Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It's all about balance of content on facebook. Read FB guru @marismith view on things... for another opinion (we agree!)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time to get Time on Your Side

Start by making time to read this! @retailhelper offers 42 Social Media Tips To help retailers everywhere improve their social media presence  -

Monday, August 9, 2010

Social Media in One Hour A Day

Overwhelmed with social media demands? Unclear where to invest your time? Ill informed about the tools that can help? Social media management requires planning, preparation and the right tools, otherwise the demands of social media involvement can consume too much of your most important business!

Step I: Decide Where To Concentrate Your Efforts

  • You can’t be everywhere at once – start slowly and build
  • The most frequented social media sites are, in order: facebook, twitter, youtube, linkedin, wikipedia, flickr and blogs - after pinpointing the best networks, spend time developing a working understanding of each (E.G., What it’s about, its features and how users interact within the space)
  • Learn best practices from industry experts
  • Before starting, be sure to secure your brand’s username on each site and check to make sure no one else is illegitimately representing your organization
  • A simple search on google ornamechk (http://namechk.Com/) will tell you if your preferred username is available

Step II: Define Objectives and Strategy – Establish Quantifiable Goals

What are you looking to get out of this investment today and in the future? What steps do you need to take to make it happen? Consider how to:
  • Expand brand or product awareness: how you will get your brand name out there (advertising, promotion, integration with other media, blogger outreach, and initiation of peer sharing and user-generated content campaigns, etc.)
  • Build community: how you will attract fans (awareness building, advertising, promoting, appealing to a specific target audience, etc.) and keep them engaged (tailored content plans, tone, frequency and types of interactions, special offers and activities, etc.
  • Engage qualify fans and convert them to customers: how you will solicit information from users (surveys, contests, facebook applications, conversation starters, measured content views, data mining and analytics, etc.) and use that insight to further the relationship (sales team involvement, product sampling, boosting the one-to-one nature of the conversation, etc.)
  • Improve customer satisfaction: how you plan to offer exceptional service and support, and how you will go above and beyond their expectations
Step III: Measure Your Efforts Against Factors That Impact The Bottom Line
  • Number of fans, followers, readers (or number of high-quality/targeted fans)
  • Number of video or other content views
  • Volume of user comments posted to your blog, profile or posted content
  • Retweet or peer-sharing statistics for related content and posts
  • Comment or retweet resonation (number of user comments multiplied by how many followers or friends each user has)
  • Engagement (duration of video views, time spent on your blog site, time spent playing your branded game application, etc.)
  • Media coverage
  • Media impressions (mentions on blogs or other media multiplied by the size of the audience)
  • Advertising click-through rates
  • Company website traffic statistics
  • Quantity of new qualified leads or sales
  • Volume of customer service issues handled.
Step IV: Research Available Tools - Select The Appropriate Ones Based On The Task At Hand
  • Listening - use tweetdeck, google alerts
  • Networking - use seesmic desktop,plaxo
  • Publishing - use friendfeed, social oomph, twit pic, tiny url, tweetbeep, mobile twitter, ping fm
  • Sharing - use stumble upon,, digg

Stay informed; social media constantly changes - continuous learning will enhance your success

Friday, August 6, 2010

Foursquare - The Next Twitter??????

Who is the Mayor of your store?

There is a new tool gaining momentum with mobile shoppers; it's called Foursquare. Do you want to dramatically increase store visits and customer loyalty? Looking for ways to inexpensively but effectively build your brand? If you're still playing catch-up on the usage of Facebook and Twitter to drive sales, Foursquare may be exponentially more productive. Get on the trend early and maximize the impact of Foursquare on your business...before your competition beats you to the punch and your potential customers.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking service, used mostly on smartphones. The idea is that people "check-in" to venues they're at (restaurants, bars, stores, etc.) which lets their friends keep track of where they're hanging out. Essentially, Foursquare aims to encourage people to explore their neighborhoods and then reward people for doing so. If you check-in the most to a particular venue, you become the "Mayor" - although someone else can become mayor if you neglect your venue; wouldn't that be a great concept in real world public service? There's also a game involved, where users earn points for their activity and unlock "badges."

Foursquare is in a position to be a boon for businesses. In the same way that savvy business owners have utilized the Yelp community to promote and encourage reviews, they can tap into Foursquare check-ins to get people talking about their establishment and rewarding them for their patronage.

As a business owner, you can also use Foursquare to engage your increasingly mobile customers with Foursquare "Specials". When they check in on Foursquare at your venue reward your loyal customers. Give the current Mayor of your venue extra attention to encourage others to want to be Mayor.

What if you owned a bar. You could put up signs indicating that the Foursquare Mayor drinks for free. Imagine how the competitive elements of the game could manufacture a social contest like no other. You would get intense mayoral races, which means more frequent check-ins, and a bunch of free online exposure. The occasional free drink would be a pretty inexpensive marketing investment for all that exposure.

