Buying power

Your customers may, in fact, not be your friends and neighbors.

The Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau reports that its marketing efforts in 2000 helped pull $48 million in meeting, convention and tour business into the area.

“The importance of travel and tourism’s impact often goes unrecognized,” Susan Hamo, Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau president, stated in a recent press release.

She added that a visitor will spend about $165 a day on lodging, meals and discretionary expenses. For example, during the first week of July, the Bible Way Church of our Lord Jesus Christ Conference, which attracted 1,300 visitors, brought about $1.2 million to our local economy.

The personal approach

What’s the best way to connect with potential customers? Steve Marks says it’s “to build rapport and make the customer feel the center of attention.”

“Set yourself apart from the hundreds of vendors they see each year. For example, when you visit them, take them a thermos of coffee and pastries. A cinnamon roll or cookies make good candidates,” Marks suggests.

He would, of course, as CEO of Main Street Gourmet.

Even better, “Try to coax prospects out of their normal environment, where they’ll let down their guard. It doesn’t have to be the golf course or a ball game. A cup of coffee at a favorite spot — with a muffin, naturally — makes for an excellent setting.”

And since people love to talk about themselves, Marks advocates asking as many questions as possible to get to know a prospect better — without getting too personal, of course.

A site worth seeing

The Sherwin-Williams Web site, created by Akron’s DigitalDay, is cited in a new book on doing business on the Internet. The book, entitled “Businesses Go From Here,” by Roger Blackwell and Kristina Stephan, examines the reasons some businesses have failed in their attempt to do business on the Internet while others have prospered.

The Sherwin-Williams site was singled out as successfully “devising strategies to satisfy consumers better to retain loyal customers.”