I Love What This Small Grocery Store Is Doing To Attract Customers

Aaron Hoos

It’s a common topic of discussion among business owners that bricks-and-mortar stores are dying… as if the very presence and ubiquity of the internet is leading to the inevitable demise of in-person shopping.

And maybe that’s a possibility in the future… for some stores… but I don’t see it as the sweeping inevitability that people claim.

In-person shopping is changing, not going away. I think that’s a reason why one of my most popular blog posts is 14 Ways That Retailers Can Embrace Showrooming… because people are going to stores to try things out before buying them online.

And as a disclaimer, I’m no different: I like shopping in some stores (bookstores, clothing stores, coffee shops, unique/handcraft stores) and HATE shopping in others (grocery stores, home renovations stores). I frequently buy from Staples and have it shipped to my house even though I can literally see a Staples from my homeoffice window. And I prefer shopping online at Rona (the Canadian version of The Home Depot or Lowes) versus going into that cavernous and confusing store.

But that doesn’t mean I think bricks-and-mortar stores are dead. I just think the nature of how people use them is changing, and stores need to step up to remain relevant to consumers.

This Company Is Doing It Right

Take a local company that is doing some interesting things to address this: Hoa An Market. They are an Asian grocery store with a few challenges facing them: they’re tucked away off the beaten path in my city… and just a 2 minute walk from Safeway, and a 10 minute drive from several big box grocery stores and at least 3 other Asian grocery stores that I know of.

How do they get the word out to prospective clients? How do they compete with all the other general and Asian-specific grocery stores within a 10 minute drive? How do they create customer loyalty and repeat business?

There are a few reasons, including their online presence, especially on Facebook, which is pretty good; their selection and prices are competitive; and, they are a supplier of some ingredients to all the Asian restaurants in town.

But the thing they really excel at is their cooking classes. Yes, I realize that grocery stores offering cooking classes is not a new concept, but it’s just not done enough, and I don’t see it done at this scale (to this many people as consistently).

Hoa An Market’s cooking classes are dialed in. They have 2-3 popular classes each week on a range of cooking topics, typically cooking a familiar Asian dish.

The classes have about 20 people in them, they are affordable ($20 per person and you finish the class eating a meal together), they are fun, and they frequently sell out.

Last month I attended my first cooking class at Hoa An Market, where they taught us to make a classic Asian noodle dish. The lesson started at 6:45 and went until about 8:30 or so. The instructor taught us the main dish, with multiple options, and then a few side dishes too. She had volunteers take part in the process and there was plenty of opportunity to smell or taste the food. At the end, the food was laid out and we each piled our plates buffet-style and ate together.

Aaron Hoos

This simple strategy is so brilliant; I don’t know why more stores (not just grocery stores) don’t do it.

The math tells me that it makes financial sense: 20 people x $20 each x 3 sold-out classes each week is $1200 for about 6 hours of presenting (and food costs, of course).

Plus, at least half of the people stayed and shopped, with several of us buying things used during the class.

Plus, many of the people were repeat attendees, which means we are all more profitable customers (versus brand new customers).

Plus, they advertise their classes on their Facebook page (which probably means I’ve liked their page), and I used my email to sign up and to get the recipes on the following day (which means they can market to me via email).

Not Just For Grocery Stores

I can imagine other store owners thinking in frustration about how to showcase their goods to a captive audience. THIS IS IT! This same principle can be adopted by other grocery stores and, in fact by many other brick-and-mortar businesses.

  • Can a local stationery store teach watercolors, calligraphy, or hold writing workshops?
  • Can a local electronics store teach the latest in tech, how to hook up their stereos, hidden features that people don’t know how to use in their equipment, or what those different aspect ratios actually do?
  • Can a local mechanic teach how to quickly understand what sounds a car makes when things aren’t working properly, or how to extend the working life of your car?
  • Can a local hairdresser teach the latest hairstyling trends and how to do them yourself at home?
  • Can a local clothing store teach the latest in fashion and how to mix and match existing wardrobe pieces to look fashionable?

