Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Marketing Your Retail Business in a Tech Crazy Time Starved World

Marketing a retail business today is more complex than ever. As consumers find more ways to get information about products and services via the internet, this means a more complex decision making process for retailers when deciding where to market for customers.

Today's marketing has gone thru an evolution thanks to the internet. In the past, savvy marketers used the 4 P's as their guiding principles when making marketing decisions. Deciding what the right product should be, at what price, promoted in the right way and put in the right place was a sure way to garner success in reaching consumers.

In today's business arena, marketing uses the 4 P's as a baseline, and then takes it to the next level by incorporating the 4 Cs of marketing. This means adding tons of relevant, education-based, and user-generated Content that is filtered, aggregated, and delivered in a Context that makes it useful for people who are starving to make Connections with people, products, and brands they can build a Community around.

In simple terms, it's: Content + Context + Connections + Community = Social Media Marketing

Duct Tape Marketing, John Jantsch

So what does all this mean for your business? It means that your overarching goal as it relates to marketing is to find means and methods that connect with your customers where they are and in the context that they want to be talked to—not where you want to reach them.

In essence, marketing is becoming more "social." There is a new form of media to use for marketing. It's called Social Media. The key to social media is that all of the content involved revolves around the users (in this case, your customers) participating in the conversation and in some cases, having your customers actually create the content that your business provides!) The goal of social media marketing is to keep consumers talking about your brand in the marketplace.

As many of you may be just starting out, I am going to highlight 5 different categories of social media that you can use to help market your business. Some are more complicated than others to implement, then again, I'm sure many of your sales associates (or maybe even you) use some of the techniques in your personal lives. Why not think about using some of them to grow your business in 2009?

1) Blogging – For most small businesses blogging is the first step into the world of social media. It is the best way to take advantage of a set of powerful business tools while gaining a relatively quick return on your time investment. Want to try blogging for your business?

  • Begin by reading blogs (industry blogs or perhaps blogs by influential industry members or trendsetters)
  • Once you understand how people are participating and how the conversation continues, it's now your turn to begin to comment on what you are reading in the blogs. (Blog etiquette: Don't be a "know it all" or a self promoter, just like face to face conversations, this can and will turn off people in the blog community you are speaking with)
  • Begin your own blog. Now that you have people interested in what you have to say, it will be easier to get them to head over to your blog (where down the road you can shamelessly promote and market your own business!)

Again, how you participate and generate content for blogs will be the cornerstone for your social media programs. Always think about your posts as adding value to your customers in some way. Teaching them something they may not know (but are interested in) or sharing useful information are great ways to become a relevant part of the blog community in a short time. Blogging is the cornerstone to your social media marketing efforts. Make it a good reflection of your business!

2) Social Search – A social search engine is one that lists small businesses and allows people to rate and review them. This works perfectly for retailers as customers always have something to say about a business. Using social search, customers make comments about particular products, services or businesses that they have visited. The key to social search in today's marketing world is to harness feelings (hopefully positive) that customers have about your business and share it with a larger market than your marketing could ever reach (or that you could afford to reach on a small business budget!) If your customers are saying great things about your business, where others can see it, will help build your brand and boost your businesses' credibility. Some of the more popular social/local directories include: Craigslist, Trip Advisor, Yelp, Smalltown and Insider Pages

3) Social Networks – Networking has always been an important marketing skill. Think of social networks as online networking. Facebook is one of the most widely recognized names of social networking, however, you may have heard of others like the photo sharing site called Flikr or the video sharing website You Tube. Social network also provide business application with sites like Linked In where you join and share discussions, questions and business connections with others in your network. Joining these communities and building a presence for your business can help you connect with other bike minded enthusiasts which in turn will help you grow your brand and store reputation.

4) Social Bookmarking – This one is a bit more complex, but it does work. Social bookmarking is a method for Internet users to store, organize, search, and manage bookmarks of web pages on the Internet with the help of metadata. Tagging content and participating in social bookmarking communities can be a great way to open up more channels to your business. It can also generate extra search traffic, but it takes work.

5) Micro Blogging – Micro blogs are short bursts of content that reach users in real time. Using Micro blogs allows users to send brief text updates (in the case of Twitter, updates in less than 140 characters) or micro-media such as photos or audio clips and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone which can be chosen by the user. Another important key to micro-blogging is the ease and flexibility of how messages can be sent. Traditional desktop or lap top methods to type messages can be chosen, or messages can be submitted via text messaging, instant messaging, email or by using MP3.

The key to micro blogs is that you build a community much like a social network, but you do with short bursts of content. (Want to try it out? Follow me on twitter. I'm @RetailHelper)

So now that you know just enough to be dangerous (or talk to anyone under 25 as it relates to social media) let's talk about how you can use some of these tactics for your business. My suggestion is that you walk before you run with these new marketing tactics and that you don't start using them until you are committed to keeping them active and vibrant.

Do you have questions about how to set up a social media program that will work for your retail business? Contact CBCG today at


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Retail Reporter said...

Thanks for reading Margaret. Glad you find the information helpful.
We'll keep posting on all subjects retail here so check back often.

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