Foursquare has developed an easy to use toolkit that allows you to set up specials:
  • Mayor Specials: unlocked only by the Mayor of your venue. Who's the Mayor? It's your single most loyal customer! (the user who has checked in the most in the last 60 days)("Foursquare has deemed you the Mayor? Enjoy a free order of french fries!")
  • Check-in Specials: unlocked when a user checks in to your venue a certain number of times.("Foursquare says you've been here 10 times? That's a free drink for you!")
  • Frequency-based Specials: are unlocked every X check-ins.("Foursquare users get 20% off any entree every 5th check-in!")
  • Wildcard Specials: always unlocked, but your staff has to verify some extra conditions before awarding the Special.("Show us your foursquare Swarm badge and get a free drink!")
Seriously....remember the early days of Twitter when everyone mocked it. The early adopters really got Twitter, tweeted their enthusiasm, took to their blogs to evangelize the benefits of Twitter, and started to break down why it would be a game changer. The majority laughed and/or misunderstood - “why would I want to share or read mundane information about myself on the web. What pointless drivel.”

But Twitter didn't go away. It gained momentum. One by one more and more people started to tweet, started to figure out for themselves why it was important, and then repeat the same cycle as the early adopters before them. The media was initially quick to judge. Full of fantastic puns, and naysayers, until they started to use it and figure it out too. Long story short, Twitter, as simple as it is, was (and to some extent still is) misunderstood - but enormously popular.

Foursquare today is very much in the same boat as Twitter was a couple of years ago. The early adopters have started to utilize it, but for the most part it remains a service completely misunderstood, and even mocked from time to time. But here’s the thing, it is starting to catch on and people are starting to sit up take notice, and actually use it. Maybe it's time you did too! It might be great for your business. Maybe I could be Mayor!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Are you struggling with how to write good blog posts? Does it take you forever to get your "creative juices" flowing? I know how you feel. But I just read this great post from about writing a GREAT post in 15 minutes.

I HAD to share it. These guys know what they're talking about.

Read on and start writing!!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Saving Pennies can help save the day......

The retail outlook continues to remain challenging as we look toward the balance of 2010. While the economic recovery that started this year hasn't quite materialized the way most pundits expected, that does not mean that it has to be all doom and gloom for your retail business.

By continually assesing your business goals and objectives, and aligning your customer needs as priority one, you can and will survive this economic downturn.

Just as importantly, you must continue to assess your business expenses and look to trim wherever and whenever possible. As we continue with our mid-year business review process, review the following areas to determine if there are any additional savings to be had.

Cost of Goods Sold. Can you negotiate with suppliers for discounts based on year to date purchases or other shipping programs? Do you ask for allowances from vendors for past date cancellation orders, or orders shipped outside of the start/stop order dates?

Marketing. Analyze where your optimal return on investment occurs, proactively seek out deals from channel partners and request support from your product suppliers - they all have a vested interest in your success. Have you shifted your allocation of resources to more cost effective means in 2010? Can you expect to produce the same savings in the second half of the year?

Payroll. Assess training and development requirements and delay/eliminate where possible, increase the utilization of more productive sales staff and contingency plan for deferred bonuses

Technology. Re-assess near term capital expenditures to ensure adequate payback hurdles and make due with current non-sales critical assets

Rent. Assess the real estate market, gather data and speak to your landlord about reductions in rent

Banking and Credit Card Fees. Consider incentives to generate cash sales and negotiate with your banker and credit card processing companies for reductions in all fees

By throughly reviewing the expenses that you do have, and looking at the areas where you can negotiate more effectively with suppliers, I'm confident you can save quite a few more pennies before the end of 2010!

My Tank Gets 30 MPG - Is That Good?

If I told you my vehicle delivered 30 miles per gallon would you say that was fantastic, average or awful? In order to answer that question you would need to know several key facts. Am I talking about a Vespa or a Hummer? What do cars like mine get for average MPG? What type of gas mileage did I plan to get with my car? Without considering these factors, answering the question would be premature and would have no frame of reference.

As with the car mpg, many retailers deliver marketing programs yet they have no idea about what results they can or should expect to deliver. In essences, there is no goal setting, thus no frame of reference for the results that are achieved. Are the results good? Did I use my resources (time and money) effectively on this marketing program?

Best practice retailers know that performance assessment on all marketing activity must be done to determine their ultimate effectiveness. If you haven't quite got in that habit yet for your business, June is just the time to review how your marketing plans are performing so far this year. Take a piece of paper and ask yourself the following questions related to your marketing events thus far in 2010:

  1. How much money and resources did we invest in each marketing activity?

  2. Did we implement this activity optimally?

  3. How much incremental sales were driven by the marketing activity?

  4. How many new customers were generated by the marketing activity?

  5. Did my in-store staff capitalize on all the opportunities created by this activity?

  6. How much new customer information was generated for the customer relationship management system?

  7. Did the activity deliver new insights into customer needs that can be used to increase profits or market share in the future?

  8. Did this activity contribute to long term customer loyalty and subsequent repeat sales?

  9. How effective was each marketing activity relative to each other?

  10. What are the industry leading benchmarks for these activities?

Answers to the above questions can help answer questions about yor marketing planning, effectiveness and about how your business is at implementing programs. If you don't like some of the answers you gave, or frankly, don't know enough because you didn't set objectives for the marketing activity you did deliver, now is the perfect time to re-tool and plan better for the balance of 2010. If necessary, get key stakeholders in the organization involved to help you maximize your success.

Keep in mind that successful marketing for your business is linked to overall goals and objectives that can and should be tied to industry benchmarks for success. After all, a tank isn't designed to perform like a scooter either. Don't let your marketing programs perform like a tank this year.

Is Your Marketing Hitting the Mark in 2010?

