

What I learned through this exercise was one simple lesson—the future will not turn out exactly as you planned.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan for it. The two most important days of the itinerary were the first and last. The first set the tone, the last got you home. What happened in between was subject to change at a moment’s notice. A skilled trip leader knew when to adjust the itinerary to make the trip fun for everyone. A skilled trip leader expected to make changes mid-stream and was prepared to do so.

So here is my best New Year’s advice to you.

2018 will not turn out how you planned.

I’m not being a Debby Downer here. In fact, 2018 may surpass all your wildest dreams. Or it may take a hard 90-degree turn down a path you never imagined that might be the best path you ever could take. It may be close to what you thought, but there will be plot-twists, obstacles, detours, re-routes, and even a dead-end or two along the way.

That’s okay.

It is impossible for you to foresee that much of the future to meet every challenge perfectly prepared, knowing what will happen before it happens. (If you had that skill, you likely wouldn’t be reading my blog.)

With that said, you still need to plan your itinerary. You still need to plot out where you are today and where you want to be at the end of the year. You still need to put down a plan for how you will get from Point A to Point B. Without a plan, I can promise you won’t get anywhere close to Point B.

A skilled retailer will plan the following:

  • Marketing: What events, what advertisements, what other ways will you draw traffic to your store? At the same time, how will you measure new, unforeseen opportunities as they come along? What will you need to see to jump at an opportunity or take a risk with your advertising and marketing?
  • Staff Training: What skills do you want your staff to learn and strengthen in 2018? At the same time, how will you deal with the sudden change should you lose a key employee or two along the way?
  • Customer Service: Where are the holes in the service you provide and how will you raise the bar for 2018? At the same time, how will you spot new opportunities to surprise and delight customers in the future as their bar of expectation rises as well?
  • Inventory Management: How will you raise margins and turn ratios (to increase cash flow) while keeping prices attractive and keeping enough inventory on the shelf to maintain sales levels? At the same time, how will you respond to fads? What criteria will you use to jump in whole hog when something is going hot (or jump out quickly when something has died?)

 

A skilled retailer like a skilled trip leader knows that the goal is to start the year out on the right foot and make it to the finish line intact. What happens in between will never match the plan, but if you’re prepared, will be a helluva lot of fun.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Those four categories will be the main focus of this blog for 2018. My goal for the New Year is to prepare you to see the opportunities, the detours, the 90-degree turns, the obstacles, and the dead-ends for what they are so that you can navigate through them or around them. Sound good?

When It Is Time to Move

Maybe it is declining sales in your current location, or maybe you’ve peaked out your sales and don’t have the room to expand. Maybe the demographics of your location have shifted or maybe your store’s product mix doesn’t fit in with the surrounding stores. Maybe a new development has made you an offer too good to be true.

There are dozens of reasons you can justify for moving your store (and just as many for staying put – too costly, lost sales during the move, will the customers still find us? can we afford it? is the grass actually greener? etc.)

The decision to move your store has to be something you research and consider the issues carefully. A bad move will sink you. A great move will grow you. A lateral move will wear you out.

Here is the short version of this blog…

  • Don’t move unless you have to – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
  • Prioritize what you need from your new location – More Traffic? Parking? Accessibility? Visibility? Better Demographics?  Do your research
  • Plan for extra expenses – moving costs, lost sales, etc. all add up quickly
  • Buy what you can afford – yes you expect your business will grow eventually, but make sure you can afford it on day one.

NO LONGER SUITS YOUR NEEDS

The first decision is the desire to move. You move when your current location no longer suits your needs. Your business model is working but your location isn’t the ideal spot. It’s too small, too big, too quiet, too expensive, too hard to find, wrong demographics, wrong part of town. There was an auto dealer in San Diego that was constantly advertising that if you would work with their location, they would work with your price. It became their gimmick, but at a great advertising expense. That low overhead from the lousy location was instead spent on advertising and profit margin.

Moves are risky. There are no guarantees your move will grow your business. If your current location suits your needs, the risk factor for moving goes up exponentially and it is often better to stay put.

WHERE DO YOU GO?

