Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Help Us Help You!

Once a month, I meet with a group called Business and Balance which is, mainly, a network for professional women entrepreneurs to exchange resources, strategies, and practical business support. The group is also committed to sharing effective tools for finding and maintaining balance in life while running a successful business.

I have found this group to be particularly useful toward that end - finding balance in my life - there are some really wonderful women in this group who run some amazing businesses - everything from Bookkeeping Services to Feng Shui Energy Consultation. I've attended most of the meetings even when I didn't feel that the topic or presentation to be discussed particularly pertained to me or GROVE STREET kids, as I am fond of the socializing part of the evening... but come last month I was unusually tired and not feeling 100%, so I thought I would skip it...

But the tagline to the email introducing the subject of the next meeting read:

"Love/Hate... Groupon? Everybody loves a deal. Except perhaps the retailer who can't afford to just give it away."

"That's me!" I thought to myself and that was as far as I read, as I already knew that this was a meeting not to be missed.

For a few weeks prior, I had received multiple emails from Groupon-like promotions - many of them locally-owned and even "mom-run." As a small-business owner I am inundated with "new and exciting" marketing strategies to extend our reach to potential customers on a weekly if not, daily, basis. So I was excited to go to a presentation that might have some suggestions and/or resources for marketing GROVE STREET kids that could be lest costly, if not down right free.

As it turned it out, it was a presentation by a gentleman starting a new marketing business venture, very similar in concept to Foursquare, which is a location-based social networking website for mobile devices, aka "smartphones." Users "check-in" at venues using a mobile website, text messaging or a device-specific application by selecting from a list of venues the application locates nearby. Each check-in awards the user points and sometimes "badges." Businesses, such as GROVE STREET kids, sometimes offer "Check-In Specials." Ours is that you will receive an additional punch in your Frequent Buyer Card just for checking in.

At any rate, the evening did not turn out to be what I was hoping for, but that was my own fault for not reading the entire email... What it did do was give me pause to think about what exactly I was looking for in terms of promoting my business, that I can advertise for free and does that even exist? Well, certainly on Foursquare it does, but even with 10 million registered users only 10% of those who attended the meeting had even heard of it...

So in the course of figuring this out what I came up with was a way to work with and give back to our community, that will benefit both GSK and it's customers, other than just spending money in our store. It's not a particularly novel idea, but so brilliant in its simplicity that I wish I had done it years ago. We've decided to start a "Giving Back to Schools" campaign for our local preschool and elementary schools. This goes one, if not several, steps beyond the traditional donating of gift certificates to school auctions (which we will continue to do as well), and is about creating relationships within our community that support both the local economy and our children's education.

It's a win-win.

The idea is simple. Schools who register for the program, promote GROVE STREET kids in their community as the place to shop for their kids clothing and shoes. The parents who shop with us let us know that their kids go to "x" school, and we automatically donate a percentage of their purchase back to said school, building a mutually beneficial relationship. It's down right... elementary!