Brick and mortar businesses are under pressure. Large chain stores and online competitors are taking advantage of lower overhead costs to move prices below the comfort level of the smaller independent shop. Even worse, the stagnant economy in many areas of the nation are forcing local consumers to delay making the large purchases that store owners have relied on in the past. These problems can be especially difficult for aging businesses to overcome, as consumers are lured away by newer, fresher options. If you a struggling small business owner looking for a way to broaden your customer base and add real excitement to your store, here are three affordable options that can help. 

Join Forces for an Instant Increase in Customer Traffic

A great way to instantly breathe new life into your business is to partner up with another business that complements your product line. For instance, a frame shop might bring in a popular photographer or interior designer to attract new clients in to their shop. Additional examples of complementary pairings include:  

  • a pet store that teams with dog trainers, pet nutritionists, veterinarians, or groomers
  • a furniture store that teams with painters, designers or a great residential cleaning crew
  • a jewelry store that teams with a bridal shop or a wedding or event planner
  • a greeting card store that teams with a calligrapher or specialty paper shop
  • a restaurant that teams with a specialty dessert maker, a bakery, or a wine shop

These pairings can be especially helpful if you own your own location or have a long-term lease agreement that will allow you to work out favorable sub-lease terms for a portion of your space. In addition, you should have a mutual agreement that divides up some of the standard expenses of doing business, such as joint marketing fees, utilities, cleaning and other fixed costs. Both businesses will benefit from the traffic generated by their partner's customer base, yet enjoy a reduced cost of doing business, making it a win-win for both owners.  

Maximize Social Media 

Older businesses that were already well-established may not understand the impact that social media has on their customer base. For instance, your business may have created a web site and a basic social media page that you rarely update. When you have this type of stale web presence, even your loyal customers will hesitate to share your page.

To alleviate this problem and get your customers excited about sharing information about your store, you will need to make several changes, including:

  • freshening your web page and adding a blog that is updated frequently with fresh, informative content
  • learning how to implement all types of social media, especially those that allow you to share photos of items for sale in your store or content designed to create a buzz, such as a cute video or a contest with popular prizes
  • adding your social media handles and addresses to all your marketing materials, including signage, flyers, print and radio or television ads 

If you are unsure of how to maximize your social media presence, consider hiring a marketing company or volunteering to let a local high school or college marketing class use your business as their class project. This cost-saving strategy will give you a creative social media image and will offer the students some real hands-on marketing experience. As a bonus, your store is certain to be discussed around the dinner table in the homes of the marketing students, and may result in new business from their parents or extended families.   

Freshen Your Look

Along with freshening your message and adding excitement to your offerings by teaming up with the right partner, adding a new look to the exterior of your business can help attract new customers. Consider using attractive materials that are both durable and cost-effective, such as new aluminum storefronts. These offer clean lines and large windows designed to showcase your products to their best advantage. Your local aluminum storefront dealer can help you order and install storefronts that will welcome customers to your store and help your business continue to grow.  You can visit to learn more about your storefront options. 

These three ideas can help you revitalize your business and increase your customer base in spite of problems in the economy or growing competitors.