How to Get Customers Without Advertising: Small Business Tips
3 Things We Can Learn From Beach Occasions
Meet Beach Occasions, a company that provides beach wedding services to couples who want to tie the knot in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. With packages starting at $199, Beach Occasions has cemented itself as one of the go-to wedding services in the area.
Despite being a small business with just two full time employees (husband and wife Scott and Sabrina Blackburn) Beach Occasions is an incredibly busy and productive business, that typically handles 300-350 weddings a year.
Even more impressive? Scott and Sabrina manage to attract new business organically, without spending a dime on advertising or heading to a single trade show. And despite not actively seeking reviews, Beach Occasions has a 5-star rating on Google and WeddingWire, and their website is filled with glowing feedback from their customers.
We recently caught up with Scott and asked him to share his experiences with running Beach Occasions. Check out what he has to say below.
About Beach Occasions
Beach Occasions is — and continues to be — a small business, says Scott, though they’ve expanded a bit over the years.
“Our company has a very small footprint. The only full-time employees are myself and my wife. That’s the model,” explains Scott. “We were going to go with that for years. And then the business expanded enough where we had to take on some help, so we brought on two part-time employees and we work with about ten 1099 subcontractors.”
“In terms of what we do, we operate in Myrtle Beach, which is a hot spot for folks wanting to get married on the beach.
“We do a hundred beach weddings. We don’t have a chapel or anything. So I officiate and set up decorations, then my wife photographs. If they want a reception, we can do that too, but our focus is the ceremony element.”
How to Get Customers: 3 Best Practices for Success
As mentioned, Beach Occasions usually does 300 to 350 weddings a year, with the vast majority of customers coming in from organic search or referrals from other couples and businesses.
Here are some of the things that Scott and Sabrina have done to accomplish this.
1. Make superb customer service a major part of the experience
Providing great customer service is something that most companies claim they do, but few actually follow through.
At Beach Occasions, Scott and Sabrina make it a point to take care of their clients, and this sets them apart from their competitors.
“There are other companies that do what we do at our level, but we got to hear some of the horror stories of how they didn’t take care of the bride and the things they were messing up. We never had those issues. We had that stuff in the pocket as far as how to treat brides,” explains Scott.
Beach Occasions’ superb customer service extended during the pandemic when businesses had no choice but to shut down. While other companies canceled events and didn’t offer refunds beyond deposits, Beach Occasions implemented a policy that allowed customers to re-book their wedding anytime they can make it back to Myrtle Beach. According to Scott, their typical rebooking policy only let clients rebook within a year, but they decided to change that when COVID-19 hit.
Beach Occasions’ excellent customer practices enabled Scott and Sabrina to build a solid reputation for the business which resulted in more referrals and reviews.
In fact, Beach Occasions doesn’t actively seek reviews from customers. Many of the company’s clients are happy to offer positive feedback on their own accord.
“We have about 300 plaza reviews that date back to 10 years ago. We feel that that kind of longevity helps. And then if a customer suggests that they’d like to leave a review, we’d point them to Google and then we’ll put that up on our website too.”
Scott adds, “A few years ago, we were sending ‘Thank you’ cards that had, ’Hey, if you do want to leave a good review, here’s where you can do that.’ But at the end of the day, we decided that was not the type of tone we care to leave.”
He continues, “We know that we could get them consistently and inherently.”
“Both my wife and I came with high-end customer service and senior management backgrounds, and we were able to translate that into this business. We know how best to talk to a customer and how to treat them and not force things on them. We give them options, and that goes a long way.
2. Establish strong partnerships with other businesses
Beach Occasions is the preferred partner of other hotels in the area, including Hilton. When couples inquire about weddings and receptions, many hotels and resorts are happy to handle the reception side, and they refer business to Beach Occasions for the ceremony.
This, according to Scott, was a result of two factors: first is “many years of painstaking work to get in with these hotels,” while the second — and more important — factor would be Beach Occasions’ superb reputation.
“My wife and I don’t cook food and we don’t wait tables, so we partner with various hotels in the area to have the reception there,” says Scott.
“We do the spot on the beach, we’re the coordinator, then we bring them inside the hotel, let the hotel staff cook the food and do what they’re good at. So we’ve had to cultivate that, and there are only certain hotels we were able to partner with to meet our price point that we have in our package.”
