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We’ll come to you.

We’re almost to the quarter-mark of 2010 (hard to believe, I know) and rightfully so, people are still a little antsy about how well we’re recovering from the recession. Small businesses, the life-blood of the American economy, are wondering if this will be the year things begin a steady climb or if we're still in for a rocky ride.

I recently spoke with the executive director of a Chamber of Commerce here in the greater Boston area who shared some personal insights about the economic recovery efforts. At least according to her members, it seems as if luxury businesses such as higher-end restaurants and retailers are behind the recovery curve since they might not be deemed a necessity to many people.

More importantly, the recession has made people better shoppers again. Consumers are focused on saving first and foremost. When it’s time to buy they are taking the time to research and buying the things they truly need. This is a good thing for the individual pocketbook, but it makes the job of selling and fundraising all that much harder for both businesses and nonprofits.

So how do you get the customers who are ready to buy to spend their dollars with you, particularly retailers that need to get people in the door? Here is what two other Boston-area Constant Contact customers are doing to get people to come into their locations:

  • A Pilates studio copied the idea of a big box electronic retailer and offered a one-day sale. It worked: The studio booked half of its monthly sales goal in that one day. Her advice: Look for what other retailers are doing — even in other industries — and see if their techniques can apply to your own business. Imitation is flattery, as the saying goes.
  • A wine and spirits store I know of offers free tastings to customers on a regular basis. It advertises the tastings in its weekly newsletters and gives wine lovers a chance to taste a new varietal they may not be familiar with. Of course, to do so the customer has to come into the store. And no one leaves a wine store empty handed.

Taking a page from the Guinness beer commercials: Brilliant!

The key in both examples is that the two businesses used existing relationships — in-store shoppers and subscribers to their newsletter — to advertise these special opportunities. They were providing value to their customers in return for subscribers' business. By doing so, the businesses are remaining top of mind with customers, so when these people are ready to spend, the Pilates studio or wine store will be the first places considered.