Kate's Collage
"Vinny Da Vendor"
"Benny Da Buyer"
Kizer & Bender
Memory, Paper & Stamps
Category Reports
Designing Perspectives
Scene & Heard

Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com


A view of the industry through the eyes of independent and chain retailers.

Printer Version

Clandestine Retailing: Creating New Customers!

Clever, creative, and inexpensive ideas.

by Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender (August 3, 2009)

Clandestine Retailing: Doing things that attract new customers to your store without being seen by your competition – until it's too late for them to react. Would you like to increase your new customer count and foot traffic this year? Who wouldn't? Every retailer enjoys seeing new faces roaming the store aisles, looking at old product with fresh eyes; exclamations like "I need this and this and this!" are music to a retailer's ears.

This magic happens in stores across the country every day, but it doesn't happen by accident. It happens because the owner of the store makes it happen. The days of running an ad and having customers flock to your store are all but over – today it takes more: more effort, more elbow grease, and more desire to grow your business. There are potential customers walking by your store right now; the question is, what are you willing to do to entice them inside?

Years ago, a friend of ours bought a fast sign franchise. He thought his new career would be running the store. He was wrong. He hired a manager to run the store; his job was to hit the pavement and find new business. In many ways that's your job as well, because attracting new customers is critical business to every retailer's success. Here are some proven ideas that have worked for other retailers that can work for you, too.

Classes and crops.

We will never forget the woman in a focus group who said she was dying to make scrapbooks for her children but was too afraid to come to a crop – she didn't want to look stupid in a class full of experts. We bet there are hundreds of potential customers in your community who feel the same way. It doesn't matter what the craft, you have to make it look easy. And fun.

A simple tag line will do the trick: "No Experience Necessary!" Add this sentence to all of your marketing efforts, including bag stuffers, website, newsletters, e-mail blasts, monthly calendars, and hang a big sign in your front window.

Sometimes class names can be intimidating as well. A number of years ago a client of ours began naming classes "You can create," "You can do," and "You can build," and it worked; class sign-ups increased.

Once every quarter host a "Get to Know Us" Open House. Everyone is welcome but the focus should be on new customers and those who have been crafting less than a year. During this event you'll want to greet your guests at the door, get them a name tag and refreshment, and then introduce them to the person who will be their hostess for the evening. (Hint: if you do not have enough store associates to help at events, ask your best customers to help out. Pay them with a store gift certificate. You'll be surprised at how many will volunteer; they're proud to show off "their" store.)

Treat every guest to the following:

1. A grand tour of the store and the class/crop room. Have easy make-it/take-its set up so they can get their feet wet. This little success will go a long way in encouraging them to return.

2. A meet-and-greet with class instructors and fellow classmates. Remember the first day of school? You always felt more comfortable when you knew someone before you got there. Ask some of your class regulars to man the classroom during your open house.

3. Make one wall in the class/crop room your Wall of Fame. Let your new crafters see others just like them at work. Post photos from previous open houses, photos of classes/crops in action, of attendees having fun, and crafters showcasing their latest creations. Update your Wall of Fame frequently; and put the photos you take down in an album for customers to peruse at the store.

4. Give each new crafter open house attendee a 10% discount off of her next purchase. Print or stamp this special gift from you on the back of your business card – and make it good for 30 days.

Update your themes.

One of the things our focus group participants said kept them from attending classes and crops was the name of the event. Are you using tired class names? Yes, titles like, "Crafting with Sarah" and "Valentine layout with Mary" tell potential crafters what the class is about, but they don't sound very exciting. Pick a cool title and put the need to know basic information in the copy. Have an in-store contest to see who can come up with new titles that are sure to attract new crafters.


The time to work your word of mouth is when the store is full of shoppers. You know how it works: the customer tells two friends and they tell two friends and on and on and on.

