Even the best location won't draw people to a water store without marketing. Compton, who opened her store in 1995, says the early months were tough sledding. "Once you get people in the door and explain your operation, they understand and are likely to become steady customers," she says. "But getting them in the door wasn't easy. Advertising did nothing for us. People would see the ad and not understand what we were doing."
What's the answer? To some extent, it's patience. New retailers should be prepared for a few slow months during start-up. But it also pays to have a plan. Although newspaper ads flopped for Compton, door hangers and coupons have been successful in bringing people to the store.
The Chaveses are constantly marketing. "When apartment managers come into the store, we give them coupons for their tenants for 5 free gallons of water," says Joe. "That encourages people to come in and try us." They also sponsor fund-raisers and donate a percentage of sales on a designated day to a local school or sports team. The community groups get a great, effortless fund-raiser, while the Chaveses get flier distribution, community support and foot traffic.
For entrepreneurs who understand marketing--and the market for purified water--water stores represent a unique opportunity. Essentially, all it takes to succeed is the right equipment, a plum location, promotional savvy, the blessing of your health department, and a commitment to quality and service. You don't need a fortune in start-up capital or layers of corporate bureaucracy. And you certainly don't need taste.