You already know that effectively marketing your retail business goes beyond advertising in traditional and new media. But we often have conversations with retailers who ask us for other inexpensive (or free) ways they can be getting their name out to potential customers – and how to get their existing customers to visit more often.
So we put together a few of our ideas that we think every retail business should consider. Even if a few of these are no-brainers, taking a look at your customer service or your outreach can sometimes unearth some areas where you can improve your retail marketing.
How do you say “Hello”?
How do you and your employees greet your customers when they walk into your business? Do you approach them right away, offering help? Do you offer a passing greeting while letting them find their way around your store? Do team members only say something once customers make eye contact with them?
How you greet your customers sets the tone for that visit. Make sure your message engages them the way you would want to be engaged. Do your employees have the proper training to be able to offer help to customers and find them the products or services they need? If customers don’t feel like you understand what they need, they will go somewhere else to find someone who does.
Make sure all employees know what is expected of their customer interactions, and make sure you have ongoing training to keep their knowledge as polished as possible. If your customers have confidence in your employees, you have a better shot at them having confidence in your business.
Do you know what you could be doing better?
What you’re doing might have been working for years, but what happens when your customers’ expectations change? Do you really know what your customers think about how you stack up to your competition, or even with other non-related businesses?
You can engage your customers informally during checkout or by picking up the phone and calling after their visits. If you want more formal answers, send them an email invitation to take an online survey (if you have their permission to email them), or email questions directly to them. If your Point-of-Sale system allows it, include a couple of questions at the bottom of your receipts with an email address where they can send their responses.
Most importantly, if you’re going to be soliciting feedback, you should be willing or able to make some changes. If your customers do have a problem AND they know they’ve told you about it, they’re going to expect you to do something about it (or at least to address it with them). If you ignore it, you could end up frustrating your customers even more.
Get involved in helping your community
Do you know about organizations or other businesses in your neighborhood who are helping in the community? And do they know about you? Are you doing what you can as a company to inform your customers about how they can help in the community? Are you getting involved in the fundraisers and events going on right around you?
Many major manufacturers have millions of dollars they can spend on philanthropy. And it works! But playing a role that helps people in your community doesn’t need to cost much – or even any – money.
Find local organizations or causes that align with what your business does or causes you believe in. Own a neighborhood shoe store? Contact a local group coordinating a 5K fundraiser, and volunteer to hang posters, accept / process sign-ups, and host a pre-event shirt / chip pick-up. Have a store that closes early or opens late? See if any groups can use your parking lot for a concert in the evening or a neighborhood garage sale early in the morning. (Just be sure to make sure your insurance covers you for such events). Promote the event inside your store in the lead-up to it. Think creatively about what you have to offer, and find a cause that can use it. Odds are, there’s an organization out there who’d love to take you up on your offer and who will be more than happy to include your business name in their outreach efforts.
Do your customers know how to find your information online? Do you know what is being said about you on business review websites? Are you getting the pages views you were hoping for out of your Search Engine Optimization or Search Engine Marketing efforts?
In all of these situations, engaging online can improve your presence and drive more customers your way.
Take advantage of free services such as Google’s business listings to have your location, contact information, and hours readily available for users who look for your store online. To improve your chances of being listed in organic searches, make sure to create a site map of your online site and submit it to the search engines. Find blogs or other sites that offer information about the type of goods and services you offer, and use your expertise to offer valuable comments on those sites. Visit customer review sites, such as Yelp, often to protect your brand reputation online.
Any of these efforts stands to improve your standing within organic searches on the major search engines, and that improvement in content quality may also improve the performance (and decrease the cost) of your purchased search engine ads.
Analyze your numbers
Do you know what subset of your customers bought your highest-margin items last year? Do you know how successful your advertising last year was in bringing you new customers? Do you know how many people are visiting your company website each day, and what percentage of those potential customers are buying from you?
Analysis is the key to understanding what is and isn’t working within your business, and how to improve on the areas that need some work. And while it can be pricey or time-consuming to do a full-scale analysis of all areas of your business (and it’s often worth it), you can start small by first coming up with a few questions you want answered and trying to find the answers to those.
First take a look at the basics. What ARE your highest-margin items? Do you a have loyalty program (even if it’s just a basic one) that affords you a bit more understanding of who your customers are? Even if you only have basic information, you can often have that augmented with pay list services, or do it yourself. The customer satisfaction surveys mentioned earlier in this article can be a great way for you to ask a couple of targeted questions about your customers (do they live in the neighborhood? Do they have kids? Do they own or rent their homes?) Once you know that, you can figure out how to target other people like them to buy your targeted products.
Consider email campaigns for some of your advertising so you can measure how many customers responded to that communication. Think about adding Google Analytics to your business website so you can see where your customers are coming from, what they do when they get to your site, and how many of them are buying your products.
Even if you don’t think you have a lot of data, you can learn a lot, even from a little. If you start small, you may be surprised at what you can learn.
And that’s the case for any of these ideas. Starting small (and having goals for each initiative before hand, so you know if your efforts are working) can have a real impact on the success of your business. With most of these ideas being free – or close to it – it can’t hurt to try.
Looking for help in executing any of these ideas or developing a strategy tailored to your retail business? We’ve helped countless retailers do just that. Drop us a line!