Archive | June 17, 2008

12 Tips To Help Small Retailers Thrive In A Recession

The scrapbook industry was paying a lot of attention to the plight of its small retailers even before the current economic slump, and techniques and advice for retailers are something that I’ve covered extensively both here and in my writing for Scrapbook Business Magazine.

building-buzzI came across a book recently that seems like it might be tailor-made for helping small scrapbook retailers take on the big crafts retailers. It’s called Building Buzz to Beat the Big Boys: Word of Mouth Marketing for Small Businesses. The authors are Steve O’Leary, a 35 year advertising agency veteran, and Kim Sheehan, an Associate Professor at the University of Oregon with advertising agency experience who is also the author of two previous books on advertising.

The book jumped out at me because it is described as using inexpensive methods to increase and maintain customer loyalty, create community both in the store and online, and to get current customers to give you word-of-mouth advertising. These are all classic methods that it seems the most successful scrapbook stores are experts at using to promote themselves, and which all stores should want to learn.

O’Leary and Sheehan realize that their book is especially timely for small businesses struggling in the poor economy, and offer the following tips to small retailers trying to survive the current economic conditions:

  1. Continue advertising. History shows that marketers who stop advertising during a recession lose market share.
  2. Focus on existing customers. You know your customers better than anyone. You know what types of product mixes are most appropriate for them. Use this information to create offers that are most valuable to them.
  3. Listen. Collect customer feedback. Use either formal (surveys) or informal (asking people in store) feedback instruments to find out how your customers are dealing with the recession and how your store could help them. Ask them what types of specials they would like to see.
  4. Focus on the neighborhood. With record high gas prices, people are likely to drive less. Allocate some of your marketing budget to current and potential customers who live close to your store (also known as your retail trading area). Print media is great for this effort, especially flyers and/or direct mail.
  5. Value messages are critical. Think about the prices you can offer as well as the discounts that might be available. Make both prices clear in your messages.
  6. Politeness counts, more than ever. Greet customers when they enter your store. Thank them when they leave.
  7. Consider a loyalty program. If you don’t have one in place, think about a punch card-type loyalty program that is quick and easy to implement.
  8. Create benefit offers. Select specific products or services and package them into a value offer that you can advertise in store and through traditional channels.
  9. Dial up the service. Make sure your employees understand the value of exceptional customer service during this time when customers may be looking for reasons to switch.
  10. Think treats. Even though customers are cutting back, according to Money Magazine, they plan to spend a small amount of their tax refund, or rebate check, on a small treat for themselves. Think about what you might offer your customers as a special, one-time discount on a treat to get people in your store.
  11. Partner with a local cause. During a recession, many of your customers may cut back on philanthropic giving. Partnering with a charitable cause reflects well on you, and can somewhat assuage your customer’s guilt about not donating more to charity.
  12. Evaluate advertising messages and response. If you are promoting sales and discounts in different vehicles (such as in the local newspaper, in ADVO, and online), track your response from each vehicle.

These are all great tips for scrapbook stores (I actually wrote about the need for retailers to focus on your neighborhood just a few days ago). As O’Leary and Sheehan point out in tip number one, even if you are running a successful store, now is not the time to get complacent or you will lose your market share in these tough times.

The authors have set up a website for Building Buzz that has some free resources on it, some brief Q&A material, a blog, and the complete table of contents of Building Buzz.

I’d be interested in hearing a retailer’s perspective on this book. If you are a retailer and have read this book, I’d love to hear from you about it and share your thoughts with Scrapbook Update’s readers.