Monthly Archives: April 2012

Don’t Shop, Shwop!

Laurel Tielis

How did Marks & Spencer, Britain’s largest retail chain, know I’ve got a cluttered closet? I guess I must be just one of many whose purchases exceed the space in their homes.

My solution has been to get rid of something, whether it’s a sweater, a pair of shoes, or even a belt, donating it to a charity, every time I buy something new. Marks & Spencer has now named, and claimed, this kind of behavior.

They’re calling it shwopping and they’ve set up shwop drops next to the cash wrap in all of their 342 stores.

The donated items, which could have been bought anywhere, will go to the international human rights association, Oxfam, to be resold, reused, or recycled. Nothing will be wasted–they’re even asking for used bras, for which there is a need in Africa.

Sadly, the department store chain hasn’t asked me to spearhead the program. Instead, Joanna Lumley, best known for channeling Ivana Trump in her role as Patsy on the television show Absolutely Fabulous, is the spokesperson.

Of course, clearing out closets is not the main concern for creating the fashion initiative. There’s the landfill problem.They’re full!

The company estimates it sells 350 million clothing items a year and that’s a lot of landfill. If customers go shwopping instead of shopping, they’ll reduce it significantly.

Isn’t it nice to know that by simply adding a letter, and emptying a closet, consumers can help the economy and the environment. If you’re a retailer, why not promote the initiative in your store?

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com or connect with me at LinkedIn.

For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, follow me on Twitter @laureltielis and read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales.

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

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Get More Customers In Your Store

Laurel Tielis

Customer engagement is one of the secrets to increasing sales. So if you’ve been looking for an easy and inexpensive way to bring in more business, take a note from this small store that got big benefits by taking advantage of people’s propensity to sit–at their desks, on their couches, and behind the wheels of their cars.

Paul’s Hat Works, a San Francisco-based men’s hat shop owned by four savvy young women, created buzz for its brick and mortar business by inviting neighbors and customers to sit in the front window. Talk about engaging with the clientele!

The small store has been in business on the same street since 1918. The most recent owners, who call themselves the Four Pauls, are Abbie Dwelle, Wendy Hawkins, Olivia Griffin, and Kirsten Hove. They bought the 1,600 square foot shop in 2009 and learned how to custom-craft hats from the previous proprietor. No one, though, has had to teach them how to get the word out. They are mistresses of the art of guerrilla marketing.

Playing on the interest in Mad Men, the TV show about a time in U.S. history when everyone wore hats, they used their front windows–each about four feet by six feet–to set a scene of the 1950s and ’60s. Since women’s and men’s roles were clearly delineated at that time, the two windows were set up to reflect that difference.

The window for women offered a manicure kit, a yarn holder and knitting needles, as well as appropriate reading matter. The men’s window featured an upright typewriter, a pipe, a newspaper, and a glass of scotch (actually apple juice).

The Women’s Window

The Men’s Window

Combining social media with mass media, they invited people to the shop through their page on Facebook, their blog, and by sending out press releases. The idea was people could visit the store, pop on a hat, and take a trip to the past.

The story was written about in the local newspaper, and picked up on a number of blogs. Passersby stopped to look, and to shop. Some offered to window-sit themselves. Word-of-mouth started working.

According to Kirsten, “More people wanted to sit, than there was time.” Sales, she said, increased by about 10 per cent. The Four Pauls found the idea successful enough to plan on making window-sitting an annual event.

Their innovative idea required a minimal outlay of time and dollars, and resulted in ongoing business that continues to pay off. Use it in your store to increase both your sales and your connections with customers.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Connect with me at LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @laureltielis.

You can also get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com. For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales.

Copyright © 2013 Laurel Tielis

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Top Tips for Social Media Success

Laurel Tielis

Congratulations! You’ve figured it out, and you’ve chosen the social media platform that best suits your style and your business. The one where your current, potential, and former customers or clients hang out.

