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May 2009 | Vol. VIII - No. 5


Retailing Tips: Marketing for the Most Return

How Tracking, Timing and Discernment Can Help Your Store Promotions

“When I saw that we only received three coupons back from a particular newspaper advertisement … it was easy to see that it still wasn't worth the cost when the newspaper discounted the advertisement.”
Nobody wants to throw a party where no one shows up. That thought causes anxiety for retailers who worry about putting time and effort into a promotion only to see dismal results. Even built-in annual events, such as Black Friday and the winter holidays, are not a guaranteed success without advance planning and marketing. Sixty percent of the 63 retailers TDmonthly Magazine talked with said the bulk of their marketing, advertising and promotions occurs in preparation for the holiday season. The rest believe that just getting their name out year-round proves the most successful marketing tactic.

Whichever way you decide works best for you, here are some tips that will help make the most of your marketing efforts:

1. Ensure your marketing has a specific call to action — a reason to get people into your store! "Right now the most successful specialty retailers are doing lots and lots of small events," said Doug Fleener, president and managing partner of Dynamic Experiences Group, a Lexington, Mass.-based retail consulting firm, who also advises retailers to segment groups of customers and motivate them to come to the store for a targeted event

"We've been working with one manufacturer that has been helping its retailers be more successful in this economy, and that includes doing events. There has been a 12-percent difference in [sales] performance from those retailers who are participating in this program and those who aren't,” he told TDmonthly.

2. Track for the future. Every promotion or marketing event should be tracked to determine its effectiveness. At my retail store, every advertisement, coupon and flyer was tagged with a code number. We tracked how many were coming in from newspaper ads versus return store coupons. Track this against the time of year, too. For example, newspaper ads for your business may catch interest in the winter but not the summer.

3. Allocate enough time. “We advertised a special on some select items but didn't give ourselves enough of a time cushion to get the shipment here in time,” Molly McMullin of Twirl in Taos, N.M., told TDmonthly of a failed promotion.

“Sometimes when you rush it doesn't work … a matter of wrong time, wrong place,” seconded Dina Evans, owner of All Things Fun! in Berlin, N.J.

4. End an ongoing promotion that is no longer working. We held a very successful event at my store every month for more than a year. For a while, it packed my store, but eventually, it tapered off and I realized we were spending too much effort and resources to hold the event for the sales it generated.

“Originally we were trying to do one pretty sizable kid event each month,” said Sherrie Antes, co-owner of School Crossing & Toy Station in Colorado Springs, Colo. “[We] tried a sport thing in May one year, and then an outdoor event, and neither one of those worked because of its being summer vacation and people had lots of choices.”

5. Don't feel forced to retry promotions that have failed. David Ekwall of The Wooden Toy in Wethersfield, Conn., has found that newspapers or radio stations will offer what seems to be a great deal, but then the advertisement still fails. This is where keeping tracking comes in handy.

When I saw that we only received three coupons back from a particular newspaper advertisement that cost $300 (the average sale in my store was $40), it was easy to see that it still wasn't worth the cost when the newspaper discounted the advertisement to $200.

6. Estimate total time and effort versus rate of return. Know the amount of effort in terms of time and dollars that goes into planning and executing a promotion, and be able to estimate the return. Handing out coupons for a return visit to customers already in the store is little effort. Planning a monthly event is much more.

7. Beware of those that compete for your customers’ attention and time. When you are planning an event, see if there is anything else going on in your area that would be competition and attempt to attract your same customer base. Likewise, there may be opportunities to leverage other's events (such as when the store next door that sells kid's clothing is holding a sale).
Finally, make sure you take every event, successful or not, as a valuable learning experience!

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Adeena MignognaWriter's Bio: Adeena Mignogna is an entrepreneur and writer who specializes in writing about small business, particularly retail. She started her own retail business in 2002 and operated it for more than five years. Now, she helps others through ups and downs in their business ventures. Adeena is the author of "Cute Little Store: Between the entrepreneurial dream and business reality" and the soon-to-be-released "Cute Little Store 2: What ever happened to that cute little store?" Read more articles by this author

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