Table of Contents
Write Your Business Plan

How to Get Customers in Your Store and Drive Traffic to Your Website Whether you are a brick-and-mortar or an ecommerce business, you need a plan to make it easy for customers to find you.

By Entrepreneur Staff Edited by Dan Bova

Key Takeaways

  • Location can mean the difference between success and failure.
  • Social media is your most powerful (free!) tool to build awareness
  • Authenticity is vital to social media success.

This is part 8 / 9 of Write Your Business Plan: Section 4: Marketing Your Business Plan series.

To build awareness and increase revenue, you need to master the four Ps of marketing: product, price, place, and promotion. Here we will discuss the all-important category of "place."


Place refers to channels of distribution, or the means you will use to put your product where people can buy it. This can be very simple: Retailers and many service businesses (restaurants, personal services, business services) rely primarily on location. For manufacturers, conventional distribution systems have three steps: producer, wholesaler, and retailer. You may occupy or sell to members of any one of these steps. Some companies with vertically integrated distribution, such as Apple, occupy all the steps themselves. Others, like franchisors, are parts of systems that orchestrate the activities among all channels. Still others, such as independent retailers, operate in one channel only.

Related: How to Define Your Product and Set Your Prices

Location Considerations

For retailers, the big place question involves real estate. Location commonly determines success or failure for many retailers. That doesn't necessarily mean the same location will work for all retailers. A low-rent but high-traffic space near low-income housing may be a poor choice for a retailer stocking those Armani suits but will work fine for a fast-food restaurant or convenience store. Your location decision needs to be tied to your market, your product, and your price.

Two of the most common tools for picking location are census data and traffic surveys. Retailers relying on walk-in traffic want to get a location that has a lot of people walking or driving past. You can usually get traffic data from local economic development agencies or by simply sitting down with a clipboard and pencil and counting people or cars yourself. Census data describing the number, income levels, and other information about households in the nearby neighborhoods can be obtained from the same sources. An animal clinic, for example, wants to locate in an area with a lot of pet-owning households. This is the type of information you can get from census surveys. The census website,, is a great place to start searching for data. You can also learn a lot about marketing research by going to the Insights Association.

Related: How to Effectively Promote Your Business to Customers and Investors

Site Sensitivity

Manufacturers require certain basic conditions for their sites, but retailers and some service firms are exquisitely sensitive to a wide variety of location factors. In some cases, a few feet can make the difference between a location that is viable and one that is not.

Site selection plans for retailers should include traffic data, demographics of nearby populations, estimated sales per square foot, rental rates, and other important economic indicators. Service firms such as restaurants will want many of the same things. Service firms such as pest control services and bookkeeping businesses will want to provide information about local income levels, housing, and business activity.

Related: How to Write an Operations Plan for Retail and Sales Businesses

Store design also must be addressed. Retailing can be as much about entertaining shoppers as it is about displaying goods. So store design becomes very important, especially for high-fashion retailers or well-known

tech companies such as Apple. Floor plans are probably not enough here. Retailers may want to include photos or illustrations of striking displays, in-store boutiques, and the like.

Related: I Watch Great Teams Make These Business-Destroying Mistakes All The Time. Here's Where They're Going Wrong (And How To Fix It).

Then there is the internet and e-commerce, where physical location gives way to driving traffic to the site. This is where you need a Facebook page, Twitter handle, YouTube channel, Instagram for photos, and so forth. Social media is where e-tailers can make themselves known but only by using the accepted methods of the genre. Social media marketing is a different animal, and that means getting to know your prospective customers online without being sales-hungry or pushy. The hard sales push turns off the social media crowd. It is more about engaging effectively and building community.

To get started, however, you need a Facebook page that draws attention and a presence on social media, which can take time to build. Followers on social media serve two very important purposes:

  1. They can become regular customers if you keep providing them with products they like to buy.
  2. They can spread the word to their social media followers. Word-of- mouth marketing is huge and cost-free to you once you've set the wheels in motion.

The power of the internet is such that it can reach millions of people without your having to pay to reach them. It is light-years ahead of direct mailing, which can work in smaller business circles but does not make sense at a national or global level.

Related: 7 Proven Strategies for Launching a Successful Ecommerce Business

You need to be able to plan a social media campaign, which means adapting to the rules of the road and using any social media platform correctly. It means putting forth your message in a creative and interesting way. This also holds true for blogs. There are tons of bloggers out there, but those who have interesting content get far more readers than those who do not.

In social media, you want to:

  • Pose interesting questions
  • Answer the questions of others to demonstrate your expertise
  • Be transparent and honest
  • Be consistent and don't say different things on different platforms
  • Make friends and build relationships with people rather than selling, selling, selling (social media is "social"; just as you wouldn't start a sales pitch at a party or social engagement, so, too, you wouldn't do it on social media either)
  • Stay on top of what is going on—don't launch into old news and retreaded themes
  • Maintain an ongoing presence—participate often and update your web presence

Setting Up Your Online Presence

Every successful business today has at least a website (and some have more than one) as well as a presence on Facebook and other social media sites. Just as you set up a retail store to best position your products, you want to set up your site to do the same. Your social media helps lead customers to your site and your business. It all ties together.