Now what can you do so that they know you’re there, and start responding to your tweets, your links, your updates, and/or your comments? Because if you’re not getting potential customers or clients to pay attention to you, to shop at your store, or use your services, there’s really no point to spending time on social media.

Here are five top tips to optimize your time and energy, to achieve social media success

Get ‘Em From the Get-Go

Whatever social platform you’re using, think of a newspaper headline as you create your post. The headline’s few words encapsulate the rest of the message, and tell you if you want to read further. Whether it’s your Facebook, Twitter , LinkedIn, or Google + update, the first couple of words should be interesting enough for a reader to want to know more.

Be Provocative

You don’t have to be a shock jockey à la Howard Stern, or offer nude photos like some British newspapers, to be provocative. Create fireworks and capture attention by offering an opposing point of view to what’s commonly held to be right in your industry. When you show yourself, you build your readership and your business. But remember, no matter what you say, use a cordial tone when you say it.

Be Timely

Tie what you’re writing about, no matter which social platform you’re using, to what’s going on right now. You can do it by covering the world at large, or in your local business arena. But get known as the person who’s on top of things, and people will want to know what you know when you know it. After all, everyone is interested in being first, whether it’s first in line or first with information. Share the inside story, and people will be happy to check out your postings.

Be a Maven

What’s a maven? A trusted expert. You can be one by establishing yourself as an authority in your field. If you’ve been around for years, and you’ve learned from field work, let online readers know about it. If you’re new to the business, but want to quickly get established, follow leaders in your field, curate their material, and quote their most salient remarks. In no time, you’ll have established yourself as an authority.

Learn From Your Followers

You can become a thought leader by reaching out to others for information. As you know, people love to help. Ask questions, takes polls, and run surveys. Give your followers a place to sound off. Most people love putting in their two cents, and they’ll love you for letting them.

Educate, entertain, and inform people on whatever social media platform you’re using. That’s the best way to ensure that they’ll be interested enough to engage in the conversation, and in time, become your customer or client.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com or connect with me at LinkedIn.

For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, follow me on Twitter @laureltielis and read my book Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales.

Copyright © 2013 Laurel Tielis

Photo:  Fireworks by y ♥ForUrEyeZOnly♥ http://www.flickr.com/photos/forureyezonly/30275623/sizes/z/in/photostream/

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Small Business Social Media Solutions

Laurel Tielis

What does social media mean to you? By now, no matter how much of a luddite you are, you know that businesses that use social media are growing. So which social media platforms are you taking advantage of, and how is your strategy paying off?

Do you have a business page on Facebook, and if so, what are you posting?  Have you tried a store? How about Twitter; how often do you tweet items of interest to customers or clients; how many of your followers interact with you?

Google + grabbed a lot of attention when it debuted, and millions of  people signed up for the service, but are you of the ones who actually filled out a profile and use the site to engage with customers or clients? Then there’s LinkedIn. Is it helpful for a business owner, or is it best used by someone looking for a job?

Both YouTube and Vimeo let you  for upload videos. Do you take advantage of them to attract clients or clients? And how about social media’s newest darling, Pinterest? Do you have a picture story to tell, and have you started using Pinterest to tell it?

If you’ve tried one of these sites, a couple of them, or all of them, and you’re still bemused and confused, take heart. Here’s a rundown of the audience of social media sites, and which businesses can best profit from using which sites.

Faceb00k has by far the most users, with more than 845 million on the site. The downside for many business owners, though, is that Facebook is mostly most used by younger people, and they use it to hang out. That’s why a number of major retailers, like Gap, J. C. Penney, and Nordstrom, have closed their shops on the site.

Twitter has 140 million active users who are posting daily; it skews more heavily toward women, and divides about equally to those under 30 and those 30 to 50 years old. If your target market falls into those parameters, that’s where you want to put your energy.

Twitter’s sweet spot is that sending out a tweet takes a minimum amount of time because you’re limited to short comments, the pithier the better. By checking out the hashtags that apply to your area of business you can find followers. The next step is converting them to customers or clients.