Just making the decision to move is huge, but you have to also know where you want to go. What are you lacking at your current location? Is it traffic? You’ll likely have to pay more in rent to get better traffic. Is it space? You can find bigger spaces, but you might have to give up something else like traffic or parking.  Is it better demographics? Do you know your demographics well enough to know what “better” demographics look like? The most important question is this…

Can you afford the new location with the money you’re making currently?

We all would like to think our business will grow hugely at the new location. But that isn’t always the case. Plus there are a lot of costs involved in moving that eat up any extra sales and profits. You have the lost days of sales while you move. You have the build out of the new place. You have the changing of phone and address and lost mail and lost shipments. You have the revving up of the new location as your regulars try to find you before the newbies have discovered you. You have the advertising of the change of address including the banners at the old location, the grand opening banners at the new location, the advertisements and the big grand opening event itself.

PRIORITIZE YOUR NEEDS

We moved once in our 67 years in business. The store started in a house. We bought neighboring houses and tore them down for a parking lot and a couple expansions. But we maxed out our location at about 10,000 square feet. My grandfather wanted three things in his move. First he wanted a larger building. He drew up two plans for a 20,000 sq ft building and a 24,000 sq ft building. Second he wanted to be along the busiest road in the downtown district (suburban shopping malls were not yet a thing in 1967.) Third, he wanted his own parking lot.

He found his location – an easy right hand turn off the busiest road in the downtown with plenty of room for parking in both the front and back of the building – and opted for the 20,000 sq ft building because that was all his current level of business could afford. He also had the expenses of moving. Even as a big fish in a small town, the newspaper didn’t cover our move. He had to take out his own ad in the paper. He used this picture with the headline,

“But Grandpa, Momma Won’t Like it if We Play in the Mud”

Yes, his business grew – fast enough that he needed that extra 4000 sq ft only five years after moving. Fortunately he also had the foresight to buy a piece of property that would allow such growth, and he now had the money to pay for it.

That location served us well for many decades even as new competition came to town. But when the demographics of the whole county changed, so did the options for moving. The criteria that served us well before were no longer the criteria we needed. Our options were downsizing greatly or moving to a new community, neither of which we wanted to do.

Moving is a big deal and can be a huge benefit for your business. It can also sink you. Make sure you are moving for the right reasons.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I didn’t discuss renting versus owning. That is a topic worthy of its own post (or three).

In Retail it is All About Location

Let’s get the elephant out of the room right away.

How can I write a blog about being a successful retailer when I closed my retail store? I can sum that up in three words…

Location. Location. Location.

Yes, we were having a tough time with cash flow. That’s the usual culprit behind any store closing. Much of that was due to our location.

Location Issue #1

The population of Jackson has been stagnant at best the last several years. The youth population, however, has shrunk considerably over the last several years as birth rates declined for all groups but teens, and school enrollment is down huge since 2007. On top of that, average household income in the city fell from around $35K per household to $27K per household (well below the national average of around $56K).

I have constantly talked about paying attention to your Market Share. To know your Market Share you first have to know your Market. Ours has shrunk over 40% since 2007. Fortunately, our share of that market only dipped a little. We still had our piece of the pie, but our pie had turned into a tart.

Location Issue #2

We own and occupy a large building on the north edge of downtown. We have been a large toy store for decades, carrying toys, hobbies, baby products, sporting goods, scouts, and more. When the market could bear it, we had a ton of inventory, but scaling back inventory to match the needs of the community meant less efficient use of space and less of the “impact” of being that large store that had everything.

We discussed converting to a smaller store, more in alignment with the population and income, but that would have led to many long-time customers lamenting that we just weren’t the store we used to be or the store they remembered. Better to close while the memories were still positive.

Location Issue #3

I am a big believer in downtowns. Call me naive but I still believe downtown shopping districts can be successful. It takes dedication from the shop keepers, the landlords, and the city leaders to make it work. It takes smart policies, united fronts, and strong relationships to make it work. We have some of that in Jackson, especially among the retail owners. We also have a city council dedicated to improving the streets and sidewalks and green spaces in our downtown. Unfortunately, that also means a ton of disruptive construction. Two years of it! (and counting.)

