Q: I want to offer cooking classes in our gourmet kitchen store as a way to get new business. What's the best way to promote this to new and existing customers?
A: Sharing your talents in the kitchen is a terrific way to attract new customers and build loyalty with those who already patronize your store. There are a variety of low-cost ways to advertise your cooking classes. You can post signs in your store and hand out fliers advertising the classes. If you haven't already, start collecting customers' contact information, including their home and e-mail addresses. Use this information to send them postcards or e-mails announcing the classes. If you have a Web site or an e-zine, mention the classes there, too.
To broaden your potential student base, cross-market with a local health-food or grocery specialty store. Place signs in the store, and tap into its customer database-in exchange for promoting the store in class (verbally and in recipe handouts and accompanying shopping lists with the name of the store where ingredients can be bought).
Expand your audience by linking with a local food pantry or soup kitchen. Donate part of your class fee to the charity, and, in turn, ask the charity to help you promote your classes.
Finally, call the customers you think would be most interested in your classes. A personal invite goes a long way toward building goodwill.