Retail 101-Marketing IS essential for a retailer to effectively communicate with its customers in order to sell more AND to make more profit. Marketing is the key to manage your businesses' reputation, to maximize the flow and liquidation of of inventory and to launch new brands and intiatives that will catapult your store to it's next level of success. So the question we ask today is how are you managing this most critical element of your businesses success thus far in 2010?

As we approach the mid way point of the year, now is a great time to revisit your annual marketing plan and to consider if you're getting the results you anticipated from the marketing plans set forth for your business. It's time to ask yourself these tough questions to determine if the plan needs to be refined for the second half of 2010.

Question #1: Do you target the right customers? Although many retailers "think" they know their customers, in many instances this is not the case. Customers continue to evolve and are more sophisticated every day. It's ok to acknowlege that not everyone may want your products, but it's critical to focus on the ones that do, and to find ways to "meet" new customers who want your products, but just haven't been introduced to your store yet!

Question #2: Do you understand your customers' needs? The biggest element of marketing is to understand what your customers - and potential customers - actually want. With so many tools available to survey customers today, it must be a part of your marketing efforts to check in periodically and make sure your product assortment is hitting the mark. Simply put, if you make mistakes in the inventory arena and you purchase products people don't want - and your sales will be minimal resulting in higher than expected markdowns- to say nothing of the disappointment your customers will experience by not finding what they really want.

Question #3: Do your potential customers know about your store? So you know what your customers want and you have stocked your shelves with the perfect selection of products, but ensuring your customers and prospects know about it remains the critical communication piece to your ultimate retail success. Many retailers use the wrong communication channels and fail to let their target audience know that the products they want are available in their store. Make sure you are speaking to your customers where they are actually listening. ie. Are your customers using social media sites like Facebook, You Tube and Twitter, but you're not communicating with them in these venues? It's a missed opportunity for your business!

Question #4: Do you communicate effectively with your target audience? The actual words you use in your marketing messages are crucial. Not just what you write, but the way your write them. Everyone knows that only benefits sell and not features - but extracting the benefits that are going to turn your prospects into paying customers is perhaps the hardest part of marketing. Reconsider the message you are sending to customers and what your "call to action" incents your customers to do and to drive store visits and ultimately sales.

Question #5: Are your projections too ambitious? Everyone thinks their new products will fly off the shelves, but in reality this is rarely the case. Your marketing plan (and inventory strategy) should show a realistic path to profitability that aligns your actual revenues and profits with your written plan. Analyze your financial plans, or have a trusted advisor review them, to determine how realistic they are and what adjustments may be required.

A thorough analysis on the first half of the year's marketing plan and its results will ensure that the second half of 2010 is more productive. Marketing planning is not a static activity. It requires careful monitoring and refinements to maximize return on marketing investments.

Keep us posted on your progress. We're committed to helping you succeed in 2010 and beyond!

Bargin ways to boost staff morale - and boost the bottom line

Your staff is the most important line of attack (and defense too) that you have in dealing with customers today. They are the key success factor bringing, or failing to bring, money into your store. As it gets harder to get customers to spend money, your sales staff may be feeling a bit down about their performance, especially since the register isn't ringing quite like it used to.
How about a bit of a morale booster from you to show your support for them.

Building morale is not always about putting more money in their pockets. It's about letting them know you appreciate them and building trust and long term value. You do not have to spend a lot - or even anything at all - to do something great for your staff. Try these ideas on for size.
  1. Send them all a personal thank you note

  2. Make your famous chocolate chip cookies

  3. Ask a supplier to donate a small gift for every employee

  4. Put their name and pictures in your monthly newsletter along with a thank you

  5. Create a photo bulletin board with fun pictures from the past year

  6. Organize an outdoor activity; Close the store on Sunday afternoon if you have to for a softball game, bike ride and picnic

  7. Invite them to dinner at your house

  8. Give one person each week an extra long lunch and pay for it

  9. Stick a post-it note on their paycheck noting one important contribution they made in the last pay period and how much it means to you

  10. Make a donation in their name to their favorite charitable organization

The more personal the gesture the better it will work. Your staff is your key to success. Thanking them with things that don't cost a lot of money but show that you care in a very personal way will go a long way toward ensuring that success for a long time to come!

How do you show your staff your appreciation? Share with us at

Boston Commercial Real Estate Improving

Just read an article on discussing the commercial real estate environment in the Boston area. With rents reduced as much as 30% in some locations, vacancy rates are reducing, but the mix of tenants is changing the makeup of certain malls and retail clusters.

Read more at the link below.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Social Media: Attraction or Addiction?

Boston, MA - April 16, 2010 -Are you (or your customers) addicted to Facebook or Twitter?
As social media continues to grow, details are starting to surface about people's behaviors and consumption of information in the social space. As owners of retail businesses and marketers, when we learn more about the "how, when and where" of social users, we can better understand how to optimize our marketing efforts.

At CBCG, we're constantly on the look out for information about any retail marketing trends that can and will help you do business more effectively and efficiently. In fact, we've been talking about Social Media and how retailers can use it for the past 2 1/2 years. We feel its critically important that you start to leverage the power of this important marketing medium and begin to interact with your customers in this venue.

Last Friday, we found a great study that drills down on "how we act" and "what we want" in the world of social networking. It's from our friends at If you're not following them, you should be. They've got great information.

Below is a link to the entire study. Particularly note how often people are checking their SM accounts. Think about how this opportunity to market your business in a 24/7 environment could help your business grow.

Click Here For Social Media Usage Study Results
Enjoy the study- and keep us posted on your social media usage!

