Monday, July 25, 2011

It's TIME to start using social media for your business

Another survey came out this week talking about business owners not using social media as a marketing tool. The survey shows that more than 47% of small business owners are NOT using social media in their regular marketing efforts. (Hiscox Insurance) The number one reason why: Business owners suggest that they don't see the payoff for the time and energy they invest.

At CBCG, we couldn't disagree more. If we met to discuss marketing for your business, I'm sure we would probably both agree that the goal of marketing for any business - large or small - is to connect with customers and share insights and information about the business. The key to successful marketing is to deliver the message in the right forum where your customers will read it.

If that premise holds true, then I suggest that there-in lies the opportunity for small businesses to use social media as a marketing tool. If your customers are spending time on Facebook, or watching videos on YouTube or Tweeting on Twitter, than you should be there marketing your business and engaging with them WHERE THEY ARE.

Reaching customers today is no different than when you marketed your business 20 years ago. You used the newspaper, put ads on the radio or put an ad in the yellow pages to share because that's where your customers were. The difference today is that some small business owners are not as comfortable using social media as a marketing tool because they know less about it or feel behind the curve when it comes to adoption of social media practices.

That uncomfortable feeling is limiting your success at connecting with customers and driving sales for your business. I promise, the tools are not that hard to figure out and once you decide to jump in, there are many resources available to you to help you create a message using social media that will reach your customers effectively.

The time to start using social media for your business is NOW. Your customers already are.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The heck with the heat, let's go shopping.....

More than half the US is steeped in a serious heat wave this week. And it doesn't look like it's going to end any time soon. It's so hot in many places that spending even 5 minutes outside can sap your energy and make you want to crawl into a dark cool room and just hide.

But for those of us that are in the retail business, we've still got employees to pay and sales to make, even in this blazing summer time heat. So how can you get more customers out of the car and in to your front door during the heatwave? Try some of these and let us know what happens.

  1. Have a "Hot, Hot, Hot" sale. Make a game of it for your customers. Let them know if it reaches a certain temperature, you'll give them a discount on their purchases for the day! The higher the temp, the more the discount. Send out emails, post on your social media sites and put a sign in your front window to spread the word.

  2. Put an old fashioned lemonade stand outside your front door. If it's too hot to man the booth outside, let them know you've got a cold glass waiting for them in your air conditioned store!

  3. Open the front door. Yes, you'll let out some precious A/C, but as they are walking by, they will feel it and most likely, be compelled to come in out of the heat and take a look around. Once you have them in the front door, the rest is up to your salespeople!

  4. Offer free bottles of water to all shoppers who come in. If you don't have premade labels in the store, get some blank ones and put your store logo on the bottles. Keep your customers hydrated, and advertise your store at the same time.

  5. Run a contest. Guess the high today and win a prize. This will be most effective via social media like Facebook or Twitter because you can get immediate results. Award the winner a gift certificate for a future purchase.

Whatever you do, you must do something. Don't let the summer heat take the sizzle out of your business!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Does your store compel customers to spend?

What do you do when vacation turns into a frustrating retail experience? Why you blog about it of course.

Admittedly, because of what I do for a living, I am hyper sensitive to retailers, the products they sell and the customer service they offer. Yes, it’s a hazard of my job, one that usually doesn’t cause such a problem at the same time!

But what I found on my visit to the retailers in Maine last week did not inspire me to spend money in the least. And the lessons for retailers out there who are in the same situation are worth talking about for all.

If you’ve not been to Bar Harbor, Maine summer is one of the best times to go. Visitors flock to the main attraction – Acadia National Park - during the very short season for a multitude of outdoor activities. And for those that don’t like the outdoor resources the park has to offer, there are plenty of shops and restaurants that are willing to help you wile away your time and spend your money.

This means that retailers must make hay while the “sun shines” in order to have a profitable season. With 8-10 weeks of prime time selling opportunities, the retailers need to be on top of their game to attract customers and get them to reach into their wallets and spend the almighty vacation buck.

And now the problems begin. After a morning hiking in the park, I set out for an afternoon of shopping hoping to find some mementos of my time in Maine. On a trip where I expected to be “wowed and wooed” to spend money in abundance, I wasn’t compelled to do anything of the sort. What I found – or should I say didn’t find from the retailers in town was concerning:

· Not one artistic or thought provoking window display that compelled me to walk in the front door of a store - on a very crowded retail street no less!
· No stores filled with one of a kind, unique, interesting products that inspired me to pull out my wallet
· Fair pricing on the routine items I forgot at home (I did without because of this)
· Not One – and I mean one - interesting marketing promotion geared toward making me pay attention to certain shops or products in any store
· A friendly merchant (or their support staff) that had a smile and a warm hello for me as I walked in
· A sign-up sheet for an email list or a facebook page so that I could follow store happenings all year round to remember the “fun” I had on my summer vacation.

Believe me, I know all the work it takes to make a retail store successful today. And I know that budgets are tight and costs are being cut everywhere just to try and stay in business for another year. But the simple take-away from my retail experience are reminders and lessons that don’t cost a lot to execute and ones that can differentiate your business to be the most successful it can be.
Wherever you live –and whatever you sell, every retailer must be vigilant about attracting customers and maximizing business opportunities where and when they occur. Forgetting about the 4 P’s of marketing are a critical failure to ANY business – no matter where it is. Especially in tourist destination stores across the country – Maine included!

Note to the Maine retailers reading this: I LOVE Maine – and I’ll be back –this isn’t about all of you- just some of your brothers and sisters who have forgotten the cardinal rules of retailing – that serve as a reminder to the rest of us. Customers WANT to spend money in your store. So please - give them a reason to spend!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Making Your Retail Business Social in 2012

People around the world are using social media for many reasons. They are meeting long lost relatives or high school classmates on social media sites, watching videos, reading blogs and most importantly for retailers, they are using social media to connect with brands they know and love.

And the numbers show no sign of slowing down any time soon. By the end 2011— more than 63% of Internet users will be using social media. (148 million people) and the number will climb to 67% by the year 2013. (Source: That’s a lot of people spending a lot of time with social media to do a lot of things.

And while some retailers are just getting started in using social media for their businesses, the industry is steam rolling ahead at warp speed. New social media sites are being created every day and the ways consumers use social media continues to evolve. So the question is - How is social media evolving and how will retailers be able to use it for their retail businesses in the coming year?

Here we present 5 emerging trends in social media. Many of them will be perfect for retailers like you as they seek to engage and share word of mouth experiences with customers in real time across a broad group of users. When you read them, don’t think about where you are with social media today, think about where your business could be if you integrated some of these tools in the coming year.

Consumer content creation—It’s all about being in the stream. Yes, you need to have an engaging presence with social media on your own that inspires people to come back on a regular basis. Now taking it to the next level and getting your brand evangelists and social media community members to talk about your business in their posts will be critical.

Think of it as PR and word of mouth marketing from your best customers. You will need to create programs that inspire them to share what you are doing in their social media posts. When your customers create the content for your business, it's the perfect word of mouth referral- except that it’s on line and a lot more eyes will be on the message!

Niche Location—Niche location social media sites target the exact location of the user and tells others about it. This has a great connotation for retailers who can use location based sites like Foursquare or Gowalla to run contests or make offers to customers who check in when they shop.

Its like getting free advertising for your store in real time, from people who are shopping at that moment! Customerse check in and get discounts, etc and then their friends see on line that they are shopping in your store and may be intrigued to come in and get the same deal. If you want to see how some brands have implemented location based marketing programs, take a look at what Ann Taylor, McDonalds, Starbucks and Best Buy have already done in this area.

Group Purchasing—This trend continues to grow and will expand with more sites in 2012. Simply put, group purchasing is based on the premise that creating a sense of urgency around purchasing will incentivize users to act quickly and to share the information with friends in their circle to insure the deal happens.

For retailers, it’s a great way to get a tremendous amount of marketing impressions for your brand that you could never afford on your own. And while the group purchasing sites take a percentage of the sales generated from the deal (and yes, there is some profit erosion on this first deal and customer transaction), the goal for using a GP site will be to create a longer term relationship with the customer over time to recoup your profit.

