This post is part of our Insights for SMBs series. Read all posts in the series here on the Clover blog.
For most businesses, traffic naturally ebbs and flows throughout the day. Some times of day are extremely busy; others are very slow.
But just as with nature, smart people can undertake a little engineering to create a more optimal version of existing circumstances. Even businesses like nightclubs or breakfast cafes, which are often created to cater to customers at a specific time of day, can try tactics that might bring in more customers during off hours. It takes creativity, intentionality, and insight into what makes your business and customers tick.
Boost traffic above marginal numbers by offering a benefit to come in during slow hours. Happy hours, early bird specials, and senior discounts are just a few examples of popular deals that work well.
These types of deals are not restricted to the food industry. Thee town of Denton, Texas, for example, has a downtown retail “happy hour” on Wednesdays to help revitalize all the businesses in that community, across the spectrum of business types. Check in with the local chamber of commerce and neighboring businesses to see if this is a possibility in your locale. If not, you can always test it out in your location.
Along those lines, take some time to visit other stores in your area during non-peak hours. Figure out which ones are busy and why. Clover’s free Insights app can help you see aggregate information on other businesses in your area, based on business types you choose, to help you figure out which businesses are worth investigating.
Slow time, large parties.
Slow times are also ideal for hosting larger parties. To bump your traffic during this time, consider marketing your business to local office buildings and organizations as a location to host anniversaries, town halls, board meetings, baby showers, birthday brunches, retirement parties, and more. Connect with local groups, such as the Lion’s Club, Red Hat Society, Toastmasters, and alumni groups, to see if they’re interested in off-hour group discounts.
Retail shops can also participate: consider offering private shopping parties and other events. North Carolina-based Blissful Boutique, for example, offers a “Sip & Shop” party where customers can drink cocktails while shopping with friends. Private fittings where customers know they will get your full attention can be attractive to service-minded customers, and help cultivate a base of loyal patrons.
Email, social media and mobile text messages can be wonderful tools to promote flash sales. You can send notifications to people in the vicinity, or to loyal customers offering sale prices, or just an enticing message such as, “Free coffee for the next hour with bagel purchase.” These messages prompt people to visit in real-time, and create an urgency that might propel them through your door. SMS Marketing, for example, not only sends out offers via text, it allows you to market to people based on their purchasing history.
Switch up the offerings.
Sometimes getting people in the door during off hours is just a matter of adjusting the products or services to appeal to new demographics.
Adding a kids’ menu, for example, may help bring in customers earlier in the dinner hour when families are more likely to be out. Late night menus that are scaled back to accommodate customers when there’s likely to be less staff also help. Offering specials for dietary restrictions can open up a whole new market. This type of promotion can also be done for retail businesses. Maternity stores that offer free water, a clean bathroom, and nursing areas have tailored their store to meet the unique needs of their customers. Stores with play areas or pet-friendly sections appeal to different types of customers. Visit stores similar to yours in a different area to get ideas for new products, services or menu mixes to try.
Offering creative new products and services that complement your business and attract customers during off-hours can help you bolter overall revenue. For more ideas, read “Using insights to borrow business-building ideas from your competitors.”[image: Ditka’s (DuPage County, IL) by DiscoverDuPage on flickr]
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