How to be small but match the big guy at marketingJanuary 27th, 2012 by Mana
Valentine’s Day is coming up and Walmart and Walmart.com have been rocking the Valentine’s gifts section since the day after Christmas. So how do we prepare our marketing to match what the big guys are doing?
Observe and respond
Most large companies start their seasonal campaigning many months in advance. Valentine’s marketing went up in Walgreens right after Christmas “sales” ended. This gives you an advantage to observe, emulate, and do better.
Particularly in the case of large dot.coms, do watch and respond. Is Amazon offering a deal for an item found in store if the customer buys it online? Offer a “buy-it-now” deal. It doesn’t even have to be as deep of a discount as Amazon is offering, it just has to be a deal that can be used right now. Consumers respond to feeling cared for, right now (also known as instant gratification).
Or offer a return policy better than Amazon’s. John Moloznik says Fleet Feet Sports Chicago doesn’t have a return policy because they “want the customer happy with what they purchased.” They will take back worn shoes for example. “The only way to make sure the product will work for you is if you try it out within your normal routine and conditions. So use it and if something is just not right, we’ll take it back and help you find a different solution,” says Lauren Matricardi of Fleet Feet Sports Chicago. Moloznik says it hasn’t happened that anyone tried to abuse their “no return policy” policy.
I’ll confess I bought shoes on Amazon and Zappos and they don’t take back worn shoes. My local store wins.
Often online prices at large retailers are adjusted based on customer response. Many online travel engines automatically adjust pricing based on ticket search volume (yes, avoid searching for tickets on a Sunday). Sometimes manufacturers drop prices when online reviews turn sour. That’s what keeps people coming back to them – the mere idea that we may get a “fair” price. Think of ways you can apply that flexibility in your stores as well. If you were a website and you could tell when someone added an item to their cart, but didn’t check out, what would you do? Would you send them an email reminder? Would you send them a small discount so they finish their purchase?
Apply that same attention to a customer in your store. Does someone love a particular piece but is concerned about cost? Offer to email them if the price drops. Having that contact information is golden.
I once told an employee at Hazel that I was interested in a Hobo purse, which they didn’t have in store at the time. She emailed me a couple of months later to tell me the purses had come in. I was so impressed she hadn’t forgotten. And no, I didn’t get added to an email list. She truly just emailed me to tell me about the purses.
Get a (better) website
This is something you should not hold back on. Your website should be your main business card. All roads lead there, right before they lead to your store. So do your business justice and get a good website.
By a good website, I don’t mean an expensive website. I mean a useful website. And since 40-60% of web users today visit websites on mobile devices, make sure to have all the important information a mobile user may be looking for:
1. What are you selling
2. What sets you apart
3. What is your contact information
4. What are your hours
5. Are you running any promotions right now?
6. Do you have a clear “buy this” link to Little Independent?
Those should be on your front page, and on every page. They should also be in text format, not part of an image. I can’t count the number of times I couldn’t find a store because the address wasn’t listed in text format and thus my phone couldn’t copy and paste it into google maps. Call me lazy, but that’s today’s reality. If it’s not one click or finger-tap away, we quickly abandon.
Get on Google Places, Yelp, Facebook,Twitter, Foursquare and so on
You absolutely must be there. These all play a part in search. And people shop online by comparison. They search and shop. To be found in their search, you must be present online. To be present online you have to dedicate time to leave digital footprints that will lead back to you.
And you must fill in all blank spaces – description, mission, images, phone numbers, urls, email addresses, link to Little Independent. Give more than it’s expected and you will get back.
Offer exclusives, ask for feedback, say thanks to your audiences. Always say thanks. Get to know who they are, what they like or don’t like. Respect what they don’t like. Even if you disagree, you may find there’s much helpful advice that can come from our fans. One of our clients, City Island Restaurant, a new suburban restaurant changed their menu as a result of Facebook and Twitter feedback. Our followers were asking for gluten-free clarifications. Thus we realized we should clearly list all GF items and the menu was updated to great success.
I’ve seen Moose Jaw and Barnes&Noble team up. If you showed your bookstore receipt at Moose Jaw you got 10% off your purchase. The store employees encouraged me to go next door, buy a book and come back. That’s how it’s done.
If the big guys can do it, you can do it faster, easier and more efficiently. After all you actually do know your neighbors.
This is what I call “triple win marketing,” and it’s the most powerful kind of marketing. If you can have more than two parties win in a transaction you will see that each individual party wins much more overall than when only 2 parties are in a transaction. That’s because you pool the power of multiple networks, you get exposure to multiple networks, you extend your reach beyond your regular customers and audience.
So try this out: “Show your receipt from the neighbor store and get 10% off on an item.” Or “show your receipt from the corner bookstore and get a free coffee and vice versa.”
One of the most common concerns I hear from small businesses have to do with fear of spamming the customer. Large businesses don’t fail to ask for email addresses at point of sale. Few small retailers ask. It may be a POS issue or it may be that you are concerned about turning off the customer. Either way, customer contact information is gold. Why turn away gold?
Don’t think of it as spamming, think of it as communicating. Collect email addresses and Twitter names. Stay in touch with your customers. If they opted in to hear from you, and if you are graceful about your communication they won’t mind it. If they want that Hobo purse and you have that in store, let them know. If you have a dog-friendly store, let them know. If you have a story to tell, let them know. Check out how City Provisions does email marketing – it’s personalized, it’s relevant, and neighborly.
What are your tips on how to emulate what the big guys do on a small scale?
Mana Ionescu is the founder and president of Chicago Social Media Marketing company Lightspan Digital. Mana believes in clear and simple marketing solutions that deliver results. Start simple, test, learn and evolve. At Lightspan Mana created a company with focus on best-in-class methodology, to help businesses of all sizes learn and be able to adopt good social media practices. Lightspan also offers social media management and campaign development and execution. Mana loves to cook Romanian food, SCUBA dive and attend the Lyric Opera.
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