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By Diane Chiasson
Are you tired of everyone talking about the economy and how they are being affected by the recession? Are you using the poor economy as an excuse as to why your sales might be down? Well don't. During difficult times, businesses should always increase their advertising and marketing budgets, not decrease them!
Now is your golden opportunity to get ahead of the competition. They are all probably looking to cut back and save on costs themselves since most businesses are always more inclined to cut on advertising first, which is a huge mistake. Move to the front of the line by focusing your attention to increasing your marketing and advertising.
Here's a list of simple and inexpensive marketing and advertising ideas that you can apply to your c-store right away, to immediately help increase both sales and visibility:
1. Create and attack your database
If you don't already have a customer database, start collecting names today. Leave a fish bowl for dropping off business cards next to your cash register, and encourage customers to leave their information by running a contest. You can also ask customers to fill out a quick survey and leave their e-mail addresses on your Web-site. Make sure you ask permission first. Remember, customers will only give you something if you give them something in return.
Once you have established a database, send information such as an e-newsletter or a printed newsletter with photos of yourself and your staff. By including photos, you immediately create familiarity and a personal bond with your customers, and they will feel much more comfortable and inclined to continue shopping at your c-store. Also include specials of the week in newsletters to make sure your customers visit at least once a week and let them know that as a VIP customer, they are getting a special deal.
2. Create a marketing plan
Devise a marketing plan and include a monthly calendar of activities that coincide with certain holidays including Father's Day, Independence Day, etc. Include your monthly budget and deadline for these promotions, as well as who is responsible for what. Always remember that the key to a successful campaign is to have and stick to an ultimate plan.
3. Invite customers to come in for meal deals and specials
Send out coupon packages, brochures or fliers to your surrounding neighborhood advertising meal deals, or the special events or promotions being held that month. Try to draw busy families into your much more convenient c-store -- instead of a grocery store or restaurant -- on the way home to pick up a complete and healthy meal for their family at a reasonable price. Or advertise a special breakfast deal you have for people who want to pop into your c-store for a quick coffee and nutritious snack to start their busy day.
4. Boost your line of grab-and-go items
Increase your line of grab-and-go items by offering whole and complete meals including drinks and snacks (add-on items) as a lunch box. Market them to your customers who stop in for a coffee in the morning by encouraging them to pick up a lunch box to take to the office. Use creative signage and point-of-sale (POS) materials to make sure customers see your new line of grab-and-go items, and advertise the new line in your newsletters, brochures and/or fliers.
5. Call on local businesses
Get in touch with the local businesses and offices in your area and deliver mini-menus to their offices. Compile a list of fax numbers, so you can fax daily or weekly lunch specials your c-store offers to draw in more business.
6. Exchange services with your suppliers
Barter with your suppliers by exchanging some of your products for their services. For example, barter some of your printing costs in exchange for a few free meals or coffee, etc.
7. Take advantage of free press
Invite your local paper, radio or TV station in for a special promotion or new product sampling you have, and ask them to talk about your c-store in their column or show. Send your local paper press releases and brochures, or offer to write an article for free to gain greater exposure.
8. Motivate your staff
Train your staff on suggestive selling and upselling -- from a pastry to go along with coffee, or a dozen doughnuts to take home for dessert. Always reward your staff members by organizing special celebrations for them, and invite your local community and regular customers as well. You should always recognize a job well done.
Other columns by Diane Chiasson:
Consistency and Brand Identity Keys to a Good Signage and POS Program
7 Quick-Fix Tips to Enhance Food Merchandising in the Foodservice Area
Six Steps to Creating an Effective Menu That Sells
Copyright 2009 Chiasson Consultants Inc. All rights reserved. Diane Chiasson, FCSI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., has been helping foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for more than 25 years. She provides innovative food and retail merchandising programs, interior design, marketing and promotional campaigns, and much more. Contact her at (416) 926-1338, toll-free at 1-888-926-6655 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.chiassonconsultants.com