Using group purchasing sites like Groupon or Living social or Daily Deals has become a hotbed topic for retailers because they are concerned these sites don’t attract the right type of customers that can be retained long-term. I would suggest that the key to successful group purchasing participation is how you structure the deal and how you prepare in advance to create a process for you to capture contact information from the customers as well as create marketing programs to speak to them after the Groupon is over.

Social Gaming - In 2012 more game applications will be integrated in to social media programs to further engage customers with brands in a fun way. More than 56 million people currently play games with social media on a regular basis and brands that connect with customers while they are using the game platforms are poised to form a meaningful connection with them going forward.

Mobile Marketing - More than 50% of all cell phones will be smart phones in 2012. Consumers understand the time saving benefits that a smart phone can deliver and the social media trends for 2012 call for more mobile marketing programs from brands to connect with customers where they are. Discount codes coming thru phones, interactions with products while in store and QR codes offering information, games and other relevant services will further engage customers with brands and stores in 2012.

Whatever trend you think is right for your business, one thing is certain. Social Media is the way of the future for retailers to connect with customers. Just like creating a website was important 10 years ago and email marketing they way to connect with customers 5 years ago, social media is a trend that is here to stay.

Social media is and will continue to be a way of connecting with customers for your store and if you plan on being in business in 10 years – you must continue (or start!) to integrate these new social media tools into your marketing plans today.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Are you ready to be part of the Group?

I’ve heard lots of dialogue (on both sides of the fence) about Group Buying Sites (e.g. Groupon, LivingSocial, PlumDistrict and BuyWithMe) and how they have negatively impacted small businesses. In fact, I’ve even heard a few stories about how they put small businesses out of business!

These stories include businesses who were overwhelmed by new customers, saw unplanned spikes in demand and businesses where group buying sites created surges in website traffic and need for increased cash flow to manage inventory capacity builds. On the surface, this might lead you to say that group purchase sites are not good for small business. This is one place where I completely disagree!

I'd like to suggest that in fact, it's not the group buying sites fault for delivering "too many customers" to a store that participates, but in fact, it is the unprepared small business owner who has created what I believe are problems that can be easily prepared for.

Oprah Effect
Think of the impact that product endorsements from the Oprah Winfrey show had on small businesses. Many a lucrative business was catapulted from the dark corners of mediocrity to the bright lights of notoriety by being endorsed by Oprah on her show. How did they ever survive? How dare Oprah promote their products…did she not know she could put them out of business?

In fact, most (if not all) of the businesses featured on Oprah had time to prepare for the impact that the show would provide. The benefit of this proper planning in advance created the positive opportunity that the Oprah effect delivered.

Be Careful What You Ask For!
Any promotion deployed in isolation without regard for the effects on business operations is a disaster waiting to happen. A small business owner must take into consideration the ramifications of a Group Buying Site promotion on all aspects of the business. The financial impact of the Group Buying Site’s offer on gross profits can be easily measured, but the potential investments required in other operational aspects (IT and IS upgrades, staffing, training, inventory management, onsite customer logistics, cash flow requirements, customer relationship management programs) are more difficult to predict. All must be carefully evaluated and considered BEFORE entering into an agreement with a Group Buying Site. Strategic preparation is critical to maximize the potential success of the promotion and mitigating potential risks to your business.

Long Term Value of the Customer

A key element of many of these Group Buying Site promotions is the immediate discount on the initial transaction. If the small business owner views this opportunity as a chance to drive one-time transactions, they are doomed to failure. The key is to consider the long term value of the customer; the promotion expense is merely the customer acquisition cost. If the new customer can be converted from a one-time discounted transaction to a regular consistent customer, then the true monetization potential of the promotion is acheived. All said and done, the small business owner may initially only break even on the Group Buying Site promotion, but they have been presented with a glorious opportunity to drive future sales and profit growth through customer retention.

Think long term and you have a chance for success. Deliver a great customer experience and you have a better chance for success. PREPARE with a focus on the long term and you will succeed.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Managing your retail inventory and managing the cash flow that goes into managing that inventory is one of the biggest challenges retailers face. While there are many software programs and templates that exist to help retailers manage the process of buying inventory, I can’t tell you how many retailers I meet who still don’t see the benefits of using one of these systems to help plan their business.  

In our never ending quest to help retailers small and large take more money home and not leave it on their store shelves, once again, we offer our rationale on why setting up and managing an Open To Buy program (of some sort) can be effective and why it should be used to help run your retail inventory.  

You know what an open to buy is, right? It’s a system used to help plan your purchases on a department or class level and to match your inventory needs with planned sales you expect to do in that time period. A successful open to buy plan will maximize the flow of inventory and improve sales and turnover so that as the owner of the business, you can keep more cash from sales in your bank account and not spend it on inventory sitting on your store shelves that you don’t need.  

And while many of you reading this have been in business a long time and are quite knowledgeable about what sells when in your store, there is still some fine tuning that can be done with the help of an open to buy program for a business of any size no matter how old the business is.  

Using an OTB program will help you track selling by department on a regular basis and will alert you to shifts in business - very quickly. Reacting or proactively pursuing these shifts can and will save you money and help you drive more sales and profits to the bottom line for your business.  

Whether you buy more merchandise because you react to a positive shift in sales, or react to slower sales by canceling or shifting dates on purchases, you can help your business drive more profitable sales in trending categories while reducing the inventory you spend on departments that are no longer selling.   So how much money can you expect to save if you use an OTB program? Typical results from running an Open To Buy are turn improvement of between 7-10% the first year and a reduction in purchases of between 5-10% annually. These two things alone can pay for the cost of managing an OTB program and so much more!  

And while there are tremendous benefits to using an open to buy program, it is not a silver bullet that fixes all that ails your store. You will need to spend time working on and with your open to buy to make it truly successful. You must not be ambivalent about your Open To Buy.  For an Open To Buy plan to fully to succeed, you must be committed to following the plan you set in place and have the discipline to stick to the plan in the course of the year. The results will happen if you stick to the plan!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Make Your Summer Inventory Shine

Next week brings the official start to summer. For retailers, no calendar needs to tell us that as we are already well into the summer selling season and working on marketing and promoting the seasonal products that go with this time of year.

But for those of you that are a little behind in your planning, or you need a reminder about how to maximize your seasonal inventory we offer a few tips on how to make your summer inventory sizzle and shine while making sure you are thinking about the profitable season end liquidation of those products.

By now, you probably have a great display of your seasonal merchandise right by the front door. Hopefully the display is set up in direct sight of customers when they walk in and full of seasonal products and geared to maximize sales. Make sure your display is fun and pull in as much merchandise as you can to showcase your all of seasonal products – and the other corresponding products that go with it in the store.

Don’t forget to include your store windows and any outdoor space (window boxes, benches, parking lots, etc) in your seasonal product displays. There is no better way to entice customers to buy like showing them how the products work and how much fun they are!

Besides a great display, one of the biggest things to help maximize sales of seasonal products is to create a fun and engaging marketing program for them. Summer is all about family, vacation and doing all the fun things we don’t get to do in the colder weather so make your marketing communications reflect the same attitudes.

Remember you have less time to sell seasonal products than you do with your average selling cycle so be sure to market often. Include seasonal products in at least 2 emails per month and use social media to talk about your seasonal products on a more regular basis. (Our suggestion is 2-3 times per week) With social media, don’t forget you can do fun things like picture contests, short videos showing people using the products in a fun way.
If you sell from the web, change your summer product images on the front page often.

A good plan for maximizing sales with seasonal products also includes a strategy for how to liquidate those products at the end of the season. It is critical to your success- and to your cash flow- that you plan the time you want to be out of the merchandise and then back in to when and how you will promote it to your customers.

A good rule of thumb is to plan to sell thru 75% of your merchandise at regular price (This assumes an 8-10% sell thru on a weekly basis for the preceding 8-10 weeks of the season) by 1 month before seasons end.

