Community Business Referral Network, or “the CBRN” as it’s commonly called, has been formed and has chosen Salelynn Marketing to administer the program. The network was formed to try to help local area businesses and towns and cities create thriving shopping and business districts. And stop the disturbing trend of vacant store fronts, business closings and downsizing. According to Civic Economics 2012 survey of local businesses, “48 cents of every dollar spent at a locally-owned retail business goes back into the local community. That’s more than three times the amount that local economies recover from chain retailers.”
By using the network, members refer their customers to one another systematically, electronically and automatically. The CBRN offers three levels of membership making it affordable for every business in the community. We spoke with Sandra Alexander of Salelynn Marketing to get her insights and learn more.
SBT – How did it feel to be chosen to administer this Referral Network?
Sandra Alexander- We were pleasantly surprised and are happy we were chosen to administer the program. We look forward to seeing the network grow and helping businesses make money and support their neighborhoods. I’m looking forward to meeting the business owners and working with various businesses in the community to see how we can improve our neighborhoods and business districts. I hate to see vacant store fronts and out of business signs too.
SBT- Why was the Community Business Referral Network formed?
Sandra Alexander- It’s CBRN’s mission to support and help communities thrive and stay vibrant. To eliminate the number of businesses that are forced to go out of business and the number of vacant storefronts and empty office parks because that hurts the community and other businesses by reducing the foot traffic and just making a area look bad and run down. It also hurts homeowners and reduces property values, etc. There’s no reason why some businesses in an area are successful while others struggle. Each business can help a non-competing business by referring its customers.
SBT- Can you share with our readers what exactly is the Community Business Referral Network?
Sandra Alexander- Local community businesses have formed the Referral Network to refer customers to each other automatically and electronically. So 5 to 15 or more local businesses form what I like to call a “Referral Wheel” setup by categories. Each business refers its customers to other usually non-competing businesses that are members of the network. So for example, you may have a nail salon in the network and a hair salon. They both have customers that most likely would be interested in the other service. They are similar services, but non-competing services. That would be in our “beauty category” which would be made up other beauty or wellness related businesses. So those customers are given an incentive to patronize the other business and vice versa. It also introduces the business to brand new customers.
SBT- Having been chosen to administer the program, what are your duties?
Sandra Alexander- We are responsible for running the referral system, explaining the program, helping businesses create compelling offers, creating and running additional advertising offers, qualifying businesses for membership and other marketing and administrative duties. This also includes informing area businesses of the network and driving membership. Each member is also asked to drive membership and is given an incentive to do so. They are eligible for membership discount when businesses they refer join.
SBT – Have you found that business owners are too busy running their business and don’t want the hassle or have the time to refer their customers?
Sandra Alexander – It is true that business owners are busy running their companies, but it is not a concern because the program is very hands off for the business owner. We set up each business with a tablet, flyer/poster, or box, which the customer uses to join and start receiving the specials to the other businesses. We do encourage that at check out the business owner have their staff ask customers to join the “VIP Club.” They sign up and are automatically sent an email with the various coupons and specials being offered by the other members of the network. But customers can simply use their smart phone to scan the QR code to join or use the tablets and join that way, without interaction with the business owner or his staff.
SBT- You make the claim that business can get 30 to 70 new customers or more per month. How is that possible?
Sandra Alexander- The network not only brings customers through other businesses referring their walk-in clients, but it also uses social media to spread the word to potential new clients. Let me explain, when a customer signs up they receive an email with the deals offered by members of the network. That information is then shared with their friends on social media, mainly Facebook. So their friends and family are able to take advantage or the customer network and get the benefit of the deals as well. With the average Facebook user having 100-300 friends, even if just a fraction of those friends view the coupons, each business in the network is exposed to hundreds of potential new customers. And that cycle continues as those persons have 100-300 friends of their own. So being able to pull in 30 – 70 new customers a month is extremely attainable. Also as administrator of the CBRN, we have been tasked with insuring that the program is a success and will be doing additional advertising for the members of the network.