I’m just scratching the surface. I think there are many opportunities for a bricks-and-mortar store to extend into teaching, because I don’t think bricks-and-mortar shopping is going away; rather, I think it will only thrive if it turns into an experience and starts capturing eyeballs and wallets in a different way.

Copywriting Tip: Mention A Higher Price Earlier In Your Copy

Aaron Hoos - Copywriting Tips

People know they’re reading copy, and you’re not trying to hide it. Implicitly, they know you have something to sell them, so they’re expecting a price.

But of course you want to position your price as being great value, and a lower price than they were expecting.

The way to do this is to stick a higher price earlier in your copy. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Mention the VALUE of your product or service
  • Mention a higher-priced product that your customer could buy
  • Mention a higher-priced service that you sell
  • Mention a higher-priced service that a competitor sells

You don’t even have to be intentionally comparative about it; people will view the price and then later, they’ll view your product’s purchase price in comparison to the earlier price (even if it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison).

(Hey! While you’re here, check out my other copywriting tips for persuasion secrets and psychology hacks to increase conversions.)

Copywriting Tip: Use Lingo And Jargon To Build Instant Rapport

Aaron Hoos - Copywriting Tips

We tend to prefer people who are like us; who are “inside” our group.

The easiest way to prove that you’re an insider is to use lingo and jargon that your audience would.

So, identify your avatar and try to get comfortable using the words they’d use. Don’t force it; be smooth… but prove yourself to be an insider by using the words your audience knows.

(Hey! While you’re here, check out my other copywriting tips for persuasion secrets and psychology hacks to increase conversions.)

Next Level(s): Achieved

Aaron Hoos

It’s been an interesting few months.

I’ve felt for a little while like I was stuck in my business. Not in a terrible way; not that my business was doing poorly; rather, I was doing well and wanted to grow more… yet, I felt I was hitting my head on a ceiling of what I could achieve.

There was growth (i.e. I hired a writer in the fall of 2017, and another one in the spring of 2018). But it was slow progress, in the same way that inflation rises by a small, predictable level every year. I didn’t just want predictable growth, I wanted to push for more.

And then suddenly it happened.

… And then a second time.

… And then a third time.

Three “new levels” in three months; very rapid growth that, each time, took me to perceptibly higher levels in my business that I could barely fathom the month earlier.

A Chronicle Of Three Unexpected Level-Ups

The first one: December 2018 was the first big turning point! I’d come back from a client’s event and was working with a client and a consultant he’d hired to grow his business. Together, the three of us put a plan in place that required a lot of work. Frankly, I had no idea how much work it was and I had to work VERY HARD (and very, very long hours) through December to achieve what I had committed to.

I thought I’d reached my absolute maximum capacity in the days before Christmas. Then I took Christmas day off and jumped back in on the 26th—not because I wanted to but because I was falling far behind and hated that so many people were relying on me yet I was struggling to keep up.

But then something happened: After Christmas, it was almost as if I’d reached a new level. Perceptibly.

I cranked out work like never before, while also getting back to a sense of balance and structure that I’d lost in the weeks leading up to Christmas. It was amazing (and also very hard to describe beyond the words “next level”, which I realize is over-used but highly applicable).

The second one: Then, as I worked through January, the projects picked up again and I pushed hard a second time in order to hit some deadlines, especially in preparation of an upcoming trip… and it happened again: a perceptible shift even higher, achieving an ability to work with a higher level of focus to create even more work (while also still maintaining the structure/balance that I want in my life).

The third one: Then it happened a third time in early February: A client hired a few staff to work with me (a couple of assistants and a couple of graphic designers) on his payroll, but directed by me to create content for him. This pushed me a third time beyond what I thought I was capable of to create more content in less time by coordinating with several team members to produce great stuff.

