Expanding our markets: Brick and mortar edition

Get the RSS Feed


Image from my favorite car repair shop on the planet, Pat’s Garage in San Francisco.

I have been bowled over by the fantastic suggestions and supportive communication flying back and forth on my first two “Expanding our markets” posts, Professional Services and Artists.

Thanks to everyone who participated so far! Your enthusiasm is contagious.

Today I would like to invite your great ideas to support brick and mortar businesses. These would be businesses that have a physical location, like:

  • Restaurants
  • Yoga studios
  • Candle shops
  • Clothing stores
  • Car repair shops
  • You get the idea

I explain a bit more in my video:

Here are the businesses I mentioned in the video:

Chandler Country Clipper Barbershop

Urban Tea Loft (read the story about how it started here. Very inspiring!)

Pat’s Garage

I didn’t mention this business in the video, but it is a GREAT example of how to utilize social media and community building to build a thriving restaurant business: Liberty Market. They are @libertymarket on Twitter.

Here is what to do if you ARE a brick and mortar business owner:

  1. State the nature of your business, your ideal client description  and current marketing strategy. If you have an active site, share the link. Let us know where you need help.
  2. Reply to your peers’ comments with your ideas

If you ARE NOT a brick and mortar business owner, we really need your help!

  1. Reply to specific comments with ideas
  2. Tell us where we are totally missing the boat and thinking too narrowly. Often those outside of our own fields have the most creative ideas!
  3. New twist for this category: Nominate your favorite local business by describing what they do, their ideal target market, and what you know of their existing marketing plans. Tell them that there are a bunch of people from all over the world that are sharing ideas for how to help them grow their business on this blog. Watch their face light up with delight that goodness exists in the world. Feel good karma flowing.

This is the kind of information that will be useful to share:

  1. Specific marketing tactics (To restaurant owner; ”Have you ever thought of providing food for a local homeowner’s meeting and giving out free coupons?”  … etc)
  2. Good articles about growing a brick and mortar business
  3. Really smart people who have a definite opinion about this sector of the market (John Jantsch from Duct Tape Marketing comes to mind. His new book The Referral Engine drops on May 13 and would be a perfect gift for your favorite business owner.)
  4. Good blogs on this topic
  5. Anything else that would be useful

As I have said in earlier posts, let’s see where this discussion takes us! I will update this post with links left in the comments so we have an organized list of resources.

Go crazy with ideas people!

Filed Under: Uncategorized

20 Responses to “Expanding our markets: Brick and mortar edition”

  1. Heike says:

    My husband opened a brick-and-mortar business last month. It’s in Pretoria, South Africa and we provide LP Gas refills as well as some gas equipment, gas powered geysers, etc. We have started handing out pamphlets in the vicinity but are stuck for more marketing ideas. There are other stores (hardware) in the area that do the same but we are cheaper. We’d like to stay cheaper but also need other ideas to differentiate us from the rest.
    My husband wants to get some restaurants on board (but I don’t think they will be loyal as they will go with cheapest from teh big providers).
    He is a qualified gas installer, so we also advertise that.
    Any suggestions?

  2. Muddassir U says:

    Hello all..

    My sister and I are fashion entrepreneurs. We have our own fashion label that we supply to various stores in Europe and the Middle East. We have been contemplating starting our own store in Dubai, as she is based there. However, there are already a few “designer clothes stores” in Dubai, and we’ve been brainstorming to try and come up with an idea to be ‘different’. We plan to keep our label as well as other designers on consignment basis.

    I don’t want it to be just a clothes store. Was hoping to make it more like a concept store or a lifestyle store with clothes, jeweleries and accessories. I really wish you guys could help us with coming up with some good concept for a store.. or maybe incorporate a small cafe with the store.. or something else..

    Please help..

    Muddi x

    • Jennifer says:

      Muddi, Hi. Is this store more focused to girls/ women? I do not know the culture specifics of Dubai, but what if you could add seminars for self-development/self-esteem in the shop. Here in US occasionally, some department stores give a class to young girls teaching self-esteem, confidence and other woman-related topics. We also got to model the clothes of the store to the public at the end of the class.

    • Hi Muddi,

      the first and most important thing you need to do is get to know your customers. Who they are, what they do, what they like, their side interests. If you don’t know your customers, you will most likely go wrong with your shop.

