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Beating a Recession – 10 February 17, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Recession: How to Beat It!, Retailer Store Strategies, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Small Business Advertising.
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David DirksI’ve written quite a bit about the fact that now is the time to keep some marketing and promotional steam instead of slashing and burning your marketing budget.  This time I thought we’d take a stab at how to bring some discipline to a marketing spend.  I would never advocate spending valuable dollars willy-nilly on just whatever strikes our fancy.

Here are my thoughts on marketing spend:

In-store merchandising: For most retailers, this is worth spending some money on but only if you are committed to keeping it fresh.  Stale merchandising signage is a quick way to see your sales go stale too.  If you have foot-traffic, make sure your in-store merchandising catches the eye and helps to create a sale. Keep it fresh but don’t go crazy and think you have to change it everyday or every week. Change up your merchandising schematic to keep your store looking fresh and a bit different for customers.

Promotional Items: Depending upon your business, most promotional items, which includes everything from branded pens to elaborate tool-like items, are not worth the money you spend on them.  I recently read an article written by someone who owns a promotional items firm.  The title of the article was something about ‘getting an ROI from promotional items’ or words to that effect.  I read the article and was left empty.  The article could give you all kinds of reason for buying promo items for your business but not one way to measure the “ROI”.  You know why?  You can’t very well measure the ROI of promotional items.

Look, here’s the deal: people will decide to do business with you because you offer them something they want or need at a price they are willing to pay…not because you gave them a pen.  When was the last time you bought something and could even remotely connect your purchase to the premium your received?  That’s what I thought.

Instead of buying premiums to ‘promote’ your business or brand, how about investing that money in more advertising or targeted direct mail instead?

Trade-shows: Whether you continue to invest in trade shows is really dependent on two things:  1) the type of business your are in and 2) whether you are able to track the results.  Some businesses, especially business who sell products or services to other businesses, trade shows are very important.

Here are my rules on tradeshows:

1.  It has to be a well-attended, well-promoted tradeshow.  Well-attended as defined as both currrent and potential customers.  Only do the best tradeshows and leave the marginal ones to everyone else.

2. Have a booth that is a magnet for data.  Design your booth so that people will be interested to stop by.  I don’t care if you have a gimmicky game they can play to win a prize or what.  What you’d better do is collect name, email, phone numbers, etc. from everyone you meet.  It works like this: Want to play our great game or win the iPod Nano?  Then give me your information please.

Advertising:  If you’ve been advertising for some time, you should have a good record of which media (print, radio, local TV, etc.) are the most effective for you.  Cut out everything else that isn’t effective.  If you haven’t kept records on your advertising performance, I can’t help you.

Here are my rules for advertising:

1.  If you can’t maintain a reasonable amount of frequency, don’t bother.  If you think running 2 ads a month in your daily paper will help, you’re wrong.

2. Every ad is trackable (in print in particular).  Make sure you offer the customer something in it and they have to bring the ad into the store to get the offer.

3.  Focus on the benefits of doing business with you, not the features.  In my area, there is one indoor shooting range.  The seem to be doing things right buy maintaining a very good frequency in their advertising and sometimes taking premium (like front page) positions.  Good except that they missed the boat to a degree.  Outside of explaining how nice and big their range is, they are flat.  How about a special offer to first time customers?  Or a coupon for X% off on your first purchase?  Maybe a special intro class for those interested in the shooting sports?

4.  Avoid free circulation media.  Everybody seems to like the paper that offers those great ad sizes for almost nothing.  You know why it’s almost nothing?  Because they can’t guarantee anyone is reading the thing.  If a publication has free circulation, run away.  It’s a mass-market rag that is more expensive than it sounds.   Why?  Because the sound you hear in the background are the crickets, not sales.

There’s more to advertising than this but this is a good start.

Direct mail: Do you capture the name, email, and mailing addresses of every customer for every purchase?  No?  Why?  Takes too much time?  Most retailers and other businesses fail this test miserably.  If you want to keep your current customers, one of the best ways is to communicate with them frequently enough where they remember you.

Here’s a case in point.  I recently purhased some furniture at a local store near my home.  It happens to be the place where we have purchased almost everything we own from them over time.  Yes, we check everyone else out but we come back to this store and end up getting better quality at a better price.  We’ve spent literally thousands of dollars there over the years and you know what?  They don’t know us.  They know where we live and have our address but don’t do anything with it?  How about a quarterly newsletter that had tips and ideas on room decoration and furniture care?  Some smart-aleck will say:  they don’t need a newsletter if you’re already coming back to buy from them?  Sure, that’s me but what about the customer sales they lose because they weren’t ‘top of mind’ when it came to a purchase?

So, do this:

1. Capture your customer data at the point of sale.  Most businesses I know miss this one completely.

2. Send them something that keeps your  name in front of them with enough frequency to stick.  I like newsletters (mailed or emailed) but you could do well with a simple postcard with some special messaging sent out once every quarter.

3. Work with a good graphic designer who can help you design direct mail items that are professional looking.  Unless your are a graphic designer, don’t try to save a few bucks here.

4.  Make your direct mail efforts trackable.  If you can’t track it, don’t do it.

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