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.