Starting January 1, it’s a ten month countdown to the bridge closure, then we will have to grind out four months of reduced access. There is absolutely no point in waiting until October, and then hoping things turn out okay. The time to start taking action is right now. At least it’s time to start planning. Dealing with a four month traffic reduction seems huge, but there are things you can do.
Any project planner will tell you that to have a successful project you need to have an end goal clearly in mind. Then you identify the milestones needed to get to that goal. Then you identify the tasks needed to reach each milestone. So let’s start with a goal or two. Nothing wrong with having two goals, as long as they don’t compete with each other. Maybe one of our goals should be to generate extra income this year before the closure, to soften the blow of reduced income during the repairs. And the other could be to extend our marketing reach in a direction that won’t be hurt by the closure, so we won’t see such a drop of in business. Let’s take them one at a time.
How can we generate more income. There are really only three ways.
- Get more customers
- Get customers to buy more each visit
- Get customers to visit more frequently
- There is actually a fourth way that is kind of a subset of number one; that is re-activate old customers that have stopped coming in
Fortunately, all of these items don’t hurt our second goal so we can safely work on any or all of them.
Getting More Customers
Getting more customers means reaching out to more people in more ways, to grab their attention. It is hard to improve things if you don’t know how you are doing now. Do you track where you current business is coming from now? If you don’t plan to start. Are people finding you through the Yellow Pages, newspapers, flyers or posters? Which is most effective on a cost basis? Should you be cutting back on one and scaling up a different one?
Are you collecting email addresses? Do you have a formal customer referral plan? Have you entered into any Joint Ventures or partnerships with other non-competing businesses? These ideas don’t cost any money to implement.
When you capture clients email addresses, along with their permission to email them, you are in a position to ask them to forward any emails you send them on to their friends. You know how credible a recommendation from a friend is. You ask your friends their opinion of different products and services all the time. You act on them as well. So does everybody. Encourage your satisfied clients to recommend you to their circle. Having a Facebook Places Page makes this very easy to do. Having a Google Places page that your customers can post reviews on has a similar effect.
A Joint venture could be as simple as identifying a business outside of town that has some alignment with your own. You could arrange a simple coupon swap. Every customer that buys from them gets a discount coupon to your store. Every customer that buys from you gets one to their store. This way you both wind up getting some awareness that you might not have had otherwise. Will it generate much new business? Hard to say. But almost certainly any business that results is business you wouldn’t have had otherwise. Worst case scenario, both of your customers feel slightly more appreciated, since you have made the effort to secure them this discount; and the coupon allows you to inform a wider audience about products and services you offer. Maybe giving them information they didn’t have before.
Get Customers to Buy More Each Visit
This one can be a simple as moving a valuable offer right up to the cashier. As your clients are paying for their purchase, offer them the opportunity to take advantage of the valuable offer. Make it something larger, that you have discounted, but that still leaves a good margin of profit. Is there a regular consumable that you don’t often carry but you could order in? Something your customers frequently buy some place else? Can you think of something that you could give them a quantity discount on, that they could come in and pick up next week?
Let me give you an example that might be off the mark, because I don’t know the margins and quantity pricing available to you but they will illustrate my point. What if, as folks were checking out your cashier said, “We are planning a large buy on water softener salt, for delivery next week. If you order three bags today, you can get them for $6.95 each. That’s 20% less than regular price. If you want, I’ll bill you now and we will call you when they come in. You can pick them up right here, probably next Thursday. It’s the sort of thing you need to buy regularly anyway. But this will save you some money.”
You could use the same principle on everything from wind-shield washer fluid to cabbage rolls. Service providers could switch it up a little bit to say “February’s are always my worst month, I don’t know why. If you book and pay for your next appointment now, I can give you a 15% discount.”
You know your customers/clients better than I do, so you will have to come up with examples, but I think you get the idea. You are generating purchases that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. People may be used to purchasing certain products some place else, because your prices have to be higher. By managing larger quantity orders, you lower your costs, and encourage them to increase their purchase amount on something you wouldn’t have sold them. Win/win
Next post I’ll talk about encouraging more frequent visits and re-activating dormant accounts.