Our city leaders are not retailers and don’t understand how construction affects retail. They saw an opportunity to get roads fixed and attract new development (all good things), but didn’t see the consequences to the existing retailers and restaurants. When you are trying to dig out of a cash flow hole, having the busiest street in town – the one that goes right by your building – be restricted from three lanes to one with backups that stretch for blocks for an entire spring and summer is not a good recipe for success. At one point we had so much construction downtown that one detour actually led you to another street closure dead-end, and only if you had local knowledge would you know which alley would get you back to open road.

In a couple years, our downtown is going to be new and fresh and repaved and ready for business. But the last two years were pretty tough on the businesses already here, especially for us as our market declined.

Yeah, Amazon is a deal-changer for many retail categories. Yeah, our own vendors are making decisions that hurt the indie retail channel. Yeah, customers are as fickle as ever and have power like never before. None of those are insurmountable. You can still compete. Even as we closed, we were holding our own for our market. We just didn’t like the direction our market was heading.

If your market is your problem, you can do one of four things, Move, Close, Change or Wait. We chose to close.

Now you know.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I’ll discuss the other three options and what would make them attractive in future posts. Right now I have to go let the big elephant in the room out to roam the savanna.

Anatomy of a Promotion That Pays

What if I told you that you could market your business to 6,000 customers and instead of costing you a penny, you would actually get paid $328 to do it?

What if I told you that you would also get valuable market data from that promotion?

What if I told you that you would be praised mightily for the campaign?


Here is what we did… (shout out to Bob Negen of Whizbang Training for this idea)

I contacted the local public school district and asked permission to send each of their 6,000 students a $5.00 Gift Certificate. They said yes and sent us a breakdown of how many students in each school. I mocked up the gift certificates as postcards and had them printed locally for $278.

When we got the GC’s from the printer we bundled them in bundles of 30 and made a bag for each school. I delivered them a week ago Wednesday to the main offices. They distributed the GC’s to the schools the following day.

The GC’s had only this disclaimer: “For Student Use Only. One Per Student. Expires 11/15/14”

Here is where it pays…

We are expecting a 10% return on the gift certificates. That’s 600 GC’s we expect to be used between now and 11/15. In the first couple days alone we already had 60 returned and not all the schools had distributed them! The average ticket so far has exceeded $12.00.

So let’s do the math…

600 x $12.00 = $7,200.00 in sales

Minus Cost of the GC’s  (600 x $5 = $3,000.00)
Minus Cost of the Products  ($3,600.00 – 50% of the retail price)
Minus the Cost of the Printing ($278)

7200 – 3000 = 4200
4200 – 3600 = 600
600 – 278 = $322

Here is the bonus…

Not only did we get the word out to 6,000 students (and their parents) about Toy House, but we will get 600 of them (and their parents) into the store right before the prime part of the holiday season where we will entice them with product displays, events, and wish lists for them to fill out and get them back for Christmas shopping.

Not only did we get the word out to 6,000 students, but we also will get 600 purchases to tell us what kinds of impulse items are popular with today’s kids.

Not only did we get the word out to 6,000 students, but I have received tons of praise from parents and teachers for our generosity.

Not only did we get the word out to 6,000 students but I have had friends and customers ask me what is going on that has kept our parking lot so full the last few days.

Here is the kicker…

There are some people who will tell me that I have the math all wrong, that I sold $7200 worth of stuff and only made $322 dollars. Those people are looking at the gift certificate as the be-all, end-all of the promotion. The customer came in once, spent a little money, and left. Promo done. They missed the whole purpose of the campaign, which is to earn top-of-mind awareness by getting them in the store right before the time we really want them in the store. I am banking on my staff’s incredible customer relations skills to earn their repeat business whether they spent $1.62 (our smallest transaction with the GC to date) or $58.02 (our largest).

Frankly, the $7200 in sales, while nice, is just a drop in the bucket. The real value is in getting the word out, getting them in to look around, getting them to buy into our generosity, and getting an idea of what is attracting their attention once they are in the store. The fact that I get paid $322 to get all of that is the icing on the cake.

Do you have any promotions planned that pay you to do them?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS If you sell stuff for adults, is there a major employer or three that you could contact about giving away gift certificates to their staff? Colleges, hospitals and city governments employ a lot more people than you might imagine.

9 Ways to Draw Traffic With Only $400 a Month

A fellow store owner was contemplating an advertising deal offered to her from Yelp that was going to cost about $400 per month. That got me thinking about what different things you could do to draw traffic with $400/month.

