The Beginner’s Guide to Increasing Your Customer Base

Increasing your customer base means increasing the amount of new customers who come to your store. This post will teach you 5 evergreen ways to increase the amount of people coming to your store.

5 Ways To Increase Your Customer Base

There are five ways to increase the customer base for your liquor store.

1. Advertising

2. Having a website

3. Social media

4. Google
5. Reaching into your physical community

1. Advertising

There are 3 main types of advertising that will increase your customer base the most efficiently.
1. Bus-stop advertising

2. Local paper advertising

3. Online advertising

Bus-Stop Advertising

You may be surprised by the price of bus-stop advertising in your area. We are certainly surprised by the amount of business owners who don’t have a clue how much it costs. It’s just a phone call conversation away!

In New York, on Long Island, we pay about $400 a month per bus-stop advertisement (as of January 2016).

This includes the graphic design work and all the work involved getting the physical advertisement on the bus-stop.

Bus-stop advertising is a great, GREAT idea unless maybe another local liquor store is already doing bus-stop advertising in your area.

Otherwise, it has the potential of bringing in thousands of NEW customers on a monthly basis who might have otherwise not come in (or known that your store exists).

So, the way to make your bus-stop advertising the most cost-efficient is to have a strong reason for potential customers to stop by your store on their way. A sign which might have your Smirnoff 1.75l bottle on sale for $18.99 is guaranteed to bring you in customers who might have otherwise never come in.

As a matter of fact, we were very surprised at Pike’s Wine & Liquor with the amount of customers who came in after we had started our bus-stop advertising. They told us through our cashiers that, for example, they had been commuting to and from work on the same road for five years and they had never actually noticed that our store was right there where it is.

Most advertising companies that we’ve contacted don’t require a serious long-term contract and many are more than happy to let you test it out for one month in the beginning. Obviously, you can get a better rate with the advertising company if you sign up for longer.

Definitely try this out because it can cost you maybe $500 to try out for the first month, not that much time, not that much work involved but it can bring in many new customers. And as long as these new people like what they see when they are in your store, they will remain customers.

***NOTE: Consider whether or not your store is physically visible from the same street that the bus-stop advertising is on! But even if it’s not, there are plenty of ways you can inform the potential buyer to make a right turn at the next light for example. You will know exactly where the physical bus-stop is when you purchase that. So be creative; that that bus-stop is not moving any time soon.***

Lastly, keep in mind that when a person sees your liquor store and your liquor store’s logo on a bus-stop, this gives you huge credibility points! They will have an instant, innate trust for your business because, well, you’re on a bus-stop advertisement. Most people will assume that you must be somewhat successful and not some rip off liquor store.

Local Paper Advertising

This is another great source of customers who might not know that your store exists.

Chances are high that a representative from a local paper or a local advertising distribution company has already come to you and offered you some kind of deal to advertisement, if not, it’s really easy to find (chances are you sent them away thinking it’s a waste of time and money or a scam…)

Companies like Prime Time, for example, on Long Island or whatever it is in your area rely on businesses like yours to advertise with them. They are usually open to negotiation and will hold your hand through the process. It’s a quick Google search away!

Search for your town’s name, for example, Elmont and ‘local advertisement’ or just look at your mail that you get. You may throw out all the junk that comes like coupons and stuff but trust me there are thousands of people in every community who actually look at that stuff and take advantage of those deals.

Plenty of stores, liquor stores specifically, are already advertising with these companies so chances are that there’s somebody at the company who’s already made templates or advertisements for liquor stores. Feel free to use a generic template that seems to work. Here is a picture of one of our recent ads.

Also, another thing to consider, if a larger liquor store in your area is already doing something like this, just follow their example. There is a reason that they’re continuing to spend money on local advertisement. It must be working for them financially so you know, follow the wise and set up your local advertisements (just don’t copy them!).

These types of ads are generally more expensive than bus stop advertising because they usually have a minimum amount of flyers or papers that they have to print for.

In our case, it was 10,000 copies so we ended up paying $1,200 for a one-time circulation of 10,000 copies. This is not cheap but considering that those are 10,000 copies that are going to individual homes in our own community… the potential is great and if you can show your community that you do have a nice store or at least a nice advertisement with a logo and colors and good prices, then that’s potentially thousands of added revenue a month.

Ultimately, the goal is to have those customers who come in for the first time be impressed or be overly-satisfied with your store and make the unconscious decision to buy their future purchases of alcohol from you and not from your competition. Learn how to retain your new customer base here.

Online advertising

We personally don’t have any experience with online advertising for our store because when we started advertising, we didn’t know much about it and by the time that we did know enough about it to make clear good decisions, we had already been ranking at the top spots in Google’s organic search!

In our particular area, Elmont, the Google searches for liquor store or liquor store near me (we’re going to just generalize all of those keywords into one group) is about 340 searches a month. So, advertising to a portion of that small of a group is not something that we were interested in.

We focused heavily on bus-stop advertising and local paper advertising. But, online advertising has worked wonders for many large liquor stores and this is definitely a strategy used more often by large liquor stores (especially those with the ability to sell their inventory through a website because, obviously, that’s a much different market).

If you want to learn about online advertising for your store, I suggest you google Total Wine & More. If you haven’t heard of them yet, well I’m pretty surprised, but they’re the largest chain of liquor stores in the world and they have huge amounts of advertising and their email campaigns are just top of the line perfect which makes sense as it’s billion dollar+ company.

2. Having a website

Your store doesn’t have to have a large, beautiful, fully-integrated website to increase your customer base!

