You’ve got your antique shop and it’s full of great stuff. Now you need to bring in the customers. You can’t hope to run a successful business today unless you have an Internet presence.
In Part 1 of Turn Your Antique Shop into a Profitable Business, I laid out some basic suggestions to jump-start your antiques business. If you read it, you have had the opportunity to implement or at least get the ball rolling on putting the suggestions in to play. If so, you are on the road to seeing an improvement in the number of customers or visitors that will find you and spend money on your goods.
Now I’m going to suggest some very important advertising tools for owners of live brick-and-mortar stores that can easily be put in place: You need a virtual presence on the Internet. Even if you have never considered getting a place on the World Wide Web, don’t worry. It’s very simple, and if you need help, just corral one of your children or grandchildren. They’ll know what I’m talking about, even if it seems like Greek to you.
Recent research by Performics shows that 84-percent of mobile phone users use their phone throughout the day to find retailers. They search at work, while watching TV, even while driving (in the passenger seat)! Even if you have only a three-page website, you need to have something online showcasing your shop. At the very minimum, you need a Home page, a Contact page and an About Us page. You can purchase a domain name for around $7.50 a year and for a small website you can get web hosting for $100 or less annually. Many hosting companies will give you a domain name for free if you use their service.
If you are you intimidated at the thought of “building” and maintaining your own website or have the money to put out for a website, a great alternative that I highly recommend is to create a blog or web log. Blogger, a free blogging site through Google, is very user-friendly and has several ready-made templates that you can choose from. You want to keep your blog content fresh and relevant. Write about new acquisitions for the shop or your own personal collection, shop sale events, post a coupon, promote special events or whatever relevant content you want. It is fun and can be addicting once you get the hang of it.
Other good blogging programs, especially if you have your own domain name, are WordPress and Typepad. You can add all kinds of bells and whistles to these blog programs, but for ease of use Blogger is the best way to go. If you are interested in earning a few extra dollars, be sure to sign-up for Google’s Ad Sense program. Once you sign up, you are given a code that you embed in the script on your blog and website. With this program, anytime someone clicks on the banner or links created by this code you earn a few pennies. The more people you get coming to your blog and website, the more clicks you get and the more you earn.
While we are on the topic of the Internet, let’s talk about social networking or social media. Social networking is using applications such as Facebook and Twitter to get your message out to interested parties. If you are not already using social media, you need to hop to it. It is free, easy to do, and connects you directly with your target market in a way that e-mail and conventional marketing methods cannot. You can reach 400 million people worldwide, 24/7, anytime of the day or night. It is a great tool to get the word out about your business, post upcoming events, share photos, and much more.
Through social media you are able to get instant feedback on what interests your customers. If you already have a personal Facebook page, you must create a separate page for your business. You do not want personal stuff or wacky ex-boyfriend’s posts (or is that just my personal account?) showing up on your business page. As with your blog or website, you want to make regular posts to these forums. No one likes old, stale information. For a great example, look at the WorthPoint Facebook page, which has frequent posts where it puts up a photo of an item and all the WorthPoint “friends” guess what the item is and what it’s worth. I look forward to these posts and have learned a few things through my participation. You can hold contests, post “guess the item” questions and photos, ask what new finds people have run across and encourage them to share photos. Browse around and “borrow” ideas from other business pages. Through Facebook, you can get the code to post a “Like” box on your blog and website so that people can follow your posts through their own Facebook pages.
EXTRA HINT NO. 1: Make sure to create quality content in the social media forums. Community is Queen, but quality content will always be King. Studies show that plenty of people are reading online but few are contributing quality content.
Twitter is also pretty easy to stay on top of unless you are like me and have a hard time editing what you have to say to 140 characters. I have my Facebook linked to Twitter so that when I post on Facebook, it will automatically go to my Twitter followers. That does not completely let you off the hook, as it is still a good idea to put fresh “Tweets” out there.
Once you get your Facebook and Twitter business pages set up, let your friends know about them. They will “like” your page or follow you on Twitter and it spreads like wildfire from there. It is pretty exciting when you go in to your social media accounts and see the large number of people who are reading what you have to say. You want to engage the people who have elected to follow you, which means you need to set aside a few minutes every couple of days to post something of interest to your social media accounts. There are numerous other social media forums (Google+ is an up-and-coming one), but those I have mentioned are the two largest and most active.
One way to get regular and potential customers into your shop is to host a Happy Hour. You could serve refreshments even offer wine to your customers while they shop. If you know someone who can play the guitar or keyboard ask them if they would come in for a couple of hours on that evening. Customers love this.
Now it is time to think outside of the box. You have to set your business apart from all the rest. Whether you have a store front or a virtual shop, you want your space to be a destination, not just another store.
Have a Happy Hour and stay open an hour later on Tuesday or Thursday. You could serve refreshments even offer wine to your customers while they shop. If you know someone who can play the guitar or keyboard ask them if they would come in for a couple of hours on that evening. Customers love this.
If you have an online-only shop, you can set up a Chat Party. Once again, there are free chat applications that you can incorporate into your website. Have it set up so that it is only accessible when you have your party. Be prepared to get flooded with questions about the value of different items! You will be providing a one-on-one forum for people with similar interests to come together and visit and create a unique experience for your customers.
I am sure that you get your share of people come in to the shop asking for appraisals. I personally charge a nominal fee for written appraisals, but if the shop isn’t busy, you should be more than happy to help. Hopefully, you are knowledgeable about the antiques field. If not, you had better get to studying. You are the “expert,” the “antique dealer,” so you do need to know what you are doing and that includes knowing your subject matter. Keep price guides and information books at the shop for the public to use. Provide pen, paper and a chair so that the customer can study in comfort. I recommend that you keep the books/reference library where you can see it otherwise pages will get torn out of your books.
EXTRA HINT NO. 2: Offer a monthly free appraisal fair. One word of advice; have a couple of experts on hand, as it will get crazy busy and since the store will be open for business be sure to have a cashier ready. Publicize it!
Virtual shop owners, you can also provide a reference section. It will take some time to get set up but once you do it will help a great deal with search engine ranking and thereby draw more visitors to your site.
Move the Non-Moving Inventory
What to do with inventory that has been sitting around for too long? Have a garage sale, of course. It is very easy to do with an online shop; just move everything in to a new category. With a store front, if you do not have room in the parking lot, you can set aside an area in the shop with signage for the garage or rummage sale. Please price accordingly and advertise through all the outlets I have given you. Do not let it run all the time, otherwise there is no novelty in it.
I have many more suggestions on the extras that you can do to bring in new customers, retain your customer base and how to maintain your social networks. You can find these on my blog, My Granny’s Attic Antiques.
Remember, being a shop owner is supposed to be fun! With careful planning and the use of the tools available to you, it can be a lot of fun. Get out there, draw those customers in, and have a great time.
Michelle Staley, who insists that collectors are the happiest people, is an antique collector and dealer. Her shop, My Granny’s Attic Antiques, Collectibles and Memorabilia, is in Lenexa, Kansas.
WorthPoint—Discover Your Hidden Wealth