You must have a marketing plan, no matter how big or small your store is because your competitors—especially the chains—are marketing to your customers.
“The best use of your marketing money is to hold on to current
customers with thank-you notes, postcards and newsletters,”
says Bob Phibbs. “Those in turn will lead your existing customers
to tell their friends about you. Then, to attract new customers
to your store, match up your demographics with what vehicles you
can use to get your message out there.”
CREATE INCENTIVES TO BUY
1. Inventory your store and decide if what you carry makes you a
“want” retailer—someone who provides an item or
service that gives the buyer a special feeling—or a “need”
retailer—someone that truly fills a core need of the buyer.
Salesmanship and merchandising are required for the want—you
sell image and style over substance and need. Know who you are and
what you have to offer, then you can build a framework for all of
your marketing choices.
2. Profile your customers. You need to know, in as much detail,
who buys from you and where they come from. Build a profile of demographics
of who buys from you and compile a database of your customers.
3. Focus your advertising on your target audience. Independents
have an advantage over chains in that they know customers and neighborhoods
4. Use a card file to hold on to current customers. There is nothing
that develops loyalty as much as sending personal notes to customers
expressing your appreciation of their business. Written thank-you
notes are the way to make word-of-mouth marketing happen. Everyone
likes to be noticed.
5. Find a way to reward those loyal customers on your mailing list.
Why not try a frequent buyer club? Get old customers to come back
by staying in touch with them as well. Successful independent retailers
should send each person at a certain buying level at least one personal
note a year.
6. Get referrals. Design a short postcard and send it out to your
satisfied customers asking for their recommendations and permission
to use their names for a referral list. It’s easy and makes
a lot of sense.
7. Build partnerships with businesses that don’t sell the
same products but who sell to the same type of customer demographic.
Also, form alliances with your competition. Such an alliance offers
cost savings and increased exposure for both businesses. It is a
rare business that is identical to the other in terms of location,
product and ambiance.
8. Brand yourself. You can’t compete head-to-head with national
chains, but you can do what they do: stick your logo on everything—cards,
signage, brochures, packaging, napkins, etc. Let yourself be seen.
9. Put up a billboard across from a chain store. You can’t
afford to blanket the city with ads and mailers like big chains,
but you can buy one strategically placed billboard for potential
10. Put up a Web site that at least lists hours, location, testimonials,
special promotions, etc.
11. Sponsor community events to make people feel good about shopping
with you and helping you contribute to the community.
“Remember,” adds Phibbs, “never discount a premium
product and, generally, avoid discounts or coupons as your main
source of marketing. It shows no creativity; you create incentives
to buy with good products, good service, a good shopping environment,
and a well-trained sales force—don’t just give it all
Bob Phibbs, is the Retail Doctor, www.retaildoc.com.
He has helped hundreds of small- and medium-size businesses in every
major industry, including hospitality, manufacturing, service, restaurant
and retail. He and his work have been featured in Entrepreneur magazine,
the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. In addition, Phibbs
provides business makeovers for the Los Angeles Times.