Five ways to put the heat on your competitors this winter
If you’re prepared to be creative about attracting business the coming months can be a time to get a jump on your competitors, writes Fred Ohlsson.
By Fred Ohlsson.
The thought of winter has an extra chill for some small business owners who worry about bringing in customers in bad weather. But it needn’t be a winter of discontent. If you’re prepared to be creative about attracting business the coming months can be a time to get a jump on your competitors, writes Fred Ohlsson.
Hospitality and retail outlets, in particular, count on people to walk through the door, even when the weather seems to be screaming at them to tuck up at home. To avoid a freeze in your income, it’s time to find new ways to lure customers out in rain, sleet and occasionally snow. If you can, you might just get a head start on the competition.
A good first step is to take another look at your point of difference. Being cheaper than other businesses might be enough in summer, but if you’re located away from a major shopping area, with limited parking, you could find customers go elsewhere in winter.
Here are five ways to keep your business’s fires burning and put the heat on your competitors in winter:
Warm up your premises
Winter-proof your customers’ experience by making it easy and comfortable to shop with you, with good heating and insulation and signage that’s readable in poor light and bad weather.
For cafés, bars or restaurants that rely on outdoor areas, gas heating or a cover from the rain can be a great investment. Some establishments offer patrons blankets or even hot water bottles with their food or drinks.
Lure them in
Think from a customer’s point of view and create a 'hook', or an extra perk, to differentiate you from competitors and get them in the door.
What appeals to your customers most: Your location? General convenience? A unique approach to customer service? Your product range or price?
Successful lures could include:
• Easy parking. If customers can pull up at your door they may choose you over a chain stores in a busy mall
• Free delivery of products that could be damaged if carried in bad weather
• Special seasonal deals for hospitality businesses or winter giveaways – such as a free muffin with every two coffees or a prize draw for in-store purchase.
Your customers may be tucked up at home, but reach out and grab their attention with an e-newsletter or email with special offers, or stimulate their interest through social media.
Being set up to take orders online or by phone is an obvious advantage. You can add to this by offering free or discounted delivery.
You can also take your business to your customers by sending them marketing material in the post (direct mail). For big-ticket items, it may be worth offering home demonstrations.
Don’t battle alone if there are other firms in the same boat that you could work with for mutual benefit. Can you team up to provide winter-themed special offers, discounts or package deals that boost sales for all concerned? It could be something like a discount on ski passes when customers buy skis or a winter jacket.
Use your time
You may still find you have some quiet spells despite all your efforts, but even this can have an upside. It could be a chance to hit activities you struggle to fit in at other times of the year: reviewing your business plan, researching new products, updating your website or marketing materials or getting your books up to scratch.
Better still, start planning your spring sale, so you can hit the ground running when better weather returns!
Fred Ohlsson is Managing Director, Retail & Business Banking, at ANZ New Zealand.
June 16, 2015