Lynn Switanowski and the entire CBCG team

Monday, March 15, 2010

Incent The Desired Behaviors

I just finished watching a 60 minutes segment on Wall Street, talk about an eye opener. Millions upon millions of dollars paid out for "performance" that did not benefit shareholders....aka - the owners. Could you imagine paying your store workers a bonus of ten times their salaries for taking actions that bankrupted your business? Sounds crazy, but it did and continues to happen on Wall Street.

The issue is simple. You must design a compensation system that rewards the type of behavior you want from your employees....ones that build long term, sustainable economic value. If you design a short term reward system, heavily weighted on short term outcomes, you can have results that negatively impact longer term economic fact your to blame for creating the incentive system!

Aligning all aspects of your business with long term strategic goals is sound fundamentals. Your compensation system is no different. In retail, you need to think through all aspects of the business thoroughly, before designing particular bonuses. Be careful to consider all scenarios and potential impacts of your bonus structure. Individuals will always have an inclination to "game" the system to max out their bonus based on the system. You need to ensure your bonus system does not inadvertently cause behavioral changes you did not anticipate.

For example, suppose you have a system that pays a bonus on annual sales and has specific thresholds for % bonus. Say $0 to $99,999 is 5% and over $100,000 is 15% but you make no stipulations for returns. A sales person in November has already sold $100,000 and now pushes product through to his customers so that he can achieve a higher commission on remaining sales in the calendar year. If the customers return the goods in January, he still gets his commission. He may even ship the order at the end of December knowing they'll be returned. He may cut a deal with the customer to move up January sales into December (at a lower price to the customer) to make a higher commission. By not stipulating the rules of the bonus structure, you have allowed the system to be "gamed".

Next time you design a compensation system, be careful. You may be asking for something you never considered....just ask Wall Street!

Integration of Social Media Into Email Marketing

The majority of retailers have been incorporating email newsletters into their marketing strategy over the past few years. They send out periodic emails to their customer lists providing useful content or promotional offers. Of late, more retailers have embraced the social media phenomenon. This requires more frequent communications with "followers" or "fans" in an effort to develop and nurture a community of loyal customers and loyalists.

Unfortunately, most retailers have failed to link both marketing efforts. Recent research indicates that only 13% of email marketers include features that make it easy to share content on social networks. This is a tremendous opportunity being missed. Think about the potential reach capabilities when you allow subscribers who already like your content to easily share it with others. That viral aspect of the Internet is what makes it such a powerful tool to a marketer.

See the link below to an article on the AMEX Open Forum for more details on the demonstrated potential of utilizing linking tools in your email marketing and start leveraging the power of both the Internet .and your social networks to drive sales.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March Madness - Make Marketing a Priority

I just finished watching the unveiling of the NCAA tournament pool – talk about a marketing engine! The NCAA and CBS sure know how to promote an event. They even make an event out of the tournament draw. It may be labeled madness, but it is very strategic. It's time for retailers to consider marketing strategies as our retail March Madness tips off.

You’ve survived the past couple of lean seasons, and intelligently invested in inventory for 2010. In order for you to win your retail tournament, you need to make marketing a priority …NOW. Some of your competitors have not survived the economic downturn. So, make sure you expend the effort required to increase your company’s visibility; both retaining current customers and securing potential new customers. You want to be the retailer they all look to when they decide to resume spending.

It’s only March. You have 9+ months of sales opportunities ahead. Now is the time to make those key strategic and tactical marketing decisions to ensure your business’s financial success in 2010. Budgets may remain tight, but retailers must continue to invest in marketing to drive sales. The key will be making smart investments.

Here are a few tips to squeeze the most from your marketing budget in 2010.

1.Invest in Search That Optimize Customer Engagement
Use search engine optimization (SEO) in combination with pay-per-click (PPC) to attract potential customers to your website and to your store. In addition, design your website to engage potential customers when they do visit. The website is where consumers usually begin the product and information-gathering process. Consumers have usually already researched your business (and developed an opinion) before they ever step foot in your store.

2. Use Technology to Personalize Customer Service
Your existing customers are your greatest source of potential new customers. Treat them well and they will reciprocate. Take the time to understand their needs and deliver information and content to them that helps meet their needs. Use technology to track and record customer behavior to personalize customer relationships and customize special offers.

3. Leverage Social Media to Attract New Customers
Embrace social media, but use it intelligently. Retailers are realizing that social-networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are invaluable for serving current customers and attracting new ones. Top performing retailers use their pages on those social media sites to provide access to information, invitations, and offers that respond to current and potential customer’s needs and interests.

4. Customize Email Marketing
Email marketing tools enable the segmentation of your email subscriber list into multiple smaller lists. You can segment customers into a variety of distinct groups to enhance customization of emails and offers. Putting in the effort to segment your customers at this stage and carefully considering the attributes that determine the segmentation will facilitate improved email capabilities and potentially increase email marketing effectiveness and sales.

5. Measure Results and Reallocating Marketing Dollars
Many retailers continue to do the “same old, same old” when it comes to marketing. That would be great if they actually knew that the current tactics were the best ways to spend their marketing dollars. Retailers need to measure the impact each marketing activity in an effort to optimize future return on marketing investments. Develop an objective, create a tracking mechanism, measure impact, analyze results and determine the effect on future investments.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Precision Promotions

According to the 2009 Spencer Stuart survey of more than 300 senior-level marketers, 55% said emphasis on a short-term response to the economic downturn has led them to neglect long-term strategy. Marketers have to dramatically reduce overhead by cutting head count, reducing ad budgets, and reallocating the minimal spending they do have remaining. Given the priorities of everything they have to do right now, long-term strategy is probably not one of them. Sound familiar?