      Second thing you should do is think about what you want from your store. Do you want it to be just another place to sell your designs, do you want it to be a meeting point for your customers whom you’ll meet, do you want it to be a place where you and your wife will spend most of your time and enjoy the interaction. Who will be running the shop? You need to figure out what you would like it to be, not precisely like a cafe+fashion store, but what kind of experience you want to have, and then incorporate that with what your customers want and like.

      Showering you with ideas that sound cool, but are in no relation with these two points, won’t get you anywhere whether we are doing that or you are sitting by yourself and doing it by heart.

      To get your imagination going, think about the future activities you could have in your shop (but do this when you get to know your audience, I can’t stress enough how important this is) like events, workshop, parties…

      To get going, start talking to people, walk around, visit similar places. Don’t hesitate to ask anyone a question about their business or something you are interested in. Start a blog; there are two reasons for it. One is to keep all your ideas and useful information in one place and the second is to talk about what you are planning to do. Maybe you’ll get some feedback, maybe you’ll ask for some more feedback. Or maybe you could have the web address of your blog on your clothes and some of the people who buy it will visit it. Blog is a good way to spread the word and your philosophy, and it can very easily take you on a different path.

      You don’t need two years to do this. Just look in the right places and get the right information. It can take a few months to figure it out, but it’ll be worth it.

    • Hi Muddi…
      I would take inspiration from Johnny Cupcakes. It is a clothing brand of mostly t-shirts. Every item has a cupcake on it. So…they designed their stores to look like bakeries with t-shirts in display cases! I haven’t been to one yet, but I am dying to go! Or Hollister whose stores look like beach houses.
      Maybe you could make your store look like a fashion show or a subway station or a nightclub or something else that would really set it apart.

  3. Tomas Conefrey says:

    Hi, my family have an independant Community Pharmacy in Dublin, Ireland. Due to changes in professional fees and the reducing prices of medicines our prescription business has decreased significantly. Also due to the economic downturn our front-of-shop sales are also down a lot. I have started a ‘Conefrey’s Pharmacy’ facebook page to connect with a lot of the more technically savvy people in the area. I am hoping to connect with especially the younger generation (20-35-ish) as I notice we either have a very old clientele (who come in to collect their prescriptions) or parents who are looking to get medicines for their children. I have made contact with a local employment centre to generate fans for the Facebook page. My wife is designing a website for us but is on maternity leave and is busy with our son so the website is on hold. Our services include over-the-counter medicines, toiletries and cosmetics. We also have our own photographic laboratory on-site and have recently installed a private consultation area in the store. We are 1 mile from the city centre and have a lot of offices and hotels in the surrounding area. Two weeks ago I e-mailed seven of the local hotels to say that we had a pharmacist available to help any passengers stranded due to the ongoing volcanic ash crisis. I said we can visit the hotels in question, arrange doctor’s appointments if necessary but no response. I have signed up on wordpress to publish a blog and am going to link it to the facebook page but am short of ideas on what to blog on. I am fairly good with technology and have recently purchased a flip video camera so I can film the shop and put the content on the Facebook page and website when its done. I am going to use the facebook page to promote the business locally. All help much appreciated. Thank you.

  4. Create a beautiful video with some eye catching images which has offers in it regarding your business. First send the video to yours friends asking for their comments on it. If you can get some good feedback on it. Keep it on popular Video channels and start promoting it

  5. Julien says:

    In an alternate universe, I own a barbershop. Nice job featuring one. (:

  6. Andrew March says:

    Hey Bill,

    Wish I was running the show. I’ll run your suggestion past them. There is a grocery store about 1 km down the road that I know uses the type of advertising you describe. I think one hurdle for them with advertising is that they have no signage visible from the road. To top that off, their building has a Mall on half the first floor, and offices on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd floors with condos on top. So it looks like just another condo building from the road.

    So what I’m saying is I think it would be tricky to give accurate & actionable directions on the back of a receipt.

    But it’s a good, low-tech way of reaching people. The chocolates are the most expensive things they sell, so maybe the coupons would be better just promoting their existing ice cream business. Like “buy a regular cone and get a 2nd cone free” for example. Then they can try to use some other in-store means to convert them into chocolate customers.

