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How to Attract Customers, Even in a Bad Economy

Yes, the economy is still worsening. People are spending less. Yet you can still attract more customers and, sometimes, even more per-customer spending.  How? By offering them something more. You just need the right kind of partners and methods, as Jamie Herzlich points out in Newsday today. (She quoted me along with others including my friend, John Jantsch, of Duct Tape Marketing.)

Here are six quick, SmartPartnering success stories, followed by 14 easy ways to jumpstart a first, profitable partnership. Bet you can adapt at least one to your kind of business  – or club or other non-profit group.

1.  Give ‘Em Another Reason to Visit Your Business

That’s how Applebee’s attracted more customers – many first-time visitors – to their family restaurants one summer, without advertising more. When WeightWatchers designed and branded several low-cal menu items for Applebee’s, followers of their diet program (and those who were thinking of losing weight) had a new reason to eat at Applebee’s. The restaurant’s customers got introduced to a new program – Weight Watchers, by a restaurant they already knew and liked.

2. Deepen Your Customers’ Emotional Bond With You, in How You Support a Local Cause – With Them

A month after Hurricane Charley and tropical storm Bonnie, when a storm the size of Texas pummeled parts of Florida, their “neighbors” in Florida and Georgia were given a small way to help with storm relief efforts.When they shopped at Winn-Dixie grocery stores they could “even it up” at the checkout counter.

That is, they could round up their food bill to the next dollar or more, with the extra change going to the local Red Cross chapter for relief efforts. Many of the retailers and non-profits that worked together forged a second alliance faster (they knew each other better) to create bus caravans for their food-direct-to-Katrina-folks.

3. Coddle Local, Lucrative Niche Customers

Last Valentine’s Day, several neighborhood businesses — including a women’s medical clinic, florist, health food store, clothing boutique, shopper newspaper, museum store, gym, bookstore and beauty salon — joined forces for a month-long promotion to attract and serve women.

The bookstore hosted a series of  “Beauty Inside Out” – themed series of in-store demonstrations and mini-seminars each led by a manager of one of the participating businesses and highlighting a book collection and the local partners’ related products and services.

Each presenter provided a handout that included reference to at least one of the other partnering organizations, plus a joint offer of services with one of them.As well, each presenter wrote a guest column based on their presentation, which was featured in the shopper newspaper, with the author’s follow-up offer and e-mail noted at the bottom of the article.

Of course each column author quoted others in this mutually beneficial alliance.

4. Become Their Top-of-Mind Choice. Offer a Tantalizing “Extra”

Who knows how many people chose to stay at the Ritz Carlton rather than at another luxury hotel because of an added thrill – complimentary use of a brand new Mercedes during their stay? Mercedes and Ritz Carlton forged a smart partnership and became the top-of-mind choice with their kind of (upscale) customers and so can you – regardless of the kind or size of your business.

5.  Trade Benefits to Lower Overhead & Attract Attention With a “First Ever”

That’s how T-shirt designer Tami Minatelli exhibited at nine street fairs last summer without paying for her booth space. A manufacturer of a no-stain suntan lotion paid for Tami’s booth.

She wore their lotion and her T-shirts, with a sign above her head, describing her original painting-on-cotton method and the lotion’s “do no harm” guarantee.Next to burn protection, that’s the biggest concern of people who use suntan lotions.

6.  Boost a Local Cause in a Way That Builds Your Profits

That’s how firefighters in the town of Toluma got a badly-needed but expensive piece of equipment, a deluge gun, without asking their cash-strapped city council for a single dime. And made a local eatery more popular, well-known – and profitable.

Here’s how.

Business was slow all over their town. The firefighters were getting nowhere when they asked for donations from business owners experiencing a weak economy.Yet when they approached the manager of a local pizzeria, PizzaLove, he said he didn’t have the authority to donate money, but he had a better idea.”Here’s what I can do.

We can pick a Wednesday, say four weeks from today for an “Our Community Cares” day here. I make $500 or so on Wednesdays. On that day, after we sell $500 worth, every dollar after that I’ll split 50/50 with you.

