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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are you a Marketing Ninja? CRAFT A MARKETING PLAN THAT WORKS!

Marketing is not a four letter word....so why do so many retailers simply  discount expensive inventory, send out an email touting  a BIG SALE, and  call it a day?     I have never understood such willingness to bleed away profitability.  If you need to get rid of dead stock or want a quick cash infusion then such a sale might be a good idea.  However, if you are slashing prices just to attract customers then it is time to rethink your strategy.   Your goal should be to develop customer loyalty through your role as a Value Added Craft Reseller, not to train customers to be loyal to price point.  Face it....the world is peppered with bottom feeders, so there is always someone willing to undercut your prices.  Focus on  developing  loyalty to your store brand.   You do not need lots of cash to market your store brilliantly; you do need FOCUS, DEDICATION and CREATIVITY.

Despite the importance of marketing, many Crafty Retailers find the Marketing Hat to be an uncomfortable fit.  It makes you feel pushy, desperate, fake, etc.  You consider it just one more unpleasant challenge in a day that is already over-scheduled.  Yup, you know that you should do it, but the wheel just doesn't squeak loud enough for you to oil it today.    You will make time next week, next month, next year.....

.....Hmmm....are you really listening to what is actually "squeaking"?  Think about it..... Do you ever have trouble making the rent?  (squeak!)  Do you schedule classes that never fill up? (SQUEAK!)  Is your customer base shrinking (SQUEAK! SQUEAK!)  Do you often forgo a paycheck? (SQUEAK!  SQUEAK!  SQUEAK!)  Honey...it is time to listen to that marketing wheel 'cause it is most definitely making some noise!


What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

Get serious about moving your business forward by engaging in some deliberate, results oriented, marketing!


FOCUS
Many craft store owners are creative people.  Few creative people are  process oriented.  Successful businesses must leverage the concept of "process."  Eek.   What to do?  What to do?  Hint:  Get out your calendar and pick a time to focus on marketing your store.  Improve the  odds of success by making it the same time every week. For example, I have started to schedule a two hour "marketing block" the first thing every Monday morning. If I wait until I "have the time" it will never happen.  Mondays are good for me because many craft stores are closed on Mondays, which means my phones are quiet.  Moreover,  I am recharged from the week-end and feel ready to slay dragons.   The first thing that I do is to send out at least 5 hand written "customer appreciation" notes to customers I want to acknowledge.  It takes me about 30 minutes and costs me $2.20 in postage.

It is a delightful way to kick off the week because it provides a necessary opportunity to count my blessings.    Seriously!  I have to think of five customers who have made me smile in the last week or so.  It is a kick for me and for my customers!   After all, in this age of tweets, IM, Facebook and the like, there is something special about receiving an unexpected---a genuine--- handwritten thank you note.  I will send out over 250 such notes each year.....imagine the impact for less than $115!

I use the rest of my time to plan upcoming coupons, write tutorials, and research.  Today I spent about 45 minutes taking part in an invaluable online class created by Diane Gilleland, Twitter for your Crafty Business.  I learned more in 45 minutes of focused time today than I have learned in months of using (misusing?) Twitter.  Thanks, Diane!  In fact, I was so impressed that I asked Diane to put together a special class for my blog readers.  Stay tuned for details....tiny investment, big reward!

I use an excel spreadsheet as my marketing calendar.  There is a worksheet tab for every month of the year and it enables me to quickly see what is coming up, what work needs to be done for the next promotion, etc.  Email me and I will send you the full 12 page spreadsheet template for you to adapt to your own store.

Take Away: Affirmatively scheduling adequate planning time for your marketing program.  Everyone knows that diet and exercise programs are destined to fail without adequate discipline and focus.   Similarly, your marketing plan will be dead on arrival if you do not make it a weekly priority!  You don't get skinny by scarfing cupcakes and you will not become a Marketing Ninja by wishing it were so.  MAKE THE TIME!