  7. To restaurant owner; ”Have you ever thought of providing food for a local homeowner’s meeting and giving out free coupons?”

    I work for a company that sells advertisements (usually coupons) on the back of receipt tape for large supermarkets (Shop Rite, Stop N Shop, Pathmark, etc.) and had to chuckle when I saw the above suggestion- it’s great and it does target a specific market, but for sheer volume you can’t beat receipt tape advertising.

    These supermarkets spend millions of dollars to drive people into their stores within a 3-5 mile radius. Most average about 4,000 shoppers a day- and the average shopper goes to the supermarket 2-3 times a week. Every time shoppers get a receipt, they get my clients’ coupon. We have sub shops that average 20 coupons a day and a car wash that does twice that amount. So for the price of about $10 a day, my clients reach 120,000 people a month! That’s over a million a year.

    In this market, people have less money to buy goods and services and coupons have never been more prevalent. Give ’em a coupon for “Get a Free Small Pizza When You Buy One Large Pizza” and not only can consumers feed their family for less, but the pizza restaurant probably has a customer for life!

    So Andrew, shoot me an email at billreinhard@optonline.com, we’ll find the closest supermarket near you, advertise “Free Belgian Chocolate with Every Ice Cream Cone Purchase”, put a message on the coupon that says “Next to Macy’s” or where ever, and watch your business soar!

  8. Mark R says:


    Can they work with merchants in the mall in a partnership to drive traffic to the shop? Such as a “Take a Break Special”? A promotion from merchants after a purchase is complete. For example: Thanks for shopping with us, as a thank you please visit one of our partners in the mall for a coffee and chocolate special with this coupon. You don’t need to offer a price break, but offer a bit of respite.


  9. Andrew March says:

    Wow, thanks for the comments guys! I am going to print these off (since they are computer illiterate) and give your suggestions to them. They went down the road of trying to get the hotels/spa’s to BUY the chocolate, but obviously they stuck with the chocolates that are half the price because they aren’t the ones eating them.

    One of the other problems I think their store faces is that it is inside a mall and isn’t visible from the road. Any suggestions on how to increase foot traffic in their general direction? Their venue opens to a small patio at the side of the building.

  10. Mark R says:

    As a marketer, the one piece of advice I stress is relationships and alliances. While advertising and branding will get you noticed, the right alliance will get customers in the door. To expand on Jennifer’s idea above, in the example of the chocolate shop, can they partner with a local hotel or spa to provide a chocolate square or mint in exchange for some promotional material? Have the chocolate square be the night mint on the pillow. If it works at one hotel or spa, others will be willing to pay. Provide the samples at no charge, the return will be positive. Then build on the quality and service you have established as your trademark.

    Too often profit trumps all, but the alliance that may cost a bit in the beginning will lead to other opportunities in the future. Be selective, don’t be everything to everyone, be something for someone. Be patient and focused. Don’t have your messages compete with everyone else. Grab a position and make it your.

    In the south end of SLC there is a small food shop called Pirate-os (http://stores.pirate-o.com/StoreFront.bok). It is a very eclectic mix of food from around the world including candy, sauces, beer, and all other sorts of goodies. It is a fabulous place to shop and visit, and they have great atmosphere. They even celebrate national talk like a pirate day, and have events surrounding it. Visit it if you are in the area.

  11. Christy says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I just did a simple Google search for “Chocolate Shops Toronto” and quite a few results came back for fabulous-looking chocolate shops.

    Anyway, some of those sites that popped up in the search are overly-complex and use Flash in the worst possible ways, BUT they might be a good show-and-tell for your Aunt and Uncle … particularly if you were to take them on a physical tour of Toronto to a handful of these shops.

    Like this:

    Get them to agree to visit 3 to 5 good chocolate shops. Visit one, then when you get back out to the car, open your computer (if you have access to wireless) and show them the website.

    If your Aunt and Uncle can tangibly connect the physical shop (and the quality within) to the website representing that store, perhaps they will have some synapses fire in their own brains helping them see the “newfangled” means of finding shops.

