It’s tough out there in retail nowadays. In some areas of the country, fewer customers are making their way to our stores — and many dealers feel their marketing dollars are going to waste.

Rather than expending more energy on unproven methods to try to boost traffic, a smarter use of

resources is to shift focus onto the people who

actually are visiting your store.

Is your staff prepared to foster a relationship with customers each and every time they visit your store? It’s all about the customer, not the product. Check out these tips on how to create a memorable shopping experience that can boost your bottom line.

1. Send out targeted ads. Traditional marketing efforts are providing lower returns than ever, and large ad budgets are not a reality for many right now. Small-batch, direct-mail pieces are proving to be effective with existing and new customers. Try mailing creative postcards to neighborhoods in which you have recently made deliveries, or purchase a list of potential customers in prime areas. Send material weekly or contract a printing company to help with the task. Give customers a reason to visit your store: to check out new products, get their water tested, enjoy a discount if they bring a friend and so forth. This form of marketing is very effective for little cost.

2. Create community. Reach out to your customers with special, invitation-only events. Smaller, less expensive gatherings can be effective, and they keep the sales staff energized. It only takes a few extra sales to create positive energy in the store, and customers will respond with curiosity. Drive-by traffic is free! Capture people’s attention by placing tents, balloons or product in the front of the store.

3. Look the part. Consumers make quick decisions about your credibility. Don’t let a lack of professionalism scare them away. Change your dress code and purchase some nice company shirts. Feeling blah? Go for a new color. Or require business-casual attire. Customers will take note.

4. Get back on the floor. Managers and owners are finding themselves back on the sales floor these days, and consumers love the treatment. Take a look at your staff and their duties to see if your specialists need to accept some additional responsibilities during the slow times. Most small- and mid-size companies cannot currently afford the luxury of specialists who tend to one product category.

5. Refresh your pitch. If you’ve been making the same canned presentation for years, it’s time to analyze your current approach and alter it to make it truly different. Pay attention to your customers’ personalities and specific needs, and be upfront about your intentions.

For a new approach, tell customers: “I am not here to be a high-pressure salesperson. I want to take you on a tour of our products so you can see what’s out there.” It’s the anti-salesperson method — and your honesty will be refreshing. If you don’t feel you can change your sales approach yourself, invest in training from forward-thinking instructors.

6. Fit people to the product. Just as shoppers are expertly fitted to a set of golf clubs or ski boots, they should find that same level of service at your store. Spend time matching your products to their physical attributes. For instance, find out how each spa seat fits people of different heights and proportions. Research how the various jet configurations provide diverse hydrotherapy. Get in the spa yourself. Move around. As you do, think about why each seat is effective. Get your fellow team members involved and see how the spas fit them differently. Store up this first-hand information and use it to provide the perfect fit.

7. Take yourself out of the equation. While it’s essential that you draw on your personal experience, do not make the sales presentation about you. Salespeople often fall into a trap where if they’re excited about a certain feature, they’ll stress that point again and again in their pitches. But it may not necessarily be what interests their customers. Listen closely to them and adapt to the situation.

8. Don’t throw mud at your competition. Today’s consumers will not tolerate trash talk. Use your talent and personality to show them why they should choose you. If you don’t have confidence to speak highly of your firm and products, spend more time learning about your line and why a customer should purchase it.

9. Send customers home happy. Pamper shoppers who come into your store. They should never leave with just a brochure or business card. Create something different. Tape measures, graph paper, planning guides, manufacturer DVDs or videos, popcorn, rubber ducks or beach balls create a lasting impression that separates you from others.

10. Find a reason to call. Contact your customers within 48 hours to touch base and see if you can provide them with more information. Do note: This call should not involve a high-pressure sell. Rather, it should re-establish your relationship. If you bypass this step, you will miss the most important part of winning the sale in today’s competitive market.