Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Tying up some extra business

Learning how to work with another business

There was probably a time for many businesses when they decided they were no longer going to be home based, and began the selection process of finding a store front as a means of expansion.

And after many weeks, and perhaps months of visiting available spaces, the business owner selects what they believe to be the ideal location. This is followed by a large amount of effort in selecting fixtures, designing the sales floor, and deciding what will be all of the new products that this store front will offer. It requires you to have many products so that you can pay the rent and other new overhead expenses that you previously did not have.

You also begin to advertise in the hope that you will attract new consumers and businesses to your business. You will probably be pleased with your efforts as your sales grow, thinking that you have done a great job of bringing customers to your newly expanded business.

After you have been open for a few years, you may have an experience similar to one that this writer did in his business. Our business had been in the same location for nearly 40 years. A person walked in to shop, and during the conversation with someone on our sales floor, asked if our business had just opened. It was explained to the customer that this was the same business that had been in this plaza since the late 1950's, but that the plaza and each of the stores within the plaza had undergone a major facelift within the past 12 months.

The customer explained that they had never seen our store before. We asked where they lived, and how long they had lived there. Their answer was as startling to us as our answer was to them. For this customer had lived only five blocks away from our business for the past twenty five years.

Imagine what we thought about the failure of our advertising efforts for all these years as we had been unable to reach this customer. And while we had finally identified this "new" customer, we also began to wonder how many other people were out there that were in the same scenario.

Looking for answers to our question, we visited with owners of other nearby businesses and asked them how often they had customers asking for our type of business. Their answers were very surprising - but not in the way we would want.

When we thought about it, we realized that we too were asked where customers could find certain types of stores. And we were often pointing out stores that had been in the same location for many years. The bottom line of these experiences is that we have to think outside the traditional boundaries in looking for our customers.

If you think this type of scenario may be happening to your business, there is a way for you to solve this problem. Let's look at several scenarios where you could introduce yourself to new customers.

With any new home, that potential customer is likely to visit a bank or the utility companies to arrange for the moving of their account to the new address. Each of these businesses has a lobby area that has chairs and a table with old magazines. Visiting with the manager, you can easily arrange to place a small display on that table. Perhaps a small sign explaining your business and with a hint of the products and services you provide.

Using one of those plexiglass business card holders as well as asking people to register for a free drawing each month, will get your name in front of people as well as get you a lot of names that you can add to your mailing list.

You have customers that have never heard of these other consumer oriented businesses, and you can gain from working with them. As an example, we had a nearby restaurant that was always referred to as "the local dive" and was a favorite of many of the locals. The food was great, and they were particularly noted for their great milk shakes.

Located about two miles from our business, we knew that while we shared some customers, we each had a number of customers that had never heard of the other business.

We invited the business to "come over to our shop one Saturday". They brought a small freezer filled with ice cream and milk, a milk shake machine, and 8 ounce sample cups. To promote their "visit" we placed signs about our business telling of the upcoming event while they placed signs in their diner telling customers to come to our shop for a free milk shake.

As we watched the results on that Saturday afternoon, we each saw many of our own customers as well as people we had never seen before. How surprising it was when we would mention someone that we had never seen, our restauranteur would often know that person on a first time basis. And just as many times, the scenario was reversed.

Each of us benefited from an afternoon that cost each of us very few dollars, and provided results much better than any advertising could produce. Most definitely, tying in with another business is a great way of "roping" in some new customers.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179