||Computer mice may click, letters may
be addressed and stamped, but there's still only one time-tested way
to help ensure the success of your retail business.
Get customers to walk through your front
Driving foot traffic to a
bricks-and-mortar store may seem something of a lost art, but it's
ne less critical to the health of your business than it ever has
been. Here are seven tips to get your front door swinging.
1. Have a grand opening.
Planning o opening a business in the
near future? Make Day One as big a deal as possible. Provide food, offer
door prizes, and serve up other enticements and entertainment to make the
day memorable. And, while you're doing it, keep tabs on who shows up.
"Nothing is as powerful as a grand opening to attract customers," says
Robert Smith of Robert Smith and Associates, a Rockton, Ill., public
relations concern. "But, once they arrive you should collect their names and
addresses or ask for their business cards."
2. Plan on holding other
Just because your business has been up and running for a while doesn't
preclude celebrations that attract foot traffic. Any promotional event that
draws attention can be effective. Look into an in-store raffle or giveaway,
and advertise the event as widely as your budget will allow. If your is a
business that can somehow connect with a local celebrity -- say, an author
or sports figure -- having him or her on the premises can bring in
clientele. But, no matter what you do, make it sufficiently fresh and
appealing. "Promotional events have to be really exciting and different;
otherwise, people just won't come," says Rick Segal, author of The Retail
Business Kit for Dummies.
3. Make your business newsworthy.
Foot traffic on the day of an event is
one thing. Attracting business beyond that 24-hour window is something else
entirely. That's why it's important to leverage media whenever possible. For
instance, donating a portion of the day's take to charity can win a
flattering article in your local newspaper. Taking a completely different
tack, investigate whether a radio station would be willing to broadcast live
on the day of your promotional event. The key is to grab the attention of
customers who can't make it in at that particular time. That drives foot
traffic in the future. "The more creative the event, the more likely a
newspaper will write about it." Segal says. "And that makes it all the more
likely that customers will read about it and come check it out."
4. Have a sale.
Old fashioned? Maybe. Still, nothing
beats the lure of something that's less expensive for a limited amount of
time. And, while the idea of a sale may seem a bit blasé to some,
technological advances have made sales events more potent than ever before.
For example, if you maintain a database of customers, contact them via
e-mail newsletter to let them know of upcoming sales events and other
promotions. To further boost foot traffic, urge them to pass along your
e-mail to others. That's not only effective but exceedingly cost efficient,
as you're not dropping money on mass mailings that only saturates the
uninterested. "Offers that come with a sense of urgency are always effective
to get customers to come to stores," says Irene Dickey of the University of
Dayton's School of Business Administration.
5. Host a seminar or workshop.
Boosting foot traffic doesn't even have
to involve a direct effort to sell a product or service. These days,
education is every bit as important, as consumers want to know how to get
the most out of what they buy. And that makes in-house seminars and
workshops powerful weapons to build foot traffic. To illustrate: If you own
an accounting firm, offer free tax-cutting workshops. Sporting goods stores
can consider a variety of events, from strength training clinics to
nutrition seminars. But, no matter that actual event, publicize it to the
hilt. "Promote the event via in-store signage, fliers, ads and press
releases," says Segal. "Home Depot does it and so does Williams-Sonoma. And
look how successful they are."
6. Follow up with your contacts.
Even the best-planned promotional event is of little importance if you fail
to leverage the initial contact. Keep encouraging foot traffic by staying in
touch with customers. Let them know about events that may otherwise attract
little attention. Encourage them to pass along the news with friends and
neighbours. "A great event is only half the battle," Smith says. "If you
want consistent foot traffic, you have to follow up, then follow up some
more. Send them offers, special announcements or anything you can think of
to get them into your store."
7. Emphasize customer service.
One advantage that a bricks-and-mortar store has over mail-order and
Internet competitors is a personal relationship with customers. Special
events can be terrific in building foot traffic, but what keeps customers
coming back -- and spreading the good word as they do -- is the product
knowledge and enthusiasm that can only be conveyed face to face. Things may
be cheaper on the Web or via the post office, but getting to know your
customers and what they value can trump those handicaps. And, in turn, can
build a steady stream of foot traffic for the long haul.