This allows you one month to take permanent markdowns and move it to a clearance section of the store or to run the merchandise as a POS markdown for the final liquidation.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Social Media and your retail business - the perfect combination

We've recently returned from a series of social media trainings for our retail clients and the question we got asked the most was how to improve engagement and performance using social media.

With the continued emphasis from clients that want to learn how to create the right type of engagement using social media, we thought we'd repost our 42 tips on how to improve your social media presence. We shared it with the group and they added some of their own. We hope you find it helpful too.

1. Be Remarkable - Somebody Worth Making A Remark About
2. Sharing is Caring. Become A Trusted Resource for your Fans and Followers
3. Have Your Own Unique Brand Personality
4. Be Vocal And Opinionated – Politely, of course - Within The Community
5. Don’t Flood Followers With Requests. Follower Fatigue is Not What you Want!
6. Invest Time Into Social Media – Have A Strategy And Stick To It!
7. Produce And Share Content That YOUR AUDIENCE Will Love
8. Listen To What’s Being Said. Monitor Constantly. Respond Regularly
9. Become A Real Member Of The Community
10. Ask and Answer Questions - constantly
11. Provide Value To The Community
12. Get People Thinking- And Talking. Be Controversial when Appropriate.
13. Create Your Own Voice. Me Too doesn't Work in Social Media.
14. Contribute Regularly. Schedule Posts If Neccessary To Remain Present.
15. Don’t Be Negative—Or A Jerk. Neither One Works In Social Media.
16. Make It Easy For People To Share And Bookmark Your Content
17. Listen To The Community
18. Make At Least One New Connection Every Day
19. Engage Yourself In Conversations
20. Become The Conversation
21. You’re There To Make Relationships, Not Hard Selling
22. Take Time To Focus On Building A Loyal Following
23. Give, Give, GIVE!
24. Treat Social Media Like A Cocktail Party
25. Be Supportive
26. Syndicate Your Content Across All Social Media Platforms
27. Encourage Others To Syndicate Your Content Onto Their Sites
28. Fully Research The Community To Understand Your Market
29. Be Fun
30. Get To Know The Unwritten Laws Of The Community
31. Create An Attractive, Unique And Professional Profile
32. Use A Cool Avatar/Picture
33. Use The Same Avatar For Each Social Media Service
34. Don’t Disparage Others ( No Trash Talking Allowed)
35. Know What Your Followers/Friends Want And Give It To Them
36. Form Reciprocal Arrangements With Others
37. Monitor Your Noise Level
38. Never Cheat The System
39. Help Others Unconditionally
40. Be Yourself
41. Gain Credibility. Establish Trust.

There are certainly more ways than we have time to list, but we hope it's a start. Do you have a tip that needs to be added to our list? No problem- we'll make room. Comment away on our Facebook page so everyone can see it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sharing love from your long term customers


Do you know who the brand evangelists for your brand are? Do you know the names of those customers who have been with you since the beginning and who have helped your store get to the level of success you have today?

Of course you do.

These satisfied customers are the backbone of your business. They have so many nice things to say about what your store carries and the customer service you have provided over the years. They tell all their friends to shop in your store and about how nice you are to them. But what happens if these loyal loving customers don't use the internet on a daily basis and can't help you spread the word by writing on line testimonials on Yelp or your Facebook Fan page - places where the "younger customers" of your business are looking for reviews and testimonials about businesses to shop at? How can you marry these two different groups of customers and share the most information you can?

It's Easy. Help your satisfied offline customers share their experiences online by setting up a computer terminal in-store where they can post comments about their experiences with your retail business. Ask them next time they are in if you could get them to take a few minutes and post a testimonial about their experiences at your store. Log in to your social web pages and show them exactly what to do in order to write an online review. Or better yet, ask them for a quote and ask if you can type it in yourself? Saving them time, but getting the genuine referral out for so many others to see!  

While some of your long time customers may not be as internet savvy as your newest customers, they do have the best stories to tell about your business over the years. Make sure you do what you can to help them share it!

woman shopping.jpg

Is your retail business social?

Today’s retail consumers are using social media in record numbers to engage daily with products and services they like. They are learning about features and benefits of brands, they are learning about brand personality thru contests and activities online and they are sharing testimonial information about brands they love with their online friends and family.

All this social media activity is great news for retailers who understand that they can now engage customers (existing and new) via their social media sites on a daily basis. In fact, today’s best in class retailers are now meeting consumers where they are by re-aligning their marketing methods and creating social media strategies that engage, inform and inspire their customers to participate.

So what steps must you make in order to make your retail business more effective with social media marketing today?

1. Strategy first. With social media, it is not a case of “if you build it, they will come.” With social media, you must begin with a strategy that defines your company goals and outcomes for using social media. Ironically, the social media tools are not complex it’s the development of a strategy and finding time to commit to it that sinks many companies starting out.

2. Abolish the fear of transparency. As you seek to engage your customers in your social media activities, you will no doubt receive some critical reviews of your brand. Do not hide behind your cyber walls. Acknowledge your failings in the public forum and try to right the wrongs as best you can.

3. Stand out from the crowd. Yes, you must have a strategy, but don’t forget, we’re talking about marketing here so you must create activities with your social media marketing that create differentiation among your peers and help your customers see the value in your company and brand.

4. Givers gain. Companies must learn that using social media isn’t just about constantly selling your brand. They must learn to have a shared communication with customers and give information that your customers find useful. Think about social media like a cocktail party- if you listen to someone constantly talk about themselves, you are looking for the exits in a hurry, but if they engage in a two way conversation with you, it’s much more interesting and potentially rewarding.

5. Abide by the 40/30/30 rule. Spend 40% of your posts talking about personal matters, 30% of the time sharing store or industry information that your customers would appreciate and THEN- and ONLY then, should you spend 30% of your time directly selling products your store carries. Maintaining this rule will help you build credibility and trust for your brand with your customers.

6. Create Value - it matters to your customers. Make sure you use social media to help your company showcase the value in your brand. It’s not just being there that matters, it’s about delivering value in the eyes of your customers on a consistent basis that separates you from your competitors on a consistent basis.

There is no doubt that using social media can be an effective tool for connecting with consumers of all ages. I know that finding the time to execute social media may be challenging at first, but when you make it a regular part of your marketing program, you will see what a wonderful tool it can be for your business to meet and market to customers on a 24/7 basis!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Where does the time go?

Yesterday, I had a meeting with a client where we were supposed to spend 3 hours brainstorming a marketing strategy for new store grand opening. Instead, we spent the time organizing her schedule. She couldn’t even “think about marketing ideas and strategy" until she had made sure that everything was going to get done on time.

This got me wondering how many of our retail clients and partners are in the same predicament. How cluttered are their minds with day-to-day tasks? And how does this clutter affect the long term strategic planning that business owners must do to insure a successful future for their businesses?

So I’ve decided to create a series of blog posts that will give you information to help organize your time and tasks in order to make you more efficient in your day-to-day business operations. Hopefully, you can use the “extra” time you gain to strategize long-term projects (marketing,operations, social media strategy) that can and will improve the overall performance of your retail business.

Today we start with a tip that can improve your efficiency and help you to create a replicable process to help you achieve all of your daily activities. I’m talking about a to-do list.

Why do I believe creating a well-organized to-do list will improve your businesses’ overall performance? Most importantly, because I believe that creating a to-do list will help the most important person in the business - that’s you - focus on what is important to your business on a daily basis.

When you, as the owner and visionary for your business, define success on a daily basis it will make you focus (with laser precision) on the tasks that are necessary and most relevant for you to achieve optimum performance from your business. Here we offer some quick and easy guidelines to creating, and maintaining a to-do list for your business:

1.Create a final to do list before you go home at night. This will clear your head at the end of every day and insure you remember all the tasks that must get accomplished the following day. (Note: putting your list in plain sight and adding tasks as you remember them all day long will go a long way toward making the end of the day list building much quicker.)

