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Merchants learn how to survive construction
ARLINGTON Arlington merchants learned a seven-point plan March 29 for making a living on their businesses, especially during the upcoming downtown construction.
Dawn Jones, business assistance officer for the Northwest Womens Business Center, was hired by the city of Arlington. She told Olympic Avenue merchants:
How to get business during the construction project.
How to increase their sales through marketing.
How to target their marketing.
How to ask for and get what they want.
How to get called back and not put off.
How to run their businesses and still have outside lives.
And how to catch and keep customers.
Jones began by breaking marketing down into the four Ps of defining what a business products or services are, what their prices are, how theyre promoted and what places theyre sold in. She listed television, print, radio, the Internet, direct mail and telemarketing as marketing methods that can increase sales, and asked the merchants to consider which methods theyd tried, which ones they hadnt and which ones had been most successful for them.
To target their marketing, Jones suggested that the merchants focus on the traits that make their products or services unique, as well as on what their passions are, in and out of their businesses. She urged them to discover their own niche markets so they could identify the positions or activities that would best suit their talents and personalities.
Jones encouraged merchants to conduct market research on their own customers and furnished them with a list of Web sites where they could obtain further market research data. She then guided them through the three types of questions they could ask potential customers, to book more business:
Yes or no,
By combining yes or no and open-ended questions with either/or questions, Jones predicted the merchants could become more effective communicators. She also reminded that that practice makes permanent, not necessarily perfect, so business owners should only practice habits that they want to become permanent.
Jones elaborated that such habits should extend into the ways that merchants ask questions, even over the phone, by using cheat-sheets of their goals, prices and phone presentations to ease their fears of dealing with customers. She emphasized that sales can be made by avoiding yes or no questions, narrowing the focus of open-ended questions and concluding with either/or questions.
After Jones touted the business value of Web sites and social networking, she emphasized the need to draw up firm dividing lines between the business owners work hours and personal lives by shutting off their cell phones during both meetings with clients and free time with their families.
The reaction of Arlington merchants who attended the business seminar was positive but mixed.
It was good for the city to do this, and I appreciated that they made the effort, said Robin Miller, of Favorite Pastime on Olympic Avenue. The problem is, Im such a small business that Im a business of one so there was a lot that wasnt applicable to me.
Barbara Tolbert, executive director of the Northwest Experimental Aircraft Association, found the business seminar useful in spite of not being an Olympic Avenue merchant herself.
It had a lot of good, basic marketing information thats practical not just for downtown merchants, but those at the airport and Smokey Point as well, Tolbert