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!