Holiday Open House, Champagne and Lights

This is an event that you can host with your small business in conjunction with other small businesses in your area. This is specifically for the December holidays. Again, it is a “unite your forces” idea that I expressed in one of my earlier articles.

This event we called Champagne and Lights. It is held on a single Friday or Saturday evening, early in December. This is where all the shops agree to be open late on a Friday or a Saturday evening. In one city, there were two shopping centers that were just a block away from each other. They discovered that if they were to actually unite forces between the two shopping centers and have their Holiday Walk, or their Champagne and Lights, or whatever they wanted to call it on the same night, the were able to maximize the draw from each other’s marketing and advertising efforts.

You want people who are easy to get along with and are savvy business people to help organize this among the shops, and certainly between two separate shopping centers. All too often small business owners feel territorial about these ideas and fail to see that by uniting forces they create a much bigger event, which will gather energy and draw a much bigger crowd.

If you are willing to share ideas and you recognize that rather than feeling as though you’re giving away secrets, you will realize that by joining forces it is actually better for everyone involved. The project will develop a synergistic energy that continues to grow.

In my experience, Champagne and Lights, the idea is that everyone stays open until a specified time that evening. Each store or shop should have a special that night and each store or shop should have a special offering for the customers. One store might have hot cider, another store might have Christmas or Holiday cookies. Another store might invite kids in and have them make Reindeer feed bags, a simple, simple activity for kids that costs very little, but creates a great feeling of holiday spirit and gratitude on the part of the parents who are shopping with their little ones.

Hire a Santa Claus. Get a group of people to stroll through the shopping center and sing Christmas carols. See if one of your local high schools has a choir or chorus who would be willing to put on a musical show for half an hour during the event. Have a group of people play their instruments. It doesn’t matter what it is that you do as long as you make it a festival feeling.

Your event has to feel festive. There has to be a reason for them to come. It would be a good idea to have whatever best sales or best offers that you have but make it available for that night only. Most of the time the event would be held between 5 pm and 9 pm. In December, it is dark by 5pm and it is a good idea to have all kinds of holiday lights lit outside, making the atmosphere as gay and festive as it can be.

This way, each shop obviously will market to their very best customers. However, all of you will benefit from the very best customers of each shop. This is what I mean when an event like this takes on synergistic energy. You will all win when you all put in the effort.

Bring Customers Inside

For any business, your customer is the life-blood of that business.

You know that you need to treat them well in order for them to return, but aside from that how do you get them to come back? In today’s economy, everyone is really watching their pennies. Let’s talk about ways to get your customer to return to the store without costing you anything but a little bit of time and creativity.

Evaluate your business and what you do to serve the needs of your customer.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my typical customer have a common problem that could easily be solved with my know-how?
  • Can I create some type of instructional material that would explain this to them?
  • Am I comfortable writing a brief instruction manual?
  • Could I talk about it, record the instructions about how to solve their problem?
  • Does it have to be seen? Can I create a short video that would help them solve their problem?

Here’s where your list is going to come in handy. Hopefully you’ve been building your customer database with not only their names and contact information, but their interests and problems that they may have that need solving.Select the group of people who have expressed an interest in solving a problem. For example, let’s say you’re a woodworking shop and you’ve sold a brand new piece of equipment to a hundred customers, but you’ve been getting a few returns and even more complaints that the equipment is too difficult to operate.

Create a short video demonstrating the proper use of that piece of equipment. Explain what the most common problems are that new users may encounter, and then show them how it is done right. This puts you head and shoulders above your competition, because what you’ll do now is email a link to this video to everyone who has purchased this piece of equipment.

Not only do you send that email, but the following week, you call each one of those customers and ask them if they received the email, and whether they viewed the video. If they haven’t, encourage them to do so and promise to call them back the following week. (Make sure you DO call them back.)

If they have received the email and viewed the video, ask them for honest feedback. Find out whether that video helped them to overcome the problems you’ve been hearing about.

By taking the initiative to anticipate the need of a group of your customers, and then fixing the problem easily and with little or no cost, you have ensured that you have a group of highly satisfied customers. These customers are the ones who will remember the extra steps you took to take care of them. The next time they need something, they’ll buy it from you.

K Birmingham

Do You Know Who Your Customers Are? Use Your List

You need to check your customer database.

What? You don’t have one? It isn’t up to date? It didn’t seem important to you?

