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!