The Three-Mile Radius

In last year's animated film Shrek II, a giant gingerbread man steps on a building and sends all the customers scurrying across the street. The name of the establishment they leave and the one they run into is "Farbucks" ? poking fun at the fact that an unending stream of patrons appears willing to pay four bucks for a cup of coffee.

While it's an exaggeration to say there is one on every corner, since 1992, Starbucks has exploded from 192 locations to more than 9,000 worldwide, and will average four new store openings every day this year.

Starbucks isn't the only retailer attempting to create density in the marketplace. Walgreen's and CVS are popping up locations everywhere ? usually across the street from each other, just like Lowe's and The Home Depot. In my small community, there are even two Shell stations on either side of the primary street; definitely a strategy of getting your customers coming and going.

As a small business owner, your challenges probably lie more in the area of finding new customers than in what area to open your new location. The first step in growing your business is to own the three-mile radius surrounding it. Before worrying about how to get folks from the other side of the city to do business with you, make sure you've taken the proper approaches to informing everyone who lives and works nearby that you are there for them.

There are many techniques for getting your name out to prospects, and you may already be utilizing some of them. Networking at community events is a great way to become visible to your potential customers. And don't be shy about asking your best customers to refer you to their friends and associates. Advertising in a local magazine is an excellent way to reach those in your target market. Direct Mail, billboards, Yellow Pages, radio/TV and even a magnetic sign hung on your car door are all proven forms of effective advertising.

An often overlooked marketing gem is public relations. Think of PR as free advertising?with one big difference. With advertising, you pay for the ad and control the message. When it comes to PR, a newspaper or magazine publishes a story about your company and charges you nothing, but they control the editorial content. Despite this important distinction, PR has the potential to send many new customers your way.

To get publicity for your business, write a press release containing your newsworthy information. Don't worry about making it fancy, just include the "Who, What, Where, When, Why and How" and your contact information. Find out the names of the editors of local publications who distribute in your three-mile radius such as the Tri-County News, Local Villager and Area Sun, then send them ? by fax or e-mail ? your press release. Be sure to follow up the next day with a phone call asking if they received it, and if there is any more information you can provide. They'll respect your determination and you'll rise to the top of their "possibilities" file.

Editors are always looking for news, but be aware they don't like press releases that appear to be promotions or sales pitches. One of the first things I learned in journalism school more than 25 years ago is "Dog bites man. No story. Man bites dog. That's news." Be creative in crafting your press releases. Start by thinking about yourself. What makes you unique?

One of our coaching clients is a former two-time individual world champion in his sport. When opening his business, he decided to separate the successful athlete of his youth from the aspiring business owner of his adulthood, so "people would take me more seriously." When we started working together, I immediately suggested he change that philosophy and capitalize on the champion angle. After sending out a few press releases, he started receiving many calls from editors who recognized the connection between perseverance as an athlete and a business owner. The ensuing articles led to speaking engagements at community events and, ultimately, to more customers.

The mythical kingdom in Shrek ? home of Princess Fiona ? is named Far Far Away, and some area businesses are able to attract customers from far away neighborhoods. The faux jewelry and fashion stores you would drive miles to visit are perfect examples, as are unique restaurants far far away. If your business doesn't fall into this category, remember to focus on owning your three-mile radius. There are plenty of potential customers within that circle just waiting for you to tell them how you will make things better for them.

Copyright © 2005 by Success Handler, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Coach, David Handler, is the founder of Success Handler, (http://www.successhandler.com), and specializes in helping small business leaders find clarity and take action. He understands the challenges of running a business, because he's been there ? as a small business owner, franchisee, franchisor, corporate leader, and trainer. Much like sports coaches, his coaching will show you how to compete on a level playing field in your industry.

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