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!