2.Organize your to do list in 3 categories. Allocate time for each priority on your list.
a.High priority – These are the very important tasks and the ones that if not finished, will have the most impact on business operations if not accomplished.
b.Medium priority – While important, these are tasks that must get accomplished on time, but not critical to the bottom profit line of your business.
c.Low priority - These are tasks that are not critical to business operations and bottom line, but none the less need to get accomplished. Think of them as tasks that you would like to get accomplished (if there was enough time in the day) Tasks in this priority are not affixed to a specific weekly or monthly deadline. (These may be great tasks that if left on your list for a few days running, may be candidates to be delegated to another staff member.)

(Note: If anything remains a low priority on your to do list for more than 2 weeks, we suggest you take it off your list. Clearly, it wasn’t important to the future of your business otherwise you would move it up the priority list and make sure you got it done!)

3.When writing your list, check the calendar for future events. What is going on the next day? And in 2-4 days that you need to do work for? (Pre-planning tasks that need to be completed will save everyone in your organization from running around at the last minute to complete it.)

4.Communicate and schedule time in advance. Make sure that you engage all of the necessary participants required to accomplish your task well in advance of your deadline. (If you need your manager, marketing director, or bookkeeper to help you finish the task on your list, you must request their participation in order to make sure you can finish on time.)

If most of these tips seem like common sense, it’s because they are. The key is that you must have the discipline required to set up and to complete to do list on a daily basis. No one can help you meet the goals you set up for your retail business if you don’t start with a good example. So start writing a to do list and start accomplishing the tasks you need to for your business!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Benchmarking your retail performance

As retailers, we’re always striving to do better. We have previously suggested that benchmarking can help give retailers the unique perspective they need to improve their overall performance. But the question remains, what value can be added to your retail business by benchmarking your performance against other like retail businesses? Here we suggest 4 areas where your retail business can be improved and made more effective from the use of benchmarks.

Sales Effectiveness.By measuring sales, you can determine if your retail business is achieving it’s optimal level of sales on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. Using sales is an obvious measurement tool, but understanding how other retail businesses are performing versus yours can provide some future goals that your business can reach for.

Merchandising Effectiveness. Determining how effective your merchandise assortments are and measuring turnover performance will help maximize your gross profit to it’s fullest potential. Utilizing measurements for like industry businesses can showcase any room for improvement your business can make.

Marketing Effectiveness.Using benchmarks to measure the investment in marketing for your retail business can determine if you are achieving the appropriate level of incremental sales and profit with your marketing dollars. Spending money on marketing activity is critical to your businesses’ long term success, so understanding the return on investment you should expect can give you performance metrics to achieve.

Management Effectiveness. Benchmarks can help you determine if your investments in non-sales generating overhead are appropriate for a business of your size. Recognizing any cost savings that can be achieved or reductions in overhead that are necessary will help improve your overall expenses and improve bottom line profits.

Understanding that benchmarks can measure both internal and external company effectiveness, the next step in setting up a benchmarking practice for your retail business will be to determine what you want to measure. Determining which benchmarks to measure should align with your strategic and operational goals for the business and be appropriate for current stage of your business life cycle. Some possible benchmarks for your business to focus on include:

•Sales Per Transaction
•Customer Conversion Rate
•Sales Per Employee Hour
•Average Inventory Turn
•Average Inventory Shrinkage
•Sales Per Square Foot
•Average Gross Margin Percentage
•Sales Per Marketing Activities
•Sales Per Promotional Investment
•Overhead Percentage Of Sales
•Operating Margin
•Return On Invested Capital
•Sales Per Working Capital Invested

(Note: When gathering comparative benchmarking data, choose the industry figures that best fit your company descriptions. Unless you measure against your own industry standards, you won’t measure your business within the right industry context.)

Setting up a benchmarking process for measuring your business effectiveness can help insure the long-term success. Looking outside the walls of your retail business will help you to gain internal knowledge that can and will lead to improvements in your businesses’ bottom line results.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Are you connecting with today's connected Moms?


With Mother's day just around the corner, we can't help but think about all the wonderful Moms out there who are customers in our favorite retail stores. For many retailers, women- specifically mother's - are a core customer group. These customers are loyal and are the lifeblood of many retail businesses. Today's Mom customers are also very connected consumers who use the internet to find information about products and services they need.

Whether it's about speicfic features and benefits, pricing, or where to find the products they desire, Moms search the internet 80% of the time for information on brands.So how can you use the internet for your retail business to connect with thesse connected Moms? Here we offer a few examples:

  1. Use social search sites like Yelp to create a testimonials for your business. Think of social search as a word of mouth referral, only bigger - and better - because more people can see it! 
  2. Create a You Tube channel for your business. Add videos about specific products you sell, showcasing store events, or run video contests to engage customers with your business.
  3. Use Facebook Advertising to target specific customer groups and products. Facebook ads allow you to target specific locations and key words that make it very effective as a tool to maret your business.
  4. Post on Blogs where your customers participate. Blogs can be a powerful referral tool for any business. 
  5. Advertise on relevant blog sites. Engaged bloggers make wonderful customers for your business.
  6. Link blog posts, social media sites and videos in your company newsletters. Make your newsletters social to utilize all the wonderful content you've created across the internet.

Even if you don't use your cany webiste for selling products, there are many places to position your business on the internet today. Keying in on where your connected Mom customers are participating will go a long way toward helping you market your business effectively! 

moms on facebook.jpg

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is your retail business a peak performer?

As retailers, we’re always striving to do better. Whether we’re looking for more sales, higher profits or better customer service. But do we really understand what doing better means? When we’re “judging” our businesses performance, what are we measuring our success against? And when we measure performance, how do we determine what results should be expected?

The answer is Benchmarking. For some of you, this may be a common occurrence, for others, a new concept that can be a game changer for your business. So, let’s spend some time here trying to explain what benchmarking is and how it can help your retail business profit on a regular basis.

For those who are new to benchmarking, let’s start with a definition. Simply put, benchmarking is the practice of being humble enough to admit that someone else is better at something, and wise enough to learn how to match and even surpass them at it. Benchmarking is a systematic and continuous process of searching, learning, adapting and implementing the best practices from within your own organization, or from other organizations, towards attaining superior performance.

Another way to define benchmarking is as a measured “best-in-class” achievement or a recognized as the standard of excellence for a particular process reference point or a standard against which other performance may be measured against.

There are many different ways to focus your benchmarking efforts within a business. Typically retailers will focus their benchmarking efforts on the review of key business drivers including market share and comparative data on sales and operations. Some examples of benchmarking for a retail business may include:
-Gross margin
-Annual sales per square foot
-Rate of customer complaint
-Annual sales per square foot
-Employee satisfaction rate

So why should retailers understand and utilize benchmarking? Most importantly, improving overall performance with the most up to date information can help any retailer improve their bottom line. Benchmarking can be used to help your retail business determine what optimum performance benchmarks should be from an objective source. These indicators can help your retail business define success more effectively and help you to determine any potential areas of weakness in your business. Benchmarks can also help you create realistic goals for improving your performance that is realistic and achievable. Some key benefits of benchmarking include:

-Understanding world-class industry performance
-Encouraging and stimulating company innovation
-Improving organizational quality
-Creating company buy-in for change
-Exposing employees to new ideas
-Broadening company learning
-Increasing employee satisfaction
-Raising level of potential performance
-Sharing of best practices

Obviously, there are quite a few areas where benchmarking can be applied to your retail business. Determining which benchmarks to measure should align with your strategic and operational goals for the business and be appropriate for current stage of your business life cycle. Then if you uncover opportunities for improvement, they can have the greatest effect on delivering results that align with your overall business objectives.

While benchmarking is not an easy task to undertake, the results can have profound results on your businesses’ bottom line. Is 2011 the year you look outside of your own company walls and utilizing benchmarking to determine if you are truly achieving the success possible from your business?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Your merchandise is NOT like fine wine.......

