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Five Clever Ways to Connect With Your Customers


April McCrumb

As a child, April McCrumb was always working on art projects or making handmade gifts for family, friends and neighbors. In 1996, she used that love of art and things handmade to launch what is now a.i. paper design, a successful line of stylish and savvy paper goods. Then in October 2002, April and her husband Steve opened a whimsical gift gallery called Catching Fireflies.

Our 2 retail stores located in Metro Detroit are filled with handmade & imported whimsical wares that make people smile. After being in the retail business for almost nine years, we feel that we've developed many clever ways to connect with our customers. We even won a Retail Excellence Award in 2007 from Gifts & Decorative Accessories for our integrated web marketing.

So with that being said, here are our ideas on 5 clever ways to connect with your customers.

1. Collecting Contacts: Instead of asking our customers if they'd like to be on our mailing list, we created a monthly drawing for a store gift card. We called it our free $63 shopping spree because it was memorable and rhymed. With every sale, we let them know they can sign up and reward our staff each month if they get over 60% participation. The monthly winners are always delighted and we end up collecting a lot of contacts.

spree

2. Sending Handwritten Thank You Postcards: Instead of only sending promotional material to our customers, we also make it a regular practice to send personal notes. During the slower times at the store, we have our staff randomly pick addresses out of the raffle jar and send them nice postcards thanking them for choosing to shop with us. Our customers often comment what a pleasant surprise it was to find a nice note amid all the bills & junk mail in their mailbox.

thank you

3. The VIP Treatment: Instead of lumping all our customers into one list, we also have a special list of our loyal customers. Every quarter we send them something unusual in the mail. For instance, this year we created handmade wooden Valentine postcards thanking them for a great 2008. And when they brought the postcard back before February 14th, we gave them a package of cookies we recently started carrying at the store. The VIP's loved getting a cool piece of 'art' in their mailbox and it also gave us the opportunity to get them hooked on a new line of cookies we offer.

We also send them birthday cards with a little treat inside (like a herbal tea bath bag) and remind them they get 20% if they shop with us on their birthday.

4. Make Your Emails Interesting: Instead of sending an email just about your sales or special promotions, add other interesting information that your customers may enjoy or want to forward on to their friends. Some of our features include:

New Products: When I write an order at a trade show, I always ask if I can take a photo of the goods. Then I share some of my finds and our customers get excited when they see what's coming to the store soon.

new

Staff Favorites: Each month we ask our staff what they love in the store and why. Then we take a photo of them with the item. We've found our customers like to see what our sales gals like and it also connects our customers with our staff.

staff picks

Feature an Artist or Product Line: Put a spot light on a particular product group for a month. Share the artist's story or explain more about a certain product line. And to entice sales, offer 15% off the featured item(s) for that month. This creates an awareness of the unique goods you offer.

featured artist

Share Other Interests: Talk about the music you're listening to in your store, the book you can't put down or a recipe that is a big hit. And if you can tie them into products available at your store... even better. Ask for your staff's input as well - once again creating that customer/staff relationship.

Share the Love: Put together a grouping of popular products and offer a goody give-away on a regular basis. We just promoted a Valentine themed one and asked our customers to tell us what they love. The response was amazing and their replies uplifting. This gets your customers involved and creates good will.

giveaway

5. Staying Social on the Web: Instead if hoping your customers will remember to come visit you in their free time, lure them in by giving them glimpses of what's happening at your store. You can encourage your customers to subscribe to your blog or become a fan or friend on facebook in your email newsletters. This keeps your place of business in the forefront of their mind and creates customer loyalty. The two main ways we do this are through Blogging and Facebook (both free!)

Facebook

Some ideas you can share with your customers via a blog or facebook page can include: new products, artist features, music reviews, crafty ideas, seasonal recipes, highlight how you're giving back to the community, show your staff having fun, product give aways, create a photo album of special events you've hosted, showcase other stores in your area, post any press you receive, promote yourself for local 'best of contests', do a day-in-the-life story about you, create a photo album of images around your store, share tips on how to pick out the perfect gift for (dad, mom, grad, bridal couple etc...) - and the list could go on because it's totally up to you. To see what some other shops are blogging about check out delightful blogs.com.

blog

We hope a few of our ideas inspired you to create some new customer connections. We've found it truly is all the the little things that make a BIG difference in life and retail.

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