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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

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

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

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.

What are You Doing to Reach the Influencers

McDonald’s spent millions advertising the Happy Meal to children. Yet, who ultimately controls what a child eats? The parent, of course. Yet, McDonald’s made billions from the Happy Meal by advertising to the strongest influencer.

There is a bra store near me that specializes in custom-fitted and hard-to-find sizes of bras. They advertise on the local ESPN sports/talk radio station. Yes, a bra store on a sports/talk station. And they’re making a killing by saying, “Hey guys, tired of hearing your wife complain about her bra not fitting?”

Later this fall I am going to give out about seven thousand $5.00 gift cards to the students of one of our school districts. In a couple weeks I am going to wine and dine and bribe their teachers through a Teachers’ Night Out private party at our store with food & drinks, prizes, fun activities and incredible incentives for attending. I want to make sure that when the teachers hand out these gift cards that we get a great return on our investment.

Too many retailer make the mistake of thinking they have to focus all their efforts only on the person who might buy or use their product. The most powerful push someone gets to shop at your store usually comes from someone other than you. It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes your best advertising and marketing needs to be directed at a non-customer.

If you can convince the influencer of the benefits of your business, they will convince the end user of your benefits.

There are two advantages to this approach.

First, since you are advertising to an indirect target, they are going to be more surprised (which is a good thing) and interested in your ad. It won’t come off as such a sales pitch. The bra ladies weren’t trying to sell a product, just to offer a solution to a common problem heard by married men all over the planet.

Second, the influencer has far more power to affect the actions of your intended customer than you do. Word of mouth from a friend always trumps advertising by a company. Let the friends and family and influencers do all the heavy lifting for you.

Yeah, it’s risky. All advertising is risky. At least this one has a pretty good track record (or why else would people be trying to ban the Happy Meal toys?)

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS To do this you just have to do two things. First figure out who is that non-customer that has the power to influence your shopper. Is it a parent, a child, a spouse, a friend, an authority figure? Second, figure out a message that will resonate with that person. It is powerful and it works.

A Clean Business is a Happy Business – Three Reasons to Get Out the Paint Brush

I hadn’t washed my car in weeks. When it was sunny, I didn’t have the time. When I had the time, it was raining. I finally got it done two days ago.

As I was toweling off a few last sprinkles, I felt a little extra bounce in my step. There was a little more pride driving around town in a shiny vehicle. Even walking up to it, I thought my Pilot winked at me in the sun. The car was cleaner. I felt better. More pride.

Yes, a clean car is a happy car.

I felt the exact same way a few weeks ago. The cottonwood trees had slowed down enough for us to put a fresh coat of paint on the front of the store. Coincidentally, our business skyrocketed 20% after the paint job.

A clean store is a happy store.

I’m smart enough to know that our success the past three weeks is not just because we painted the building, but never underestimate the power of a simple cleaning job.

  • It puts you and your staff in a happy mood. A happy staff delights your customers more.
  • It sends a signal to your customers that you care about your business and, likewise, that you will care about them.
  • It sends a signal to your customers that you are fresh and new and on top of things.

Those last two are the kickers. A fresh coat of paint on the outside of your building is often a much cheaper and more powerful marketing tool than a month of billboard and newspaper ads.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Landscaping, painting the inside walls, moving the merchandise around, mopping/shampooing the floors, and updating the signs all have the same effect. The inside stuff, however, doesn’t send those signals to the outside world, only to the current customer base who already love you despite your messiness.

PPS None of that cleaning matters, however, if you aren’t first taking damn good care of your customers. Otherwise it’s just a band-aid on an amputation. If you don’t have a capital fund for repairs and improvements, take the money from your advertising budget, not your customer service training budget.

Getting Customers to Walk Those Last 20 Feet

“At the end of the day you’ll get nothing for nothing.” -Les Miserables

I’m on the planning committee for a new street festival that will happen this summer in downtown Jackson. It’s a big one. Artists, Musicians, Restaurateurs, Local Brewers and Wineries, a Color Run and more.