Like most retailers, you probably have a consistent strategy in place for pricing products when they come in. But do you have the same consistent strategy in place to review and determine the selling performance of those products? In other words, do you have a markdown strategy in place for slow selling products that is consistently executed in your store? If not, the time to talk markdowns is now. Retailers must develop a process for reviewing sales and determine if markdowns should be taken to move products out of stock. Doing this on a consistent basis is a key component to maximizing your inventory turnover and improving cash flow for your business. Let’s discuss some of the reasons that your business might need to lower the ticketed retail price of merchandise in your store. Price reductions typically come in 3 different categories: 1) There are buying related causes. This is where most stores need to address markdowns. Included in this category are reductions due to assortment errors. There are also timing errors that you didn’t catch such as late shipment or ordering too much. Or perhaps you ordered from a new vendor and you misjudged the quality of the merchandise. Another buying related cause could be a supplier error such as late, damaged or incorrect shipments 2) Another category where markdowns would need to be taken is selling related causes. In essence, the product isn’t selling at the ticketed price to an acceptable level on a weekly basis. A good rule of thumb for retailers to use is a minimum sell thru of 5% weekly during regular selling periods. If the merchandise you are reviewing isn’t selling at least 5% a week that should be a basis for determining to take a markdown. 3) And lastly, there are operational related causes that may require you to take a markdown. These include damaged or dirty merchandise, odd lots or consumer shifts for certain products you carry. Depending on the reason that a markdown needs to be taken, retailers must enact a strategy to finish the liquidation of the distressed product. How much of a reduction to take, and when to take the reduction must be decided. This is THE most critical decision after pricing that happens. When products sell, every retailer wins, but having a strategy for dealing with merchandise that isn’t selling, after everything you have tried (correct pricing, marketing activities) is where retailers can either maintain, or give away their ultimate profits. There is no single right answer for when any retailer should reduce prices in their stores. Whether retailers choose to enact a temporary markdown, or a permanent one, retailers must analyze each product as it relates to their overall pricing strategy. Here are some key factors to look at when reviewing when to take markdowns and how much to take them for: a. Type of merchandise b. Store image c. Length of selling season d. Nature of target customer e. Size of initial markup f. Availability of selling and storage space g. Retailer’s sales promo policies - “mini” sales vs. “big-event” sales As mentioned earlier, a general rule of thumb is that products should sell thru at a Minimum of 5-7% per week. When you get to a 60 percent overall sell thru, you should take a first markdown, usually a 25% reduction. This cycle should generally take 10-12 weeks. If you think about how many times you go to market (2 major markets- and perhaps 2 minor markets in between) this makes sense. Each time you go to market, you are purchasing a ‘season’s worth’ of merchandise, so after 12 weeks, if the merchandise sells well, is typically time to get marked down. If you have slower moving merchandise (a sell thru of less than 2-3% per week) you may want to consider taking a markdown with a greater discount- somewhere between 33-40% off. And you may decide not to wait the entire 10 or 12 weeks. Remember this: Merchandise is NOT like fine wine, it does NOT get better with age. If you customers have “spoken” and they don’t like the products you have chosen, no matter how you have priced them, they will not sell. This leads to a serious lack of cash flow and in some cases, can lead to a lack of new products flowing in because there is no money to pay for them! Remember, a good overall pricing strategy and a coordinating markdown strategy is a key component to your stores ultimate success. Take the time to choose a strategy that aligns with your business goals, and then continue to monitor how the strategy is working on a monthly basis. This effort on your part will go a long way to building your brand as a unique and important store in the marketplace, and one that keeps your customers coming back time and time again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Are you having fun with your customers?

Retail tip of the day: Develop in-store events to showcase store personality. Create fun, entertaining environment for your customers to keep them coming back.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Pricing Right Delivers Profitable Results

As we near the end of our March Madness of Retail tips, today we discuss a topic that is critical to all retailers’ success. Pricing.

While retailers understand that pricing is a necessary component to doing business, many retailers do not fully factor in product pricing as it relates to the store branding, profitability and the long-term success of their business.

When considering how to price products for your business, you need to think about aligning your pricing strategy with your overall business strategy. Choosing the appropriate pricing strategy will insure your business, sales, and profit goals are in alignment.

There are many pricing strategies that retailers employ however; there are three that are typically employed by independent retailers. While some of the methods are simpler to implement than others, there may be unrealized costs associated with using only one for your business.

Keystone Pricing. This is the most common method of internal pricing in retail today. Keystone pricing is simply the doubling of the wholesale cost of any item. (“keystone”)Wholesale ($5) à Retail ($10). Keystone pricing is the simplest method for pricing and one that can be instituted by any and all staff members rather easily based on the invoice costs of any product in the store.

The challenge with employing this as the only method of pricing is that it doesn’t account for all of other costs associated with selling products in your store. (Commonly known as Sales, General and Administrative expenses – SG &A) This can lead to low profit margins and eventually to restricted cash flows as all expenses are not accounted for with this pricing methodology.

Profit Margin Pricing. When using this method for pricing your products, retailers set prices based on helping your business to achieve certain profit margin goals. This method assures that you business will concentrate its pricing efforts around identified profit targets that will help you to meet your business objectives.

While this type of pricing assures that you cover the all the total costs (CGS and all SG & A costs) the argument against with this type of pricing is that many retailers choose products for their store that are widely distributed across numerous selling channels. With prices for any product being readily available on the internet today, retailers cannot randomly determine retail pricing based on their desired profit targets. Doing so may position your store unfavorably in the eyes of the almighty consumer. Customers today are savvier than ever regarding pricing so you can’t over price just to keep your profit margins high without risking losing them to another business nearby.

Discount Pricing. This method of pricing works best for high volume retailers or retailers who sell a high volume on certain products in their stores. This pricing method employs price reductions (temporary or permanent) to stimulate sales activity including incentive pricing such as special introductions, volume discounts, customer loyalty programs, sales affiliate programs.

Note: It is almost impossible to raise your prices on items once you have established low day in day out prices. Customers will expect that your prices remain low. This sets up a lower profit margin for your store on these products which is very difficult to overcome. You also run the risk of positioning your store as lower in quality versus most of your competitors (whether or not it is true).

Remember, a good overall pricing strategy is a key component to your stores ultimate success. Take the time to choose a strategy that aligns with your business goals, and then continue to monitor how the strategy is working on a monthly basis. This effort on your part will go a long way to building your brand as a unique and important store in the marketplace, and one that keeps your customers coming back time and time again.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Who are your partners?

Retail Tip of the Day: Develop partnerships w/local biz like banks or rest. It's a great way to create loyalty w/your cust by offering them added value from their experience with your store.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Who works at your store?

I meet lots of retailers every month. In almost every conversation, store staffing comes up because it is such a critical issue. These retailers share stories (some good, some not so good) and usually point to having 2 different types of employees in their store. Which employees do you have working in your store today? Employee #1 looks at the clock longing for quitting time, doesn’t move from behind the register when there are no customers in the store, and has little interest in helping grow/build sales with any customer. Employee #2 is constantly busy doing tasks (some assigned, some on their own) that make the store achieve sales goal faster, make the store cleaner or run more efficiently. This employee is always asking what else can be done to help make the business better. Of course, we’d all like to have a store full of #2 employees all the time because we know that we would have the running smoothly and that sales would be humming along- even if you didn’t go in to the store for weeks on end. So how do you find employees that are constantly engaged with the business and who are looking to make your store the best it can be every time they work? YOU DO. Your leadership and training from the first day they step into the store sets the tone for their success. YOUR training makes the difference. Today we share tips for creating top-notch employees who are as committed to your store’s success as you are 1) Make your employees THE KEY part of your store success. Share overall store goals and missions with all associates every day so they know what is expected. 2) Create a new employee handbook (can be as small as 2-4 pages) Use this book to share goals and expectations from their first day of work. These can be dress codes, hourly sales goals or any departmental responsibilities they have. 3) Lead by example. Be on the floor to show them how to work with customers, teach them to merchandise the selling floor and windows and how to close a sale properly. 4) Have a sales book at the register with financial goals for every day. Make sure every associate knows the goal from the time the store opens. 5) Track sales results during the day. (Or have your manager do it – show that making goal is priority one EVERY day.) 6) Let your employees know that they must be creative and deliver contingency plans if sales are not trending toward daily goals- empower them to do small things to boost sales in the middle of the day. 7) Announce sales results daily. Praise associates for making goals, work on re-strategizing if sales are down to plan. 8) Give every associate an area of responsibility in the store. Wiping shelves in a certain department, cleaning cash wrap, front door or windows. Everyone is responsible for how the store looks. Not just you. (Rotate tasks if some are more tedious than others.) These are just a few tips to get your associates on board for your stores success. They are not the only ones. Share with us what you do to keep your associates motivated and delivering results. We’d love to hear.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Blog your way to new retail customers today

As we wind our way thru our March Marketing madness, we continue with todays' the retail tip of the day. Today we offer up a powerful communication tool for your retail business. The blog. Think of a blog as an online journal where thoughts are communicated and comments are posted by readers. It's like an online conversation. Through blogging, you can engage key audiences directly in fast, honest, conversations and while setting up a blog does have an initial time investment, it can be very effective for your business- no matter what size it is!

