Marketing and Marketing Communications Challenges For the Midsized Retailer

The consumer started to spend a little more in the first quarter of 2010 and, according to Bloomberg data, Wall Street analysts have upped their earnings estimates for more than 100 U.S. retail stocks. Good news, especially coming from Wall Street.

But, what if you’re not a Big Box store or boutique retailer? Let’s say you have about twenty doors and, while your on-line sales may be increasing, as a midsized retailer the “bricks and mortar” versus “e-commerce” investment strategy still presents a challenge to you.

Consider also the 27 percent increase in coupon redemption, according to Nielsen the first time in 17 years that consumers used more coupons than in the year before. You know you can’t continue to discount yourself into sustainable profitability, so to drive profitable revenue in the short and long term – isn’t it time to re-evaluate how you market yourself and what marketing communications tactics to employ?

Learn The New Marketing Environment
Before you start making any changes, step back and determine what your customers and employees think about your product and service offerings. You probably think you know everything about your existing and potential customers, but other than price, are you really sure you know what’s important to them?

And what about your employees? Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” issue points out, based on research done by the Hay Group, that these companies actually believe that employees are their most valued asset. They are your true brand advocates and probably know a lot about what may be holding you back from further growth.

For instance, in your retail environment, have you trained your staff effectively to deliver value to your customers? Have you provided them with the tools to create an engaging one-on-one experience? Consider leveraging your staff or bringing in a “local expert” for an evening event and creating co-promotion with a brand that can bring you both new customers.

And a similar evaluation needs to be done for your e-commerce business. What does your website say about you? What do you know about these customers and their needs and interest? How are they different from your in-store purchasers? Are your emails or social media tactics inspiring them to purchase?

Forrester, the tech research firm, believes we are now living in the era of “Splinternet” and must move with caution through the new world of consumer data mining, applications and internet standards. Mobile advertising and Facebook professionals moving to LinkedIn, for example, are just some of the most recent media selection challenges.

Find marketing consultants who can help you answer these questions with clarity, and then help you communicate with your constituents. Look before you leap.

Be Media Neutral
Assuming you have enough employee advocates on the floor and your retail environment is inviting and tells your story and your website is “smokin”, how do you determine the best mix between new and traditional media? Don’t be seduced by media efficiency. Media efficiency must be coupled with media effectiveness.

All of this starts, again, with knowing your customer. For instance, age is one key factor. According to a January, 2010 study by SSRS:

  • Only 20 percent of adults aged 18 – 49 read a print version of a newspaper every day, while 42 percent of adults aged 50+ do;
  • Further, while 34 percents of adults 18 – 49 prefer to get their news online, less than half of that number aged 50+ want online news.

And there’s the medium itself to consider. While total spending for U.S. advertising declined last year by 9 percent to $117 billion, Spanish language television increased by 32 percent, and cable television increased by 15 percent. Perhaps these marketers know a lot about their customers and how to reach them.

Also consider direct to customer events. Webinars are extremely useful and efficient (and soon you’ll start hearing a lot of great stuff about this summer’s launch of the Home Dec Show, a turnkey 24/7 virtual marketplace). But be sure to think outside the box for alternative ways of face to face selling, such as pop up stores or tying in with events, where a customer can see and touch the product (and gauge the sincerity of the person selling it).

With so much competition and convenience just a click away, retailers must deliver experience-based and interactive retailing to differentiate themselves. Depending on the customer segment, know what type of information they want and how they want it delivered. And make sure it connects to your web-based communication and sales efforts. Don’t underestimate the power of customer interaction to deliver profit to your bottom line. Seize the opportunity to create a continuum, not an “either or” scenario.

Find Established Marketing Communications Consultants
As it stands now, the marketing and marketing communications environment is complex. Most assuredly, media fragmentation will continue and exacerbate the decision making process even more. There is much to determine and evaluate, especially for a midsized retailer. Finding the right people whom you can trust to understand this environment and how to invest in it may be the hardest part.

Look for strategic and creative partners with demonstrated ability across retail businesses who aren’t “selling” a one size fits all solution or marketing approach. New and traditional media can work well together but you must find media neutral consultants who can master the challenges of efficiency and effectiveness.

And, fresh eyes may help you see more clearly.

How Your Company’s Lifecycle Impacts Your Marketing Communications

Marketing communications is an area that’s rapidly affected by advances in technology — not only in the way companies create marketing material but also how they distribute it.

Like email did in the late 1990s, social media has exploded in popularity among marketers. Online video grows by leaps and bounds. And mobile marketing is escalating so quickly that companies are scrambling to ensure their marcom is mobile friendly.

Marketing communications can be sliced into two segments:

  • Pull marketing (also called inbound marketing). Potential customers find your product or service at their choosing. Communication channels for this type of marketing include: search engines, online forums, blogs and social media.
  • Push marketing (outbound marketing). You directly contact potential customers at the time of your choosing to promote — or push — your product or service to their attention. Communication channels include: email bulletins, sales letters and catalogs.

But how do you know which of these marketing channels to focus on? There are a variety of factors that influence this decision, including demographics, firmographics, purchase history and customer lifecycle. All of these aspects will come into play at some point, depending on the markets you serve.But one dynamic that doesn’t get as much attention as it should is the lifecycle of your company?

In the startup stage, getting customers is an urgent activity. You can’t pay your bills and your employees for long without sufficient customers. Because of its expediency, push marketing is often a focal point at this stage because you may not be able to get enough customers with pull marketing to sustain your business in the short term.