Marketers are unlikely to have the freedom they had pre-recession to spend their way out of poor performance. Pouring dollars into advertising, rarely increases profitability and sometimes it doesn't even boost sales. It certainly doesn't guarantee improvements in marketing effectiveness, ROI or operating profit margins.

To optimize the impact of a reduced budget, marketers must abandon the shotgun approach for more laser-like precision. That precision approach flows from accurate targeting. If you nail targeting, everything else will fall into place.

To get your retail marketing strategy centered to take advantage of the (albeit gradually) improving economy, you need to answer several key questions about your customers:
  1. Which customers and which segments of customers will be the most profitable to pursue?Study data such as current spending, lifetime value, number and types of products or services purchased, and brand-switching history/potential to assess total customer value
  2. Are your target customers open to your brand? They are open to considering and trying your brand if they're not already using it. They know your brand and have positive feelings about it. They are primed to buy if encouraged to do so. If not, don't waste valuable marketing dollars chasing them.
  3. Are they influencers? They will tell their friends about your brand and become brand evangelists helping spread the gospel about your retail store.
  4. Are they price sensitive? Customers that are less price sensitive, are likely to be more loyal to your retail brand and less apt to change - unless you mistreat them - and thus require less promotional investments targeted at them
  5. Do they desire and value the newest products? If they value bleeding edge styles, releases or are early adopters of technology, ensure you promote your newest offers to them to ensure they're loyalty - they value having the latest and greatest and appreciate your recognition of this value

Understanding which segments offer the most value for your marketing investments and then strategically designing marketing programs to meet those segments needs will go a long way to achieving the sales and profit objectives for your store. Strategies and tactics that many know but few have the focused discipline to execute. Think laser, think target, think precision, achieve your goals!

Spring Promotions To Build Excitement And Sales

Have you ever shopped in a store that was dull and boring? You probably wandered in and out so quickly or disinterested that you can't even recall the store's name. As a retailer, you don't want your store to become one of those lackluster shopping experiences. A great way to avoid becoming mundane is by strategically planning promotional events for your retail store. And no better time than the Spring to grab a little attention!

I'm not talking about the twice-a-year markdown sale your store has when you place all the season's leftover items on a table and smack a "Reduced" sign on the front. That's not the type of strategic promotion I'm referring to. No, what I'm referring to is a specially orchestrated promotion that can have a significant impact on product demand and sales. By planning several of these exciting events each year, you're giving customers a reason to return to the store on a regular basis. If you haven't planned one for March here are a few events you could potentially focus your promotion around:

  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Passover
  • Easter
  • First Day of Spring
  • March Madness
  • Baseball Spring Training
  • Academy Awards

There are over 12,000 other holidays and special celebratory events, day, weeks and months as well as holidays, historical anniversaries and festivals.listed in a copy of Chase's Calendar of Events. Don't let a promotional opportunity pass you by.

Retail Promotion Tips

  1. Choose a promotion that fits your industry, target audience and financial objectives
  2. Maintain an annual calendar of all planned and actual promotional events
  3. Seek out community partners to share workload and benefits
  4. Try to schedule well in advance to create an effective promotion
  5. Define measurable goals and objectives (sales, new customers, email addresses, etc.)
  6. Increase your open-to-buy and purchase extra inventory for special events
  7. Measure results
  8. Use an action log to ensure accountability for all post promotion follow up activities
  9. Debrief with staff to improve process for next event

What are you waiting for......start planning that Spring promotion!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Data Suggests Recovery Under Way

Economic Report From Reuters

Sales at U.S. retailers rose more than expected in January, suggesting consumers were feeling a bit more comfortable to spend and sustain the economic recovery. The Commerce Department said Friday total retail sales increased 0.5 percent. In addition, December and November were both revised to show stronger spending. December sales were revised to down only 0.1 percent, compared with the previously reported fall of 0.3 percent, while November sales were revised to up 2 percent from up 1.8 percent.

Retail sales are being closely watched for signs whether consumers are healthy enough to sustain the economy's recovery once government stimulus and the boost from restocking by businesses wanes.

The economy grew at a 5.7 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, the fastest clip in six years. The economy has grown for two straight quarters following the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

High unemployment in the United States has sapped consumers' appetite for shopping, but improving labor market conditions may support future sales and help to nurse the broader economic recovery.

Excluding motor vehicles and parts, retail sales rose 0.6 percent in January after slipping 0.2 percent the prior month. Economists had expected a 0.5 percent gain. Sales were boosted by electronics and appliance stores, where sales rose 1.2 percent after declining 3.5 percent in December. Sporting goods, hobby and book sales rose 1 percent last month, adding to December's 1.9 percent increase.

Sales at general merchandise stores rose 1.5 percent in January, the biggest gain since February 2009.

Core retail sales, which exclude autos, gasoline and building materials, rose 0.8 percent after falling 0.3 percent in December. Core sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of the government's GDP accounts.

Unemployment continues to be a concern, but spending patterns suggest positive sentiment and confidence in a sustainable recovery. Let us know what you're seeing in your store!

