How Printers Can Save Local Businesses from Themselves

an brown shopping center sign with a large orange arrow

There is a local shopping area of retail stores, restaurants, and businesses a mile from my apt. It’s where I do my grocery shopping, dry cleaning, package sending, eyebrow waxing, get sandwiches, breakfast, Mexican, Chinese, and Thai food, and order pizza for delivery. It’s where I occasionally buy wine, visit T-Mobile, and grab a smoothie. There are additional stores and restaurants, but I don’t shop or eat in/take out from them.

The ONLY local business above that communicates with me is the pizzeria. I have been in this neighborhood for 7 years.

Sure, I get emails now and then from the grocery store and dry cleaner. T-Mobile reaches out on a national level through multiple channels. But none of these are communicating with me. They are broadcasting one-sided messages based on their marketing plans and sales efforts, not based on my behavior, purchase history, or relevant needs.

Since the pandemic, several of the businesses closed including a location for a regional dentist, a Firehouse Subs, a gym, and an insurance office. A few moved in; a tattoo shop, a frozen yogurt store, a gift store, and a smoke shop (not a dispensary – they sell cigarettes, cigars, and smoking tools of all kinds).

In the last 2 years, the biggest retail spaces have changed hands. The gym has a new owner and name, there is a restaurant with a new owner and name. This space has been an Indian restaurant, a Crabby Bills, vacant for months in between, and now it is Buttermilk. This breakfast/comfort food spot looks like it will stick. I certainly hope so. Robots bring yummy food to tables – fun!

A tanning salon opened on one end where the walk-in hair-cutting store closed, and one closed on the other end making way for a donut shop that just closed a month ago after being open for 2 years.

All the retail/restaurant spaces in this area are managed by ONE guy, from one commercial real estate company. I see his poster in all the empty store windows, fading from the sun pounding on it week after week, month after month, year after year. The Firehouse Subs space has been available for lease for at least 4 years, and the SAME poster is in the window.

I don’t know the specific reasons why these businesses have opened, closed, or changed hands. I do know however that no one local in printing and marketing is helping them open, stay open and create, maintain, and sustain relationships with customers and the community that surrounds this shopping area.

Here is your mission. BE PROACTIVE!

Drive around your neighborhood where local shopping, eating, and services are concentrated. Make notes about which businesses are there, were there, are coming soon, or need occupants. Write down the names of all the commercial realtors, property owners, and management companies listed on posters and associated with the stores, and the bigger property they were built on.

That is one hell of a relevant prospect list.

Do your research. What time is the area the busiest? What businesses are most active during this time? What businesses need traffic at other times – for example, a restaurant that opens at 11 am doesn’t benefit from local patronage before then and may stay open when most of the other businesses are closed.

Make your plan. How can you help each business? How can you collectively help all the businesses in the shopping area? How can you help the commercial relators?

Here is an idea to get you started. I presented this during the pandemic, but it remains topical and relevant for this situation. You will have to do some work upfront, but it is doable.

Create a custom mailer for the shopping location.

Price out mailing a standard-size envelope that doesn’t require additional postage and contains information about the businesses in this specific location. Each business gets its own insert. Figure out how many businesses can be included in the mailing to stay within the weight limit of standard postage.

Figure out costs for weekly, bi-monthly, and monthly mailings to residences within 2 miles of the shopping area. In the U.S. the post office offers a program called Every Door Direct Mail that is perfect for this. By searching zip codes, you can get pricing and know the quantities to print for each.

Assume that these businesses can NOT create marketing materials themselves. Work with a designer and create templates for the inserts. After you have their logo and basic information about each, the businesses can update for sales and specials via email or a customer portal if you have access to those.

Figure out how much this will cost. Divide that by the minimum and maximum number of businesses that can be included to have a range of pricing that gets lower as more businesses participate.

Add value through a menu of options. Businesses can stand out with a spot varnish or soft-touch coating, by using thicker paper or having a foldable or die-cut insert, for example. Each business can decide how it wants to present itself and if it wants to spend more money on its insert that is their choice.

Once they see results – more foot traffic, more sales, more people on their websites and connecting on social media, more people in for ‘happy hour’ with a coupon, or calling about leasing… then you can start expanding your offers to each individual business.

Does the tanning salon have SWAG? Does the frozen yogurt store have a punch card to keep track of purchases before a free one? Does the dry cleaner have a wrapped vehicle? What are the restaurants putting in takeout bags? Are the signs in need of a makeover? How can you help the commercial realtors with those old posters – and PS none of them by me have QR codes!

Each of the businesses has a vested interest in the success of the shopping area. More traffic is good for everyone. Awareness of all the stores in the area is good for everyone. Shopping locally is good for everyone. Helping the neighborhood thrive is good for everyone.

There is a significant amount of print and marketing help you can offer these businesses after you get your foot in the door, show results, and establish trust. Once you have a solid case study you can take this show down the road to the next shopping area, and the next, and the next. While getting new, sticky customers is certainly good for you, showing how the power of print drives sales, marketing, customer communications, and local loyalty is priceless.

Shop Long and Prosper!


See Deborah’s featured post: Cultivating Community Connection: A Marketing Strategy for Generating Local Print Business

See all posts by Deborah


Deborah Corn is the Intergalactic Ambassador to the Printerverse at Print Media Centr, a Print Buyerologist, international industry speaker and blogger, and the cultivator of Print Production Professionals, the #1 print group on LinkedIn. She provides printspiration and resources to print and marketing professionals through education, events, Podcasts From The Printerverse, ProjectPeacock.TV, and an array of community-lifting initiatives including Girls Who Print, Elevate Print, International Print Day, and Print Across America.

Deborah also helps companies create more meaningful and profitable customer relationships by utilizing more than 25 years of experience as an agency, brand, and corporate print buyer who has assessed, hired and worked with a plethora of printers and service providers.

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One Response

  1. Great Article!!! Leads right at the end of your block or at least right in your neighborhood. Companies that you probably do business with already.
    So easy, it’s brilliant.

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