There are many strategies retailers use to drive store traffic and increase their sales. Whether they use social media promotions, loyalty programs, special sales or events, the goal is the same. In small communities, your neighboring stores and businesses could be a great source of referrals and eventual sales.
With the rise of eCommerce in the past few years, small businesses have come together to during the holiday season to promote events like Small Business Saturday. After the New Year, many businesses forget the inherent value of cross-promotion and word-of-mouth marketing and instead focus their efforts in other areas.
There are several ways that retailers are increasing revenue by partnering with their neighbors, keeping business local and profitable. The most successful partnerships start by being well educated about your local community. The most powerful referrals come from a trusted source. If you decide to partner with a local small business that is not related to your business, it doesn’t provide much value for you at the end of the day.
Start by researching the types of businesses that are around you that are in line with your store. For example, if you own a cosmetics store, find the nearby nail salons, fashion boutiques, hairstylists, spas, bridal shops with which you can cross-promote. These types of businesses have a clear connection to what you sell, and further promotional efforts provide added value to customers.
Discounts & Promotions
Once you have decided which local businesses would be beneficial to partner with, you have to decide what kind of promotion would work best for both businesses. Taking the cosmetics store as an example, offering a referral discount or special promotion is a good way to get started. Similar to providing incentives to your customers, you have to think about what incentives you can provide to local or neighboring businesses to get them to promote for you.
When I worked in retail, my fellow associates and I became friends with our neighbors. Our managers wanted to build loyalty among retail associates, because they knew it would trickle down to customers. We set a ‘neighbor discount’ for employees, and the stores around us followed our lead. This incentive was shared, and we further developed referral discounts for customers to try out our products and visit the store.
If discounting doesn’t make sense for your bottom line, get creative. Think about the special services or ‘freebies’ you can offer. For example, the cosmetics business I mentioned above could promote free makeup applications for referred patrons.
Similar to in-store referrals, retailers can partner with local businesses online to bring awareness to a larger audience. On a personal level, if you “like” or “retweet” on social networks, your audience can see it. Apply this to an online partnership strategy, and you can develop a powerful and effective alliance to reach more potential customers.
Last year, Distinctive Gardens developed a social media partnership strategy that connected over 70 local small businesses and had a serious impact on their sales. What did they do? The created a Facebook group for all of the partnered businesses and patrons, posting sales, specials, promotions and events. They created such a buzz that local press picked up on what they were doing and further promoted their efforts to keep business local.
For the socially savvy local businesses, creating an open Facebook group for partnering stores and customers is a great way to connect. Online partnerships not only start the conversation, but also can bring people into your store.
Although it is important to develop an independent retail strategy, strength often lies in numbers. Whether promoting on or offline, having a group of people willing to endorse you (and vice versa), creates a stronger local business community.
Melissa Eisenberg is the Marketing Director at POSE, a web-based point of sale system for small business. She has experience in content marketing, social media and taking innovative products to market. She leaves no store window unturned.