Google + is male dominated at this point–its 100 million users is made up of two times more men than women. Unsurprisingly, most of them are techies. Although anyone discounting Google’s power and reach would be foolish, currently it’s most valuable if you’re involved in the population it serves.

LinkedIn users are divided almost equally between men and women, the majority between the ages of 25 and 55. Its biggest benefit is allowing you to easily reach out and connect with other people who share your mindset and your business goals.

If you see the value of television as a promotional tool, now’s the time to upload videos to YouTube or Vimeo. As actual TV watching declines, these sites have grown. More than two-thirds of the populations tune in, men more heavily than women. The secret to gaining viewers (who will in time become customers or clients), is starting with a good story, one that benefits your audience. Create engagement, and don’t worry about production values.

Social media’s newest darling is Pinterest, a virtual pin board. Just think old-time cork bulletin board, the place where you thumb-tacked items that were important to you or ones that interested you, and you’ll understand its currency. Today, most of its users are young women; they pin items related to weddings, like apparel, accessories, and gift and home. If you manufacture or sell these products, Pinterest is the place for you.

The best thing about social media is that it’s a two-way conversation. In short order, you discover if what you’re doing benefits your business. If you’re using a platform that isn’t reaching your audience, or if your uploading information that doesn’t interest it, there are a lot of options you can explore, with new ones coming along daily.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com or connect with me at LinkedIn.

For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, follow me on Twitter @laureltielis and read my book Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales..

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

Photo: You Look Confused and You Don’t Know What to Do by Alex Bellink http://www.flickr.com/photos/zbellink/5076824636/lightbox/ 

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Get More Store Traffic

Laurel Tielis

Does going green get a business out of the red and into the black? Will it bring you more shoppers? Clearly, it depends on the customer base, but more people are becoming conscious of the need to make better use of resources by conserving energy.

So what’s the best way for you as a retailer to go green and drive traffic to your store? Start by thinking in terms of words beginning with the letter R. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, and if you want to make sure to captivate customers, don’t forget reward (because I assure you, they won’t).

R Words Rock

Ours is a country where we need to reduce everything–from waste to waists. If you sell apparel, you can start a club where shoppers meet weekly to share diet tips. You can go green by serving greens.

The reward to you? Weekly trips to your store. The reward to customers? A discount of 5 percent when they lose 5 pounds, 10 percent when they lose 10 pounds, and so on. It’s definitely the season to do this, with summer fast approaching, and low prices on fruits and vegetables.

Own a restaurant, a gourmet retail shop, or do you sell meals from a food truck? Reduce waste by encouraging customers to reuse products like plastic spoons, forks, and glasses, as well as wooden chopsticks. The reward to you? A savings on the cost of doing business. The reward to customers? A coupon or discount on their next meal.

Are you an indie bookstore owner? Sponsor a Bring a Book, Take a Book evening, so that people can recycle their old books, giving away ones they’ve read and taking others that are new to them. Once they’re there, most people will browse and buy a book or books from you. That’s your reward. The reward to them is wine and cheese, or coffee and cookies, as well as a discount on any purchases.

Do you sell housewares or home goods? Reward customers who buy reusable linen dish towels or cloth napkins with a gift with purchase. How about napkin rings or a towel holder?

Host a Repair Fair

If you’re an independent hardware store owner, have a Repair Fair for broken items. From sunglasses that need an ever-so-tiny screw replaced, to rewiring lamps, changing plugs, or fixing zippers on suitcases, briefcases, and handbags, shoppers will seek out your services.

Charge a fee if they want to keep what they’ve brought in once it’s fixed, or give them a discount on a new purchase. In either case, donate the takings to a charity of your choice. You’ll increase the opportunity of getting coverage for your business in the media, and elevate your standing in the community.

Jewelers can restring inexpensive necklaces (or teach a class to show shoppers how to do so), replace clasps, and clean rings and things to update their look. Again, charge a fee to those who want to keep the items, and give a discount on new purchase to those who donate.