Some of the merchants on the streets that will be closed are concerned. I hear comments like…
“These events never draw me any traffic.”
“All these events do is close me down to my regular traffic.”
“Too many street closures and I’ll have to close, too.”

Five thousand people walking past your shop and you can’t do any business?!?

When you ask those who are complaining what they did to get those people the last 20 feet from street through door, the usual response is a blank stare.

Street closures for construction suck! Street closures for fairs and events can be a windfall… if you recognize that it is your job to get the customers from the street through your door.

If you do nothing, you’ll get nothing.

You have to do something.
You have to do something special.
You have to do something that will move the needle for someone who came down to look at classic cars or taste local cuisine or peruse amazing art.
You have to do something that gets their attention, makes them notice you, be interested in you, desire your products and services, and make the purchase.

You can’t reach them through radio or TV or email. They are 20 feet away. Right here right now. You have to go out and get them. You have to do something so amazingly wonderful that they drag their friends through the door with them.

That last statement could apply any time of the year. If you’re not getting the traffic you think you should be getting, whatever you’re doing to try to attract customers is pretty close to nothing in their minds. Time to up your game.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS One simple clue into what not to do to get them that last 20 feet… People at street fairs – especially ones involving art and food – spend like drunken sailors. You won’t win them over with a sale or special price or discount nearly as much as you will by offering them something that matches their world view. They are already over-paying for food and drinks at these events. Entice them with something impulsive and fun and in line with their (your) Core Values. They are ready to overspend. Don’t disappoint them.

Doing Business When Your Street is Closed

Winter is finally giving way to that other season – Construction. Orange cones are popping up everywhere.

And shortly after that, if you’re a downtown business, you’ll probably be facing Festival Season – that time of year when the city shuts down the street for a car cruise or an art fair or some other event.

Either way, at one point or another, if you have a Main Street business, your business is going to have to deal with a street closure. How you deal with that will be critical to your success. Here are some suggestions for keeping the till humming while the streets are closed.


This is usually a long-haul situation and requires some smart strategy. The key is communication.

  • Communicate with your fan base the best ways to approach the store and the best places to park.
  • Communicate what is happening with the construction. Give blow-by-blow accounts and updates.
  • Have fun with the construction. Post trivial facts, goofy pictures, interesting finds. Get your fans to post their own pictures. Play guessing games – take close-ups or partial pictures and have them guess what machine it is. Turn it into a focal point that might make people want to stop by and gawk.
  • Set up a shuttle (you can partner with other businesses affected by the closure) to help get your customers in to see you.
  • Offer delivery services for the time the construction is taking place.
  • Expand your hours so that you are open at times when less work and disruption is taking place.
  • Roll out a red carpet – yes an actual red carpet – to get people over muddy, dirty, disrupted areas.

Don’t just assume business as usual. Plan for a small fall off, but be proactive in your approach to make it as convenient and fun as possible for your customers to do business with you.


Street closures for festivals are a different beast and require different tactics. First, they are usually short-term events that take place during your typically busiest times – Friday nights and Saturdays. Second, they draw a lot of people, but not necessarily your regular customers, and not necessarily anyone who wants to shop with you. At the same time, they disrupt your regular customers and keep those people away.

Therein lies the key. The people on the street are not your regular customers. What would you do differently to try to turn these people into your regular customers? The first goal is to get them off the street and into the store.

  • If you sell jewelry, put out a sandwich board and offer “Free Ring Cleanings”. Get those customers in the store looking at the shiny, bright, glittery stuff in your cases while they wait for your polishers to make their rings sparkle. 
  • If you sell clothing, put some racks on the street of your unique offerings that will entice someone to stop on by.
  • If you sell candles, get that aroma wafting out your door and onto the street. You’ll attract attention in no time.
  • If you sell baked goods set up a fan inside the door so that chocolate chip cookie scent reaches the end of the block.
  • If you sell shoes, put out a sign showing how to check your own shoes for wear and tear. Have a sizing specialist standing out front to engage the folks on the street. Offer a free shoe-polishing stand.