SBT- The Community Business Referral Network or CBRN sounds very interesting, but there are large deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, and even coupon mailers like Valpak, Money mailer and Savvy shopper magazine that a business could use to offer coupons. How is CBRN different?
Sandra Alexander- That is a good question. I’m glad you asked. First, let me say that we actually encourage businesses that have used sites like Groupon, Living Social, etc. or one of the mailer type coupons to join the CBRN. We do that because is a great way to jump start with the network and get that initial traffic through their doors. Then use the CBRN platform to encourage customers to join the coupon club, which captures the customers contact information allowing the business to follow up in the future. But there are many benefits to joining CBRN that are not available with those programs. To name just a few, it is less expensive than a few of those programs and offers ongoing referrals, not just a sudden rush of business for a few weeks.
Second, members of the network get a system that captures the contact information of a customer so that they can market to them on a continuous basis month after month or a few times a month and choose the type of special they want to offer, perhaps one that has very little cost to the business, but will still bring in the customers. In other words, they are not forced to offer half off deals or other high loss promotions like many of the deal sites require. It can be something as inexpensive as a free drink with purchase. Very low cost to the business, but enticing to the potential customer.
Third, a limit can be put on the number of coupons that will be accepted, this helps the business stay in control and not get overwhelmed with too much business at one time.
Forth, not only are you getting repeat business, but the businesses are being introduced to hundreds of other potential customers through social media. So your customers are coming back more often and introducing the business to their friends, the other member businesses are introducing you to their customer and the friends of their customers. That is not happening with Groupon, Living social, Valpak, Savvy shopper, Metro mailer and the others out there. At least, not that I am aware of.
Fifth, businesses are not splitting their profits with the deal site and having to wait for payment from the site, on average 45 – 90 days. They are also not being charged everytime the send out a coupon or announcement of an event or special like they would be with a mailer or magazine. Another thing is since most people don’t leave home without their phone, that phone is always with them they will have your deal with them when they are looking to purchase or in the area, etc. That’s not the case with some the programs you mentioned they have to remember to cut the coupon out and put in their pocket or purse and often that just doesn’t happen. And thus, the customers don’t bother to come in.
SBT- Are there any other advantages to being a CBRN member?
Sandra Alexander – Members get the satisfaction of seeing their local communities thrive, if they live in the neighborhood they help keep their area and town vibrant and keep property values up. Membership also includes a monthly 1 hour consultation where they are able to get marketing and advertising advice. They receive a tablet or flyers or a box that they can place in their business so customers can easily join the VIP club. In addition to that, the offers and coupon are further advertised to insure that the program continues to drive new customers to each business. Membership is month to month with no contract.
SBT- Is this program available outside of Gwinnett County?
Sandra Alexander – Yes. It’s not the Gwinnett Business Referral Network, it’s Community Business Referral Network so any community is welcome. We are encouraging businesses in Gwinnett to spread the word about CBRN. The more businesses in the network, the more successful it will be and each business has the opportunity to gain more business and more money. But other chapters of the network can be set up in any community and town. Business owners in any towns or communities are encouraged to contact us so that we can help them as well. We want to build small town America up and help as many towns and cities, as many businesses and restaurants to create thriving business districts.
Gwinnett County, one of Georgia’s largest counties, is looking forward to growing the network in local towns which consist of Duluth, Lawrenceville, Sugar Hill, Buford, Norcross, Snellville, Lilburn, Grayson, Loganville and Dacula. The network can be set up in any community and the hope is that this kind of community marketing and social responsibility will spread to other counties and other areas of the country. Many communities, small towns and businesses are in need of more sales and more customers. Businesses helping one another is a noble idea that hopefully will spread throughout the country.
To learn more about the Community Business Referral Network or schedule a free demo and consultation contact Salelynn Marketing at (888) 281-5450 or visit: http://community.citydealsnetwork.com/CBRN. Sandra Alexander can be reached by email at SalelynnMarketing@gmail.com.