How To Start and Operate Your Own

By Dusty and Bonnie Henson, Owners "World Famous" El Paso Saddleblanket Co., El Paso, TX

Free Catalog
Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
Chapter X


Advertising costs money. Promotion does not have to cost anything. There are numerous clever ways to call attention to your store without spending money.

Just as we recommended a press release for the opening of your store and the possibility of a photo highlighting it, you can get periodic continued exposure just by letting the media know what's going on at your place of business.

For example, offer to allow the Brownie Scout troop have their bake sale in front of your store. If your local newspaper gives free listings for such events, the name and address of your store will be published. Chances are the day after the event there will be a precious photo of a little girl in her Brownie Scout uniform proudly vending baked goods right in front of your store sign. All of a sudden your business is mentally tied in with the All-American wholesome, youthful spirit of baseball, hot-dog, apple pie, etc. Whether or not your sales actually increased on the day of the event is irrelevant. What you have accomplished is to raise your profile in the community.

Events that can help your cash flow on the very day they happen are book signings and photo exhibits. Invite an author, artist, speaker or photographer to do a one-day event at your store.

Notify the media fully two weeks in advance and furnish interesting information about the author, artist, or speaker describe the scope of the exhibit, then give your store name, address, and the date. You must plan ahead because the parts of the newspaper called "community calendar" or "what's happening this weekend" are prepared many days in advance of publication. Also, the "Arts and Leisure" editor needs time to decide if your function warrants a photo or special interest story. A good way to get your store promoted for free on the radio is to be a location that sells tickets for local events or is a drop off point for charities such as Toys for Tots. The little bit of extra time it takes to provide these services is minimal compared to the potential sales being generated. Many of these events or special services will attract a cross-section of people that is different from your regular customers.

It is wise, and very easy, to get the names and addresses of people who visit your store. There are three sure-fire ways to collect this information without the visitor feeling you have invaded his or her privacy.

   1. Place a Guest Register on a table near the front of your store. Provide room for name, address, and comments. People love to flip through the pages to see who else has been there. Before you know it, they will have written their own name, address, and possibly a favorable  comment about your store. (If any negative or derogatory comments appear, tear out that page and try to fix the problem.) Remarks such as rude clerk, dirty restroom, trash in front of store are wake-up calls for you to get things in order.

   2. Another way to collect names and addresses is to put a fishbowl on your sales counter with a sign "Let us know if you'd like to receive announcements of special events, sales, or new arrivals of merchandise. Always put a few dummy entries in the bottom because nobody likes to be the first to register.

   3. When you process your bank deposits each day, record the names and address off the Keep these names in a special "Priority Customer " list. They not only visited your store--they purchased.

Anyone who has visited or bought something in your store is a hot prospect for continued business. Anytime you have a special sale, an event, or anything new and exciting, let these people know. Your friendly printer can help you prepare a simple one-page mailer to send directly to this list. For approximately eight cents and postage, you are making a personalized contact with your clientele. In many ways this is better than newspaper advertising because you have a targeted market, and also, your competition has no idea how you are promoting or what you are running on sale.

If you mail to more than 200 people at a time you can even get a discount on your postage. You can purchase a "bulk rate" permit and save 20 to 25% off first class postage. Bulk mail has one unique advantage over first class--your flyer will be left at each address regardless of whose name is on it. So, if your customer has moved, the advertising does not go to waste. It is seen by the new occupant. This is why you should design flyers rather than hiding your message in an envelope. A simple one page flyer folded over in thirds or "letter fold" can be a real attention-getter and provide a lot of information to your customers.

Promotion of your store can also be conducted "off site". For a nominal fee, you can rent booth space at weekend events such as craft shows, Christmas bazaars, horse shows, home shows, flea markets and charity events. Try to choose events that will either draw large crowds, or at least a group of people that can easily afford your wares. Charity sponsored events may put you in touch with the upper crust of the community and provide excellent exposure to people who might not yet be aware of your store. High-income people appreciate stability in business. Give out business cards to reinforce the idea of your permanent store location. You might hand out coupons such as 'Good for 1 Free Arrowhead when you visit Alien's Indian Art's. Wearing a T-shirt or cap with your company name and logo further reinforces the memory of your name, store, and type of business.

Be extra courteous to the people who are in charge of the events you participate in. Chances are they have high standing in the community and their referrals are pure gold.

Getting out into the community not only helps you promote your business and increase sales, it puts you in touch with a broad spectrum of individuals. You might just meet someone who later will be your attorney, your accountant, your electrician, printer, plumber, contractor, or provide any number of valuable services to your business. Always be alert to associations that can further your own cause.

Promotion is all about calling attention to yourself and your store. Obtain the highest profile you can achieve without spending much money to get there. Establish a reputation of being a "Good Guy" and an honest merchant. Support your community and the community will support you.


Updated 2001
© 2001. El Paso Saddleblanket. All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced without the written permission of
El Paso Saddleblanket Co.

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