Last blog post I talked about an effective problem solving technique I recently discovered to help generate ideas, come up with solutions to business and life challenges, and gain insight. (Read about the “Sentence Stems” technique here. Big ups to Rich Schefren, who I first learned about this technique from.)
At the end of that post, I said I’d take you through some ideas I generated when I applied this exercise to a friend’s dilemma of getting more customers into her bakery (mostly cupcakes) using no cost or low cost marketing methods.
Keep in mind that when you’re completing the sentence stems daily, not everything you write will be worthwhile, or even doable, and that’s OK. The idea is to step outside your limitations, think big, and just write whatever comes to mind without censoring yourself.
If you work on your sentence stem exercise daily, at the end of a week or two I guarantee you’ll have at least a few really good, workable ideas.
The sentence stem I constructed for my friend’s bakery was this:
“I could get more customers into my bakery using no or low cost marketing if I . . .”
. . . partnered with other small businesses in my community to tap into their audiences. I could approach caterers, wedding planners, event planners, etc. and offer to do joint promotions with them.
. . . hooked up with a local florist and offered to do “a dozen cupcakes with a dozen roses” kind of delivery, or similar.
. . . dropped off samples with a business card and price sheet/order form to offices in my area for their employee birthday celebrations and other office parties where food goodies are needed.
. . . came up with something no one else is doing to set myself apart from other bakeries in my community, like offering special order baked goods with free delivery or similar.
. . . offered customer loyalty cards where after the 10th visit, the customer gets a free cupcake or similar.
. . . partnered with another small biz owner to cut costs and rented booth space at a high-traffic bridal show.
. . . participated in the local farmers’ market weekly.
. . . offered to provide goodies for a local biz networking event (along with plenty of business cards and order forms!).
. . . offered to sponsor or host a local business networking event in my place of business.
. . . went to one local business networking event per week.
. . . offered to speak to a local networking group about how I started my dream bakery business.
. . . partnered with a wine bar or similar to do a monthly cupcake and wine tasting. We both send out invites to our email lists and invite our local Facebook and Twitter following as well.
. . . did cupcake decorating lessons to get peeps into my place of business – they pay for the class & supplies and get to keep the cupcakes.
. . .offered a Mother & Daughter cake decorating or cupcake decorating class to celebrate Mother’s Day, and other similar holiday-themed classes.
. . . provided baked goods to realtors for their open houses.
. . . did daily Facebook and Twitter promos: Do a status update in the a.m. with the flavors that will be running that day, then as the flavors start selling out, highlight this fact on Facebook and Twitter to build excitement: “Key lime custard almost gone, 6 left, come in and get yours!” etc.
. . .did a “question of the day,” where I post a trivia question or similar first thing in the morning to Facebook and Twitter, and the first person to come in and answer it correctly gets a free brownie or cupcake, then announce the winner on Facebook and Twitter at the end of the day.
. . . donated a beautifully decorated gift package of baked goods to a silent auction once per quarter.
. . . placed an email opt-in form on my website and collected email addresses. Then send my email list special promotions, coupons, flyers, info about baking classes, recipes, etc. etc. to build customer loyalty (and collect email addresses in store, during baking classes, at trade shows and any and every other appropriate time and opportunity, because an active email list is one of the very best business assets you can have – but that’s a sentence stem brainstorm for a whole other post!)
. . . started a blog about baking.
. . . submitted guest posts to local food-related blogs.
. . . pitched a story to my local newspaper’s food section about my awesome local food-based business.
OK, there are 22 ideas. Mind you, some of them might not be workable, but many of them are. And these 22 things I came up with in one sitting of around 20-30 minutes. If I had done the sentence stems exercise every day for a full week or two as suggested, the list would obviously be way longer. But you get the idea.
Sometimes it’s just about giving yourself permission – and time – to get really still and brainstorm. And doing this regularly will loosen up all kinds of ideas for you, I just betcha. : )
Now you give it a try, and let me know how you do in the comments!
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