The reward to you is renewing contact with your customer base as well as bringing new customers into your store. And, once again there’s the possibility of publicity for your donation to a non-profit. The reward to customers is spring cleaning their jewelry boxes of old items, and replacing them with new ones at a good price.

Are you a wordsmith? If you own a writing service, jump on the reuse, recycle, repair bandwagon by offering a special price to rewrite or update resumes. With the economy doing better, more people are thinking about changing jobs. The reward to them is the potential of a better job. The reward to you is untapped business.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com or connect with me at LinkedIn.

For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, follow me on Twitter @laureltielis and read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales.

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

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Drive More Traffic to Your Business

Laurel Tielis

Please say a fond farewell to retail. Because retail as we’ve known it, is gone. Certainly, the old attitude of “It’s on the floor, so we’re done” is gone, and in that case, good riddance. While that might have worked when there was only one store in town, now, no matter how small a town is, competition comes via the Internet.

So what can you do to ensure that your business stays rock solid? Engage in exceptional customer service. It will be the differentiator between those stores that stay, and the ones that go away.

But if you’re a small business with a small budget, how can you offer exceptional service. Filmmaker and Webby founder Tiffany Schlain has the answer. It works equally well online or off.

She says the best way to get the people you want involved in your projects or your business, is by offering them a “love sandwich.” Here’s how to make one.

Recipe for a Love Sandwich

Step one is by giving some love, the second step is asking for what you need, and the last is finishing off with a heaping portion of love on top.

Here’s how it works when people come to your store. Start by making them happy. Do it by saying Hello when they enter, and be really friendly when you do so. After all, you are happy to see them; without them, you have no business.

Offer a small compliment (if it’s sincere), and give them something simple. Trader Joe’s does it with its food and coffee bar, and you can do something similar. Make sure you tell them, Help yourself, so they feel comfortable doing so.

Then ask for what you need–in this case it’s the sale. Do that by asking whether they want to look around or whether they want help. If they want help, don’t point and don’t tell what aisle it’s on. Take them straight to what they want, and if you stock several different models of what they’re looking for, clearly explain the differences to them. That shows shoppers that you appreciate their business, which makes them more inclined to buy from you.

Then finish up with love. You can do that by complimenting their taste or their savvy, by wrapping their purchase carefully and beautifully, and by placing it in a shopping bag that you’re proud of (after all, it has your name on it!), and that they’re proud to display.

When you take care of people, they take care of you. By offering exceptional, caring, customer service, you show the value of your business and you bring in more. Find more suggestions on How to Drive Traffic to Your Store here.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com or connect with me at LinkedIn.

For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, follow me on Twitter @laureltielis and read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales.

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

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Angry Birds, Angry Customers

Laurel Tielis

What do Angry Birds and irate customers have in common? In the game, hungry pigs have taken the birds’ eggs. In real life, careless companies have taken customers’ time, money, and/or energy.

If you’re dealing with less-than-happy shoppers, trying to see the situation from their viewpoint is helpful. Listening carefully to them is a must. And apologizing comes first.

Start by saying, I’m sorry. And mean it. But trying to create rapport by saying something like, I know just how you feel, isn’t. Unless you add, That’s why I’m going to fix things right now, and then do so.

Because if you stop at the, I know just how you feel statement, or even worse add on, That happened to me, you will exacerbate the situation. The customer is looking for a solution to his or her problem, not a new best friend. Your problem is not their problem.

Also, you create a “red flag to a bull” when you thank the customer for bringing a problem to your attention, and say you’ll correct it in the future. That’s great for future customers and for your business. But the angry customer is not looking to improve your business or to help others down the road; the customer is looking for justice for himself; she wants to be heard and to be taken care of, right then and there.

You need to provide a solution that shows the customer you understand her pain, and want to make up for causing it. Sometimes that’s refunding the price of the product or the service, at other times it’s offering a discount on future products or services. And if the customer has really been mistreated, it can be both, as has happened recently in the airline and cruise ship industries.

Granted, the customer may not always be right, or be completely right, or be expressing upset in the most pleasant manner or nicest tone of voice, but ask yourself what brought him to feeling so aggrieved. What made her feel that the only way of dealing with your company was to get fighting mad.