Your customer database is worth its weight in gold. Without it, you might as well just plan on going out of business…if not today, then soon.

Your existing customers are the most important source of income for any business. Knowing who these people are, understanding why they have chosen to work with you, and catering to their needs, wants, and desires must be your priority.

What amazes me is how many small business owners fail to exploit their very own customer list. You gained those customers at a relatively large cost. To retain them is critical because of the following reasons:

  • If a customer has bought from you once, chances are very excellent that they will do so again.
  • Recruiting a new customer costs much more than it costs to retain an old customer.
  • Catering to your existing customers is the wisest business decision you’ll ever make.
  • Selling to an existing customer is easier than selling to a new customer.
  • Selling to an existing customer is more profitable because you don’t have the cost of acquiring that customer this time.

The problem, however, is that once many businesses make a sale, they’re just looking over that customer’s shoulder to see who is next. Failing to try to make any type of follow-up sale to a customer who has recently done business with you can cost you thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars in lost income.

If you do not have a way to get the contact information for every customer you have ever had in your place of business, you need to get a system in place today.

The best information is to have name, address, email address, phone number, purchasing history, ads and promotions that each customer has responded to.

You can recreate some of your customer lists by getting software and putting the information in by hand from past transactions, credit card receipts, etc. Whatever you do, start on it today and get that information into your database.

The LIST is GOLD.

Teach your customer service reps and salespeople to get the contact information from every person who comes into your store. Larger companies have rewards programs. The customer feels as though they are getting a benefit from the discount they receive, but the business owner is building their list daily by soliciting this information from each customer, and then tracking their purchases and ad responses.

There is no reason that a small business should conduct business in any other way.

Kathleen Birmingham

How to Get People to Your Business Open House

When you have an open house, the idea is to get people to come and share whatever it is you have to share.

The problem is getting people to actually come.

The trick is evaluating what you have to offer and matching that with what people expect to get if they take the time to come to your business open house.

Here are a few tips to help you plan an open house that will be more successful than all your previous attempts. Consider what you want from an open house, and then consider what your client/customer wants from an open house.

As A Business: You want people to come to your open house to spend money. Perhaps you have new merchandise that you want to share with your customers. It could be that the holiday season is coming up and you want to get people to consider spending money with you, so you want them to come to your store and get a preview of upcoming attractions. Don’t forget, you must advertise this event.

As A Customer/Client: An open house is a time for you to visit a business and find out what they have to offer that you might be interested in, without a whole lot of pressure to buy. If they can show you how their new product is going to help you, you’ll be interested in making a purchase, otherwise, you just want to have a little fun, enjoy some free food and beverage, and maybe talk to other people who are there for the same reason. A client can’t come if they don’t know about the event.

Ideally, an open house will satisfy the primary concern for both the customer and the business. As a business, you have something to sell, as a customer, you might want to buy it. This is the good part.

How do you let your customer know that you have something new for them to evaluate? Do you call them up? Do you send them an email? Do you send them an announcement through the mail?

How do you communicate with your customers?

The very best way to communicate with your customers is determined by testing. One business I know always sends out postcards for their open house events. They never have more than four a year, so the customers know that when that card comes in the mail, it is special, it is for a limited time, and most of them want to come, otherwise they would not be on the mailing list. They also make sure their postcards always have a “branded” look to them. That way when they arrive in the mail, they don’t look like the rest of the “junk” mail that your customers usually get in their mailbox.

I am assuming you have a mailing list and that it is current. Your list is your business. Never forget that!

Did you see the next part under the customer? They want little to no pressure to buy. They want to be courted. They want to have something to look forward to. Having food and beverage at an open house is a really good idea. A lot of people will just eat and leave, but those who really want to be there will respond to the food in a very positive way. It doesn’t have to be fancy. They just need to be made to feel special.

Finally, deliver on your promise. You promised that your open house was going to be something special. Some businesses give away gifts at an open house. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, but customers/clients like to be made to feel special. You hand it to them personally. You thank them for coming in. You meet their eye. Don’t look at your customers merely as dollar signs. When you do, they’ll sense it and move on to someone who values them as something more.

Getting people to come to your business open house often takes a few tries. You’ll soon figure out what works and what doesn’t. Test, test, test. Keep what works. Discard what doesn’t work. A business open house can be a really good marriage between customer and business.

Kathleen Birmingham