A couple of months ago I asked for advice on how to attract the customers of stores in my area that were going out of business. I learned quite a bit and would like to share my findings with everyone.
Just to recap the situation, a couple of jewelry stores in my immediate market area chose to run going out of business sales this last Christmas season. I was at a loss over how to go about attracting their customers without appearing greedy or desperate. We have all been operating in the same geographic region for decades together with our own dedicated customer bases. We were able to do this by being very different from each other. Since these two stores were no longer going to exist in the future, I had lots of questions about what I should do. Here are some ideas if you ever find yourself in the same situation.
Try to acquire their phone number. Some phone companies require that the number go unused for a period of time, but some don’t. I’m working on this right now for both of the stores and I’ll update everyone on my experience once I get a final answer. Someone suggested that if you can secure the number, set it up with a different ringtone so you’ll know that it is someone calling your former competitor’s business. This way you can tailor a sales pitch to convert that potential customer to an actual customer.
Buy and re-route their website properties to you. Domain names (www.YourPreviousCompetitor.com) are easier to re-route than telephones. Most people buy their domain names on annual contracts so it may not be available immediately. To find out if their domain is available, simply go to GoDaddy.com and right on the main page is a search box. Put the name of the company in and it will tell you if it’s available. If it’s not available, check back in a month. Eventually the previous owners will let it expire and you can buy it for about $12. Have GoDaddy then route it to your current website. Easy squeezy, lemon peazy. But, just like a tailored sales pitch with the phone number, you’ll probably need to set up some kind of internet landing page that tells the potential customers searching for the closed store that they DID NOT reach your store by mistake. A well thought out sales pitch here can convert one of your competitor’s customers into one of your own.
Place a billboard in the area of the store. Place a billboard close to the closed store to try and attract the attention of people that would normally shop there. If you can get line of sight from the closed store it’s even better. Advertise that you are gladly accepting all of their customers to your place of business. If you can get the previous owners to endorse you and advertise it on the billboard, even better.
Do a direct mail piece in their market. Do a blanket mailing in the area of the store that just closed. A blanket mailing can help you attract not only their former customers, but also people in an area that might not know your business exists. Attrition is one of the cruel facts of life in retail. People are always moving in and moving out and you probably need to do a long overdue mailing anyway.
Offer to buy their mailing list. If you have a friendly relationship with the closing store, offer to buy their mailing list so you can offer your services to their customers. Once they are closed, the needs of their customers don’t go away. Most businesses that close don’t think about this in advance. If possible, have the store owners endorse you in the mailing.
Run traditional ads in their market area. Run positive ads mentioning and complimenting the previous store. Advertise what you shared in common with the store which will strike a chord with their customers. Most of the time we advertise what separates us from competitors, this time you should concentrate on your similarities. Try congratulating them on their success through the years and wish them well in the future, while inviting their customers to come shop with you.
Hire one of their employees. Admittedly, no one knows the customer base of your competitors like one of their long term employees. If you can hire one of the now unemployed staff, you can advertise and promote your new hire to their customer base. Customers will follow the people they like to your store.
Ask the store to recommend you. If you have a good relationship with the soon to be closed business, ask the owners if they will recommend you to their customers. Something I learned researching this article is that one of the most common questions during a going out of business sale is, “Who will I use for my jewelry needs once you’re closed?” If possible, have some special cards or flyers printed up that the store can hand out to people that ask. Offer a 15% discount on their first purchase.
Offer to handle their warranty work for a year. If you’re in a position to do it, advertise and promote that you will honor any warranty that the store had with their customers for a period of time. I know that this could get expensive, but it’s a sure-fire way to get their customers in your door.
Put a sign on the store window after they close with your info. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone tears it off and throws it away. Just because a business had a going out of business sale doesn’t mean that everyone got the memo. If a store has been in business for decades, people will continue to show up for long after they’ve closed to try and do business.
When a new business takes over the retail space, stop by and introduce yourself to the new business and ask if you can leave some business cards with them to hand out when the former jewelry store customers show up and ask “what happened to…?”
I discovered all of these tips after it was too late to be proactive and be there on the front end. The key I found is to approach the owners before the sale and try to set all of this up in advance. Right after Christmas, I found out that another store in my area is also going out of business, so that makes three.
Of the three, one of the stores decided to just close instead of selling the business. A big regional chain jumped on the chance to get into the market and took over their lease, bought their mailing list, and secured the endorsement. Touché.
One of the stores decided to close the retail location, but to continue with five or six trunk shows a year, and to continue their online business. So even though the brick and mortar aspect of the business is closing, the business itself will continue on in another form.
The third store is a problem for me. This is the store I’ve written about for years. This is the store that I keep some of their business cards to pass out to those customers-from-hell that I do not want to deal with. I’d tell these nightmare customers that I don’t have the expertise or experience to handle the battery replacement on their very nice Timex. Then I would reach under the counter and hand them a card to this store and say; “This store can fix you right up…bye bye”!
I’m still struggling with this last one because who am I going to send those customers to now?
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.