With the opening of the 143rd thoroughbred racing meet at historic Saratoga Racecourse just days away, I’m feeling confident that I’m prepared for the onslaught of visitors to our sleepy, Victorian town in Upstate New York. This is the 6th racing season that my shop, Sloppy Kisses, has been open. The first few racing seasons I underestimated the demand for some of the product lines I carry and probably lost some business by not having more stock. I’ve learned over the years what my summer customers are looking for. In addition, the last two years I’ve been able to transfer product from my other shop in Clifton Park (~15 miles south of Saratoga) as needed to stay fully stocked in Saratoga.
With the Dog-Friendly Downtown program now in its 3rd year with more than 30 participating businesses, I’m expecting to see a continued trend of summer visitors traveling with their dogs. Two of the more elegant hotels in town, The Saratoga Hilton and The Gideon Putnam Resort, are part of the program and welcome four-legged guests with open arms. In fact, The Saratoga Hilton offers a "Happy Dog” package complete with Sloppy Kisses treats, discount coupons, designer dog bed and bowls. The Gideon Putnam Resort is hosting some of our summer "Yappy Hours,” two of which are scheduled during racing season.
With the population of Saratoga Springs swelling to twice the norm during the month of July and three times the norm during the month of August, it is important for me to attract these potential customers to my shop. I’ve blogged in the past on the importance of Facebook as well as Constant Contact email marketing to stay in touch with your customer base throughout the year. It is this time of year that I enjoy the fruits of my labor. In addition, I’m running ads in the local newspapers. For the third year in a row, the operator of the racetrack is distributing tens of thousands of coupon books to patrons during the first weekend of racing with coupons from local businesses. The cost to be included in the coupon book…FREE. Sloppy Kisses is offering a free horseshoe biscuit with any purchase of $10 or more. Last year, we had more than 100 coupons redeemed. I’m continuing to supply the largest bank in Saratoga with Sloppy Kisses biscuits as well as to a popular, outdoor dog-friendly BBQ joint that attracts hundreds of families dining with their dog(s).
As you can see, I don’t rely on any one avenue to attract business. Rather, I use more of a guerrilla marketing approach to create buzz and steer customers into my shops. Most of the thrusts identified above involve very small expenditures of money and time. What are you doing to create buzz in your community? Think outside the box and make your shop the go to destination for people with dogs in your area.
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