Natural Foods Merchandiser

Put data to use in the community

Selling Smart

Some of your best marketing data can come from your customers. In August 2005, The Natural Foods Merchandiser published an article by Sherwood Smith about conducting an in-store survey: "Gain business insight through in-store research." Now, let's explore what to do with the data you've collected.

You can utilize the data in the community and in your store. If you recall, the questions were divided into four categories: Purchasing Behavior, Attitudes Toward the Store, Marketing and Media, and Demographics. The results from the first two categories will primarily provide information to use in the store, and the second two will be especially helpful as you go out into the community. In this article we'll look at using results in the community, and next month we'll look at what you can do in your store.

Neighborhoods: In the demographic questions, we asked where the customer lives. You could narrow that down to asking whether or not they live in a development or gated community. If someone names a neighborhood or development, ask if it has a monthly luncheon, newsletter, bulletin?board, Web site or any other way that neighbors gather information. If you're able to promote within the community, you can create events, seminars, classes or an open house for those residents. Consider offering a cooking class or nutrition presentation in your store or possibly in the neighborhood's clubhouse.

Pet groomers: If a customer says she has a pet, ask if she uses a groomer and get a name. Ask your pet supply vendors for samples and assemble gift baskets?and goody bags. Ask the groomers, and perhaps veterinarians, if you can place a gift basket in their shops and invite their clients to enter a drawing to win the basket. Be sure to get e-mail addresses on the entry forms you provide. Place a Plexiglas holder near the giveaway basket to announce the drawing and identify your store, along with all your contact information. Apply stickers to the basket with your logo, address and phone number.

Practitioners: Approach local practitioners—general health care, chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture and others—with a referral program in your store and on your Web site. Ask for mutual Web site links, offer to provide them with a table at your store's wellness fair and see if they have a high-traffic time where you can go to their office to do some "handshake marketing."

Childcare centers: Getting into childcare centers is a great way to teach the next generation about healthy living, as well as provide handouts for the kids to take home. Offer to do a presentation, or just give out fliers with an invitation for something special in your store.


Fitness club: Call the fitness clubs your customers say they belong to and ask to do some cross marketing. Offer a coupon for their new member packets and ask to set up a sampling table. Many vendors will gladly donate samples; just be sure to request these early enough.

When you're carrying out any of these ideas, make sure your handouts always include who you are, what you are, where you are and an invitation to come visit (for instance, a discount, targeted information for that group or an offer to register on your Web site to receive advanced notice for sales and specials). Next month we'll discuss how to use the data in your store. Learning your customers' opinions will help you serve them better, which is key for standing apart from the big box stores.

Debby Swoboda is president of DS Marketing Solutions, a full-service marketing agency that has exclusively supported natural products retailers since 1988. Debby can be contacted at 772.287.8118 or visit

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 1/p. 32

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