Why should your business create and keep a blog in it's marketing cache? 

  • A blog is a place where you can share information with customers very quickly. You can also use a blog to generate interest with potential customers and even future employees. By writing a blog on behalf of yourself or your busiess, you can demonstrate your passion and more importantly, your knowledge and expertise on behalf of your business.
  • Blogs can help market new products, services or events you have going on at your store on a regular basis. 
  • And one of the most important aspects of keeping a blog for your business is that you show the readers the personality of your business. Today, retail is entertainment for many customers, and using a blog to showcase the personality of your store can have customers and potentail customers lining up to see what you have to offer.
  • Maintaining an effective blog with effective inbound and outbound links can naturally help improve your search engine ranking

Note of caution: Blogging isn’t right for every store, so it’s consider your objectives and your target audiences carefully before beginning the endeavor.  If you decide you've got information that your customers are looking for, and that you have the time to write and coordinate the blog (or the employees who can help you maintain the blog)  then by all means, add it to your marketing tool box. A blog can be a powerful and effective tool to help your retail business prosper.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

All Aboard The Social Media Train....

Congratulations. You've decided that March 2011 is the year you're going to embrace social media and start using it to help your business grow. That's perfect because today's retail tip of the day can help you understand what your challenges might be (or should we call them opportunities to overcome) as you look to implement usage of social media for your business.

1.Strategy first. Using Social media is not a case of build it and they will come. As with any marketing endeavor, you must begin with a strategy that defines your company goals and outcomes.  Ironically, the social media tools are not complex however it’s developing the strategy and finding time to commit to it that sinks many companies starting out. Don’t let this happen to your company.

2. Abolish the fear of transparency.  Anyone who has joined CBCG for a seminar knows we believe that this one is key to your success. As you seek to engage your customers in your social media activities, you may also receive some critical reviews of your brand. Do not hide behind your cyber walls. Acknowledge your failings in the public forum and try to right the wrongs as best you can. You may not ever completely resolve the disgruntled voice, but those who see the interactions and how you are trying to correct the situation will be most pleased with your words.

3. Stand out from the crowd.  Yes, you must have a strategy, but don’t forget, we’re talking about marketing here so you must create activities with your social media marketing that create  differentiation among your peers and help your customers see the value in your company and brand!  

4. Givers gain. Companies must learn that using social media isn’t just about constantly selling your brand. They must learn to have a shared communication with customers and give information that your customers find useful.  Think about a cocktail party- if you listen to someone constantly talk about themselves, you are looking for the exits in a hurry, but if they engage in a two way conversation with you, it’s much more interesting and potentially rewarding.

5.Create Value. It matters to your customers. Make sure you use social media to help your company showcase the value in your brand. It’s not just being there that matters, it’s about delivering value in the eyes of your customers on a consistent basis that separates you from your competitors on a consistent basis.

Knowing the pitfalls can help you as you look to navigate the social media waters. Don't forget the advisors we mentioned last week who can also help you stay focused by offering information, education and inspiration on a daily basis thru their writings.

Social Media Train.jpg

Monday, March 14, 2011

Do you have a retail social media strategy?


In today's retail tip of the day, we want to help you create a working social media marketing plan for your business. Like any good marketing plan, a social media marketing strategy also requires planning, preparation and the right tools, but if you have a well defined plan, you can focus your time to help produce maximum marketing effectiveness for your business.

Where should you be? The first thing you must do is to decide where you should concentrate your social media efforts. For most retailers today, creating a Facebook Fan page is a good place to start. This will give you access to more than 600 million potential people-- both around the world, and around the corner from your retail store. If however, your business targets a very young audience, perhaps using videos on You Tube and using location based marketing programs such as Foursquare or Gowalla would be a good choice.

Remember, the right answer may be to participate in more than one place on social media at a time and have different messages running to attract different audiences on those media sites. You will have to create specific messages for each media to insure they hit the correct target audiences needs.

What is our company goal using social media?  Once you decide where to be, then you must decide what your goals are and determine how to measure those goals. Your social media goals should be tied to your overall business goals? Ie. Do you want more market share for your business? Then your social media goal should be to gain follwers who may then turn into potential customers for the business.

Warning: Many retailers plan a sales increase as their "goal" for using social media. This can be risky. If you focus your efforts on creating mini advertisements all the time and do not work to engage your audience, you run the risk of turning them away from your business permanently. Build credibility and trust first. Then, and only, then, talk about your products in a selling manor.

What will we say about/for our business using social media?

Think of social media sites as another extension of your store selling floor. No matter what social media tools you choose to use, each one offers a chance to engage with customers in a venue that is their choice. (Remember, the reason social media is such a powerful marketing tool is that your customers find YOU there andthey seek to find more information about YOUR store. Unlike the old days of marketing where you placed a message and hoped they found the ad where you placed it!)  If you have a brick and mortar loation, and you are using social media correctly, your customers should get the same feeling when engaging with you online. So if you're funny in the store, you should show that same personality on Facebook or Twitter or your blog.

The goal is to share information, gain the trust and credibility of your followers and to engage them further with your brand to establish or maintain their loyalty.  

A good rule of thumb for posts (what to say) is the 40/30/30 rule. Spend 40% of your time sharing "personal" type information with followers. No, not your street address, but things like market trips, events in town, employee birthdays, customers of the week, etc. Your goal in this phase is to make yourself and your store human so you can build trust.

The next 30% of posts should be about sharing information. This is where you share knowledge- or share other industry experts knowledge with your fans/followers. This establishes that you are credible in your industry and you are doing them a favor by culling all relevant industry information for them. Even if you haven't written the article, your fans will appreciate that you saved them time and found them valuable, interesting information.

Then finally after credibly and trust are established, you can talk (ie.sell) for your business in the final 30% of your posts. If you've done the first two phases well, they will be engaged and want to learn more about the products you sell, the events you are having, etc.  While it may seem like a long time to get to the sales aspect of the business, think about when a customer walks in the front door. You never start out by saying "Can ring that up for you when they walk by the first table or rack, right?" It's the same with social media. Start with "small talk" then build to the sale!


How will I measure the results of my time and effort on social media? After spending your time and energy (the good news with social media is that there are less dollars spent than with traditional marketing mediums, but there is the time factor involved) you want to measure results against factors that will drive your bottom line. With every social media site you use, there are analytics that can help you measure your results. Some of them are shown in overall numbers such as the total number of fans, followers or blog readers you have. If you grow these numbers, than you know that more potential customers are following your business.

The next set of analytics involve the content that you publish. In essence, the more views, posts, or people commenting back, mean that your information caught their attention and you have successfully '"engaged" your audience. That is your goal!! Some potential measurement tools for you to review on a regular basis include the number of video or other content views, volume of user comments posted to your blog or fan page, number of re-tweets of your content.