We call it R.F.W.O.M. – Rapid Fire Word Of Mouth – and it works. In fact, a study by BIGresearch, a market intelligence firm that provides analysis of consumer behavior, ranked word of mouth as the number one reason new customers visit a store. Perfect! You want customers talking about your fabulous product, customer service, and in-store experience.

Collect customer testimonials.

A customer testimonial is 10 - 20 times more powerful than what you have to say about yourself, so when a customer says something good about your store, write it down! You can use their quotes (first name and last initial only) in all of your marketing efforts and on in-store signing. Better yet, record those fantastic testimonials and post them on your website and on YouTube.com.

Have you heard of Claseo? The company bills itself as the world's first closed-shopping community, where purchases can be made on the site only by those who have been invited. Each member of Claseo is given a limited number of invitations to share with friends, who must enter an invitation code and make a purchase in order to become members themselves. It's the desire for exclusivity that sells. You can do the same thing:

1. Be a hero. Let customers host private, invitation-only classes at your store: "You're invited to (the customer's name here) personal class/crop." Give them the royalty treatment in a mini-open house setting.

2. Our "Introducing My Friend" letter lets customers invite their friends to your store. The lure is a hand-written note from the current customer and an offer of a free something (you decide) for the new customer. It's like a gift from your best friend!

3. Give each of your best customers 15 Customer Referral Cards. The one who has the most new customers come to the store wins a prize. The cards also entice new shoppers with the offer of a free gift when they visit the store. Referral cards work for realtors and doctors and they can work for you, too!

Clandestine Retailing has lots of under the radar marketing potential for your store! Cat Beatty, owner of Cats Creations Scrapbooks & More in Mineral Wells, TX, is a Clandestine Retailer. Cat watches the DFW Metroplex Yahoo Group. She noticed that they had been complaining about not having a good place to crop, so Cat personally e-mailed each member of the group and invited them to her store to shop and crop. She sweetened the pot with a free crop voucher. It worked! Some of these new customers drove two hours to get to Cat's store.

Signing up for Google Alerts can also help you uncover new customers, and keep an eye on your competition at the same time. Google Alerts is a free service that allows you to monitor anything on the Internet. Each time your chosen area of interest appears on-line, Google sends an alert right to your email box. Sign-up here: www.google.com/alerts.

More ideas to attract new customers.

1. Become a local celebrity. Dene Van Winkle owns Imagine That Scrapbooks & Gifts in Roswell, NM. Dene created the "Pebbles" fund raiser. Pebbles is a rock that customers bid on to adopt, all proceeds going to a local charity. The lucky bidder gets to keep Pebbles for an entire month. She's experienced daily life in Roswell and has been all over the country, staying at the finest properties. Pebbles also attends all of the creative industry trade shows – she's a very well rounded rock. Stories about Pebbles have been in all the area papers, and Dene has become a local celebrity.

2. Host home parties. Pack up your wares and hit the road. Home parties work for all kinds of companies and they can work for you, too. Get guests involved with easy product demos and make-it/take-its. Bring product for sale – instant gratification! – and take orders as well. Most at home parties make you wait at least 10 days for delivery. You can deliver it to their homes the next day or give customers a VIP ticket that allows them to pick up their merchandise at your store. While they're there, they just might want to sign-up for classes or pick up additional items.

3. Speak locally about the importance of crafting. Local organizations are always looking for interesting guest speakers. Your talk should be about the role crafting plays in our culture or on the importance preserving memories. It cannot be a blatant sales pitch – but wearing a shirt with your store name and logo on it will take care of that.

4. Host a Chamber of Commerce Mixer. Our Chamber hosts four mixers per month; and any member can host one. Mixers provide an opportunity to meet and mingle with other Chamber members; and an opportunity to introduce members to your store.

5. Offer your class/crop room for meetings. You get to welcome participants and maybe even do a demo before the meeting begins. Look for groups that need space during off-hours.

Never, ever let a customer leave empty-handed!

