Outta Sight

Savvy ideas to boost your sales.
Magazine Contributor
4 min read

This story appears in the October 1996 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine. Subscribe »

Yes, location is important when you're running a retail business, but the good news is that, even from a less-than-ideal location, you can still market your way to success.

Just ask Bonnie Segel. When she opened her 1,035-square-foot gift basket shop in Columbus, Ohio, in 1984, she chose a less expensive location on a side street off the main drag.

Her secret to drawing customers to a low-profile location? For starters, she helps fellow shop owners refer customers to her by leaving stacks of her promotional postcards at neighboring businesses. She also publishes a newsletter to keep clients updated on her merchandise and local events. Advertising in other newsletters and synagogue bulletins has been a cost-effective way to attract new customers for Segel, who also participates in charity events and donates her gift baskets to silent auctions. And if customers can't make it to her shop during regular business hours, Segel will open early or close late to accommodate them.

"Word-of-mouth is how we survive in this neighborhood," says Segel. Apparently, the word on Baskets by Bonnie is good: This month, Segel is relocating her shop to the main thoroughfare--not because she's disenchanted with her current space but because the business is doing so well, she needs more room.

Body Talk

It's not news that nonverbal communication sometimes speaks louder than the verbal variety. But did you ever stop to wonder if watching your customers' body language could help you make a sale? Mohamed Elmanjra, president of motivational consulting firm M.E. International Consultants Inc. in Montreal, believes it could. He suggests the following hints:

If your customer turns his head or body away, this is a sign that you need to engage him. Try to get him to verbalize his objections so you can tackle them.

A change in facial expression could signify intense interest or disinterest. Watch for changes, and address them as they arise.

When a customer reaches for an object on the counter, don't pounce--give her a chance to contemplate the purchase. If you're conversing, keep it slow enough to let her make up her mind.

If your customer points his finger or uses hand gestures when speaking, the subject is important to him; pay particular attention to what he's saying.

Open hands show a desire for more information.

Is your customer nodding her head in agreement? Time to close the sale.

Arms folded in front of your customer's chest could signify disinterest--or could be a challenge to prove your product's worth.

If a customer's gaze wanders, pick up the pace. Wide-open eyes often signify understanding; dilated pupils are a good sign, while pupils that decrease in size may mean you need to be more persuasive.

Mission: Possible

Marketing is about being remembered. It's about getting noticed. And sometimes, it's about helping others, too. How can you carry out a socially responsible marketing strategy?

"Ask yourself what you do better than anybody else. Then ask yourself how you can apply that to a need in the community," says Carol Coletta, whose Memphis, Tennessee-based Coletta & Co. Inc. helps companies implement socially responsible marketing campaigns.

Such campaigns don't have to break the bank: Coletta says some of the best promotions entail getting your employees or customers to pitch in for a cause. The owner of a nursery, for example, could organize employees to plant flowerbeds in an inner-city community; a restaurateur could have employees deliver surplus food to a homeless shelter.

But don't just write a check to a local charity, Coletta says; it's less effective (and more expensive) than donations of time and effort.

The benefits of socially responsible marketing are many: Coletta says such promotions garner exposure for your company, improve employee morale, build public awareness of social issues and ultimately boost your bottom line.

Contact Sources

Office of Representative Jack Metcalf, 507 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, DC 20515, (202) 225-2605.


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