This doesn’t mean you ignore implementing pull marketing during this phase, but you clearly have a need to acquire customers relatively quickly. SEO may take awhile before traffic increases. And direct selling is frowned upon in social media, as the emphasis in this arena is relationship building and customer engagement.

Here are three tips on startup stage marketing:

1) Don’t wait until after your company opens its door to start marketing. Make sure you have your website, marketing collateral and advertising finalized and ready to go so you can hit the ground running.

2) Ask yourself “Can I generate enough customers in the short term by using pull marketing alone?” If not, what push channels would be most appropriate for your target audience?

3) What methods have you implemented to measure the success of your marketing communications? If you can’t measure the response, how will you know if you’re getting the most out of your marketing dollars?

Marketing Communications – What’s the Plan?

When small business owners and managers start thinking about how they need to communicate with customers, often the most important part of the process is the one that’s given little thought – planning. Without a plan it’s possible, if not likely, a business’ marketing communications will end up being haphazard, more expensive than necessary and unsuccessful.

You should include virtually everything you can think of that will help you determine the best way forward. It’s also wise to ask other people, including, if possible, some of your customers or potential customers. Sometimes you can be too close to the business to know all the answers.

What do you want to achieve through your marketing communications?

It’s always good to have something to aim at. Be specific, be measurable, be achievable and don’t be too conservative. For example, to increase my customer base by 25% in the next financial year is specific, and easy to measure and most likely achievable with a bit of a stretch. You may find you’ll have several aims – list all of them.

Who is your target customer?

Who is your ideal customer? Who is likely to want to purchase your products or services?

Try to add as much detail as possible. For example, you might decide lawyers are one of your target customers, but add to this by listing where they are located, whether you’re targeting small, medium or large firms, and whether they specialise in any particular field. Then think about who makes the decisions in your target firms or households: owners or managers, sex, age, ethnicity, etc.

This work isn’t meant to limit who you would take on as a customer. The details will simply help later when you’re developing your plan, your messages and where and how you deploy them.

What are your products or services?

This might seem obvious, but surprisingly a lot of business owners/managers don’t necessarily know much about their products and services and can’t describe them in a way that most people can understand. If there are too many to list, just list the major categories.

Why should people buy your products or use your services rather than your competitor’s (your key selling points)?

Are you the cheapest or are your products or services premium quality? Is your service exceptional? Do you have the biggest range? Do you have free delivery? Do you make a coffee for your customers while they wait? There are too many possibilities to list here but it’s a good idea to list everything that is relevant to your business.

These points are often called your unique selling proposition but I believe you don’t have to be unique to succeed in business. You just need to do what you do well, and promote yourself just as well.

Does your business have a key message (e.g. McDonalds – I’m lovin’ it)?

Personally, I like these key messages. They succinctly tell something about your business; something that the customer can expect when they walk through your door (or your virtual door, as is often the case these days.) The key message should go hand in hand with ‘why should people use you’. For example, many businesses have a key message indicating they have the lowest prices, because that is one of their key selling points.

What image is your business trying to portray?

This is another question that goes hand in hand with your key selling points and key message. Do you want to be seen as professional, stylish, cheap, glamorous, etc.? Remember, it’s no point simply trying to portray an image in words; you have to live it. In my experience, customers don’t like businesses who can’t deliver what they say they can.

What is your budget for marketing communications?

You don’t need to spend a fortune and, if you’re like most small businesses, you may want to do thing a bit at a time. Get your business cards now, then a few months later a website. Next year, invest in a flyer and start an email marketing campaign. However, don’t be stingy; not spending enough money on marketing communications can hurt your business.

What skills do you have in your small business? Can anyone write, take photos or design a website.

Ask your staff – if you have any staff – as you may be surprised. 

Internet Marketing Communication – How Communication Can Build You a 6 Figure Business Online Fast!

It is very simple to build a business online. With the economy in a slump more and more people are flocking into the home based business industry. It is one of the fastest growing industries in existence today. A little internet marketing communication can cement you in front of the traffic that this industry is bringing in and put you on a very fast track to financial independence.

Proper communication and building relationships are some of the greatest skills that you will need in order to have enormous amounts of success in this industry. The great thing is these skills can be learned and easily mastered.

By simply communicating valuable information and telling other people everything that you learn you brand yourself as a leader and mentor in this industry. It really is that simple. Every single time you learn something, you know more about that subject than somebody else. And to that other person you are a guru.

The great thing about this industry and about the internet is that EVERYTHING that you need to be successful, EVERYTHING that you need to learn and master can be found easily and learned quickly. Competition drives prices down, so you can literally build a large successful 6 figure business at dirt cheap prices.

For example, this article is going to stay up until the end of time. Countless people will read it, and it cost me NOTHING! Internet marketing is a truly rewarding information simply because of the principles it is based on. Your own personal development and your willingness to teach and guide others are the only things that you need to be successful. This is what makes internet marketing communication so powerful.

More and more millionaires are being made every single day in this industry. People are buying back their free time. They are spending time with family and friends, or on vacation, while people are buying their products, joining their companies, and just MAKING THEM RICH!

You show me a better way to invest my time, and I will be right there with you. The truth is, you are your greatest asset. You sell yourself first by giving valuable information to the people that need it. Once you have done this, those same people will want to work with you, and will be loyal to you until the end of time.

The key is to take immediate action. Read below and click the link for more information.