Scott adds that people who were part of the hotel business in the area were familiar with Beach Occasions’ reputation and are happy to refer them to clients and other hotels.
“They’ve worked with us in the past, and they’re always happy to say ‘Hey, you’ve got to work with Beach Occasions.’
“Word gets around, and it even goes to other resorts that we don’t even know how it got there. It just got there from word of mouth.”
“I think it was a combination of continuing to work the system. We feed them business, while they refer business to us. Remember, these companies also don’t want a bad name for themselves. They’re on the mercy of being reviewed too. So if they’re going to contract with somebody, they want to contract with someone like us, who’s going to give that same level of service that a Hilton, a Hyatt, or a Wyndham is used to giving.”
3. Set up a website that naturally drives traffic
Web traffic is another big source of clientele, says Scott. They don’t spend money on advertising, so all their traffic comes from organic search.
The key to their success? Beach Occasions has an excellent website that contains relevant content, photos, testimonials, and all the information that couples could possibly need when considering a beach wedding vendor.
“We get chosen because we have an outstanding website as it relates to anybody else,” adds Scott.
“It has to do with SEO and the number of links we have throughout our pages. When clients are shopping around and they discover our business, they stop calling other vendors, because they found what they’re looking for. That’s something that we’re so proud of.”
Beach Occasions’ experience with Payment Depot
In addition to chatting about the success of Beach Occasions, Scott also mentioned the great experience he’s had with Payment Depot, particularly during the pandemic.
With the wedding and tourism industry being severely affected by the lockdown, Scott responded to Payment Depot’s message to merchants, asking businesses to reach out if they need anything.
Scott and our COO Randy Hayashi had a conversation about what Payment Depot could do to help Beach Occasions.
“He went with his team and he wrote back to me and offered me a credit that I felt was extremely generous. It showed me that Payment Depot very much valued their customersI thought that was an excellent move.”
How To Bring More People Into Your Cafe or Restaurant
There is almost always room to increase sales at a cafe; you can get customers to buy more when they visit, you can encourage clients to come and visit more often, and you can reach out to new customers. Fortunately, there are some ways that we can increase our cafe sales that are both affordable and very easy to implement. You should definitely make sure your customers get the best service available, but there’s plenty more to consider as well…
Expand The Menu
One particularly effective way of increasing sales at a cafe is to expand its offerings with more meal-oriented options. Sandwiches, wraps, salads, and soups can be added to the menu. These changes can take customers from viewing your cafe as a place for a cup of coffee to an affordable mealtime destination as well. Speciality offers are also excellent. This includes vegan or organic products. New demographics can be ushered through the door with these trendy items.
Encourage Larger Purchases
Upselling can get customers to buy more during their visits. Customer discounts can be offered when they add a food item to their drink order. The larger beverages should have a better deal when they are ordered. Sales can also be boosted by having servers suggest the largest size to the customers who do not specify the beverage size they want. Try not to get carried away with upselling, however, as too much of it can start annoying customers.
Offer A Customer Loyalty Program
Customer loyalty programs can increase sales as well. Punch cards can be bought or printed. These cards can be presented to the customer when they make a purchase. For instance, customers can be get every tenth beverage free. This will give them an incentive to come back to the café repeatedly. A program that periodically rewards frequent purchases is likely to have more success. The programs that offer money upfront may not be as successful.
Game nights, poetry readings, live music, or other events, are all excellent ideas if there is a suitable amount of room in your café. The events need to publicized online and around the community as well. Public speakers, writers, and musicians can be contacted. Organizers of different clubs and groups can also be contacted to see if they would be interested in using the cafe as a venue. Wall space can be offered to local artists as well; they can sell their work at the cafe. New people will visit the café simply to look at the art.
Social Networking Accounts
The internet is an efficient promotional tool. A business has to put in the time and effort to try to interact with the public. A facebook account is an excellent idea. By starting this account, customers can look you up and “friend” you, then keep up to date on your latest menu changes, sales, and events.
Payment Depot Has Merchants’ Back
At Payment Depot, we know how hard small businesses work to attract customers and cultivate relationships. We promote the same values and practices in our company, and we’d love for you to be part of the family. If you’re looking for a payment processor that offers fair and transparent pricing — while looking out for your best interests — reach out to us. We’ll evaluate your current merchant statement or proposal and recommend ways that you can save.