Related: How to Determine How Much Real Estate Your Business Needs

Your website is also influenced by what type of business you are running. For a brick-and-mortar business, it can be an adjunct means of marketing you and your goods.

For a business selling through its locations and on the internet, it is a means of taking local shopping worldwide. Many e-tailers have found that they may carry items that do marginally well in their local stores but have an audience thousands of miles away. That's the beauty of the internet. Of course, this means factoring such shipping into your operations.

Related: How to Determine How Much Real Estate Your Business Needs

For businesses that are strictly web-driven, you'll need to show how the site works and all that is set up behind the site for taking orders, shipping them, and handling customer service, which is important for all businesses today, but especially so for online businesses where buyers cannot walk in and return an item face-to-face.

Along with the reasoning behind your site, you'll also want to have a website designed to suit your type of business and demographics. Therefore, a high-end jeweler and a kid-friendly fast-food restaurant will look quite different from one another on the web.

You'll also want to keep it simple. Try not to overwhelm the viewers. Some white space isn't a bad thing. It's also important that you have a consistent message (for all marketing). If you're the high-end jeweler, then everything should have the same high-end appeal, photos, and wording. If you're the kid-friendly fast-food place, then everything should be about families and kids. Be consistent.

Related: How to Build an Online Presence With Social Media

One of the best ways to determine what you want, whether you end up using site-building software or hire someone to build your site, is to look at other sites and write down what you like.

Many companies devote great time and effort to their web and social media presence. They look at the statistics provided and plan carefully how and when to post their messages.

The more your business is dependent on the internet, the more you will discuss it in your plan of operations. But you should definitely include it in your marketing plans. A business today without any mention of using the internet is suspicious.

Related: 4 Steps to Creating Buzz on a Shoestring Budget

20 Keys to Having an Excellent Website That Enhances Your Marketing Plan

  1. Update it regularly—nobody wants old news or information.
  2. Use content that interests your visitors—make it about them, not all about you.
  3. Avoid too many bells and whistles that slow down the site.
  4. Make it navigation-friendly—people who get lost will leave.
  5. Make it interactive with polls and surveys.
  6. Provide an "about us" page so visitors (including current customers) know who you are.
  7. Use colors that don't glare or make it hard to read.
  8. Check out how the pages look on various computers and mobile devices.
  9. Double-check to make sure all links work.
  10. Maintain control—even if someone else designs it, learn how to make your own changes.
  11. Link only to businesses you know are reliable.
  12. Keep it original—you can borrow ideas but don't use content from other sources, at least not without the permission of the other site owner or manager.
  13. Include a blog—if you don't write very well, hire a blogger.
  14. Use visuals—photos are worth thousands of words.
  15. Link to your social media sites—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, and so on. You don't need to be on all of them—look at their demographics.
  16. Make it clear how people can find you if you have a brick-and-mortar location(s).
  17. Make it clear how they can pay you—and make sure the process is simple—if you are selling on the internet.
  18. Include a site map.
  19. Use keywords in the site for SEO purposes to be found by search.
  20. Have easy-to-find contact information on every page.

Related: What You Need to Know Before Finalizing the Price of your Product

Distribution Concerns

There are three main issues in deciding on a placement strategy: coverage, control, and cost. Cost, it goes almost without saying, is an important part of any business decision, including distribution concerns. The other two issues, however, are unique to distribution and are trickier.

Coverage refers to the need to cover a large or a small market. If you're selling laundry soap, you may feel the need to offer it to virtually every household in America. This will steer you toward a conventional distribution scheme running from your soap factory to a group of wholesalers serving particular regions or industries, to retailers such as grocery stores, and finally to the consumer. It can also be accomplished by selling online, saving you the need for numerous warehouses.

Related: Use This Worksheet to Write a Product Description That Sells

What if you are reaching out to only a small group, such as chief information officers of Fortune 500 companies? In this case, the conventional, rather lengthy distribution scheme is clearly inappropriate. You're likely to do better by selling directly to the CIOs through a company sales staff, sales reps, or perhaps an agreement with another company that already has sales access to the CIOs. In both these cases, coverage has a lot of say in the design of your distribution system.

Control is important for many products. Ever see any Armani suits at Target? The reason you haven't is that Armani works hard to control its distribution, keeping the costly apparel in high-end stores where its lofty prices can be sustained. Armani's need for control means that it deals only with distributors who sell to designer boutiques. Many manufacturers want similar control for reasons of pricing, after-sale service, image, and so forth. If you need control over your distribution, it will powerfully influence placement decisions.

Related: 5 Must-Answer Questions to Succeed Targeting Your Customer Base

The distribution scheme is of critical importance to manufacturers. Say you make a mass-market consumer good such as a toy. Whether you plan effectively to get your product onto shelves in the major grocery, drug, and discount store chains may make all the difference between success and failure.

If you're selling an informational product to a narrow market, such as political consulting services to candidates for elected office, physical distribution is of less importance. However, for just about all companies, an effective placement strategy is a big determinant of success.

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