Pardon me for stating the obvious, but convince your pay-at-the-pump customers to enter your store and income will increase. Are you inviting people in?
According to a recent study, customers who paid for gas and drove away told researchers they didn’t need anything inside. You know better, of course, because everybody needs something, and in a small town your store is often the only resource.
So here are six notions for bringing customers indoors and three ways you might encourage a connection in the community’s you serve.
- What’s not to like? Take a hint from Little Orphan Annie in A Christmas Story and give your Facebook supporters a special reward for loyalty. How about first notice of upcoming sales? A Facebook loyalty club doesn’t stop you from promoting your sale to all customers, but it reinforces a relationship with those who show you a little love.
- The 360-degree fill. Offer something tasty with a fill-up, like a cookie or a doughnut. Naturally, the customer must come inside to claim that sweet reward and, in general, doughnuts go down better with something to drink. According to a 2015 CSP-FARE State of Foodservice study, retailers believe breakfast items offer the most potential sales growth.
- It’s easy to get pumped. Chain outlets advertise at the pump. Do the same thing, but in a hometown way. Sharing a localized message could be very impactful with local customers. Just be sure to update your posters often and never leave your signs out in the rain. (What’s your message? See suggestions 4 and 5.)
- Tell ‘em what’s new. Your marketing plan undoubtedly includes introducing new items in your product mix from time to time. But do you alert customers? Tout a new coffee flavor or anything. “Have you tried our new ____?” (Just because it’s an old tactic doesn’t mean it’s wrong!)
- And while you’re at it…any improvement deserves a shout-out. “Introducing our new coffee-making system!” “Compliment us on our slushy maker today and your 16-ounce cup is free!” “Now offering fresh fruit! Enjoy a half-price banana with your donut today!”
- Cultivate core co-op members. During planting season or harvest, put your lunch menu in high gear by taking phone orders for sandwiches. Post your menu and daily specials online, or send them via email and/or text to make it easier for the busy farmers. Also consider adding something extra for farmers, their families and employees. “Free apples for busy farmers today!”
- Put a face on your support of local events. A sign in the window? Meh, anybody can do that. Help man a booth (always in your logo shirts). Don’t just donate water bottles for a 5K; be there yourself to greet finishers.
- Serve up commitment. Enlarge on your nominal financial support of youth projects. When there’s a push underway for new uniforms or equipment, encourage customers to match your gift. Tell them you’ll share a percentage of pizza or sandwich sales.
- What would employees do? Match employees’ personal interests and involvement to your support of local events. If John plans to attend the local car show on his own, pay him the hour or two he’ll spend directing entrants to parking spots. (And again, I say, John ought to wear something that identifies him as your proud employee). The same goes for the 4-H fair or any exciting thing happening in your town.
There are obviously many other ideas you can use to drive traffic into your c-store. Whether you are using point-of-sale promotions at the pump, digital marketing, public relations or direct mail, all can be effective with the right messaging and promotion. Not all promotions are guaranteed to work 100%, but until you’ve tried everything you (and I) can think of, you don’t know. VistaComm has helped cooperatives and local c-store retailers market to their communities for over 20 years. Put our experienced staff to work for you to help drive traffic into your business.