This week I wanted to answer a two part question that I get a lot from the businesses I work with:
How do I bring more customers into my business?
And, on top of that, how can I make it happen right now?
At first glance it sounds like a question that you can throw into Google, instantly get 2.7 million results for, visit the first few links then cherry pick and try a few of your favorite business growing tactics. Then, sit back and watch the wallets and purses stroll in.
Totally simple right?
If it were totally simple my question to you is then, why do so many business owners struggle with getting and keeping the attention of their ideal customers?
Because, something like this may be simple but it’s definitely not easy. That’s where this post comes in to help. This week I want to dissect this question a bit and hopefully provide a little insight and a few systematic actions you can build into the business-growing work you’re already doing every day.
Let’s first dispel the terrible business myth and tactic that advises you that lowering your prices will instantly solve all your lack of customers problem. Sure, lowering prices may work in the short term but it won’t support you as you’re trying to build your brand’s integrity and it probably won’t inspire thralls of new customers to rush your check out counters. In (most likely) your case your goal should be figuring out how to beat the hurdle of obscurity in your ideal customer’s minds. Beating obscurity means being interesting enough for your customer’s to give you a shot at winning their business.
To help you jump that hurdle I’ve outlined three things you can start doing today that will help you sustainably establish yourself as a trustworthy brand and be interesting enough to earn that increased foot traffic (and ultimately convert that traffic into customers) you need to see your business grow.
1. Become an Event Planner.
It doesn’t matter what you are retailing or the service you are providing, if you put together interesting events people will come. This can be anything from speakers to small group events. An example that comes to mind recently is a yoga studio attempting to throw a giant outdoors yoga class in the middle of a busy outdoor shopping plaza. Lot’s of people, relaxed fun group workout, a DJ spinning trendy music all and lots of regular looking people enjoying an activity that is sometimes over glamorized by Instagram fitness models. People having fun, good music and great branding could be a triple win for this business. Event that you throw can be as intimate or as big as you want. Here’s another example for a coffee shop with a large student population. This coffee shop doesn’t have a ton of square footage but it can host intimate open mic’s, bring in authors, or even speakers on controversial topics to draw in different coffee drinking crowds every night of the week. Taking advantage of your social media (which you totally should have running) presences will help get the initial word out and provide an awesome platform for future conversation and engagement. Don’t worry about packing the house right off the bat; just stay consistent and show the people that do show up the best possible time. By virtue of the event you might see an uptick in your retail/service sales during the events but it’s the long term where you will really benefit. Show your stakeholders you’re willing to invest in creating diverse and enriching experiences and your business will steadily grow.
2. Cross Promotion.
Businesses are often not islands unto themselves - even though it feels like that sometimes. Entrepreneurs make friends, join networking groups and even local professional/social/civic organizations. A great way to build some foot traffic and to get some extra attention is to offer incentives for the customers of other businesses to interact with you or host another business’ call to action. I don’t recommend this because most receipts often go straight into garbage cans but it can be something as easy as a coupon in the form of a receipt. A tactic like that might work for your local grocery store and a Jiffy Lube but odds are you aren’t either of those businesses. So, you have to get creative! What kinds of products or services can you give away or provide your patrons with for honoring some arrangement made with a neighboring business? Can you make it interesting? Unique? Unexpected? Even gamify the experience? If pizza shops and gas stations can keep customers loyal by offering rewards for patronage why can’t you and the businesses that are around you do the same thing by offering value your respective customers will actually enjoy?
3. Give a little, but give often.
If you have ever donated time or money (and shared your contact information) you know that every once and awhile you get a call to action via mail or email from the organization you either supported or that needs your support. Giving is good for a lot of reasons but most importantly for your foot traffic problem it’s good optics. Giving shows your community that you are connected and invested in the place that you do business. Plus, donations don’t have to be major dollar contributions as most businesses can’t substantiate that and still keep their doors open. But, small in kind donations, donations of time, and even small financial donations can really go a long way because you are putting yourself out in the community and also in front of your ideal customers who also support those organizations. If you have a brick and mortar space think about how you can host events that would benefit the nonprofits that ask of you. What old inventory can you donate? How can you motivate your employees to get more involved in the community on your behalf? If yours is the business that becomes the hub for social nonprofit activity you will be growing your foot traffic and your reputation all while having a little fun.
If you’ve made it this far two things: thank you and you can see that none of these answers address getting people through the door right now. That’s the tough thing about building a business, building a business sustainably means playing a bit of the long game. Along with these three tips you can also work on creatively making the most out of any kind of advertising or marketing budget you might have to get people’s attention. Doing that might be a bit of a bandaid to get a few quick sales but you won’t be doing the work to cultivate a sense of community. It’s community that makes people not only want to keep buying from you but to bring their friends to buy from you as well. I believe that planning great events, figuring out how to give and collaborating with other businesses are the best ways to maximize your brand’s personality and helping you overcome the hurdle of obscurity.
Don’t worry about space or infrastructure - just get it going! Put some chairs out, find someone to come speak and go. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just good. You can tweak on the fly and best of all your business will benefit every step of the way.