    Second idea:

    Once you’ve convinced them of the viability of the web as a marketing tool … take on messaging. I’ve long believed that the cost of 1 fabulous chocolate is more than equal to 100 crappy chocolates. Trade on that idea.

    You could play it as an “everyday indulgence” sort of thing (that’s what Starbucks did in the early days and look where they’ve ended up!). You could also incorporate some of the health reports that discuss the value of (dark) chocolate for health. (Guy Kawasaki tweeted this article today: http://tinyurl.com/3xkqwp6 )

    At any rate, I hope that helps. Even more, I hope I can visit someday and try some of this fabuloso chocolate! 🙂

  12. If you’re a bricks and mortar business, then you NEED to be on FourSquare. Then start rewarding repeat customers. If your “Mayor” is getting a free cup of coffee every Friday, then you can be sure that they’ll visit you Monday through Thursday to keep getting that freebie. And the people visiting just once a week will make more visits to try and win that mayorship and a free cup too!

  13. Grant says:

    Don’t overlook the potential in existing businesses.

    At our local garage, Roger the owner wanted to retire and the senior mechanic Tom bought him out. He closed the pumps to focus on the garage and hired Roger. Roger knows everyone and loves to talk to the customers, Tom knows how to run the business.

    Business has doubled with a good mechanic and manager, Roger is happy to talk customers without the worries of running a business. And the customers are happy with the improved service. Re-vitalizing an existing business is cheaper and quicker than building the bricks and mortar yourself.

  14. Andrew March says:

    My Aunt and Uncle have a Belgian chocolate and ice cream store. The ice cream is made locally and is very high quality, they make a lot of profits every summer selling the ice cream as their store is located next to the Queens Quay terminal where the ferries shuttle people over to Toronto Island. However the Belgian Chocolates while delicious are a bit of a flop since people don’t usually drop premium dollars down for authentic imported Belgian chocolate except on special occasions like Valentines day, or an anniversary. In fact I’d say their level of activity even on Valentines day is pathetic. My theory is that this is because the majority of the city doesn’t even know they are there, let alone that they sell chocolates, let alone they sell the best chocolates in town! (Lindor is to Areo what their chocolate is to Lindor). They don’t have a webpage and are not tech savvy at all (I had to put the music on their iPod for them, then had to ‘fix’ it by recharging the batteries). They are skeptical about creating a website to draw people to their store. Apart from a basic webpage with their phone number and a link to Google maps what are some suggestions on how they can make their chocolate the gift of choice for romantic occasions?

    • Jennifer says:

      Andrew.. Wow your aunt and uncle seem to have a great untapped resource!
      Ok.. here are a few ideas that come to my mind…
      Could they possibly take samples or send brochures to hotels in Toronto that have a lot of honeymooners or are a bit high end? Maybe they can be placed in the honeymoon suite. This way the hotel is the customer, your aunt and uncle’s brand is in the hotel room (possibly they can add too a nice personal touch like a greeting card, like Toronto is for lovers kind of thing, then have their name, street address, contact info somewhere, maybe on back and put coupons in the card for good measure). They could also approach hotels in Niagara Falls!! That would be a perfect honeymooner’s getaway! Next idea is to create nice brochures and/or ads and send them over to the Toronto tourist agency and get the ad in with gourmet food shops or something like that (or in the hotel directory for local gourmet and unique shops). Kind of old school ways that make a big difference. Another interesting idea.. some hotels, maybe that Sheraton in Toronto, has it’s own ‘hotel channel’…they can make a commercial or static ad to have run in it’s rotation! 🙂 Especially if this is played in the hotel lobby, it’d be fantastic!!

    • My friend is a chocolatier in San Diego (http://eclipsechocolat.com), and one way he markets himself is by donating chocolate to non-profits for their fundraising events. One of them is a theater, and he worked out a deal where they print coupons on the back of theater tickets, too.

      It seems with food businesses lately there’s a trend of “Free ____ Day.” It was free fries day at Jack in the Box recently and free smoothie day at Jamba Juice. These things get a lot of promotion. Maybe once a month have a “Free Truffle Day” for the ferry riders (or for everyone).

      Another great tool for the chocolates would be a Groupon type deal. I don’t think they would need to be terribly tech savvy, just be clear on the rules. $40 worth of chocolate for $20 would bring in a lot of people, I think.