For some pet retailers, this is a slow time of the year as summer starts to wane and focus starts shifting to fall merchandise and, invariably, the coming holiday season. For me, however, I am fortunate to have two Christmas seasons in a four-month span at my store in downtown Saratoga Springs. That is because on July 23rd, the 142nd thoroughbred racing meet kicked off at historic Saratoga Racecourse. Through Labor Day, more than 900,000 patrons will visit the track and many of them will venture into our bustling downtown after the races to eat, shop and stroll through the picturesque Victorian landscape that is Saratoga Springs.
Since I opened in Saratoga almost five years ago, August and December have been my two biggest sales months. The past two years, August sales have exceeded December sales. I see the same people every year, usually during the same weekend or week they are in Saratoga. I make a concerted effort to stay in touch with my out-of-town customers after the racing meet ends to ensure they will return the following year to take home some goodies and apparel for their pups. How do you stay in touch with your customer? I do it in a number of ways:
- E-mail Marketing: My e-mail list has grown to more than 1,200 customers. On average, I send out two e-mails a month highlighting new products, announcing special events and reporting on doggie-related news. I try to always include a coupon that can be used both in-store and on my retail website. Even though my out-of-town customers can’t enjoy in person the many special events I hold throughout the year, they can still feel like they were there by looking at pictures/videos of the event. I’ve even had customers travel to Saratoga from Boston and New York City to attend some of the events that take place outside of racing season. There are several companies out there that have relatively simple tools to create very professional looking e-mails for only $15 to $20 per month.
- Facebook: My business now has more than 3,100 Facebook Fans. I try to post two to three times per day. This is a daily reminder to out-of-town customers that my business is thriving, vibrant and fun. I try to mix things up with Trivia Thursdays and Famous Photo Fridays. I’ve had dozens of out-of-town customers come into the store this summer to tell me how much they enjoy the Facebook posts. As you probably know, this is the most inexpensive advertising media there is—it’s FREE.
- Personal Notes: Many of my racetrack customers don’t wait for the following racing season to stock up on treats and apparel. They order from me online. In every web order I ship, I include a personal note thanking them for their business and expressing my desire to do business with them in the future. Customers appreciate this personal touch, especially as the retail environment becomes more sterile as the major retailers continue to dominate. Again, the cost of this added touch is FREE.
These are just a few of many easy, inexpensive ways to keep in touch with your customers. It is mostly an investment of time that will pay dividends as you continue to see the same customers shopping your store over and over and over again.
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