An Eight-Step Plan for Finding the Perfect Location

One of life’s most painful moments comes when we must admit that we didn’t do our homework, that we are not prepared.
Merlin Olsen, former football star

When helping clients choose a great location I often find that they get stuck on a particular place. It’s not always the best place, but for whatever reason they develop an emotional attachment to it very quickly. Rather than going straight for your first choice, here is an eight-step plan of action I suggest that you follow:

1. Buy a city map and drive to every shopping center in the area. Real estate agents very often only show you what they want to show you. Plus, by doing it yourself you will get a better feel for the area.

2. Write down the phone numbers of all the rentals in shopping centers that seem to meet your basic criteria for size, location, and visibility and circle them on your map. Give each a number and note one other key store in the center for reference. (After driving in circles for a few hours it’s easy to forget which is which.)

3. Always find at least three or four options before calling and getting prices. Remember to call centers you like that have no vacancies; they may well have a tenant on the way out. I have gotten many of my best locations from this simple tip.

4. Drive to each location at different times of the day and on weekends and note how busy the center is at each time. Some centers are day centers, some centers are night centers, some are weekend centers, and some are always busy. Which type is best suited for your particular business?

5. Watch the traffic flow of both people and cars. On more than one occasion I have seen business owners jump at a location because of a major anchor at one end of the shopping center, only to find people parking in front of the anchor and never even glancing at the far end of the center. Also important to consider, especially in a bigger center, is how the traffic flows. A store located right at the entrance to the parking lot will get far more attention and traffic. Best of all there is rarely a premium put on this space.

6. Perhaps the best test of all is to visit several individual businesses. Ask them how business is, how the landlord is, and whether traffic in the center is growing or shrinking. Ask how long the space has been for rent. This can be a big help in your negotiations with the landlord, especially if it’s been around a while. Empty space generates no money.

Always take what they have to say with a pinch of salt but listen to what they tell you. Often you will uncover information that will help you in making a decision. Is the anchor tenant about to leave? Is the city about to tear up the road? Or is the shopping center about to be sold?

7. Look at who your neighbors would be in the specific space. If they attract your types of customers, it’s a big plus. If they attract teenage boys, it may be a minus.

8. Finally gather all the data, pick the best one with a second as a backup and enter into the negotiation stage. Remember that you don’t have to accept anything currently on the market if they are not winners. Maybe you can sublease space in an existing store while you wait for the perfect place. This also reduces your costs.

Don’t get emotionally attached to a particular location. Follow this eight-step plan and you will choose a superior location.

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Always Act Decisively!

I try to learn from the past, but I plan for the future by focusing exclusively on the present. That’s where the fun is. - Donald Trump

Once a series of solutions has been generated, the next step is to prioritize each possible solution based on vital factors, such as time, money, effort required, and resources available. Cunningly Clever Entrepreneurs have a unique ability to identify which idea will make the greatest possible difference, in the shortest possible time, using the least amount of resources, both financial and human.

Before making a final decision, ask the question “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I make this decision?” Once satisfied that the rewards of your decision outweigh the risks, take ACTION! Do not procrastinate on making a decision; procrastination is very often the enemy. Few problems grow better with time, most grow in size and complexity.

Never Fall in Love with Your Product

"Experience is what you get when you are looking for something else." - Mark Twain

Mark Twain lost his entire fortune on a series of entrepreneurial ideas, most notably a typesetting machine that never actually worked. Twain, like many of us, fell in love with the idea and simply didn’t know when to say stop.

I have a friend in the exotic car business whom I visit quite often. Every time I’m down at his house, he has a Ferrari, Aston Martin, Bentley, or some other beautiful car in the driveway. He lets me drive whatever he has, which for a car nut like me is heaven. Invariably I say, “Why don’t you keep this one?”

Why He With the Biggest Database Always Wins!

This is a fact most business owners are not really very happy about since the total sum of their data collection efforts over the last 20 years amounts to 750 names and addresses and the 113 emails they collected this year but haven’t yet gotten into the computer!

This may not be you but — trust me on this — I talk to hundreds of business owners a month and this example is better than average!

The size and quality of your database is your foundation for the long-term success of any marketing campaign yet the simplicity of this fact is lost on many. When I ask seminar audiences full of business owners and marketing executives what’s the first thing they would do to market a new business, buying a database of people who have an interest in that product is rarely, if ever, mentioned. When it is, it comes way down the list of suggestions after running ads, going to trade shows, and even renting billboards.

A Tale of Two Corvette Stores

Imagine two businesses in Los Angeles that sell parts and accessories for Corvette sports cars. One has a database of 600 Corvette owners while the other has a database of 6,000.

Who do you think is in the position of strength?

One can market to a large enough database to maintain a healthy business while the other must run his business while constantly searching for more prospects.

It does not matter what business you are in. You need a large enough database of people who have put their hands up as qualified prospects so you can sort through them to find an adequate number of actual customers. Most businesses do a terrible job of building their databases. Golf courses that have seen 50,000 people a year play their course for two decades have email lists that total 750 names (honestly, that’s the average!). Car dealerships selling hundreds of cars a month can’t find 1,000 good addresses to mail to.

Local electrical, air conditioning, water purification, and lawn services do hundreds of transactions but never collect data on their customers. They are forced instead to run endless coupon ads looking for new customers when everyone they ever needed was already in their grasp!

If you are selling coffins, build a list of very old people. If you are selling video games, build a list of teenagers and young adults. If you are selling homes in Florida, build a list of affluent people who are about to retire. If you sell cigars, build a list of people who smoke them. If you sell stuff for weddings, build a list of people about to get married. NOTHING is more important than building your database!


He with the biggest database of prospects wins! Not occasionally, not some of the time, but all of the time, every time!

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Build Bridges!

Instead of loving your enemies, treat your friends a little better. - Ed Howe

Someone once said, “It takes less effort to keep an old customer satisfied than to get a new customer interested.” The final element of a great sales system is the follow-up. No matter what you are selling, your job doesn’t end the instant the client completes the purchase. You want your relationship with the customer to continue and grow stronger, so he will buy from you again and recommend you to friends.

Reinforce the Buying Decision
After you have made a sale, reinforce the buying decision immediately. Compliment the buyer’s choice by saying, very sincerely, something like, “Based on what you have told me, I’m sure your new exercise machine is exactly what you need to get in great shape. I know you are going to be very happy with it.” In other words, reassure your customer that the decision to buy your product, rather than one offered by anyone else, is an excellent one. Be sure to thank them for their business; they had a choice and they chose you.

Why Marketing Fails!

In the TWO minutes or so you will spend reading this page, I am going to save you hundreds of thousands of dollars and years of trial and error by detailing exactly why most businesses fail to reach their marketing goals. This is not subjective; this is not my opinion; it is based on over 20 years of research into the science of marketing and the analysis of several hundred clients.