How to Gain Customers in a New Market Area
Last week we talked about gaining customers in your current business area. Let’s talk about gaining customers in an area that you currently don’t do any significant business.
First step is to identify the area you want to grow in to. Decide which areas have potential for the type of business that you do best and is profitable for you. If you are a storefront specialist pick an area with a lot of retail and office space. If you do a lot of mirror and residential work, pick the area with a lot of homes. This sounds so easy, but I have seen many glass shops trying to grow by taking on new product lines in new areas, and that is very tough to do. If you want a new product type to be added to your mix, do it close to home where problems can be quickly fixed. Going in to a new geographic area requires you to be an expert in the product lines you cover.
After you have identified a couple of areas that fit your current product lines, look at ease of getting to an area. The best area will have good roads from your shop and be within an hour’s driving time from your shop.
Time your market entry with the release of the area’s yellow pages. Call your local phone company to get the release dates. Most areas have two or maybe three phone books. A large ad is great, but expensive. Go with a medium size ad and small ads in various alternate headings. Some are:
•Shower Doors (or Shower Enclosures)
•Showcases (or Displays)
•Auto Repairs (maybe Auto Glass)
•Energy Saving Products
•Board-ups (sometimes Emergency Board-ups)
•Acoustical contracting or Sound Reduction
•Furniture (New or Repairs)
Remember, more smaller ads are better than one big ad.
For your new area, see if you can get a local phone number. In your new ads, don’t list your address, just your phone number. If your phone system can be programmed, have this number ring differently and answer this line with “Paul’s Glass Company, proudly serving the ______region, this is _____, can I help you”. If you do after hours work list your cell number. People will leave a message on a company cell phone more readily than an answering service.
Send a short press release to any newspapers covering your new area mentioning just one or two of your primary skills. Most Editors won’t publish a list of all the products you sell and install.
If you are going to hire, whether office or shop, try to hire someone from your new area. Go to the local school system and see if they need any glass repairs. Do it at No Charge, and send a press release. This will get published by every local Editor.
You might want to put an ad in the local paper. Repetition is more important than one splashy ad.
A directed mailing is good advertising in a new area. Contact a mail list company, (from the yellow pages) and get prices on a mailing to selected Zip Codes. By the time you are done with ad preparation, envelopes and our new postage rates, expect to pay about $0.75 per piece sent. If the zip codes are larger than the area you want, the mail house should be able to give you smaller areas, usually based on the carrier route sort, the last 4 digits in a zip code. A new customer flyer should include a coupon for your specialty. Don’t give away a three dollar calculator with every estimate. If you want to give something away, make it relevant to your business. A can of glass cleaner, or lint free cleaning clothes, or a pocket mirror.
Join the local merchants association or chamber of commerce. Ask if you can be the speaker at one of their meetings. Showing bullet-resistant glazing, or the new colors of laminated glass is always a show-stopper. Have your fabricator join you and give a short seminar on energy-savings with low-e glass. Talking about green glazing is a very important and current topic.
One thing you don’t want to do is cut your prices to gain entry to the market area. It’s always hard to raise them later.
The next time you repaint your trucks, show the areas you service. Keep your truck clean and it is your best advertising bet. You may want to consider a billboard in your new area. Keep this simple–your company name, phone number and the tag line “now serving the_____ region.”
Don’t ask your customer how to find their house or business. Get local maps or use the Internet for truck routing.
My favorite advertising is sponsoring a Little League team. Or maybe youth football, or a basketball team. Do things that show community spirit. This doesn’t have the same impact as a yellow pages ad, but word-of-mouth starts with this type of advertising.
Is there a radio station that covers your new area? Call their news Editor and get on their contact list of experts to call. If they have a call-in news show ask if you can help them with an energy savings segment.
Follow up every job the same as you would in your core area, asking for referrals.
Do you have any tips you would like to share? Go the Forum page at the USGlass News and tell the glass industry what you have done. Thanks.