Shop Calumet City: The Coupon Book Quandary

Supporting our neighboring communities is a great idea. It’s just not the stated purpose of the Shop Calumet City program or this coupon booklet.

Says the Alderman Jones in the booklet,

When you shop and support local businesses in Calumet City, there will be more dollars available for local school districts, more money to improve our roads and streets and more funding will be available for our parks and libraries.

If we’re trying to encourage shopping in Calumet City stores, why is one of the twelve coupons in the booklet belong to a store based in Midlothian? Doesn’t that encourage people to spend money in a suburb other than Cal City?

Cal City - Midlothian Coupon

Coupons are marketing devices. They can be a great way to generate interest in what a business has to offer and drive traffic to their locations.

Or they can go end up hidden at the bottom of kitchen drawers until spring cleaning time.

I applaud the 12 businesses that have coupons in this book for having the guts to take action to improve their business and participate building up the local economy. But to be frank, the decision-makers in these businesses should demand more from their marketing efforts.

Here are a few points worth noting about this coupon book:

  1. Again, 8.3% of the coupons direct shoppers to spend money outside of Calumet City
  2. Of the 12 coupons, eight of them are worth about $2. For example, a free McDouble with purchase of medium fry at McDonald’s or $2 off of a $20 dry cleaning order. In  most cases, any resulting sale will probably be profitable, but how many sales will result from the distribution of these coupons?
  3. One of the more seemingly valuable coupons is $5 of free gasoline. That’s pretty hard to resist. BUT how much does it help the gas station? With the less-than-razor-thin profit margins on fuel, it’s practically impossible to recoup the value of the coupon on a gas-only purchase.
    • What makes it even worse is that there’s almost no chance the customer who redeems the coupon will suddenly start buying their gas at that particular station. People buy gas a) at convenient locations or b) where it’s the cheapest. The coupon basically gives away gasoline for nothing in return (unless the driver buys snacks while getting their free fuel); it will not change buying behavior.
  4. For long-term economic impact, these coupons should include some way of building relationships with customers. The businesses should get these people’s contact information and follow up with them.
    • They could offer bounceback coupons to turn one-time shoppers into customers (people who make it a custom/habit to buy from you).

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I don’t mean to “go negative” here. I really love this town and the people in it. I honestly want things to get better. Why should Orland or Tinley Park enjoy more prosperity than us?

What we need is not short-sighted marketing ploys created by government officials. We need gutsy, intelligent entrepreneurs to lead the charge to a better future.

Since when do entrepreneurs rely on the government, anyway?

P.S. Next time, we’ll talk about specific business growth methods entrepreneurs in our area can use to start building a better tomorrow for our community.

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Shop Calumet City: The Article that Didn’t Make Quite It

I submitted the following article to our local newspaper, the Shopper.

More than news, I guess it sounded like a letter to the editor, so it was printed in the “Speak Out” section of the paper, without a byline. (Maybe that’s not such a big deal. I’ll have to be more specific next time.)

I wasn’t going to publish it here, since news articles are printed on the Shopper’s website. But because this wasn’t considered news, it’s not. So here it is.

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‘Shop Cal City’ is a Two-Way Street

Residents of Calumet City have probably received a post card introducing the new “Shop Calumet City” program.  This project, the brainchild of Alderman Thaddeus Jones is designed to boost the local economy, support our local business community and generate revenue for schools and other municipal projects.

It’s a great idea. Probably long overdue.

It also seems to be somewhat incomplete in its scope.

In recent months, we’ve seen several major businesses pack up and leave town (Sears, Old Navy, etc.). Numerous small businesses have had to shut their doors, as well. River Oaks mall looks like a ghost town sometimes; Wentworth Woods looks even worse.

Shopping local is the responsibility of citizens in communities everywhere, isn’t it?

I often hear people grumble, “THEY need to put more stores here.” Well, the fact of the matter is, WE need to make setting up shop here in Calumet City a profitable endeavor.

But shopping local is a two-way street.

Businesses need to understand how to promote themselves and provide top-notch customer experiences for their local clientele. Owners can’t complain about a lack of customers if they’re just sitting and waiting for us to come.

It’s the responsibility of those people running the businesses to give customers a good reason to spend money with them.

We want to support you! But you have to let us know you’re there. You have to show us how we will benefit from shopping with you.

You have to be a real part of the community and create real value for the people in our neighborhoods.  Then we’ll happily patronize your store.

That’s the give and take of a shop local program. I think both  lanes on this two-way street could use some repairs. Hopefully Alderman Jones program will be a major step in the right direction.

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My buddy John Breese also posted an interesting perspective (his point of view is always interesting) over on the One Hour Startup blog. Check out The Dark Knight of Marketing Takes Over the City.

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Shop Calumet City: My Introduction

I noticed the banners around town a few weeks ago.

To be perfectly honest, I thought they were not-so-subtle propaganda. Calumet City isn’t the greatest place to shop. Anyone familiar with the area knows that; outsiders would find out quickly.

About two weeks ago, a postcard mailer came out introducing the “Shop Calumet City” program. 3rd Ward Alderman Thaddeus Jones is spearheading an attempt to stimulate the local economy and support the business community here in town.

Now the banners make a little more sense.

As a Cal City citizen and businessperson, I feel compelled to comment on this program and it’s resulting effects. I plan to do so here on my blog over the coming days. I believe my gifts, expertise and experience could make valuable contributions to this effort.

As much as it will probably seem like it, I’m not attacking Jones or his ideas. But sometimes the best way to improve something is to point out weaknesses or inconsistencies, and that’s one of the things I do to help people and businesses get better at what they do. I come off harsh sometimes, the same way a trainer may seem rough on his boxing students.

I’ll be sharing my thoughts and I hope to hear from my fellow citizens in Chicago’s south suburbs and northwest Indiana. A lot of our neighborhoods are going through similar struggles. Many businesses will find insights that can help them reach higher levels of success.

If you’re interested in going even deeper, you can sign up for my email list specifically for Chicago’s South Siders. Here you go:

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