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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Embrace "Shoppertainment" to build a loyal customer following or embrace EXTINCTON!

Successful retailers know the three E's of retail:  Engagement, Education and Entertainment.   The ENTERTAINMENT part of the equation is the one that leaves many retailers stymied; after all, it is not a "squeaky wheel" so it is easy to ignore when time is short and money is shorter. Unfortunately, the day when a pretty store with well stocked merchandise was a guarantee of business success has gone the way of the dinosaur.  There is simply too much competition out there!  Not only can your customer choose from other brick and mortar craft stores, she also has the low priced internet option.  Businesses are running scared and  trying harder to attract the same pool of customers, many of whom are struggling with their own more limited personal economies by shopping very carefully.  Add the impact of the shrinking value of the dollar to the mix and it is easy to see that retailers have quite a burden when it comes to attracting clientele. Eek!

What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

Get serious about your marketing plan and up the entertainment quotient!   Marketing and Entertainment work hand in hand to make your shop a place of joy and unexpected delight.  It is not hard and it does not need to involve great expense.  It does require a great deal of planning, commitment, and follow through.  Marketing has changed drastically in the past few years and what worked before may not work now.  Dinosaurs became extinct because they were unable to adapt to rapidly changing conditions.  Don't let it happen to you!  For example, when I owned my bead store our marketing plan consisted of monthly coupons placed in our local paper, a small ad in Bead & Button, and a newsletter/class calendar that was available by the register.   It was more than our competitors did, worked well for us in 1998 and we never thought to do much else.  

We couldn't get away with such a lackadaisical approach in today's market and neither will you!  Today's independent craft retailer needs to be a blogger, a tweeter, a friend, a fashion advisor, a crafty mentor, and more.  Make 2010 the year that you make it happen.  You are busy with holiday sales now, but the register will grow quiet soon.  Do not bemoan the down is a gift!  Use the hours to brainstorm with your team  to identify your goals and fill out your marketing calendar for the year.  Every month should feature at least one big event and 3 or 4 minor events.  A big event might include a trunk show, a Customer Appreciation event such as a spa night,  or a day filled with Make and Take projects.

A small event might be nothing more than a silly celebration.  I bet you didn't know that January 21-23, 2010 celebrates "women in blue jeans" or that January 22 is National Blond Brownie Day.  Offer 10% off to all women who come in to the store wearing blue jeans January 21 through 23, and offer every customer a yummy blond brownie on the 22nd.  Easy enough, right?  The point is, by celebrating these nonsensical occasions, you are adding a sense of playfulness to the shopping experience which will elevate the ordinary to extraordinary

Of course, these events also provide substance for your newsletter, which should be sent out twice monthly, as well as your bag stuffers, which should be updated weekly.  A bag stuffer is simply a flier that promotes upcoming events and activities.  It is placed into the customer's shopping bag at the register, providing the cashier with a final opportunity to engage the customer by mentioning the promotion and inviting the customer to come back to the store to participate.  Click here for a sample bag stuffer.  Click here for a PDF file listing all sorts of whacky and inspiring promotions that will enable you to come up with the minor events you need to flesh out your marketing calendar in a matter of MINUTES!  

I hear many retailers complain about hosting events that were not well attended.  They give up after a few such "failures" and are reluctant to try again.  The biggest impediment to success---in ANYTHING---dieting, marriage, parenting, and even MARKETING-----is a lack of commitment.  Marketing is a process that takes time to succeed and you will need to stay with it, no matter what!    Your customers are not going to suddenly feel warm and fuzzy because you give them one free Blond Brownie on January 22!  Nope, it is going to take time for your to create a new expectation.

You will need to train your customers over a period of months that your store is THE place for warmth, fun, excitement and community.  It takes time to build this sort of following and you simply cannot give up too early.  Be nimble, be strong, be consistent, and be committed to your marketing plan.  Marketing is a process and it takes time to succeed.  Perseverance is critical.  Success will not happen over night, but it will happen if you travel down the right path!


Newsletter Factoid: 

REMEMBER:  Your newsletter should be more than a hard selling tool to push your product.  Your customers are your friends...treat 'em that way.  Always include a fun little tidbit that is unrelated to your store to increase your open rate and the warm and fuzzy feeling your customers get when they think about you! 

This week's FACTOID:  Tell your customers to stock up on mini candy canes at the after Christmas sales...they make PERFECT VALENTINE LOLLIPOPS!  Cindy of SkiptoMyLou  has a great tutorial for the project here.


We are still looking for retailers who fly solo -- no partners, no full time help -- for a research project we are conducting.  We have a nice group started, but are looking for more volunteers.  The project will be short on time, long on fun.  Shoot me an email if you are willing to get involved!

Question of the Week:  If you had a "do over"....what is one thing that you would do differently (business related) if you could?

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