Actually, the biggest reason for our website (which also doesn’t have the ability to sell alcohol online) is to increase our Google ranking so that when somebody in our local area is searching for the term ‘liquor store’ on their phone or computer, our store shows up as the first option.

Google will rank you higher because of your social media and website.

So, a basic website to start is what you’re shooting for. If you don’t know how to make a website, you can learn! There’s a plethora of information available online for free how to create your own basic website or you can hire somebody to create a website, of course.

Alternatively, you can email Send me an email and we can give you quote on how much we would charge to make a website for you.

When creating your website, you should have a logo, some kind of color theme for your store, and maybe you want to consider changing your DBA which is ‘doing business as.’ All of that is covered in our post on retaining your new customers.

Being online was the biggest increase of new customer base that we saw. We started getting about 300 new customers a month because of our ranking on Google. So, this is definitely a topic that you want to consider seriously as it can be thousands of dollars coming in through your cash registers every month and it’s really not difficult to get a website up and running. And of course, having a website will give your store more authority to your customers.

Basic elements to have on your website:

  • store hours and holiday hours
  • refund and exchange policy
  • photos of your employees, managers, owners
  • photos of your physical store
  • calendar with upcoming events and tastings
  • a way to contact you with questions
  • links to your social media sites
  • a few articles or videos on basics of wine

Check out our post on why you should have a website for some more pointers.

If a customer is faced with a choice of Liquor Store A or Your Liquor Store, and Liquor Store A does have a website and your liquor store does not, logically, the customer will go with Liquor Store A because that’s just human nature.

3. Social media

Social media in itself probably won’t land you many new customers, but an interesting thing that you can pull off with social media like Facebook is retaining more of the customers who already purchased from you.

So, what I mean by this is, many customers shop in multiple liquor stores throughout the year (unless your store is already really nice or, you know, that ‘cool’ liquor store in your area). They switch up liquor stores once in a while.

When they like you on Facebook or follow you on social media and if you’re posting interesting photos, or some kind of offers or something that sets you apart from your competition, they’re more likely to come back and maybe make your store the only store that they go to.

Whenever they’re in their home area, they go to your store instead of deciding every time that they want wine which store they go to.

The other thing that social media will help you with in terms of increasing your customer base is your Google ranking and your potential for people searching for terms liquor store in your area to see and choose your store rather than someone else in the same area.
Check out our post on getting your store on Facebook for detailed instructions.

4. Google

Like I said before, Google was the biggest single free increase of our customer base that we experienced and it is really a shame that we didn’t start it until 2014.

Once we started ranking in the #1 or #2 spot on Google when people are searching for liquor stores, we were getting about 300–400 new customers every single month which just never stopped since and our monthly revenues from that alone have increased by over 10%.

Now, we’re experimenting with some different ideas like trying to rank for certain words like Bourbon or Rip Van Winkle Whiskey, Dom Perignon, things that are very high end that we now carry and offer competitive prices on.

When you do submit your business to Google, you won’t automatically start showing up when people search for liquor store, unfortunately. It takes time and some effort to actually show up but basically, once you do start showing up, it doesn’t stop as far as I can tell.

Things like having social media accounts linked to your business and having a website for your business will definitely speed up the process and help you in ranking in the top few spots for keywords like liquor store in your local area.

Do a search now of liquor store “Your Town” and see what comes up. If there are many stores coming up, GREAT! That means it’s worth it to join too! If you don’t see many, GREAT! That means you’ll be getting a larger piece of the pie.

5. Reaching Into Your Community

This is a big step to take with your liquor store and the pay-offs are big as well.

You should start reaching into community by finding out where the board meetings or community meetings are going on. If they’re public and if they’re pertaining to something going on to your community, definitely just start showing up.

***NOTE: Don’t advertise your store to these people right off the bat. Let it come organically through conversations. This is definitely the best way to go about it.***

Chances are that there’s some people at these meetings who are either wealthy or who have large networks of people who they usually deal with so having these people favor your liquor store over whatever liquor store that they currently go to can be huge for your business.

Whenever there’s a chance to donate a gift whether it be money or physical, always go ahead and donate because usually you can leave a business card or a bottle of wine or something like that and this will definitely be the best way to have people genuinely interested in your liquor store.

I’ve never seen it before, but I bet there are places out there where liquor stores are funding community events (which is kind of weird but who knows, maybe it works).

Another type of community that you should consider is having a little community of liquor store owners from your area. So, the best way to do this is to either

  1. Go in person and meet the owner of the other liquor store
  2. Send a letter to the liquor stores in your area saying something like, “Hi, I’m Alex, the owner of the Pikes Wine & Liquor, and am sending this to you in hopes that you may be interested in meeting with me and a few other liquor store owners just to get to know each other, talk and maybe collaborate on a few things.”

So, the goal here is not to necessarily become friends, as this is your competition, but rather to be on the same page.

For example, this has helped me in the past when there was a rich investor trying to open up a liquor store in an area not too far from me and two other liquor stores. His business plan was to undercut all local competition at all costs, to force of out of business and have his business friends take over the surrounding stores.

Because we had this kind of connection, the three of us plus two other liquor stores from our town (5 total) came together and paid for the same lawyer to represent the public of our town in court against the opening of that new liquor store. The lawyer was best money could buy, and he managed to somehow not get the store opened! On our own, we definitely could not have afforded that guy. This has happened twice now so definitely something that’s worth looking into and worth typing up a letter and sending it out to a few places. Worst case, they don’t respond.

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Thanks! and good luck increasing your customer base.

P.S. this article appeared originally here.