Source: Reuters and

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ten Ways to Drive Consumer Action With Online Video

I came across this great article on on how to drive consumer action using video content. This is very appropriate considering our emphasis on social media and the propensity to utilize YouTube as part of a comprehensive social media strategy. Bud Rosenthal is the author of this article and the CEO of, which provides broadcast-quality online video advertising and Web distribution for companies in a wide range of industries.

Ten Tips

There's no question that online video is fast becoming a favorite of Internet users around the world. In fact, online video views have surpassed core search queries, and YouTube has become a top search engine.

But this shift in consumption has left marketers searching for the best ways to incorporate online video in their campaigns. The hit-or-miss nature of viral video, the brand quality considerations of user-generated content, and the general disdain for television commercials online have left marketers wondering, "How do I make video work for me?"

Video advertising is known for its powerful branding ability, but it can also be a great direct-response vehicle that drives measurable actions that result in sales when used properly on the Web. And with new production methods, quality online video can be produced for as little as $1,000 to $5,000 per piece, making video a marketing tool that can be used in multiples across Web campaigns while driving high return on investment.

In this article I highlight 10 ways that marketers can drive consumer action with online video.

1. Tell a compelling story

With users in control and limitless options available to them at the click of their mouse, your video must be compelling. Once users click play, you have 5-10 seconds to engage them and keep them watching.

Use a compelling narrative to captivate them for the duration of the video. The narrative storytelling format presents the information in a compelling and useful manner and ensures that the viewer remains engaged and absorbs the key messages in the video.

2. Be authentic

Online users are skeptical of the high-pressure sales pitch. And with so many choices online, they're looking for reasons to eliminate you from consideration in their search for the product or service that meets their needs. The fastest way to turn off online viewers is to bombard them with inauthentic sales pitches and weak emotional brand appeals.

Online viewers are looking for content that accurately and honestly provides information about a product or service to aid them in their decision-making process. A successful video will demonstrate value and relevance in an authentic manner that doesn't alienate the viewer with an over-the-top sales pitch.

3. Provide useful information

When users are in decision-making mode online, the last thing they want is an irrelevant branding commercial that mimics a traditional television advertising spot. At that point, they want to get beyond the sales pitch to features and benefits to determine whether your product or service will meet their needs.

If you fail to meet that deeper information need, you will lose the viewers' interest and the opportunity to turn them into customers. Your video should demonstrate products, features, and expertise in a manner that compels viewers to learn more by taking an action such as clicking a link for more information, filling out an inquiry form, or picking up the phone to talk to one of your representatives.

4. Use a call to action

Without a strong call to action, your viewers won't know what you want them to do once they've watched your video. Your video should create a clear action path, and the surrounding Web content should make executing that action easy.

Decide what action you want your viewers to take before shooting the video. Do you want them to fill out an inquiry form, forward the video to a friend, mention a coupon code, or click a link to learn more about a particular product or service? Whatever the action, make it clear in the video and easy to find, and execute on the surrounding Web page.

5. Don't over-produce

With the small player size of online video, user bandwidth considerations, and the audience's demand for authenticity, over-producing a video is simply throwing away good money. Professional production is important for maintaining brand standards, but fancy graphics, expensive effects, and other high-end production efforts will be mostly lost online. Worse, some of these effects may muddle the video, making the content and information difficult to comprehend, which can lead the viewer to abandon the video.

Maximize your ROI by finding the right balance between production value and delivering a clear, meaningful message considering the current limitations of online video.

6. Don't oversell

The user is firmly in control of the online video viewing experience. Users decide whether your message and content is worth watching or whether they'll click away to more relevant information. Respect that dynamic by using your video to inform, educate, and build preference rather than going for the hard sell.

You're not recreating late-night infomercials with Web video, you're looking to assist and aid in the decision-making process by providing authentic, relevant information and a clear call to action.

7. Measure and test

Affordable online video means that marketers can test messages, formats, and the call to action to see which mix resonates best with their audience. Try testing different offers, highlighting different product benefits and features, and using your video at different points in the decision-making process to determine the optimal use of your video in creating your desired consumer action. Provide a unique coupon code or URL, or other identifier, to let you track the impact of video on your online marketing initiatives.

8. Make it shareable

YouTube taught us all that video is a portable medium on the Web that starts conversations and spreads among friends and their social networks. Make sure your video facilitates tha natural phenomenon. Provide links and functionality to make it easy for people to email your video to friends, embed on Web pages and blogs, and post to their various social networking profiles.

By making your video portable, you increase its reach while gaining a tacit recommendation of your product or service with each person who forwards your video.

9. Place it at key decision points

According to a recent eMarketer report, video can often be the final push customers need to complete a purchase online. Video has also been shown to improve customer satisfaction and reduce product returns and abandoned shopping carts. No wonder, then, that e-commerce sites have increased their use of video.

By placing video at key decision points in your purchase funnel, you can create greater confidence and retain customers who might otherwise abandon their purchase.

10. Make it search-engine friendly

The advent of Google's Universal Search has made video an important part of the results returned in a user's search query. Companies can now gain visibility in the search engines quickly by providing video content that is search-engine friendly.

Do so by properly naming your video files, using proper keywords and titles, and surrounding them with keyword-rich Web content. Other best practices include keeping your videos in one video directory on your Web site, providing an MRSS (Media RSS) feed for all of your published videos, and publishing your videos to third-party sites such as YouTube.

