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Retailer Strategies: Beating the Big Boxes December 20, 2008

Posted by David Dirks in Building Foot Traffic, business strategy, Buzz Marketing: Lowest Cost/Highest Payoff, Marketing Buzz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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David DirksA regular reader of our blog, a marketing director of a two-store retail operation, recently sent me this note:

“I have stumbled across your site via Google, and have found many useful tips, and ideas to use in our day to day operations with my previous employer in the retail industry.

I am now in the retail world, and although similar in the “customer focused industry”.   I am finding it harder to come up with ideas to draw in foot traffic for our unique, upscale home & garden boutique.  We capture e-mails & information, send out mass e-mails with flyers, intimate wine & cheese events that have a store wide sale during that event.  I’m in the process of creating a newsletter for launch Jan 1, and our owners are constantly running a sale of some sort (which I think devalues the product if there is a 15-25% off sale every day).

Do you think you can help? I need something that will create a buzz quickly, our owners want fast results…”
I called her and we had a nice chat.  For the most part, she is doing many things already that will pay bigger dividends as time goes on.  She’s new to the retailer she works for now and has some excellent marketing skills.  After our conversation, I sent her an email recapping some of my thoughts.

I thought you might find them helpful, so I’ve added my summary to her below:

Thanks again for taking the time to chat with me today.  We’re glad that you’ve found the “Running with the Big Dogz” blog helpful to you.

I thought it would be good just to quickly recap a few items we discussed:

  • It seems that you are already creating additional customer value by developing your newsletter and adding other ‘event’s’ to your store schedule.
  • Increasing the number customers that are added weekly to the customer database will become more critical as time goes on.  I would recommend capturing all customers, even those who are from out of town.  You can still send them an electronic version of your newsletter if the newsletter is packed with tips & advice on gardening, basic skills, etc. The out-of-town customers will be your internet customers of the future.
  • Your strategic advantage against the big box competitors in your market is your ability to drill down to the customer level. The big boxes have no customer level tracking whatsoever.  If you capture POS data for every customer, you’ll soon have a treasure trove of demographic and buying data that will help you refine your product/service set as well as target very customized offers to your customers based on their historical buying habits.
  • Web-based sales should be a high priority and acceleration of for expanding sales/service via the internet is key.  You indicated that they had already begun some minor commercial expansion of the website but I would make it a much higher priority than it is.  Internet sales may or may not overtake your in-store sales but the goal is to add incrementally profitable revenue streams.
  • Your ‘girls night out’ program sounds excellent and we discussed creating a similar package for the men too.
  • I highly recommend reducing or cutting completely any marketing spend on flyers or ads in free distribution periodicals.  As I noted, it might be better to spend that money on more ‘one-to-one’ marketing programs like your demographically target events, targeted direct mail offers, and more investment in commercializing your website.
  • We also discussed the alternative of possibly empowering your sales team to offer an instant X% discount for buyers who need just a slight push to make the sale that day.  It may be a much more constructive way to offer a discount ONLY IF NECESSARY to keep a customer from walking out.  It might be more effective than the constant “gotta sell everything today at a discount” mentality.  The caveat is that if the “deep” discounting works and your profit margins remain stable, then it may make sense to keep doing it.
  • To get more mileage from your PR marketing efforts, especially for your special events, I’d call and develop a relationship with the business editors at the major paid circulation newspapers and other periodicals.
  • One of the best ways to help ‘sell’ a marketing proposal is focusing on the benefits (not the features of the program) and use real examples from other high performing businesses to demonstrate that the concept has a track record of success.

Based on what I heard today, you are on the right track and are doing the things that will provide you with the recession-resistent flow of business.  It will take time but it will come.  Keep up the great work!

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Have a burning marketing and/or sales issue?  Feel free to email me at dirksmarketing@gmail.com and see if together we can come up with some ways to solve it.

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