How to learn where your customers are coming from

If you own a retail business that relies upon customers coming to your store, one of the most fundamental things you need to know is where your customers are coming from. Many business collect zip codes, but that’s not detailed enough. You need to identify the neighborhoods and business districts they are coming from. Do that, and you can target your advertising and marketing with much greater efficiency.

The Dot Study is a simple and inexpensive marketing research tool you can use to gather this information.

Go to your nearest map store and buy two fairly good sized maps of the area around your store. The maps should be big enough so they include the areas around your store outside of where you think your customers are coming from.

Mount each map on a piece of foam core or some other rigid backing. Mark one AM and one PM and then switch from the AM to the PM map at the same time (of your choosing) every day. The reason for this is to distinguish your source of sales during the day from those during the evening. Often, people will shop from work or some other place during the day. But, will shop from home in the evening. This is important to know, especially if you have a business such as a restaurant where you need to target lunch versus dinner messages.

Instruct your sales staff to ask each person they wait on where their shopping trip originated from. In the evening it is a little more important to establish that the originating point is their home. They don’t have to give you an address or anything specific. All they have to do is point to an area on the map. Your staff will then place a colored dot on the map with a felt pen where the customer has indicated.

It is important to do this consistently and long enough to get a distinct visual representation of where the dots begin forming clusters. After a week or two, you will begin to see patterns emerging that will provide a great tool for future marketing.

How would you change your marketing if you could see on a map exactly where your customers were coming from?

Rob Charlton

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