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    Marketing Expert Offers Steps to Increase Customer Counts

    Rewarding existing customers for bringing in someone new is one way to build traffic.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News

    JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- In an industry where every business offers similar product offerings, convenience store owners are fighting for every dollar. And the way to win the fight, according to on marketing expert, is to build the business by increasing customer counts.

    In a teleseminar Wednesday afternoon, Ted Leithart, president of The Leithart Group dba C-Store Marketing Systems, explained there are three ways to grow any business -- regardless of product, services or size. Specifically, business owners need to search for new customers on a continuing basis, upsell to the existing customers every time they visit, and provide additional product services and offers to increase the number of visits from existing customers.

    "One simple method to increase your customers by 10 percent that not one in the c-store business uses is simply to ask," Leithart said. "Ask your customers if they like your service, ask if they like the value you provide them."

    He also noted that convenience store operators should look to existing customers to bring in new ones. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns to attract new customers -- especially when that money would ultimately be reflected in the prices -- c-store owners can reward existing customers who bring in a friend, family member or neighbor who has never frequented the store.

    "In doing so you reward them with a fountain drink or a coffee. If they bring in 10 new customers they will receive 10 rewards," he said.

    Leithart understands that increasing prices to build the business could be risky in an industry that sees the same products and services in just about every establishment. However, he said offering a higher-quality product could bring in a higher ring. He also noted that upsell means more than asking a customer if they want anything else.

    "You can argue that in this economy people aren't going to buy something for a higher price and that's true. If you provide the exact product, the exact same level of service, the exact same level of friendliness as every other c-store in the community then there is no advantage to come into your store," he explained. "However, if you provide upscale coffee, like Guatemalan coffee, or you provide Swiss chocolates instead of Snickers, if you wash your customers windows when they fill up, or if you clean out the trash cans when they are half full, do you think your customers would pay a little bit more for that value? If you still think it's all about price, what about Mercedes Benz or BMW? What about Apple computers that sell for two and three times what a PC does?"

    Finding out what the customers are buying from competitors is also key to building a business, he added.

    "No one has 100 percent loyal customers. Your customer leaves your store and goes to another c-store and buys something from them. Why? It might be the price, the selection or the level of service," he said. "Find what they are providing at that other c-store and give that value or higher level of value at your c-store than [customers] are currently getting. Make them more loyal to you."

     

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News
    • About Melissa Kress Melissa Kress joined EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner in November 2010. Her primary beats include alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Kress has been a professional journalist since 1995. A graduate of West Virginia University, she began her career in community journalism before moving to business-to-business publishing in 2000, covering commercial real estate.

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