Video is a Powerful Online Marketing Tool

By combining the above 10 best practices, marketers can drive consumer action using online video.

Keeping production costs inline with the realities of the online channel will ensure that the return on investment remains high, while creating a compelling story to help drive conversions and reduce abandonment in the purchase cycle.

As bandwidth continues to improve and more of the online audience makes video an important part of their online experience, successful marketers will understand how to incorporate video marketing in their online campaigns to drive favorable consumer action.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Value of Trade Shows

I've spent the past four weeks doing the trade show circuit. Minneapolis to Orlando, and Los Angeles to Dublin, giving seminars and consulting with clients on the buying and selling side. Another month to go as the season comes to a close in March. Traffic appears to have improved and reports are that buying transactions have increased, but the average dollar volume per order remains low as buyers continue to be cautious about holding too much of the wrong inventory.

Many people continue to question the future of trade shows as the adoption of online purchasing and restricted travel budgets apply pressure to justify attendence. My opinion is that they are still a valuable and necessary component of the sales process.

Sales is still a relationship business and those relationships are solidified in face-to-face dialgoues. Trade shows are like large parties - you network, you meet potential new friends and you reinforce friendships made at previous social gatherings. Although social media and teh Internet enable online relationships to be established, there is nothing like a face-to-face meeting combined with the ability to touch and feel product samples to solidify TRUST.

Sales may be down and orders may be smaller, but trade shows facilitate the development of TRUST - a fundamental element of a long and mutually prosperous supplier/retailer relationship. I continue to see the development of TRUST as a requirement in all industries and geographies and the trade show environment provides a wonderful opportunity to foster relationship building in a concentrated time and space. Long live TRUST - long live trade shows!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What Social Media Marketing Gurus Don't Want You to Know

I read this interesting article from Zeke Camusio of the Outsourcing Company in Aspen Colorado. It's a cool perspective on Social Media utilization that I believe is the right approach. Thanks Zeke!

Do you know why most people fail miserably at Social Media Marketing? Because they don't really get what it's all about. They think it's about promoting their companies. It's not; it's about MAKING FRIENDS.

"Really? Making friends?"

"Yes, really."

See, people like doing business with their friends. If your toilet breaks and one of your friends is a janitor, you'll ask him to fix it. If you don't have any janitor friend, then you might ask your friends if they know a janitor they trust. People do business with their friends for two reasons:

  1. They get a better service, price, deal, etc.

  2. They give money to people they care about.

So, how can you apply this principle to Social Media Marketing?

  1. Make sure your social media profiles say what you do and have links to your site.

  2. Make friends. Discover your target market and start talking to those people. Don't sell them anything; just make friends with them and check out their status updates. What are they doing? Is there anything you can help with? Are they asking questions you can answer or looking for something you can give them?

  3. After a few interactions, something very interesting will happen. They're going to ask you the BIG QUESTION: "so, what do you do for a living?". Just tell them what you do but don't make it sound like you're trying to sell them something. This is where your elevator speech will come into play. In case you want to know what an elevator speech looks like, this is mine: "I help companies get thousands of qualified visitors for their websites." Create an elevator speech and be ready to share it when people ask you what you do for a living.

  4. People will add you to their "mental Rolodex". It works something like this: "Joan P. - High-end catering services", "Marty K. - Real estate agent", etc.

  5. When they need a real estate agent, they'll call Marty. And, they'll also recommend Marty to anyone who needs a real estate agent (assuming that Marty took the time to build strong relationships with his contacts instead of trying to sell them his services).

I can't emphasize this enough: Social Media Marketing is about MAKING FRIENDS, not about selling your stuff. But remember: making friends is a great way to sell your stuff!

I believe that if we all understood the concept in this article, the Social Media Marketing world would be a lot more fun and efficient, so let me ask you a favor: spread the word. Send this to your contacts, re-tweet it, share it on Facebook, or share it any way you want.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Twitter Tip - 5 Proven Ways To Get Retweeted

I've got Twitter on the brain these days as I head to the California Gift Show in Los Angeles this weekend. I am putting on a three day seminar on Twitter so excuse me if I am "dialed in" on Twitter.

I came across this cool article on strategies to get retweeted by Kristin Burnham on IT World. Check it out:


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Retail Resurgence 2010 - Workshop February 23,24 Virginia Beach Resort and Conference Center

The Retail Evolution Is Upon Us. To Thrive In The New Economy Requires Knowledge And The Will To Change. Learning How To Effectively Connect With Your Customers Is Paramount. Consumers Perceive Brands And Stores In Ways Never Seen Before. How Are You Being Perceived? How Are You Performing?
Session Topics Include:
  • Creating Financial Success by Understanding and Using Retail Benchmarks
  • How to Connect with Your Customers More Effectively by Using Social Media Marketing Tools
  • How to Use Innovative Processes Utilizing the Voice of the Customer to Grow Your Business
  • Retail Realities and Trends – Learn How to Adapt Retail Trends as a Competitive Advantage for Your Specialty Business
Wednesday February 24, 2010
Virginia Beach Resort and
Conference Center
Registration 8:30 am
Program 9:00 am to 5:15 pm

Tuesday February 23, 2010
7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Connections, Canap├ęs and Conversation

Session Cost: $139 per participant, $99 per additional participant from the same organization The value is unbeatable – this small investment will yield great returns!
Reserve Your Spot Today. Call or Email: or
Phone: 757-491-1411
Check or Credit Cards Accepted

For a pdf of this seminar flyer email

On the Road Again-- Trade Show Fever

January is always an exciting time for me as I get to head out to speak at various trade shows across the US. I'm always excited to talk to retailers about what happened this past holiday season and how they are planning for the upcoming year.

