Finding ways to attract and keep customers as a local hardware or auto store can be a real challenge. As more and more people gravitate towards online retailers or big-name outlets, finding your own niche is key to sustaining your business. However, there are still plenty of ways to find success as a local business. With these tips and strategies, you can get started on finding, attracting, and delighting an entire community of loyal customers.
Identify Your Target Customers
The first step in attracting customers for your store is finding the right people to target. Try and paint a clear picture of who your ideal customer would be. Consider what that customer would want from a local business, what they wouldn’t want, and how you can make sure you meet their expectations.
You also don’t want to target an audience that’s too broad. Saying that your store is for “everyone” won’t help you find valuable customers because that demographic is just too large. Instead, focus on being as specific as possible, and pinpoint your marketing outreach efforts on the customers who your business shares a community with and who you can build meaningful relationships with.
Are you a family-owned auto shop? Then send advertisements to local families in your zip code area. Does your hardware store carry specialty products not available in big box stores? Make sure your community is aware of them.
Try and focus in on the community you want to appeal to, and then go a step further and find out what kinds of people in that community would find value in the products and services your store could offer them. Social media (Facebook, for example) is a great venue to monitor people’s interest and activities and promote your ability to provide supplies.
Provide Relevant Solutions
When you know who your customers are, then you need to make sure that the products you offer will be the solution to those customers’ problems. As a local hardware store, for example, you need to be able to provide a service that the big-name retailers can’t (or in some cases, won’t). Find the areas where you can do much better, and provide greater service value to your customers.
Network with the people around you, find out what they value, and then deliver them what it is you know they’re looking for. If it’s possible, you can even try selling locally sourced products—like construction wood harvested by a local lumberyard, for example—as that’s a great way to appeal to and invest in a local community.
The key is to offer an experience that’s exclusive to your store. People value convenience just as much as price, and when you can offer a local, friendly, and convenient alternative to a larger, more impersonal store, then you’ll be well on your way to winning the business and loyalty of a community.
Partner with Other Local Businesses
Another unique benefit you have as a local business is the ability to partner up with other businesses in the area. If you’re a hardware store, try and find another local business with a complimentary service—like a renovation, landscaping, or painting company, for example—and put together a package deal with them that offers customers a good deal and helps you plug into a whole new market of potential clients.
Ultimately, the best thing your local business can do that your competition can’t is to nurture meaningful relationships with the people you share a community and do business with. The more ways you can interact with the community, the easier it’ll be for you to build strong relationships with customers who will want to come back to you for all their needs.
Finally, implementing a loyalty program can be yet another way to nurture your existing community of customers while also offering a powerful incentive for new customers to become regular customers.
Pay attention to the habits of your customers. Learn their names, what their needs are, and then reward them with coupons or discounts that are as unique to them as possible. If you notice that a customer comes into your auto shop once a month for an oil change, offer them entry into a loyalty program that gives them a free oil change for every six he pays for.
Using the purchasing history and customer data you have stored can be a powerful resource in creating personalized promotional material that speaks to each customer individually. The more seen and important a customer feels, the more loyal they’ll be to your business, so always try and go the extra mile in making a customer feel like they’re a vital part of your business.
Ultimately, the goal of any local auto or hardware store is to be a consistent and thoughtful provider to your community. The stronger your understanding of your audience is, the stronger your relationship with them will become. And the stronger your relationship with the community is, the better the lives of both your company and its clientele will be.