Finding Customers in Your Own Backyard

Be sure to tap into a prime consumer resource: your neighbor

If you own a local retail store or restaurant, nothing beats a new neighbor for boosting sales. The residents who have recently moved into your town are actively looking for new companies to do business with, and the places that get their attention first will be richly rewarded.

“We believe in networking and getting out into the community, so meeting new residents is high on our priority list,” says Deborah Mobley, co-owner of Perfect Choice Hair and Beauty Supply in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Even if you intend to market to the entire country, it’s important to start at a granular level and market to the people who are in your own neighborhood,” says Lamar Childs, an account representative with Backyard Marketing in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to reach the people who are new to town. Here are some ways to find them and get them to visit your establishment:

Create direct mailing with a free gift offer. Mailings are an effective, inexpensive way to reach new neighbors. The cost for design and postage is often less than one hundred dollars. Costs can be further reduced if you join in with other companies for a package mailing. “We belong to our area chamber of commerce, and we partner with other businesses who want to reach new residents, so we usually participate in a joint welcome packet,” says Mobley.

Craft your direct mail piece with a call to action so your new neighbor will have an incentive to come to your store instead of throwing the ad in the trash. “You always have to ask yourself, ‘How can I get this customer to visit my business?’” Childs says.

A good way to create a call to action is to offer a free product. “In our welcome packet, we offer a complimentary hand lotion,” Mobley says, adding that the freebie is especially effective in bringing in new customers.

Whenever possible, try to send your mailing during the middle of the month. That way, it’s less likely to get lost in the paperwork that comes with an end- or beginning-of-the-month move.

Ask real estate agents to recommend your company. Another important way to generate new neighbor business is to get a third party to tell newcomers about you. “Find a real estate agent who can be your partner,” suggests Le’Kisha Stevenson, a broker and owner of Metric Realty Co. in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you own a restaurant, you could let the agent give their clients a coupon for a free home-cooked meal at your establishment, welcoming them to the neighborhood.

“Business owners can also sponsor an agent’s client newsletter,” Stevenson says. This has the added advantage of keeping your company name in front of the new resident for an extended period of time.

Evaluate your efforts. “Make sure you have a system in place to track your results,” says Childs. “If you send out 1,000 pieces of mail, know how many resulted in customers visiting your business. That should also translate into sales.”


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  • I am an entrepreneur in the real estate industry and am always looking for ways to advertise. The idea of partnering with a local business to offer incentives is a grea idea. Thanks BE for the article!

  • As a marketing consultant I am always looking to provide innovative ideas to my clients that are effective and affordable(this is definitely one of them!). BE this is a great idea that many companies tend to overlook, but it is evident that the costs outweigh the benefits!

  • It’s even more cost effective to enable your customers to bring you customers. Nielsen did a worldwide study in 2006 that found that 78% of consumers trust what they hear from other consumers more than traditional forms of advertising.
    Small businesses would be better served to conduct word of mouth marketing campaigns than mass media campaigns. They are less expensive, more effective and easily sustained over a longer period of time.

  • Thanks for the article. I work as a remote real estate assistant and closing coordinator for brokers and agents around the country. Because of the contacts I have, when new home buyers are seeking information about the area, I find it of great value to always put together a resource sheet highlighting the preferred areas for homeowners such as banks, schools, restaurants, cleaners, home repair companies, inspectors, etc in that particular area. The brokers and agents need it and the buyer love it! As a result, my clients always come back.