And when customers fall in love with your store, make sure they return to shop again! You need to create a weekly Bag Stuffer detailing something cool that's going on in your store that week. (Hint: Don't let the name fool you: Bag Stuffers should never be pre-stuffed into your bags. Instead, have associates place the Bag Stuffer in the customer's hand.) You should also build a Brag Sheet that lists all the services and conveniences you offer customers. Brag Sheets make great Bag Stuffers.

So many ideas and so little space!

Clandestine Retailing: Doing things that attract new customers to your store without being seen by your competition – until it's too late for them to react. You can attract new customers to your store but it takes time and effort. Build time to go out FOR business into your monthly things to do list. We guarantee it will be well worth your time. And if you want to brainstorm ideas specific to your store, give us a call!

(Note: Professional speakers, authors, and consultants, Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender are nationally recognized experts on customer diversity, marketing & promotion, and everything that affects and interacts with consumers in the retail environment. Each year Kizer & Bender speak to thousands through their "Retail Adventures in the REAL World™" keynotes and seminars. Their unique consumer insights are widely featured in the media, including the ABC National News special report, "How Stores Hook You." Their book, Champagne Strategies on a Beer Budget!, has helped thousands of retailers improve their bottom line, and their "Retail Adventures™" Blog is visited by tens of thousands of readers each month. In 2004 they were named two of the "Most Influential People in Retail Today," and their popular magazine column, "Georganne & Rich on the Road," won the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) Award of Excellence in 2004 and again in 2006.

You'll find thousands of strategies, tactics, tips. and techniques to help you grow your business on their Retail Adventures™ blog: http://www.kizerandbender.blogspot.com. They mean it when they say to call if you want to talk about your store. They know how tough it is right now, and they're happy to brainstorm ideas with you – they want you to succeed! The website is www.kizerandbender.com and you can follow them on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kizerandbender. To read previous articles by Rich and Georganne, click on the titles in the right-hand column.).




horizontal rule

horizontal rule


Kizer & Bender's Recent Columns...
VISUAL MERCHANDISING, PT. II; Add new life to your displays by knowing how people browse and shop.

VISUAL MERCHANDISING, PT. I; Taking the mystery out of a well designed store.

SHEER INTENSITY! THE RETAIL BOOT CAMP; How to make 2013 a great year.

42 GREAT IDEAS TO "WOW" YOUR CUSTOMERS; Suggestions for your store and staff.

NEW YEAR, NEW ATTITUDE; Change is inevitable, and improving your employees' attitude can be done.

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SUCCESS AT TRADE SHOWS; Make sure you optimize your return on your trade show investment.

10 IDEAS TO JUMP START YOUR BUSINESS! Strategies to make 2012 a success.


"LISTEN TO YOUR CUSTOMERS, THEY'RE SMARTER THAN YOU"; Savvy, inexpensive ways to improve your customer service.

GENERATIONS 101; Different strokes (and strategies) for different folks.

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SUCCESS AT TRADE SHOWS; Straightforward advice that can increase the return on your trade show investment.

5 SUREFIRE WAYS TO ESTABLISH YOUR BRAND; Create a good story, then tell it.

WHEN BIG IDEAS DON'T WORK, IT'S OK TO MOVE ON! Learn from the example of a Las Vegas mogul.

IS YOUR BUSINESS "ZOOMER" FRIENDLY? Nine ways to make your store more convenient for older customers.

CRAFTING THE ULTIMATE CHARITY EVENT; Participating in cause marketing helps a worthy cause and promotes your business. Here's how to do it right.

FAUX SHOPPING FOR REAL RESULTS; Imagine all consumers are mystery shoppers because, in a sense, they are.

RETAIL IS IN THE DETAILS: HOW TO PLAN EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS; Planning, planning, and more planning.

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO IMPROVE CUSTOMER SERVICE; Customer service is an election every day, and your customers are the voters.