Thoughts About Growing To The Next Level

Why am I telling you this? Mostly it’s because I’m processing it in my own mind right now. I’m trying to quantify what happened, when it happened, and how it happened. So far, all I’ve been able to identify is this: in both recent cases, I stretched myself beyond what I thought I was capable of achieving to discover the thing I’ve been trying to attain for a while.

In each case, I was FORCED to go beyond what I was comfortable or what I wanted to do; FORCED to push hard… even beyond what I thought was my breaking point. (Of course this shouldn’t come as a surprise, right? After all, that’s how a muscle grows.)

An Early Reflection On Levels

What I’ve written below is a post that I posted on Facebook earlier this year. It was an early reflection of that first levelling-up in late December. I’m sharing it now because it’s neat to read this early reflection and I think the lessons are still applicable now.

#1. Growth means a new level above what you can even fathom. If you told me last year what my business would be like now, I wouldn’t have believed you. But here it is. Yes, I had a vision for my business but it still grows in unfathomable ways. It’s like driving in the fog. You know where you want to go, but you can only see a few feet in front of you at a time. You drive anyway, hope you don’t crash into anything, and, if you’re careful, you’ll likely get where you want to go.

#2. When you push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of, you force yourself to create a solution. It’s the real-life version of the often-quoted phrase: “jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down.” This week I set a daily goal in my business that was higher than I ever thought possible. (Even last week I thought it was impossible). But, since setting that goal, I’ve surpassed it one day and almost achieved it another day… *but* the strategies I’ve developed in just 2 days have suddenly made this “not-possible” goal surprisingly possible. It used to be an aspirational dream to hit this goal, and now I have the practical tools to do it because I forced myself to figure it out.

#3. Be methodical. The things I thought weren’t possible have become possible because of one thing: I broke down my impossible goal into tiny steps and then figured out how to achieve each tiny step. It works. I run a checklist of activities everyday that move me in the right direction. As a result, even though I hit my goal one day and missed it the other day, I’ve got more done in the past 2 days than I used to do all week. Part of that process is scripting everything in my workday and eliminating the open-endedness that so easily distracts from productivity.

#4. Cut what’s not working… but balance that against patient building. This one is tricky! It’s the lesson I’m learning right now. On the one hand you have to eliminate the stuff in your business that is not working so you can focus on the clients and activities that deliver for you. On the other hand, there’s something about patiently building something brick-by-brick, knowing that it may not pay off now or in the next couple of years but will do so in the distant future. There’s a tension there I’m trying to work through to understand what can be cut and what should be patiently pursued.

What’s The Next Level?

Three levels in three months. It’s been a wild ride. I love it and it’s thrillingly terrifying each time, especially since I think I know what I want to come next in my business but each time these perceptible leaps are far beyond and far better than I could even imagine.

I’m now thinking: can I force it? Each time has felt almost accidental and beyond my control but is it possible to force the next level? Is it possible to push myself harder than ever to bring it about without the external pressure applied by clients or deadlines? Or does it only come from outside pressure like a piece of coal crushed into a diamond?

I’m about to find out because in March I’m going to see if I can force myself beyond what I think I can do again.

Copywriting Tip: Use Questions To Draw Your Reader Through The Copy

Aaron Hoos - Copywriting Tips

People hate open loops. They need to close them. People hate loose ends (even though most of our lives are loose ends!)

Want an example? Try tapping the well-known “shave-and-a-haircut” and see who finishes. That’s a silly example but it perfectly illustrates the concept of the hatred of open loops. People need to close them.

So what does that mean for your copy? Ask questions frequently. Ask them in a sub-heading and answer it in the section that follows, or ask in the first sentence of a paragraph, and then answer it in the remaining paragraph. Or ask it at the end of a section and answer it in the next section.

Don’t follow this formula too precisely; mix it up. Otherwise, your copy will look like it was written by a robot. But bottom line: use questions to create open loops.

(Hey! While you’re here, check out my other copywriting tips for persuasion secrets and psychology hacks to increase conversions.)