  1. You could rent a bouncy house and run it in your parking lot every Saturday.
  2. You could run a customer survey poll in your store and donate that money to the charity your customers vote on every month.
  3. You could give away eighty $5 gift certificates to people who have never been in your store.
  4. You could buy an espresso machine and give away free espressos every day.
  5. You could have your customers help you invest it in the stock market and track each investment on a big board in the store with proceeds going to a local charity.
  6. You could use it to send eight $50 gift baskets to your top customers each month.
  7. You could use it to hire a valet parking service for your busy days.
  8. You could use it to host classes and meetings at your store.
  9. You could use it to pay top-level local entertainers to perform at your store.

Don’t be limited by your media choices for getting the word out. There are far more options than just online, broadcast, print and billboard. There are as many ways to draw a crowd as your mind can conceive when you let it get creative.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS My favorite is #2. Just imagine all the charities sending their people in to your store to stack the vote each month.

Think Big to Draw Traffic

I was visiting a jewelry store in a sleepy northern Michigan town. The store used to be known for having a $32,000 diamond ring. Now those of you in a big city might think no big deal, but to this community, it would take the entire population pitching in $6 each to buy that ring.

People used to flock to the store to try it on.

After about ten years on display someone finally bought the ring a few years ago.

You would think that was a good thing. The store owner thought so at the time. But on the day I visited, she was lamenting how her business was down. Traffic wasn’t what it used to be. I asked her when it started. You all can probably guess – right after she sold the ring.

No ring, no draw.

Sometimes you have to take a little bit of your ad budget and put it toward buying something completely outrageous that you don’t expect to sell (but people will want to see.)

We do that all the time. Nothing better than hearing a customer say to someone shopping with her, “Oh you have to come over and see this!” You know she and her friend are going to be talking about it to others, too.

Some might look at a $32,000 diamond ring and say, “That’s pretty expensive advertising.” Unless you consider she got ten years of advertising from it, and then had someone refund the money back to her by buying it.

When you are looking to generate Word-of-Mouth advertising, you gotta give them something to talk about. A 32,000 piece puzzle that is almost eighteen feet long and over six feet wide and comes with its own hand cart is gonna make people talk.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I suggested she needed to buy another $32,000 ring or bigger. That was an investment in advertising that paid off big the first time and will pay off big again. There are a few tried and true ways to Generate Word of Mouth (click that hyperlink to download my FREE eBook on the topic). Over-the-top design including over-the-top products is one of those ways.

PPS I guess 32,000 is my lucky number today.

Have You Tried This?

Another restaurant closed in town. They posted a wonderfully grateful goodbye on Facebook, thanking everyone from the staff to the suppliers to the customers to the city leaders (well, okay maybe not that last one). They even apologized for the inconvenience of closing. They said they gave it their best shot but just couldn’t make a go of it.

One of my staff, when hearing of the closure asked a profound question…

Why didn’t they try something else?

They had the kitchen, the staff, the liquor license, a small group of dedicated followers. Why didn’t they try something else?

They had a premium location downtown, a banquet room (a couple of them), parking out back. Why didn’t they try something else?

They had ambiance (although a little loud), great window seating along the street, outdoor seating, gigantic fish tank seating, and really cool bathrooms. Why didn’t they try something else?

Two things I didn’t see happen. They didn’t change the menu. They didn’t change the pricing. Two complaints I heard the most (besides how loud it was with all the wood floors and vaulted ceilings) were the menu and the pricing.

You gotta get those two right.

The right menu (products).

The right price.

Get those wrong and all the rest doesn’t matter. If you’re doing everything else right and your business is failing, chances are you got one of those two wrong. Why don’t you try something else?

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I get it that they may have chosen a menu/pricing consistent with the type of restaurant they wanted to be (their brand), but there is a lot of wiggle room within “fine dining” and “upscale” and “top-shelf” and “gourmet” and “specialty” and “unique” and “quality” to work with your particular crowd. Also, it may be that it wasn’t the actual menu and pricing that caused the problem but the perception of the menu and pricing. Perception is reality, folks. You gotta win the perception battle.

PPS I’m sad to see them go. I’m not trying to criticize them, but to help you learn from their experience.