Correct the situation, because while angry birds squawk, angry customers walk. And even worse, they talk, telling lots of other people, online and in person, about their problems with your business. 

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com or connect with me at LinkedIn.

For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, follow me on Twitter @laureltielis and read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales.

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

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Promote Your Business, Increase Your Sales

Laurel Tielis

If you want more people to know about your business, you have to get the word. You do it through ads–online, in print, and on air. You also need to get publicity.

Traditionally, you hired a PR pro to tell your story to the media, and hoped as well that satisfied customers or clients were telling everyone they knew about you, giving you great word of mouth.

Those channels still work beautifully. But happily, now there are more options open to you as well. You can easily and effectively get your business known through social media and mobile technology.

Whether you’re microblogging on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn, writing a blog, creating QR codes, or using SMS (short message service) marketing, more people learn about your business.

Podcasts will help to build your business, and you can tell a picture story by providing videos on YouTube or Vimeo, or use social media’s newest darling, Pinterest.

Do a good job with the tools at your service, and you can grab the attention of traditional media–newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio–for stories that get your name out to a mass audience. Mainstream media offers a large and powerful base that can quickly build your visibility, credibility, and profitability.

How to Tell It to Sell It

But first you have to create or curate great content. What makes for great content? Things that inform, educate, or entertain appeal to most audiences. In terms of information, anything new and better in your industry will grab attention. People always want to be the first or own the best.

Premiere service piques interest as well. Even though the economy is rebounding in many areas and arenas, people still feel overworked and under-served. Let them know you’ll take care of them, and they’ll buy from you. For example, think about changing your hours of operation to accommodate more shoppers. Then let the buying public know about it.

Customers are always on the alert for sales and bargains. So keep them informed about any specials you’re offering on your products or services.

In terms of entertainment, shoppers want to hear about celebrities who are your customers, whether they’re international, national or local. It makes them feel more important knowing that well-known names see value in your business. And let’s face it, gossip grabs attention.

They also want to meet any designers whose product you sell, so give them the opportunity to do that by offering trunk shows. Educate them on using your products or services with demonstrations or classes.

Host a party. Whether it’s a morning coffee hour, an afternoon tea, or an evening reception with wine or champagne, it will get people interested in, and talking about, your business.

Take advantage of all the channels open to you to tell a powerful story. Don’t forget how compelling a good email message can be, and pick up the phone to get the word out as well.

Do-it-yourself publicity works. After all, who knows more about your business than you do, and who cares more about its success than you? So get out there and get the good word going.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com. You can also connect with me at LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @laureltielis.

Read my book Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales, for additional easy and effective ways to bring in more business.

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

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Business Cash in a Flash

Laurel Tielis

Let’s say money’s tight. How can you bring more in? In your personal life, you’d probably think about the lottery. And as the saying goes, “If you want to win, you have to buy a ticket.” The odds aren’t high, but at least you stand a chance.

But how do you bring more money into your business when sales aren’t soaring? One answer is, you attract a cash mob, a group of people who go to your store with the express purpose of spending their money. (Think of these shoppers as a flash mob with a mission.)

Here’s how to increase the odds that a cash mob will favor your business. Set up a cash mob for someone else. When you do, you show the community that you’re serious about doing business in your area, and that you are a person to be reckoned with.

Happily, you can set up a cash mob fairly easily and quickly. While you won’t get the money a cash mob will bring, you will get other immediate benefits. Here are three: you’ll raise your profile among your peers, you’ll be featured in all the publicity as the founder, and you’ll be reaching out to others, so you’ll widen your circle of people who know you, like you, trust you, and will buy from you.

7 Simple Steps to Set Up a Cash Mob

  • Pick a local business.
  • Get an okay from the owner for a specific day and time.
  • Bring local associations and organization on board.
  • Decide on a specific amount of money each participant will commit to spend ($10, $20, or $50 for example) and fix a time limit ( perhaps 30 minutes to an hour).
  • Pick a nearby cafe, restaurant, or lounge for an after cash mob party.
  • Create a Facebook invitation.
  • Set up a Twitter hash tag.