Social media is a fun, engaging, low cost marketing tool which can and should be part of any retailers marketing program today.  The key is to create a strategy that ties to the overall goals of your business and engages your followers with your brand on a regular basis.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Turn your inventory into Gold

Our retail tip of the day today focuses on inventory. It is usually the largest expense that any small business has and yet many retailers do not plan a through purchasing process to maximize the usage of dollars associated with inventory. To maximize your inventory turnover and reduce unnecessary expense on inventory, you must have a plan.

There are many options for you to choose from. If you're a long term retailer, perhaps you've got an inventory purchase system that works for you. Wonderful. Make sure you keep updating your system and checking your stores' overall performance against the key industry benchmarks that are available. The systems out there today keep improving overall performance of inventory- and you should be pushing your store to as well.

For those of you who are new to retail, or for those that haven't done any purchase planning to date,  why not think about having a retail professional help you to set up an OTB plan for your business that will deliver proven results. He/She can help you find the best way to maximize your inventory you do have and not spend too much of your hard earned money on wasted inventory! If you find the right person, their professional advice will pay off almost immediately.

Specialists in inventory planning and open to buy management have had years of experience and can understand even the most subtle nuances of your business. They can translate even the slightest trend data and give you sound recommendations on how to maximize the opportunity at the same time cautioning your progress so you don't spend too much. A professionally managed otb can also help to:

Increase Sales - consistently maximize all key inventory contributors  

Drive Profits - minimize inventory investment; increase inventory turnover  

Enhance Overall Product Mark Up - utilize key retail industry benchmarks to improve mark up and gross margin targets

Improve Cash Flow – optimize inventory investment freeing cash flow for debt reduction  

Improve Productivity Of Store Management – shift time spent on inventory management to building long term strategic sales and marketing efforts  

Create A Proactive Emphasis On Inventory – interpret selling data for future purchase planning decesions

Gain Access To An Expert - an experienced, independent and objective perspective resulting in candid recommendations and action plans  

Should you hire a professional for your otb services, some of the following outcomes are possible:

Sales Growth Typical sales improvements are between 2-5% annually – based on a $500,000 business, that’s an additional $ 25,000 in sales in one year!  

Gross Margin And Profit Enhancement Typical gross margin improvement ranges between 0.5% and 1.0% within the first year - based on a $500,000 business this improvement alone would cover the expenses of running the otb program.    

Inventory Investment Reductions Professional OTB management typically leads to inventory reductions of 8% -13% of average stock while simultaneously increasing sales - as the owner of the business, this adds additional money back into your pocket - almost immediately.

Whatever you decide, your own system, or hired professional, make sure you set plans and goals for your inventory performance. Every business can and should continually look to improve it's turnover, sales and profit performance.

Want to talk to a CBCG team member about OTB services?  Contact us today to learn more.


Monday, March 7, 2011

We're one week in to our March Madness Retail Tip of the Day series. Thank you for all the feedback and for your particpation. Keep the comments coming! CBCG wants to give you as many resources as we can to help your retail business prosper. For today's retail tip, we offer a list of additional resources where you can go to look to for answers that can help you and your business. The list is just the tip of the iceberg, but we find the people listed have great insights and they help us to help you even more with their wisdom and knowledge! Enjoy!  

Social Media:

Mari Smith - Facebook Guru/Expert who can simplify even the toughest new editions to the program

Chris Brogran - Author of Trust Agents, great writer on the how's/why's of Social Media


Duct Tape Marketing - John Jantsch has lots of insights and information to help any size business

Seth Godin - Author of the Purple Cow. Thought leader on marketing and consumers 3x daily newsletter where writers are looking for subject matter experts to comment for their articles. Want to get your store in the press more often? Sign up today for this great newsletter.

Retail Industry Websites/Blogs:

CBCG Retail Report (we certainly think this one is helpful, it's ours!)

National Retail Federation (NRF) - free daily newsletter gives you quick pulse of broad range of retail industry

MarketingProfs - Subscription based service that has numerous articles/white papers/seminars across every subject area

TopRank Online Marketing Blog- written by Lee Odden This one is all about blogs. From every angle. All the time.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. There are a variety of resources at your disposal to help you with your retail business! We're all here to assist you as you grow your sales and profits!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is Your Retail Business Social?

1. Social Media is great for businesses of all size. Using social media, small and medium-sized businesses can create marketing campaigns that are able reach large numbers of potential customers but at a fraction of the cost. However, Social Media is not a silver bullet. It must be integrated into an overall marketing campaign and deliver a message that supports the brand and that is focused on achieving a business goal. Note: The costs in dollars for social media may be low, but the cost incurred may be a steep one. Its time. You (or your employees) must be willing to commit the time to social media to achieve the results you desire.

2.Listen and you shall hear. Using social media is a great way to listen and communicate what your prospects and customers are saying about your business. Listening to the online chatter for your brand is critical at all times. Not only can you hear good news and nice things being said in real time to share with other prospects or customers, but you can also deal with potential unsatisfied customers in as timely a manner that can go a long way putting out a fire before it becomes an inferno. 3. Social media can dramatically influence buying decisions. In the past, customers looked for product feedback from trusted friends and influencers. Today, consumers take to the internet seeking online opinions – and as we mentioned earlier – many times from people they have actually never come face to face with. But don’t be fooled, the recommendations of “strangers” can have as dramatic affect on purchasing decisions as a referral from their own brother or neighbor.

4. The More the Merrier. Through social media, businesses can reach a significantly larger pool of potential customers. And while many companies might not be able to increase their physical space, they can afford to increase their online “space” to reach new markets and thus new customers all the time.

5. Social Media creates effective WOM (Word of Mouth) strategies– As we know from traditional marketing approaches, satisfied customers are more than happy to give referrals for a job well done or products they love. Creating a process which uses social media to spread word of mouth referrals for your business can deliver your referral efforts both farther and faster (upwards of 1000 fold more people!) than your current traditional WOM campaigns. That alone is worth the time and effort for your business to use social media!

Need more reasons to use social media for business? Email me directly. I've got to convince you about this powerful marketing tool that can and will help your business grow.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Marketing Madness Starts NOW...

Today is March 1. It's the start to March Marketing Madness. Every day this month, you'll get tips on all things retail that can help your business grow. Some quick lessons (as in less than 140 characters worth on Twitter) or some longer posts on topics that need more attention for your business.

Make sure to join the CBCG Fan Page or follow us on Twitter as that's where the tips will come. We'll also be offering long tips and articles on our CBCG Retail Report blog so check back often. Let's have fun with the tips and most of all, we hope you learn some tips and tactics that you can use for your retail business.

And don't forget to let us know how we're doing- and what you want to see. We'll add as much content as we can to help you and your business.

So here we go.. The Tuesday Retail Tip of the day is:

Review store selling every week. Determine best sellers to re-order and slow movers that must be liquidated on a regular basis so that your inventory is fresh at all time. As inventory is the biggest expense many retailers have, you must take the time to review what is working and what isn't on a weekly basis so you can make adjustments going forward. Slow moving inventory is one of the largest challenges small businesses have. It hurts cash flow as you've already paid for the merchandise, yet it is sitting on the shelves unsold. By creating a strategy to liquidate these slow sellers, you can free up cash to bring in more of what you have identified as a best seller and to try some new items that your customers might like better. Run a selling report today and see what it says! You might be surprised.


Monday, February 28, 2011

Does Your Marketing Drive You Mad?

It's  time for the annual March madness basketball tournament to begin and it's got us thinking about the madness that is everyday retail. While many of us have come to appreciate the constant activity that comes from being a retailer, I can't help but think of a day when there are processes and programs in place in every store that will make it run more smoothly and effectively.

To help with that effort, CBCG is going to post a retail tip of the day every day this March. Our goal is to share retail tips that can help you and your business prosper and be more productive on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. During the month, follow CBCG on our blog or our social media sites as we offer ways -both little (as in less than 140 characters on Twitter or Facebook) or big (longer detailed blog posts) that can help you improve the inner workings of your retail business for a long time to come.

We're going to start with tips on marketing and inventory planning and how you can make them both more effective to gain profitability for your business. Let us know if there are other areas you want us to cover. With 25 years experience, we've seen a lot of things and have lots of tips to offer~

Our first tip comes on Tuesday March 1 so be ready for it. Join us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to make sure you get your daily tips.