CONSISTENCY
 I often hear retailers explain their reluctance to plan marketing events because they "had a few events last year and no one came."  Lame, lame, lame!  It takes time to develop a reputation as the town craft mecca!  Your first few events might not reach the level of success you had hoped for, so refine them.  Stack the deck in your favor by asking some good friends to show up for your events with the understanding that they have a job to do.  The mission:  to be enthusiastic participants in whatever you have going on.   No one need know that the group is made up of your best friend, your cousin, your babysitter, and your mother in law! People tend to be followers and if something looks like it is causing excitement and interest, they will want to be a part of it.

Study after study demonstrates that the buying "experience" is more important to the consumer than price. You won't have to worry about prices that are "higher than the internet" if you are providing value in other areas.   It is expected that you will have a clean store, friendly sales staff, and lots of great inventory.  So does the online retailer!  You need to step up your game by making your store the place to be for crafty community.   Schedule one big event and 3 or 4 minor events at your shop EVERY SINGLE MONTH.   A sporadic event here and there will not have the desired impact.    Send out your newsletter on the same day of the week, at least twice a month.   Does writing leave you cold?  Don't let it!  Click here for a Newsletter Cheat Sheet.  Hand out Bag Stuffers to every single customer.  Bag Stuffers are fliers which tout store events/programs/new inventory.  Check out a sample Bag Stuffer here.   Use slow time in the store to pick up the phone and call customers that you haven't seen in a while.  Is it easy to do?  Nope.  Is it effective?  Yup.  Misery loves company....ask every staff member to make 5 calls per week to customers of their choosing.  Track the impact of the calls ....because there will be impact!

Take Away:  Vow to be consistent and to be dedicated to your marketing program...this month and every single month throughout 2010.    You may not see results immediately, but stick with it....you will see results...guaranteed.


CREATIVITY
Does your advertising need some tweaking?  Although newspaper circulation is down everywhere, my customers still report success with that medium.  A weekly ad gets the word  out and acts as yet another nudge to the consumer.  Ad rates are flexible, regardless of the number of the rate sheet.  Ask for a discount.

Lacking the budget for advertising?  I read about a store that had a pretty girl in a bikini knitting in  the front window.  Talk about making an impact!!!!  Not ready for a swimsuit?  Put fliers on cars in nearby parking lots.  Better yet, pay a teenager to do it so that you can spend your time developing new marketing strategies.

Brainstorm with your staff to flesh out your marketing calender for the year.  It takes lots of imagination but very little cash to fill your calender.  Humans are tribal.  Leverage the fact that people like to hang with like minded folks.  Start a craft group for young moms....they can meet in the morning while the little ones are at pre-school.  How about a Stitch and Bitch group for divorced gals?   I would be attracted to any group that paired wine with fiber!  A monthly wine/yarn tasting sounds good to me!

Consider joining forces with area craft stores to sponsor a Craft Bazaar.  More and more crafters are looking to earn extra cash (or at least some money to cover the costs of their addiction!) Start small...align with a church or civic group.  You will be performing a service for your customers, generating some great publicity, and encouraging sales.


There are National "holidays" celebrating different food items almost every single day of the year.  You can inexpensively fill up you marketing calendar by simply celebrating those days!  Silly?  Yup.  Effective?  Absolutely.  So....It is National Coffee Cake Day?  Great!  Make sure to promote the wacky celebration ahead of time!  Talk about it in your newsletter,  remind your customers via Bag Stuffers and on the big day simply hand out lots of coffee cake.  Better yet, give away a copy of the recipe!  The cost in dollars will be relatively insignificant, but you are on your way to proving yourself to be a Marketing NINJA!
  
Did you know that National Lingerie Day is celebrated on the same day as Pigs in a Blanket Day?


Hmmm....Scary coincidence, wouldn't you say?  Download a Calendar listing daily holidays through June 2010 here.

Take Away:  Be imaginative and be clever.  Although your marketing does not need to directly relate to your craft, it must enhance the shopping experience!


Other news:
Need a quick Make and Take  Project for an upcoming event? 

This is the one! Your customers will learn to craft a felted flower barrette using only 5 grams of wool top and some beads for embellishment! Fast, easy, and inexpensive...what could be better?

Click here for the free tutorial.
  
Attention"Flying Solo" participants:  Please send in your questionnaire responses if you haven't already done so.  Additionally, the Campfire Chat format is proving to be unworkable, so we will be moving to a Ning network.  Details to follow by the end of the week.

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