Weekly blog from the N.C. Retail Merchants Association
By: Jeanne Eury | February, 3, 2016
I remember my grandmother speaking fondly of her marriage to my grandfather by saying that marriage “doubled your happiness and halved your sorrows.” I am fortunate enough (most of the time) to feel that way about my own marriage, but have found that cliché to be extremely valuable in business partnerships and relationships as well. I want you to consider the following suggestions to increase your marketing, exposure, referrals, and customers by finding another business to at least court … if not marry.
Find Partners for Referrals
The easiest way to increase your customer base is to have your current customers refer you. Or consider the value of having a business that your potential customers already frequent refer you to them. Look for referral partners by both proximity and vertical market. Proximity partners are businesses in the same malls or shopping areas where your business is located and vertical markets are businesses that are a natural complement to yours. For example, if a customer is already purchasing a dress in your store for a special occasion such as a wedding , it is easy to suggest she visit the shoe store, salon, or jeweler in the same shopping area. These simple exchanges of referrals with partners can add new customers to your business weekly, if not daily. Determine a good referral network of businesses and suggest a quick coffee meeting or conference call to educate each other about the type of referrals that you can make and those you wish to receive.
Find Partners for Joint Marketing/Advertising Campaigns
Email marketing is one of the least expensive and most effective advertising and marketing avenues available to retailers. While your email list may be a good one, imagine your email list two, three or five times the size it is now. Finding a holiday, special occasion, or some nearby event to center an e-blast around and joining your list together with a partner to send it creates a much larger pool of customers for all partners and makes the incentive to come out and shop more compelling. For example, having partners all advertise a Valentine’s Day promotion on Facebook becomes SO much broader than a single business alone. By unifying your colors, visuals, and offers, your customers see the same messages multiple times in multiple places, creating a much stronger urge to participate. As Facebook currently only allows a maximum of 12 percent of your followers to see any single non-boosted (unpaid) post, having the same post being distributed among multiple businesses increases the opportunity for more followers to view it.
Find Partners for Events
Hosting an in-store event is one of the best ways to engage and/or reward your current customers and engage new ones. Having an event-crawl that is fun and appealing to customers is an even better and bigger event! If your business is having a grand re-opening, adding a new product line, celebrating a birthday, or the longest or shortest day of the year, imagine the fun you could create across multiple businesses. It might take a tad more planning, but the impact is huge. I may or may not come out for one event, but if several businesses in the same area are promoting great deals, showcasing new products, serving birthday cake, offering a naming contest, etc., then it’s a destination decision, not simply going to one store to shop.
If you want to plan an event and don’t have a specific holiday or reason to do so, consider a charity event. Charity events offer several benefits to you other than the obvious opportunity to contribute to the betterment of society. Charity events are often picked up by media outlets, providing free marketing and advertising. Charity events bring in customers who want to support a cause even if you aren’t a business type or location they typically frequent. An event benefitting a charity also receives a lot of grassroots and social media marketing by the charitable organization and its supporters, another boost in your exposure and long-term goodwill in the community. If you’re interested, you will not have to look far to find a worthy and needy group to help.
Find Partners for Your Own Personal and Business Growth
Small business owners don’t always do a great job of work / life balance. Starting and maintaining a business of any size is challenging and the more hats you wear within your business, the more challenging it is. Find a good business group, networking group, or meet up through a local business organization or via one of NCRMA’s Councils so that you have a place to receive peer support and ideas outside of your own four walls. Statistically, most of us think more creatively in a group of people than we do alone. Additionally, many of us suffer with the same struggles yet we operate in a silo believing we’re the only ones. A good personal network will enhance your creativity and provide helpful advice or recommendations.
And speaking of networking, in my time with NCRMA and previous jobs I have noticed that many small business owners (especially those with physical locations) don’t attend networking events regularly, if at all. It’s true that networking can be tiresome, and it is often overwhelming to walk into a room of folks you don’t know. However, talking with others about your business and sharing your expertise in conversations outside the store really helps grow your customer and referral base. That banker may not shop for the hunting boots you specialize in, but her husband might. Challenge yourself to attend one networking event a month, and as you attend and meet new people you’ll soon be a pro at networking.
NCRMA is launching its Councils this week. These are industry-specific or topic-specific groups within the association with forums, resource libraries and discussion groups. And, you can sign in at your convenience to “meet” peers and NCRMA’s trusted Allied partners. If you have any questions or issues signing in to join one, please let us know.
You’ve found NCRMA, and we love that you’re our member! Let February be the month to begin to court your future partners.