A few years ago, before I ever got into this marketing and copywriting business, a friend of mine mentioned a problem she was having. She owned a high-end beauty salon in an upscale area of Atlanta. Business was great except for two very slow times each year,

The first was right after Christmas. January and February were slow for her business every single year. Her customers who usually got their hair done every two or three weeks or so, now came in every three or four weeks. That may not sound like much, but when all her customers did this, it represented a huge decrease in her business.

The second slow period was the summer. Her customers tended to take long vacations and her business suffered accordingly.

I suggested that she set up an incentive program to capture email addresses from her customers. Offer to send them health and beauty tips as well as special promotions and discounts by email.

She did just that and had all the beauticians and nail technicians in her salon promote the email list. Every month she sent out advice on health and beauty to her customers and her emails were well received. She also scattered a few emails offering discounts and special promotions (one I think was a free pedicure when someone came in to do her hair).

Guess what? She wiped out those two slow periods in her business completely. She timed some really great offers for the early months of the year and during the summer and actually increased her business during those times.

Here's another example: An rock group in Austin, Texas has built an email list by offering five free mp3 downloads of some of their songs to people who attend their concerts.

Because they are in a downloadable format, this costs the group nothing but it is still a valuable incentive to get people to sign up.

The list gets a regular email letting fans know when and where the group will be playing and sometimes offers discounts to the people who are on the list. This helps the group get bigger venues because the promoters can see the group is bringing in its own audience.

And at each performance, the group signs up more fans to its email list.

The list is also how the group sells its CDs because they are still small enough that their music is not sold at major retailers.

Finally the emails send fans to the group's YouTube videos and to its Facebook and My Space sites.

Then there is a restaurant I heard about in Florida. 99% of its business comes from tourists so you might think there is no point in collecting email addresses from these people. Right? Well not so fast.

First, the restaurant gives a discount offer for opting into the email list, which often gets people to come back for a second meal before they leave.

Also, this restaurant is known for its bread. It is mouth watering, awesome bread that people cannot resist. So as a back-end business, the restaurant has set up a mail order service to send this bread by FedEx to their customers once they get back home.

This in turn builds word of mouth. "When you go down to Miami (actually I'm not sure where in Florida this place is), be sure to go to ____, they have bread that is to die for."

Additionally, what if the restaurant signed up as an affiliate for some of the online travel sites like Expedia and Priceline? Their customers are travelers who are very likely to travel again. They could earn affiliate commissions by sending special promotions to this list.

As we in the online marketing community know, "the money is in the list." But the same potential is there for offline, brick and mortar companies as well. It just takes a little imagination to get the ball rolling.

COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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