Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
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Beating the summer doldrums

Finding ways to get more business

Here’s a scenario that I have seen play out more times than I care to remember:

“How’s business this summer?”
“It’s okay, but we could use some more. Hard goods sales are a little soft.”
“Is there anything you are going to do about it?”
“I thought I might put an ad or two in the newspaper. Maybe I will run some radio spots. It depends on if I have time to get to it.”
“Anything else you are planning to do?”
“Don’t have time for anything else. I’m too busy.”

Having been in the industry for many years, I do understand this situation—and I do not understand this situation. I understand the situation because, as the season progresses, we get very busy with the day-to-day operation of the business. It seems that as we get busier, we take off our owner hat and put it away until business slows in the fall.

We put on our salesperson hat and definitely our put-out-the-daily-fires hat. We put away the owner hat and put on these hats because they come to us disguised as situations that need our immediate attention. Let’s look at some situations.

There is a difference between advertising and promoting. When you advertise in the media—television, radio, newspaper, direct mail—you are talking to the public. The majority of the public has no interest in doing business with you. This is because they do not need what you are selling. They may be satisfied where they are currently doing business, or they may have recently made a purchase and have no interest in anything new. Perhaps they just live or work closer to another business. This is what makes advertising so expensive for the return it delivers.
A second way of looking to your customers for more business is to examine all the daily receipts that have accumulated from the start of the season. One of the neat things about this business is that we are able to easily gather contact information from our customers—name, address, phone, and e-mail.

Yet, for most businesses, this gold mine of information remains only a stack of sales receipts. Did you know that 65% of all customers who stop doing business with one business do so because they perceive a lack of interest on the part of the initial dealer?

What if your business were to take home a stack of these receipts and call each of these customers? The business could ask if the new purchase was performing as the customer expected.

The business owner might notice that a customer made a purchase at the start of the season and has not been back in the business since. How can a good customer possibly stay away from their favorite business for more than a few days when you have so many exciting things to offer them?

It is understandable that the business owner might be hesitant to call the customer in anticipation of hearing a complaint—but it is much better for the business owner to hear the complaint than to have that customer telling all of their friends about it.

While the dealer would like to have all of the business from a customer, you likely know the customer is doing some of their business elsewhere. Still, you would want more of their business. How can you earn it? With those phone calls and asking one question: “What one thing could I do to make it easier for you to do business with us?”

Imagine a business that has added a new product line. It could be a major product line or a line of accessories or consumables. How will this business share this information with their customers? The likely answer is by placing an ad in the newspaper, on the television or radio.

There is a low response because the majority of readers, viewers or listeners have disqualified themselves as potential customers. Instead, we want to talk to real customers—those who are qualified—and we know who they are because they have done business with us before.

To tell these real customers about our new line, we could send them a note. We could use a simple postcard. You may want to ask the representative of the new product line what resources they make available for your business so that you can announce the new addition.

Of course to make any of this happen, at some point during the day you will have to put your owner’s hat back on for a short while—or you will have to take your owner’s hat home with you.

If you find that these two options do not work for you, there is another option. You could look for someone to work part time; perhaps you have a retiree who is looking for something to occupy his time and to earn some spending money. Where do you get the money for this person?

Remember those ads that you were thinking about placing, and instead you are going to use the phone and some postcards? That is where the money comes from.

And one last point. This is not going to get you away from all of your advertising. If you stop advertising, you will find that you will eventually go back to advertising—when you start your going-out-of-business sale.

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:

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St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
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