"Give me 5 minutes and I’ll have you thinking differently about history!"
That’s what I say to people now when they ask me what I do, because as with any service business it’s all about the client. What can I do for THEM? How can history help THEM achieve business goals, and what are THEIR goals?
The three key business goals people
usually cite are:
1) getting more customers or clients
2) developing customer loyalty
3) boosting their business’s reputation
Naturally, I ask about the business, its history and community, and the interests of the owner because there are always ways to match these things up with something historical to achieve the business goals listed above. But for the purposes of this article, and for the general business reader (you), let’s look at Number 1 – using history to get more customers or clients. How? Let me give you three ideas any business could use.
First, for a very modest investment, you could contact your local historical society or public library and ask if you can sponsor their monthly lecture series. Most historical societies and libraries have some such monthly program – or they want to, and you can help them set it up!
Your funding will help pay for speakers, refreshments, and marketing materials. What you want in return is high visibility -- in publicity materials, at the historical society itself (and its website, etc.), and at each lecture where you will be introduced and, hopefully, make some remarks about the value of local history.
If you can make a special offer in conjunction with your sponsorship, then you will know, exactly, who walks through your door as a result. Regardless of who actually attends the lecture series, your name and your offer will be “out there” and you will attract new customers.
Idea #2 – Get behind a popular public history project. These projects are about doing history “outside of the classroom,” and they are usually long-term and highly visible. The earlier you get involved, the more you will be seen as a leader. Is there a local preservation project? A statue going up? A historic marker? The restoration of a park or building? A new history tour being launched? As with Idea #1, the key is to be seen – in marketing materials, and at meetings and events.
Idea #3 will help you attract women customers because you will sponsor a National Women’s History Month program (during the month of March), a women’s history talk or walking tour some other time of the year, the publication of a new women’s history book, or the launch of a new school project. Women do pay attention to the businesses that go out of their way to support women’s history, and they will respond – especially if you can offer them something special.
Does you business have a natural affinity for women customers – health/self care, beauty, clothing, children’s items, specialty foods? Or, are you a woman-owned business? Please don’t pass up the opportunity to use women’s history as a way to reach potential clients. You can work with a historian to figure out what kind of event would make sense – it does need to be authentic.
You could also use the opportunity to host an event, talk, or sale, AND make a donation to a women’s history project in your community. New customers will visit your place of business and spend money knowing that part of the proceeds will go to a good cause!
You can see from these three ideas that this is all about having people get to know you in a non-sales environment, and it really works! The scale of what I suggest could be local, statewide, or beyond depending on who your historical partner is, which project you will sponsor, or the significance of your women’s history event. Truly, the possibilities are grand.
And please also take pride in what you are sponsoring by displaying information at your place of business and through your regular communication channels.
Stay tuned for the next two entries on how using history can earn you customer loyalty and a stellar reputation.
P.S. I can’t resist adding in a fourth idea, which is to do your own business history. You will be celebrating an anniversary at some point soon, so that’s one excuse. But I PROMISE that you will find PR angles in your history you can use right away to get you seen by the media and new customers!
2011 © Bonnie Hurd Smith
History Smiths works with service-oriented businesses to use history — their own and their community's — to achieve customer loyalty, referrals, and high status. Subscribe (above, right) to our free Ezine, Connections, where we share ideas and examples of businesses embracing history to achieve business goals.