So if you inspire enough people to buy a pizza on that day, you can raise more money than you just asked me for “The firefighters loved the “fire-fighting pizza” community challenge.

They prepared banners and asked the local supermarket and gas stations to put up on their outside walls. They had signs and announcements printed for free by the local copy shop with a bright red “donated by” credit line to the copy shop on them.The headline on the signs and flyers read, “Eat at PizzaLove.  Save a local life.”

They visited offices complexes, even those with signs that read “No soliciting.” (Who’s going to kick out the volunteer fire department, right?)

They went to apartment complexes, video rental outlets, grade and high schools. They put flyers and signs everywhere. Once people heard about their cause, handing out flyers was like giving away candy. The local radio and newspaper gave them free coverage talking and writing about their inspirational community story.

When Wednesday came around, the place was packed. They made enough money to get the Deluge Gun. Most importantly it was a fair partnership because everyone contributed, so participants were likely to want to work together again.

Here are 14 low-risk and high-opportunity ways to jump-start your first SmartPartnership:

1.    Print joint promotional offers on your bills and/or receipts.

2. Offer a reduced price, special service, or convenience if customers buy a minimum amount of services or products from you and your partner. Make a much better offer when they buy a larger amount.

3. Hang signs or posters promoting one another on your walls, windows, or products.

4. Mention one another’s benefits when you speak at local events, write an articles or are interviewed by the media.

5. Describe the situation where you and your partner’s products or services work well together.

6. Pool mailing lists and send out a joint promotional postcard.

7. Promote your partners’ products during their slow times, and ask them to do the same for you.

8. Share inexpensive ads in local shopping papers or a nonprofit event program.

9. Give a joint interview, demonstration, or Q & A. session to local media.10. Put one another’s promotional messages on Lucite stands on counters orfloor stands in waiting areas.

11. Encourage your staff to mention how your partner’s products can be used with yours.

12. Give your partner’s product to your customers when they buy a large quantity of your product, and ask your partner to do the same.

13. Use door hangers, posters, flyers, or postcards to promote special offers for one another’s products.

14. Co-produce an in-store or office event, a demonstration, celebrity appearance, free service, or lecture.

The bottom line: when partners serve their mutual market better together everyone wins.  At the very least you get introduced to your kind of customers through businesses they already know and trust.

To find more methods, success stories, the pitfalls to avoid and steps to profitably partnering, read SmartPartnering or Walk Your Talk – or bring me to speak at your conference.

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8 Comments

  1. Posted August 11, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Hi Kare,

    There’s a wealth of information and ideas here. I especially love the story of the Toluma deluge gun. Do you have a link to that story that you can share? I’d love to read more about it.

  2. Posted August 11, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Bill. There was a link yet the newspaper took it down it seems – thanks

  3. Posted August 12, 2008 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Kare. It was a really good story . . . .

    So much worth digesting and reflecting on within this post. You’ll keep me thinking all week.

  4. Posted August 14, 2008 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Kare,

    Thanks for dropping by at my Noobpreneur Business Blog.

    I particularly keen on your tantalizing extra – It always useful to offer ‘too good to be true’ extras to stick your brand in customers’ subconscious mind… and everything subconscious does stick better 🙂

    Cheers!

  5. Posted August 16, 2008 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Kare

    You share so many wonderful ideas that are applicable all around the world. There is always someone, somewhere in the world who will buy your product….but it really is up to all of us, who operate a business, to be creative.

  6. Posted August 17, 2008 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Max
    You are so right – it is up to us – and you are a fount of creative and practical ideas (that are good inside and outside of the hospitality biz) + related real life success stories so i guess we have a mutual admiration society going. For those of you reading this who do not yet know this astute world-traveler, visit http://www.hospitalitydoctor.com/

  7. Posted September 2, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely spot-on. these kinds of partnerships help everyone. in my award-winning sixth book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, I talk about (among several others) an alliance between Apple computer and a local supermarket chain that probably got a lot more people into that supermarket AND a lot more kids learning computing on Apple.

  8. Posted April 6, 2009 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    The site shares ideas and thoughts with others and the information is very enlightening.

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