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Ask James Caan – Issue 109

Written by Kimberley Startup | August 30, 2012 | 0 Comments

Dear Member,

In such a competitive retail environment, how would you encourage customers to choose your business on a limited budget?

Increasing footfall is a key part of any retail business’ expansion plan, but as a small company, resources are limited. As such, getting people through the door can be a tricky proposition.

This week I received an email from Stewart, a small business owner who set up shop in Spain two years ago. As an independent retailer, they offer something a little ‘different’ to your typical high street store. Now looking to grow his business, he asked me:

‘How do I triple my income or increase customer footfall with little or no advertising budget available to me?’

Stewart, let me begin by congratulating you on your success to date.  It’s great to hear of small independent businesses thriving and looking to expand.

As mentioned previously, growth in footfall is vital if you are to achieve your long-term goals and maximise your profits. Yet, the biggest constraint for small businesses that tops the list every time is budget. But it’s not all doom and gloom.

Today, the nature of the internet means you can expose your brand repeatedly to your target audience. It’s cheap, allows you to meet people in a fraction of the time that it would take in ‘the real world’ and helps customers become aware of you when you’re on a shoestring budget.

I notice you have already set up a company page on Facebook. This is an excellent first step to leverage online communities, promote your offering, and ultimately, increase customer footfall.

For small businesses, a social presence can be an absolute lifeline. It’s important to continue building on this activity to engage and build rapport with your customers.

Think of ways in which you can make your company stand out from the crowd; how are you different? What will make your profile visitors want to learn more about you and your business to ultimately connect with you?

You mentioned the serene nature of your shop and the environment in which you have created for your customers; combining the rush of a high street store with a ‘nice’ place that people want to visit frequently.

Based on this image, Pinterest is an excellent social platform to personalise your brand and make your company more visually accessible. You can pin and re-pin visually enticing content and get creative yourself.

Compliment this activity with a content-rich blog that initiates customer interaction. Provide knowledge and position yourself as a thought leader. Every piece of content you post online has the potential to boost your brand – so be thorough in your approach.

Alongside your online activity, re-consider what you do offline. Retail competition is fierce so it’s vital that you make your premises as attractive as possible.

Something as simple as leaving the front door of your shop open can help to make you seem more approachable and encourage customers to enter. You can often see big increases in footfall by making such marginal changes.

Why not head out onto the street in search for customers? You have a very unique offering and if any products or services are easy to demonstrate, think about offering examples to passersby. This is a great way to entice new customers into your shop and build brand awareness at the same time.

In addition, you could offer some form of loyalty scheme amongst your existing customers. Repeat customers are the bedrock of any successful business, so you should consider ways that you can encourage their loyalty.

Overall, increasing footfall, expansion and income, doesn’t have to be expensive. On a limited budget, it’s a case of considering the easiest mode to reach your customer base, then influencing their decision-making capabilities.

If anyone else has any tips for Stewart, please share them below.

Best,

James Caan

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