The Web Goes Local – Build Regional Business over the NetBy Jim Daniels
Is your business local or regional? Have you considered putting up a Website, but think it might be a waste of time and money? Or perhaps you already have a Website for your local business, but it’s not bringing in customers like you thought it would. Relax – you can grow your local or regional business using the Internet.
Let’s face it, there are lots of businesses that simply cannot serve an international marketplace, such as:
- Limousine services
- Landscaping businesses
- Local delivery services
- Local entertainment services
- Restaurants and bars
- Hair and beauty salons
- Housekeeping services
- Mom and Pop stores
- Independent gas stations
- Auto service centers
- Local contractors
- Computer repair/upgrade service
What the owners of these types of businesses don’t realize is that every single one of them can use the Internet to grow profits – even without a Website. Here’s how…
Forget the Web – Enter: the Internet!
Let’s say you offer a limo service, and you’re either considering putting up a Website, or you already have one. But since you only serve local communities, your Website is geographically limited in its sales potential. So forget about the Website for a minute! Here’s a better way to drum up business through the Internet…
Grow a powerful customer "e-list" that includes the name and email address of every customer you ever get. And when every slow period (expected or unexpected) hits your business, spend an hour and email a personal message and a special savings coupon to these past clients.
This activity is virtually free, and your customers will love you for the special attention. How do you do it? Simple!
Step 1: Know your customers
Every time you gain a new customer, make sure there’s a spot for their email address on the paperwork they fill out. And every day, have someone at your office enter this information into your database.
If you don’t already have a customer database, start one on your office computer today. There are a number of ways to do this:
- Some software solutions for small businesses include database software and contact management software, such as…
– Goldmine 5.0
- If you’re completely non-technical, or don’t have the money for a software solution or a programmer, you can start a basic customer database yourself. Simply open Notepad on your computer, and type the following headings…
Mr./Mrs. then press Tab
First Name then pPress Tab
Last Name then press Tab
Email Address then press Tab
What you will have is something that looks like this…
Mr./Mrs. First Name Last Name Email Address
Move your cursor down to the next line.
Now type your first client’s salutation (Mr. or Mrs.) and press tab. Next type their first name, then tab. Then their last name, then tab. And finally their email address, then tab.
That’s it: you have the start of a basic database! Save this file every time you update it. It will be a powerful tool in your business for years to come.
Step 2: Prepare to contact your customers
If you’re using one of the software solutions mentioned earlier, or a similar program, you already have email merge capability built-in. You can skip to step three.
However, if you went with the basic customer database using NotePad, the next step is to get an email merge program. A couple programs that are easy to work with include:
These programs allow you to open your tab delimited customer file, and they’ll merge any fields directly into your letter.
Step 3: Compose and send your customer letter
Now all that’s left is to create a great letter and email it.
Sticking with the same example as above, here’s a letter that’s guaranteed to boost the bottom line for your limo service. Feel free to borrow this and modify it for your business. A few small changes can tailor it to any local business.
Note that the fields enclosed in brackets are database fields, which your email merge program will fill in with your customers’ details.
To: [[Email Address]]
From: "Stu’s Limos" <Stu@bizweb2000.com>
Subject: For [[Salutation]] [[Last Name]]
Hello [[Salutation]] [[Last Name]],
Stu from Stu’s Limos here. I just wanted to thank you for your past business. It was a pleasure to serve you.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to present you with a special e-coupon for 20% off your next ride!
Stu’s E-coupon #2982
Good for 20% off any limo
ride before Sept 30, 2001.
The next time you want to step out in style, tell your friends the limo is on you (and you don’t have to tell them our little e-coupon secret – just print this message and slip it to the driver when he picks you up. He’ll make sure you get the special rate!).
[[FirstName]], we hope to see you again soon.
And remember, if YOU aren’t able to take advantage of this special offer, feel free to pass your coupon along to a friend!
Sincerely, Stu Barnes,
Make Local Business Thrive!
Don’t overlook the Internet in building your local business. Whether you have a Website or not, the power of the Internet can be used to your advantage with a little hard work and some creativity. It’s good for you customers, and great for your bank balance!