Being a small, local retailer is both good and challenging. It’s good because it means that you have a built-in community of potential shoppers, whether they’re walking by your store or seeing you in person at the local pharmacy. The challenge is, without a corporation behind you, you likely have a small budget to attract new shoppers with marketing.
That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to make your marketing fun and effective. While you can use free tools like social media to interact with your online audience, the following creative ideas will help you directly connect with local shoppers on a budget.
Meet More People
This one is simple but easy to forget about in our online, go-go-go world. Reach out, shake someone’s hand and say hello, suggests Jeff Slutsky, local marketing expert:
“Whether you’re a business owner or the general manager, make a point to introduce yourself to at least five people every week. You might be pumping gas or going to the grocery, but say something like: ‘I’m John Doe, the general manager of John’s Bistro down the street. Just wanted to introduce myself. Have you tried us out yet?’ If they haven’t, pull out a business card, write a special freebie offer on the back, and sign and date it.”
These personal touches can be more valuable than any other expensive marketing effort you’ll try because you’re not just getting a sale. You’re building a relationship—being human. The best part is customers want to talk to human beings, especially when contemplating a complex or expensive purchase, like an expensive hand-made wardrobe.
If you want employees to “meet more people” offer commission for bringing someone in from a personal introduction. This turns them into brand advocates and allows you to align friendly, local faces with your brand.
Coupons are inherently tricky for retailers, especially those with a small budget, because you need to sell more to make the same amount of money. With that being said, when done right, they could be your bread and butter. In a 2016 retailer coupon survey, which included a random mix of small- to medium-sized retailers, coupon-specific earnings accounted for nearly $30,000 in monthly revenue.
If you’ve written them off, or never tried them before, now’s the time to get back in the action. The key is choosing the best type of coupon for your business goals. For example, the same survey found that Sitewide, All Products was the best coupon for maximizing online sales, while New Customer Only was best for driving long-term revenue.
Before creating any coupons, determine the top three goals you want to accomplish: drive new customers, increase revenue, boost sales of X, drive return customers, etc. With this in mind, you can determine the best type of coupon to offer your shoppers.
The last step is determining promotion, which is also critical. You can email coupons if you have a large subscriber list; give them away at the register based on total amount spent, driving return shoppers; or invest in direct mail marketing and deliver them directly to local households.
Boost Your Social Responsibility Cred
A 2015 Nielson survey found that 56 percent of customers would pay more for products and services from businesses known for their social responsibility. While you may not be asking your customers to pay more than your competitor, you do want them to shop with you—and showing them you’re socially responsible within the community is one way to do that. Here are a few ways to get involved:
- Partner with a local charity: Get your whole staff to attend one of their events, as volunteers or otherwise. Simply being involved can be valuable. If you don’t have a booth or banner, wear branded shirts, which will likely attract questions from attendees about what you sell, where you’re located, etc.
- Participate in local food drives: Keep a box inside the store for customers to drop food items or whatever it is you’re collecting for the local homeless shelter or food shelf. Become a verified drop-off spot to bring non-shoppers to the store. When they arrive, they may stop to look around, allowing you to drive sales.
- Raise money for local families: Use your business as a platform to help those in need. Host quarterly, or twice-annual events to raise money for families in need. It would be wise to partner with a different local charity for each one to make sure the money is used most effectively.
Host Exclusive Events
Large retail brands are learning that they need to give customers a reason to come into their store—and you can, and should, take a page from their playbook. Rich Kizer & Georganne Bender, Founders and Speakers, Kizer & Bender call this “shoppertainment” and they believe “you need to run one MAJOR and two to three MINOR events in your store each month.” A major event packs the store with customers, like a class or fashion show.
Minor events include demonstrations or mini-classes: “Minor events draw customers to your store but should not take a lot of time to plan or implement,” explain Kizer and Bender.
If you’re new to events, start with just one big event each month—this allows you to brainstorm initial ideas, create a process, and get a feel for just how low you can keep the budget. Inexpensive event ideas include:
- Sip and shop: For shoppers 21 and older; they get a free glass of wine or champagne while they browse.
- Product launch/seasonal product event: Include giveaways to entice people to join and consider partnering with a local catering company to provide drinks and snacks. As a mutually beneficial relationship, they may be willing to partner for little to no cost.
- Host an auction: If you’ve decided to partner with a charity, host an auction event in your retail space.
Network With Your Local Chamber of Commerce
This may sound boring, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective: “This is a classic marketing idea for small businesses because it can yield big dividends. Association with the Chamber will make your events more credible, and you can find new partners or clients, or discover opportunities to teach or speak,” says Christina Walker, marketing expert.
Check their calendar for new-member events, and ask people out for coffee. If possible, become a member, which is how you’ll get opportunities to promote your business and brand. You may be asked to sponsor local projects, host events, or speak about your experience and business and much more.
As a member, you may even be privy to discounts for your business. For example, the Durango Chamber of Commerce offers members 25 percent off Constant Contact and at least 5 percent off online prices with Office Depot.
Get Local, Now
Use these ideas to drive your local marketing efforts and boost year-round sales. Get involved in the community, say “hello” to more people, and schmooze with your local chamber members. Assess the effectiveness of your efforts each quarter to determine which ones you should repeat and which were unsuccessful, allowing you to get the most from your small budget.
BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 years and is currently a full-time writer, marketing consultant, and business owner. She’s been featured in Forbes and Business Insider and has written for Manta, Virgin, Salesforce and more. Follow her on Twitter @Jlsander07 and connect LinkedIn.