No matter what you sell, there is something you can do to engage with the festival goers and either get them in the door today or at some point down the road. You just have to be creative and proactive. Open the doors, put out a banner and make sure people know you are open for business. Do something in conjunction with the theme of the festival. Sign them up to your mailing lists, your birthday clubs, and any other program you offer. Use this opportunity to farm for new customers. There are a ton out there. Most of all be ENGAGING. Have fun with the event.

Street Closures are a reality. How you deal with them will have a direct impact on your bottom line. You can wallow in misery complaining about the lost business or you can let your creative juices flow and look at them as an opportunity to do things differently.

You know which one will pay off in the long run.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I knew of a hair salon that was half a block off the beaten path of a major festival in her town. Rather than lament the street closures combined with no foot traffic at the front door, she had her staff on the street handing out coupons for free ice cream cones inside her salon. For the cost of some ice cream she was able to get a ton of traffic that always resulted in new clients and new appointments.

PPS Also remember that those festivals do serve a purpose. First they make your downtown seem more active and vibrant. That message sticks with people throughout the year. Second, they attract people to downtown that might not go otherwise. Fear of the unknown keeps people from shopping in new locations. Third, they often serve to raise funds for charities and non-profits, the same ones that would be hitting you up double if not for the events. Embrace them and enjoy them and make them work to your advantage.

Give Your Business a Physical – Track These Numbers, Too

There are many different metrics you need to measure to determine the health of your business. Two of the biggest are Profits and Cash Flow. If both of those are good, your business is probably doing well.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t look at other numbers, too. That would be the equivalent of a doctor checking your temp and blood pressure and determining you are completely healthy without looking at anything else.

Here are some other numbers you should track to keep a check on the pulse of your business.

Traffic – Number of transactions you had this year compared to last year. Did that number go up or down? If it went down, why? 
  • Did your location get worse? 
  • Was there a change in the types and numbers of stores around you? 
  • Was there a drop in population? 
  • Did you cut back your offerings and categories significantly?
If your traffic was down, but none of these other factors were negative, you have a hole in your Customer Service (repeat and referral business) and/or Advertising (first-timer business). You need to find that leak and fix it fast.

Average Transaction – Take your total sales and divide by # of transactions. Compare to last year. If this number went down, why? 
  • Did you carry fewer high-ticket items? 
  • Did you add more low-ticket impulse items that people might run in and grab? 
  • Did you do anything to attract more youth? 
If none of those factors were in play but your average ticket went down, you have a hole in your staff’s ability to sell. You need to fix that fast.

Market Share – This is a little harder to calculate, but an incredibly valuable piece of information that can pinpoint problems – even if you had a great year on paper!
  1. Find the national sales figure for your industry. 
  2. Divide that by the population of the United States to determine sales per person. 
  3. Multiply that times the population of your trade area to determine the market potential for your area.
  4. Divide your total sales by that market potential to find your percentage or share of the market.
  5. Compare it to last year’s number.
You can have an awesome year with solid sales growth and decent profits and cash flow, but still be in potential trouble if your market share is slipping. If all your growth was fueled by huge growth in your market, but you aren’t holding onto your share of that market, then you are ripe for being picked off by a better competitor entering your market. You need to figure out why your share is decreasing and fix that problem now.

You can also have a lousy year with declining sales and profits, but mostly fueled by a change in the market. Maybe your industry is in decline (smaller sales per person). Maybe your trade area is shrinking. But if your market share is growing, then your big issue is determining whether to cut expenses and inventory and hope the market comes back or move to a new market.

