If you had the pleasure of shopping for food in New York between Friday afternoon and Saturday noon, your experience could simply be described as mayhem: Long lines, empty shelves, baskets filled with panic - rather than family-budget choices. You may think these shops made a killing thanks to Hurricane Irene. But remember they were closed during what would have been their busiest time in the week, because of the emergency situation in the area.
Many stores in our Brooklyn neighborhood remained closed after the stormed moved from the area with employees stranded in other boroughs. Meanwhile Nutbox, an eclectic store that sells all sorts of nuts and dried fruit, moved fast. Around 3PM, I got an email from them saying their Brooklyn shop was open until 7PM and I could come in for a free taste of their latest coffee flavor. In 15 minutes, we were in the store, buying Spanish paprika and onion flakes.The cost of coffee to Nutbox is probably 15 cents. The email push is I'm guessing also nominal -- they used Mail Chimp. We paid about $10 for the two items. Two other customers walked in while we were there, after they saw activity in the store.
Nutbox's simple email is chock full of small business lessons:
1- Use nimble technology: Use affordable, turnkey systems such as Mail Chimp e-mail manager to reach out to your opt-in list.
2- Move fast - you're the boss: You don't have to run your brilliant idea up the chain. If it's at low cost to you, just do it.
3- Tailor your messages to customer needs: 'Come and have a cup of coffee,' was the perfect message to increase foot traffic post Hurricane Irene debacle. People were glued to their TV sets for almost two days and were aching to get back to normal - as in times when they could leisurely walk and buy something they can enjoy without a certain sense of urgency.
4- Good service means cross-sell, up-sell opportunities: We could have easily walked in to just grab our coffee and walked back out. But with so many rightly priced items at our disposal, and having just received a bit of an incentive, we went ahead and shopped for nice-to-haves.
5- Don't miss a chance to beat competition: Both Starbucks shops in the neighborhood were closed with signs saying 'Blame the weather, not us!' And it would have been perfectly understandable if Nutbox remained shut through Sunday and even Monday. But, why miss the opportunity to offer something people cannot get elsewhere?