Start selling before customers get in your store

I’m seeing a lot of manufacturers and retailers putting out e-newsletters on a regular basis. In my opinion, this is one of the most cost-effective advertising tools around.

While we in the business world continue to wrap our heads around Web 2.0 — social networking sites, video, blogging, etc. — one of the “oldest” electronic technologies remains the most effective at reaching out to customers and selling them something before they actually come into a hobby store.

Don’t get me wrong, that other stuff is great in its own right. However, its effectiveness in actually making money is spotty at best, and while the hobby industry is all about building a sense of community, at the end of the day, we all have bills to pay and products to make and sell.

Some of the more effective e-newsletters I receive put sales in the background and focus more on what the company is developing, what’s going on in the store or what’s on the owner’s mind. And because it comes to my e-mail box, it’s a personal message, even if it is going out to thousands of people.

A couple of my favorite retailer e-newsletters come from Rick Berry at Michigan Toy Soldier and Frank Ruby at Blue Ridge Hobbies. A manufacturer newsletter that never fails to raise a smile is “The irregular and irreverent bulletin” from Rapido Trains’ Jason Schron called the Rapido Telegraph. All of them are different, but equally effective.

If you haven’t explored this kind of marketing before, you might want to give it a look. And while you’re doing that, start collecting e-mail addresses from your customers and building a list to send to. Some companies that provide e-newsletter services are Constant Contact, MailChimp, and My Newsletter Builder. Some companies like Zero to Sixty Marketing can help you put together a whole campaign. Or, you may opt to do it yourself; there’s plenty of how-to information out there.

No matter which way you go, it’s a good way to keep in contact with your customers and keep your business on their minds. Anymore, it’s not enough to just advertise passively to people, you have to go get them. This is one way to do it.

Hal Miller, editor


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One Response to “Start selling before customers get in your store”

  1. Shari Voigt Says:

    Thanks for the mention, Hal.

    One other possibility I’d like to mention, is the combination of “old” and newer technology to get the job done for free. For instance, this blog could be delivered via email or RSS feed, depending on your reader’s preference, via Google’s Feedburner service. You simply install a script provided by Feedburner, then every time you publish a new blog post, it would be automatically sent to all subscribers. It’s a quick and easy alternative, since the business owner only needs to write and publish the blog post. The syndication occurs behind the scenes.

    But as you said, regardless of the method used, the most important thing is to stay “front of mind” with your customers.

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