Planning is especially important in this challenging economy and sometimes, I don't think retailers give it a high enough priority in the day to day rush of getting everything done.

So for this post, I thought I would share a couple of ideas for retailers as they head into this frantic buying season full of excitement and Christmas dollars to invest in spring inventory. Keep these ideas in mind as you hit the road to fill your shelves and store rooms with merchandise

Determine Your Goals for the Trade Show IN ADVANCE

  • Set a budget by vendor and classification after reviewing last year's results and existing inventory - Stick To It.

  • Establish dialogue with suppliers on potential marketing support for this year

  • Network with other retailers and suppliers seeking new ideas to drive sales, market share and profitability

Prepare A Thoughtful Merchandise Strategy in Advance.

  • Develop a strategy for buying - number of units, sizes, classifications, vendors, dollars

  • Schedule appointments ahead of time with key vendors

  • Preview show map and develop a schedule and plan a route - don't just meander through the show aimlessly

Gather Relevant Industry Insights to Make Good Purchasing Decisions

  • Schedule time for relevant educational seminars during your trade show visit

  • Talk to key vendors about best practices for sell through and merchandising

  • Engage in conversations with key thought leaders - approach seminar leaders with questions

  • Gather contact info on opinion leaders and plan on following post show on twitter, blogs, websites and newsletters

Work With Your Suppliers

  • Pre-wire for support during the year and determine follow-up plan after purchases
    Request placement on their website - store locator, hyperlinks

  • Ask for information about best practices from non-competitor

  • Seek merchandising suggestions

Going into a trade show with a defined set of objectives and a plan to achieve them will go a long way to ensuring you have a productive trade show and a great start to 2010. Think strategically and stick to the plan!

I'm off to Los Angeles and the California Gift Show. Drop by and see me and my colleague Ruth at our hands on Twitter sessions....put it in your schedule :-)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reflections Before Resolutions

Every year we make resolutions in January for all the wonderful things we want to achieve in the next twelve months. Many times those resolutions are the same ones we made the year before....ever vowed to lose weight, relax more, or better yet- get more organized at work or home?

Whether it's for personal reasons, or professional ones, I think it's a good idea to reflect on the previous year before we start considering the next one. Time taken to reflect on the lessons we learnt will hopefully help us avoid making the same mistakes in the the coming year.

As we retailers head into the buying season and the trade show circuit consider, I thought I'd share some suggestions on how to review the prior year in order to make business resolutions that will have an impact on your business during the coming year.

  • Reconcile last years sales to determine sale by vendor, sales by classification, profitability by vendor and profitability by classification; Any patterns, trends or best sellers?

  • Take an accurate inventory by vendor and classification; Any gaping holes or excessive amounts?

  • How did various classifications and vendors sales grow over the past year; were they consistent across the entire product portfolio? Did they correlate with inventory investments?

  • Assess the impact of any trends on your pending purchases; What intelligence have you gathered in seminars, from customers and vendors? How credible are these resources based on last years actual results?

A little reflecting on last year will help with your planning and resolutions heading into 2010.

Be Smart About Debt

One of the most critical elements of learning to manage your retail business’s financial situation is understanding the difference between smart debt and dumb debt. Understanding the wealth building or destroying power of debt could be the defining element of your future success.

Dumb Debt

This is the kind of debt you rack up from making impulsive purchases that you cannot afford. Dumb debt often comes as a result of trying to do what you would like vs. what is right for your business. It’s the kind of debt incurred from the instant gratification of making excessive and unnecessary purchases. It only sets you further back financially and does not help you build assets or reach your financial goals. An example is buying a lot of inventory from a designer whose style you love, without considering whether your customers have the same admiration for the designer and the potential implications to profits caused by excessive markdowns.

While much of dumb debt comes from credit card spending, not all credit card purchases are dumb debt. In fact, using a credit card can help your credit score, because you are building a favorable credit and payment history. But if you can’t manage your payments and you are strapped for cash each month trying to pay your credit card bill, you are going into dumb debt and you need to rethink your spending habits. Dumb debt can often lead to dumb strategies in order to service debt. Only use credit cards for your business if your sure cash flows will enable repayments!

Dumb debt does not just come from credit cards. You can also rack up dumb debt by buying too much inventory, investing in non-productive, expensive store improvements, being too generous with employee hours, benefits and pay, expensing too many “personal” expenses through the business, or underutilizing payables terms.

Borrowing money for any reason must be carefully weighed against the financial (not emotional) benefit of the debt to be incurred.

Smart Debt

Smart debt is the kind of debt that helps your business financially. If you get the right loan, utilize the proceeds to develop incremental business profits and manage your payments well, debt is a great tool to leverage and multiply profits. Low interest bank loans, lines of credit and supplier loans can be smart debt, provided they drive increment. Even credit card debt can be a smart decision, as long as you pay off your purchases in full each month. The greatest businesses in the world were built with the assistance and leverage provided by OPM (Other Peoples’ Money). Debt is a tremendous tool…..used wisely!

Knowing the difference between smart and dumb debt is important. Resist the urge of dumb debt so you can reach your financial goals with smart debt.