Make sure your Profit and Cash Flow are good. Those are immediate life threatening problems for your business. If those are good, it buys you time to check/fix the other problems.

Give your business a full physical. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

-Phil Wrzesinski
PS Be honest in your evaluations. Even if there are circumstances beyond your control, there are always circumstances you can control and improve while you ride out the storm.

Praying for Customers

I know it was tongue-in-cheek (kinda), but when a fellow store owner asked a group of us on FB what we were doing to attract customers, the first response was “Praying”.

This might seem like a religious post. If I offend anyone, so be it. But I found the answer to be not only funny, but also appropriate. Yes, praying can have a place in your business.

Remember what I have said over and over about being true to your Values? If religion and faith are part of your values, praying should be a regular event. Include your staff in a holy huddle. Make sure your policies also reflect your faith. It can be a powerful attractor of customers who share your faith. (See Chick-Fil-A and how they share their faith.)

Here are some prayers you can say.

Pray that your advertising will be effective.
Pray that your staff will have a good day and take care of your customers.
Pray that you will accomplish your to-do list efficiently.
Pray for thanksgiving of the blessings that have allowed you to be in business.
Pray for the blessings of your wonderful staff and all that they do (and have done) for you.
Pray for your wonderful evangelists who tell your story to all their friends.
Pray for your vendors who supply you with the products that solve your customers’ problems.
Pray for your government leaders that they have the strength and will to do good for your community.

If faith and religion are part of your Core Values, then you should be Praying for Customers.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS I say a modified version of the Jabez Prayer every single day…
Oh that you would bless me indeed
And enlarge my territory
That your hand would be with me
And lead me to good

The Five Drivers of Traffic – Delight

I posted that JC Penney was struggling because it was losing in all five of the main drivers of traffic… PriceProductConvenience, Trust and Delight.  Let’s look at each one of them separately.


Delight is probably both the easiest and most difficult of all the drivers to own. 

Easy because so few companies even try to own it. Sure, they give it lip-service, but outside of a handful of retailers (Apple? Zappos?) and companies (Disney?), few major chains or national businesses really even try to delight anyone other than the shareholders and owners.

Difficult because the bar of expectation is constantly shifting and changing. What delights the customers of today might seem ordinary tomorrow.

You can increase your Delight Factor a number of ways…

  • Sell things that make people happy. The more whimsy and uniqueness you bring to the table, the higher the delight factor in the customers’ minds. The more fun and interesting your product selection, the more you will delight customers.
  • Sell things that solve problems. Customers buy items to solve a problem. Identify the problem and you can delight the customer by solving it.
  • Host Events. Bring in authors, experts, and celebrities. Teach classes. Host parties. Play games. Show movies. Serve food and beverages. 
  • Bend over backwards to help. When you put the customer’s needs above your own, you raise the delight factor exponentially. The easiest way to do this is to say “Yes!” every time a customer asks, “Can you…?” and then go figure out how to do it.
  • Exceed expectations. This may seem simple enough, yet once you consistently exceed the expectations of today, you raise the bar for the expectations of tomorrow. Keep raising the bar, though, and you’ll continue delighting your customers in new and exciting ways.
  • Do something no one else would even think of doing. How about a downtown toy store offering Valet Parking at Christmas? How about a clothing store offering free dry cleaning for a year? How about a bookstore that gets you a signed copy every time you buy a book from a living author?

The advantages of delighting your customers are numerous.

  • They become more loyal.
  • They bring you more customers like them.
  • They do your advertising for you.
  • They make your job more fun.

You can do Delight. In fact, you need to do Delight! It is the one driver you can consistently do better than any of your competitors. It is the one driver you are expected to do better than the chains and online stores. It is the one driver you can most easily own all to yourself.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Want to know which driver (if any) you already own? Check out this free download – How to Measure the Strength of Your Brand. When you do your survey, be sure to use the five drivers as part of your word association. You’ll know exactly which of your competitors owns which driver and what you need to work on.