HAUL OUT THE HOLLY: IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME ON THE SALES FLOOR! Nine way$ to make your Christmas Merry.

WORD OF MOUTH: SOCIAL MEDIA 101; And a preview of upcoming seminars.

ARE YOUR READY FOR RECORD HALLOWEEN SALES? Thirteen ways to make it happen.

WE'D SHAKE YOUR ANTENNAE BUT WE'RE TOO TIRED; Has your business ever bugged a customer? Here's what not to do.

510 TIPS TO SURVIVE IN A TOUGH ECONOMY; When the going gets tough, the tough...

50 IDEAS TO INCREASE STORE SALES! Basic, simple, and effective.

COLOR PSYCHOLOGY: THE USE OF COLOR IN STORE DESIGN; Your store's color scheme can boost sales, or kill them.

TAKING CUSTOMER SERVICE TO THE NEXT LEVEL; It's a constant struggle, but with big rewards.

THE 360 DEGREE PASS-BY; Take a close -- and closer -- look at your store.

SOAR ABOVE COPY CAT COMPETITION; And fly away with more traffic, sales, and profits.

"ALEX, WE'LL TAKE 'THINGS THAT CHEESE US OFF' FOR $500!"; Perhaps it was a customer, not you, who infuriated a customer, but you still must deal with the anger.

WHY YOU NEED AN EXECUTIVE OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES; Someone to study what your customers do, act, think, and where they shop.


BOOST YOUR ECONOMY - CREATIVE A COUPONOMY! Profitable ways to use coupons.

THE SALES POTENTIAL IN PROMS AND SCHOOL DRESSES; Rich and Georganne interview themselves on a new retail sales opportunity.

MERCHANDISING SENSE; Strategies to help consumers see, hear, taste, touch, smell -- and then buy.

THE FINE ART OF ASKING QUESTIONS; The smart questions result in better sales.

20 PERCENT DISCIPLES; Your best customers can help you attract new customers.

DUDE, YOU'VE BEEN AIRLINED. AGAIN; These are "friendly skies"?

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SUCCESS AT TRADE SHOWS; Straightforward advice that can make a big difference.

IT'S THE CUSTOMERS DEFINITION OF SERVICE THAT COUNTS, NOT YOURS; Apple needs some help - and K&B's CHA seminar schedule.

IS THE CUSTOMER ALWAYS RIGHT? Manufacturers have to handle irate consumers, too.

TURNING LIONS INTO LAMBS; How an angry customer can become a loyal fan.

12 EASY WAYS TO MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS; Simple, straightforward, and effective.

LOVE ME, LOVE MY KIDS; How to keep children happy in your store.

HE SHOPS, SHE SHOPS ... DIFFERENTLY; And that can make a big difference in your sales.

BRAND AID; Building a brand is simple: consistency and attention to detail.

CLANDESTINE RETAILING; CREATING NEW CUSTOMERS! Clever, creative, and inexpensive ideas.

TELEPHONE ETIQUETTE; Simple tips to make a good impression.

WHAT TO DO ON YOUR CUSTOMERS' VACATIONS; How to entice them into your store for summer fun.

STAKE YOUR CLAIM ... DON'T PLAY THE RECESSION GAME! Attitude makes all the difference.

HEY THERE! HI THERE! OH THERE! How a day at Disney can make you a better retailer.

STRAIGHT TALK ABOUT DIVERSITY AND DEMOGRAPHICS; What works for one group may hurt sales with another.


A MIRACLE IN RETAIL; What a hockey coach can teach you about building a great team.

THE CUSTOMER SERVICE CIRCLE; How your staff gets along with each other makes a big difference.


YOU HAD US AT "HELLO"; Simple, common sense ways to improve customer service.


SIX TRAINING TIPS TO GROW YOUR GREATEST ASSETS; Basic ways to make your employees more effective.

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SUCCESS AT TRADE SHOWS; Straightforward advice that can increase the return on your trade show investment.