And please, don't forget to comment on our tips if you have suggestions on how to make them work even better. We'll all get better if we share amongst ourselves.


March Madness.jpg

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Are you out- foxing your competition with your marketing efforts?

Phew. I'm finally back on my home turf after spending the majority of the month of January speaking at trade shows across the world-- literally. I love gettting to spend time with retailers from every walk of life and learn about their businesses and all the good associated with owning a retail endeavor. But the one thing that never ceases to amaze me is when retailers tell me -again and again- that don't do marketing on a regular basis. What?

I know the economy is challenging, and that marketing budgets are slim,but you must continue to find low-cost or no cost ways to engage with your customers on a regular basis-or your competitors will! With so many tools available today to connect with customers affordably and effectively, you must put together a marketing program that will reach customers where they are watching.

Within any given month, here are 5 different ways to connect with your customers-mix them up,create a schedule that works for your business and start marketing on a regular basis today!

  1. Facebook Fan Page. Simply put, you have to be here for your business on a regular basis. With over 500 million users, many of your customers and potential customers are on Facbook- and your business should be too!
  2. Email marketing For many of you, this tool has become an effective way to reach customers. While social media is the darling of marketers (and highly effective) you can't abandon email all together. You can however include inks articles and information that is found on your social media sites to introduce those marketing tools.
  3. You Tube Video Millions of videos are viewed and uploaded every day. This powerful tool offers a unique way for retailers to share information, education and store personality- all in 10 minutes or less! ( But don't go more than 3-4 min per video-folks get bored)
  4. Blogging Writing short articles like this on topics relevant and interesting to both existing and new customers can highlight your knowledge and help build trust and credibility for your business.
  5. In Store events. I bet you thought we'd leave out traditional marketing tools based on the emergence of social media. Wrong. Creating in-store events that bring like-minded customers together will drive sales and raise awareness for your business. (And look at all the tools above as places where you can promote your events)

Now that you've got some tools, it's time to mix them up,create a schedule that works for your business and start marketing on a regular basis today!

Lynn Switanowski is the founder of CBCG a retail consulting firm which helps retailers of all size to create and develop effective marketing and social media strategies. Contact CBCG at


Sunday, January 30, 2011

42 Ways Retailers Can Improve Their Presence on Social Media

We've just returned from presenting social media seminars at some of our favorite trade shows. Retailers attended the sessions in large numbers as they were looking for tips and tactics on how to create social media strategies for their businesses in 2011. Based on the excitement and energy from the sessions, I can't wait to see the exciting ways that retailers will engage customers using Facebook, Twitter and so many other social media tools this year!

Whether it was the San Francisco Gift show, Philadelphia Gift Show, or the Snow Show in Denver, we were constantly getting asked about how to improve engagement and performance using social media. With all this interest in learning how to create the right type of engagement, we thought we'd repost our 42 tips on how to improve your social media presence. We hope you find it helpful.

1. Be Remarkable - Somebody Worth Making A Remark About
2. Sharing is Caring. Become A Trusted Resource for your Fans and Followers
3. Have Your Own Unique Brand Personality
4. Be Vocal And Opinionated – Politely, of course - Within The Community
5. Don’t Flood Followers With Requests. Follower Fatigue is Not What you Want!
6. Invest Time Into Social Media – Have A Strategy And Stick To It!
7. Produce And Share Content That YOUR AUDIENCE Will Love
8. Listen To What’s Being Said. Monitor Constantly. Respond Regularly
9. Become A Real Member Of The Community
10. Ask and Answer Questions - constantly
11. Provide Value To The Community
12. Get People Thinking- And Talking. Be Controversial when Appropriate.
13. Create Your Own Voice. Me Too doesn't Work in Social Media.
14. Contribute Regularly. Schedule Posts If Neccessary To Remain Present.
15. Don’t Be Negative—Or A Jerk. Neither One Works In Social Media.
16. Make It Easy For People To Share And Bookmark Your Content
17. Listen To The Community
18. Make At Least One New Connection Every Day
19. Engage Yourself In Conversations
20. Become The Conversation
21. You’re There To Make Relationships, Not Hard Selling
22. Take Time To Focus On Building A Loyal Following
23. Give, Give, GIVE!
24. Treat Social Media Like A Cocktail Party
25. Be Supportive
26. Syndicate Your Content Across All Social Media Platforms
27. Encourage Others To Syndicate Your Content Onto Their Sites
28. Fully Research The Community To Understand Your Market
29. Be Fun
30. Get To Know The Unwritten Laws Of The Community
31. Create An Attractive, Unique And Professional Profile
32. Use A Cool Avatar/Picture
33. Use The Same Avatar For Each Social Media Service
34. Don’t Disparage Others ( No Trash Talking Allowed)
35. Know What Your Followers/Friends Want And Give It To Them
36. Form Reciprocal Arrangements With Others
37. Monitor Your Noise Level
38. Never Cheat The System
39. Help Others Unconditionally
40. Be Yourself
41. Gain Credibility. Establish Trust.

There are certainly more ways than we have time to list, but we hope it's a start. If you have others, please leave a comment and tell us how you are successfully engaging your customers. (and don't forget to leave us your fan page or twitter address so we can follow you too!)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Revitalize Your Retail Business in 2011

For most retailers I have talked to, 2010 ended with a healthy December sales trend that will add some much needed profits to the coffers this year. Signs point to this upward trend continuing into 2011 for retailers across many product categories. We look forward to the positive momentum continuing and for 2011 to be the year where retailers return to strong sales and profits all year long.

But what if the year didn't end with a bang, but instead, finished with a wimper? What are you going to do differently for your business in 2011 that will garner different results all year long? As we end 2010 and head into a new year where you have another 365 days to make all things possible for your retail business, CBCG offers up 5 ways to revitalize your retail business - and yourself in early 2011~

  1. Make time for a strategy day. Take 1 FULL Day AWAY from your business early in the year to sit down and PLAN the coming year. Take yourself and any staff you think are needed to help you think strategically about your business. No phones, no customers, just the focused effort that your business deserves as you head into a new year. Think about marketing, staffing, sales goals and products you want to add or get rid of this year. Remember the 5 P 's of EVERY successful business: Prior Proper Planning Produces Profits for all!
  2. Talk to the best. Choose 10 of your best customers and ask them to tell you what your businesses' biggest shortcomings are. These are people that love your business (and probably shop frequently) They are not fleeting and won't stop shopping (even if they think you can do some things better) Most importantly- they will give you honest feedback. Assuming these big spenders are like your typical average customer, asking them for ways to make the business even better will certainly help your business in 2011 -  and well beyond!
  3. Get SOCIAL If you haven't started a social media program for your retail business, 2011 is MOST DEFINITELY the time to start. It's no longer IF you should engage customers with these powerful tools, but HOW OFTEN. If you are already using social media, set goals for your programs. How often will you participate? What types of programs will you run? How will you engage customers regularly with your programs? As with any marketing program, if you are spending time using social media, you need to establish goals and you need to be accountable toward making them!
  4. Go to school. Take some classes that can help you and your business grow in 2011. Need to know more about marketing and using social media? Attend a trade show seminar or a local business seminar on the topic. Are your lack of computer skills holding your business back? Find sessions that can give you tips and the tools you need to make your business prosper. Don't let your lack of knowledge (or your staff) hold your business back in 2011.
  5. Take a break. You must find a way to take a short vacation (or long one) early in the year. Time away from your business will help you recharge your batteries and will allow you to see the big picture even better. Extend your trade show trips one day - or take a long weekend somewhere. The additional energy you will have when you return will do great things for your business in 2011!

Do you have other ways you plan on revitalizing your retail business in 2011? Drop us a line and let us know. We'll make sure to share!

We wish all of our retail partners the best of luck in 2011! We hope you go out and make it a spectacular year. We'll be here along the way to cheer you on with ideas and solutions to your retail problems.

Lynn Switanowski and the CBCG Team.