Here’s another way to become the happy recipient of a cash mob. Cash mobs are interested in supporting businesses that support the community on an ongoing basis.

If you align with neighboring businesses and send referrals back and forth, sponsor a local charity–in cash or in kind, bring in speakers to teach shoppers how to improve their buys, work with local designers and manufacturers, and treat shoppers with constant kindness, you’re inline to be chosen for a visit by a cash mob. Up the possibility by telling a fellow business owner how much you would appreciate it. As you know, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

A third way to get to welcome a cash mob is by showing yourself and telling your story. In the ever-popular Gypsy, stripper Tessie Tura lets the audience know about the importance of having a gimmick. In the business world, you’ve got to have a story. And you’ve got to tell it to sell it.

Are you getting your story out to your audience? Here are some question you might want to answer. Why is being a small business owner so important to you? What are your values? Why did you choose your location? How do you see your business one year, three years, five years down the road? Make sure that the community knows your story. The more others understand how much you value doing business with them, the more likely they are to support you.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com. Connect with me at LinkedIn, or follow me on Twitter @laureltielis.

Read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales, for easy and effective ways to bring in more business

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Competition is Good for Business

Laurel Tielis

Competition is usually seen as a benefit to customers. It means that prices are contained and service is upheld.

But how about for retailers? Is competition good for your business? Put it this way. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning said about love, let me count the ways.

1. It keeps you alert

If you don’t think that’s important, take a look at Walmart. It led the pack for a long time, and by a large distance, so it got complacent. Every other company including Amazon, seemed like a gnat to be easily swatted. But gnats, as you know and as Walmart found out, are pesky. They keep coming back. Now Walmart is playing online catch-up because it didn’t take the competition seriously.

If you’re alert to what’s going on in your business, both in-store and online, you won’t have any unhappy surprises.

2. It encourages creativity

To always be the best, you have to find new ways of thinking and acting. When a competitor opens up in your area, you check it out to see why the company thought there was an opportunity in your territory. Are their goods being sold at a better price point? Are they offering services you don’t? Are they serving a niche you’ve ignored?

In other words, competition helps to point out what your business lacks to grow. Then you’re ready to put those things in place.

3. Competition makes you proactive

Have you been doing all you can to connect with your customers? In-store, are you bringing in speakers, hosting sales, refreshing your merchandise and displays? Online, are you running contests, conducting polls, staying active on your social media sites.

Check out the competition to see what they’re doing. See how you can use those ideas and build on them to get your business up to speed.

4. It makes you a better member of the community

Are you sponsoring a local charity, like a school or a hospital, by donating products or services, working on events on its behalf, and showing yourself as an active member of the community? When you do, you increase your visibility and your importance in your area and your arena.

By getting involved and standing out in your community, you make sure you get all the business you can handle, no matter how much competition you have.

5. Competition helps keep you focused on the value of customers and colleagues

What are you doing about local businesses? Are you creating partnerships with other merchants and entrepreneurs? Are you cross-promoting and sending referrals? If you’re not, these are all ways to increase your sales, improve your business, and stay in front of the competition.

As for customers or clients, you can’t over-appreciate their loyalty. Keep them sweet, keep them coming back, and keep them away from the competition, by constantly saying thank-you in words and deeds.

If you want more ideas about bringing in business, I can help. I’ve been a retail reporter at Women’s Wear Daily and Home Furnishings News, a columnist at the Miami Herald and a correspondent at People.

I’ve also handled the marketing and public relations at major corporations and small businesses. Need a speaker or a consultant? Get in touch at Ask Laurel (one word) at laureltielis.com or connect with me at LinkedIn.

For easy and effective ways to bring in more business, follow me on Twitter @laureltielis and read Ka-Ching! How to Ring Up More Sales..

Copyright © 2012 Laurel Tielis

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