Learn and Earn From The Special
An effective way to not only market your business but to receive valuable customer input is to run a special contest for the best idea. You could either offer a cash prize, valuable merchandise prize or significant discount on future purchases. Everyone likes to "win" something. Your headline has to be powerful enough to make people interested in participating.
You should put your product name in the headline targeting those people who patronize your business i.e. "Are you buying an xyz product this month? If so, you can receive $1,000 for your suggestions!" Then go on to explain that you own a business that sells xyz products or services and that you would like to improve your xyz offerings even though many customers say you already carry excellent inventory and deliver wonderful service.
Tell the customer that instead of spending the $1,000 to hire an outside consultant, you thought the money would be better spent getting input from the people who really matter, THEM! (It is important that you explain this to the reader because they will wonder why you are running such a contest. Always tell them WHY.) Explain that you will pay the $1,000 to the person who contributes the best idea to improve your company and its xyz products or services.
NOTE: if you leave the ad like this, your response will not be as good as it could be. There has to be a valuable second prize that you can offer to the first 100 entrants. (Possibly a certificate or coupon for a 15 or 20% discount on your products or services) Discuss the value of the second prize and tell people how to enter the contest, what the address is etc.
People tend to think that if there is only one prize that the contest is "out of reach". If you offer a second prize to a fair number of people then your response increases dramatically. Entrants feel that even if they don’t win the grand prize they will certainly have a good chance to win the valuable second prize, if they are prompt with their entry of course!
You might think that an ad like this is too "copy intensive" and that people will not read it. The fact is that if you make your headline compelling enough, people will read and respond to an ad with lots of copy. It has been proven that for many products and services, copy intensive ads pull much better than ads with less information. In this case, once you receive all the suggestions and implement the best ones, you need to tell your customers that you have listened.
Let them know that you used their input. You could even put up a professionally done foam core board or poster at the entrance to your establishment telling customers what they said and what you did about it. When you listen to the people that make your business (your customers) and you tell them about it becomes a powerful selling point.
Keep in mind that you can offer any kind of contest to bring people into your establishment - not just an idea competition. Be creative and think of what other kinds of contests you could have to bring in customers, get leads and increase referrals.