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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Jump Start your Business with Low Cost Marketing Ideas


Take a look at your calendar. The year is almost half over and summer is looming on the horizon. How many store events have you had so far? Do you have your promotions planned for the remainder of the year? Many specialty craft store owners are so busy working in the shop, they are unable to work on the shop. Life is busy, personally and professionally. Promotions are often the last thing on your mind until cash flow gets weak, at which point you simply throw together a quick sale and post some signs in the window in the hopes of increasing revenue. Sound familiar? Believe me....I know how you feel! Not too many years ago I was struggling with the demands of a life that had gotten overwhelming. I not only felt like I was dropping the ball at every turn, each time I dropped it the darn thing bounced back and hit me in the arse. Seriously. I couldn't get it all done and I had legitimate reasons for the failure: we were understaffed at the office....I was still acting as family chauffeur...I had to leave the shop early to meet the needs of my family...employees called in sick.....I had a husband who thought of my business as a hobby....and so on!

I felt frustrated and the loose ends were overwhelming m
e. I know that many of you find yourself in the same stilettos and it is easy to feel conflicted. I was working harder and faster than ever before but getting less done and making more mistakes while I was at it!

WHEW! What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

ou are already working hard, but are you working smart? Perhaps it is time to tweak things a bit. You must pay your company the attention it requires and you can do it---you might simply need to be more creative about how and when it all gets done. A wise mentor (OK, it was my Mom, but she is very wise) once told me that "Fast is slow and slow is fast."

Huh? What does that mean? It didn't take long to figure it out---I realized that during those periods when I ran around at breakneck speed and took shortcuts at every turn, I made mistakes and disappointed people-----personally and professionally. It took me more time to fix the problems and smooth over the ill will than if I had done things right the first time. I thought I was saving time but I was actually making the situation worse because I was constantly being REACTIVE rather than PROACTIVE.

I bet many of you have experienced the same thing. Take a deep breath and schedule a few hours---no matter how busy you are---to get focused. Pl
an your store promotions --- at least on a skeletal level---for the next twelve months. Don't wait for a fiscal emergency before you try to plan a promotion. Store events are truly the lifeblood of any retail establishment and in this weakened economy it is critical to give your customers a consistent reminder of how wonderful you are. Brainstorm with your staff and get the team on board. Here are some ideas that require more elbow grease than cash:

1. Send out educational and informative emails monthly. There are a number of email providers who make it a snap to put together an instant email promotion. I use Constant Contact, an inexpensive service that is currently running a 60 d
ay free trial. It is the perfect opportunity for you to give the email blast a try! Colorful, photo laden emails will do wonders for your foot traffic. Tout a new class, promote the latest inventory, consider including a coupon. You might need to invest a few hours in learning the email program, but I guarantee that you will see results. Make it short and sweet and be sure to include pictures.

2. Go where
your potential customers are hanging out. Summer months bring out the street fairs. Consider setting up an information booth at community fairs and festivals. Offer to demonstrate a technique: knitting, spinning, beading, weaving are all attention getters. Provide a "make and take" opportunity to really attract attention and build your mailing list.

3. Align yourself with a charity. Collect canned goods or used clothing for a needy organization. Offer your customers a discount each time they bring in an item. Photograph the growing stash and prepare a press release. The publicity that you get
will be priceless, not cost you a dime, and you will actually be doing a good deed. Talk about a win-win. Never written a press release? Its easy! You can work with a different charity every month to spread the wealth and keep the publicity flowing.

4. Consider a "Magic Number" Direct Mailing. This
direct mail campaign offers your customers a chance to win a prize by walking through your door. Sequentially number the mailers during the printing process and have a drawing to determine the winning numbers. Promote the event heavily and encourage customers to come in to see if they have won a prize.

5. Key Promotion. Customers who spent a certain amount of money are entitled to receive a key. Ideally, you will be handing out a large number of keys during the month or two of the promotion. Put together a locked treasure box filled with store treasures. On the day of the event all of the customers will come in to try their key to see who has the one that will unlock the treasure box.
6. In Store Demonstration. Attract the cross over crafter and increase your traffic! Offer to demonstrate a technique that might be unfamiliar to your target customer, but which will be compatible with your inventory. For example, a yarn shop might offer a felting or spinning demonstration, while a bead shop might do well to offer a hot glass demonstration.

Off Site Seminar. Many women's groups and libraries offer educational opportunities for their members. Offer to conduct a demonstration. It will take a little time, but you are sure to garner new customers!

8. Insure
against an unlikely occurrence. Lloyds of London will issue zany insurance policies and many retailers have taken the opportunity to stage successful promotions based upon unlikely events. For example, offer a rebate for all June purchases if the temperature on July 4 reaches 100 degrees.

9. Use your vehicle to promote your business. Promote your shop while you are running errands! Order some magnetic signs from your local sign shop, or for a more elegant alternative, check out the option at promo plate.

10. Take
your business cards with you every time you leave the house! You might be at the ball field with your son, or working the concession stand for your daughter, but small talk leads to big business. Do not leave home without your cards.

11. Auction Event. Award play money once purchases reach a certain point. For example, your customer gets $5 in play money when she spends $50. Schedule an auction event where customers are invited to the store to bid on product with their play money. Sales will increase and you get to decide what is auctioned.

Get out your calendar and start planning your next event! There is money to be made, folks!

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