Sales & Marketing

A Retailer's Guide to the Chakras

A Retailer's Guide to the Chakras

More and more consumers are becoming aware of the power of intention and positive thinking in creating the life they want, and as retailers, we have the opportunity to share products that help our customers maintain focus on positive thoughts and affirmations.

What Story Are You Telling About Your Business?

What Story Are You Telling About Your Business?

As an independent retailer, you already know that to be successful you have to do more than simply sell “stuff.” But, how do you tell your unique story and connect with the people who aren’t yet your customers, and how do you know what information will resonate with them? Your local customers know your story and your focus on helping people live more fulfilling lives, but what about the larger community around you, or visitors to town? If you aren’t also reaching these people, you are missing a large opportunity to interact and build your story (and brand) with potential customers.

Bite-Sized Tactics to Tackle Digital Innovation

Kate Atty

For businesses or products to stand the test of time, they must be willing to change with the times. In the marketing realm, this means one of two things:

1. Create new demand for something

2. Capitalize on a need not currently met

The immortal offer

Think about the coupon. In 1887, businessman Asa Candler created the first-known variety designed to market (and create new demand for) his little-known product … Coca-Cola!

Return on Community Investment

Return on Community Investment

Your business is part of a community—geographically, socially, spiritually—and your success as an independent retailer depends on keeping that community engaged. Earning its admiration and loyalty takes more than social media posts and a great business plan. Today’s competition comes from every direction—other brick and mortars, online stores, Amazon, and more. What inspires people to shop with you and open their wallets a bit wider is challenging, but connecting with the causes they support is one way that pays off—for them, for the causes they support, and for you and your store.

Who Likes You Now?

Who Likes You Now?

Are your customers inspired and entertained when they visit your store? Do they appreciate your sales associates’ knowledge about the products you sell? For most successful retailers, the answer to both questions is yes. What happens when your customers move online? Do your website and social media profiles project the same sense of fun and product knowledge as your brick-and-mortar store?

Always "Be Prepared" for Holiday Sales

I was a girl scout for many years, an experience that gave me many fond memories and probably started me on my road to becoming an entrepreneur—I won the Cookie-Selling Award every year! The Girl Scout “Be Prepared” motto is explained in the 1947 Girl Scout Handbook: “A Girl Scout is ready to help out wherever she is needed. Willingness to serve is not enough; you must know how to do the job well, even in an emergency.” I believe this applies to all of us in retail, whether you were a Girl Scout or not. Do not put off holiday planning. It is never too early to “Be Prepared”!

I Market, Therefore I Blog

Blogger

Changes in search engine algorithms over the last few years have made generating useful web content a vital component of marketing your business. And it’s not just any content; it’s content your target customers want. But, how do you build a successful blog? Timing, persistence, and compounding, or as Jim Collins, author of Good to Great describes it, the “flywheel effect.”

Learn more here: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/234264

Crowdsource Your Store

Crowdsourcing is a huge buzz word these days, touted by marketing professionals as the latest, greatest innovation in how we do—or should be doing—business. Simply put, crowdsourcing refers to outsourcing tasks normally performed by employees or contractors to “the crowd” (aka the general public) via the Internet. Crowdsourcing allows businesses to recruit willing participants for free or at a fraction of the cost it would take to hire a staff person or find volunteers with the needed time and talents. But, does crowdsourcing live up to the hype and does it make sense for small businesses?

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I have had my business up for sale for a few months and have gotten inquiries but no solid offers yet. I thought this process would be much shorter, and I’m not sure how to proceed now. Some prospective buyers have had the desire but no money, and I’m not willing to finance without a large down payment.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: My husband and I want to try a new marketing approach to bring more customers into our store. Most of our customers are women, so my husband thinks we should target men by advertising in a local sports magazine. I think it will be a waste of time and money. What do you say?

Inbox Insider

Crafting effective marketing messages is one of the most challenging aspects of running a business. A Google search for “writing successful marketing emails” returned more than 700 million results, indicating a lot of people are confused and frustrated about where to begin and how to compete. Whether you’re writing a quick email to announce an upcoming sale or compiling a full-fledged e-newsletter, I’ve uncovered a few tips to help you get the results you want.

Just My Type

Just My Type

Storytelling is a powerful force in our lives. We use it to pass down wisdom, teach history, and enforce ethical behavior. We use it to create harmony and unity in our cultures and religions. Whether a person prefers reading Shakespeare or watching television sitcoms, each and every one of us are exposed to and affected by stories on a daily basis.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: Our new store just opened last month and sales are steady and growing. When we did the build out, we ran into some unexpected issues that cost extra money to rectify, and we were not able to complete all our renovations. One thing that got ignored was our small, dingy bathroom. Everything is old and stained and there is no way I would let a customer in there!

Fountain of Youth

Fountain of Youth

One thing is well known in retail: Acquiring a new customer costs at least three times as much as selling to an existing customer base. At Journeys of Life in Pittsburgh, we believe our customers of tomorrow are already shopping in our stores today. We just may not see them that way ... yet.

When I'm 64

When I'm 64

What do Robin Williams, Oprah Winfrey, and Madonna have in common? They’re all card-carrying members of the vibrant Baby Boomer generation. At 80 million strong, Baby Boomers—those born between 1946 and 1964—represent one third of the U.S. population. Such a force to be reckoned with must surely be the focus of every major marketing campaign, right? Wrong. Less than 5 percent of U.S. advertising dollars targets Baby Boomers, despite Nielsen research that shows Boomers wield 70 percent of U.S. consumer buying power. Why the disconnect?

Navigating the Consumer Decision Journey

Navigating the Consumer Decision Journey

These days, you can’t turn around without someone touting the latest, greatest marketing technique, channel, or tool. But, stripped down to its essence, marketing really amounts to communicating the value of the products and services you sell and the shopping experience you offer. From that point of view, marketing encompasses much more than radio ads, tweets, and e-newsletters. Your marketing efforts need to address the whole consumer decision journey and all the customer “touchpoints”—every interaction, active or passive, you have with customers—that keep them shopping your store.

Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: My business partner thinks we can increase our total sales 25 percent by doubling our jewelry area. How can I tell if this is true? To give you some numbers: Our overall sales this past year were $480,000, and jewelry sales were $146,800. We have 1,400 square feet of sales space, and the eight display cases in the jewelry area take up 400 square feet.

Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: Do you sell statuary in your store? how do you train your staff to talk intelligently about Hindu and Buddhist deities? There are so many! We carry Buddha, Ganesh, Shiva, Kuan Yin, and Green Tara, but even those are challenging for new sales people. Truth is, I would like to order a larger variety, but I don’t really understand them all myself. Any suggestions?

Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: After the hustle and bustle of the holidays,customer spending tends to really slow down. Do you have any suggestions for stimulating sales?

Marketing to Millennials

Marketing to Millennials

My 21-year-old son is part of the Millennial generation, those born between 1981 and 2000. As a Baby Boomer, I don’t always understand the likes and dislikes of my son’s generation. But, with his birthday coming up soon and hoping to find a gift he would like, I did a little research (writers like research!) and discovered a lot about how Millennials think and why they make the purchases they do. You might not have Millennials in your family, but they do visit your store, and what I learned could help you market to this influential segment of young consumers.

Seasonal Traditions Light Up The World

Seasonal Traditions Light Up The World

Midwinter is a time to make merry. We come together and share feasts of food, song, and dance. We visit neighbors and friends and spread our wishes for peace and prosperity. To dispel winter darkness, we practice ancient rituals of lighting candles, remembering virtues, cherishing our communities, and enjoying the magic of the solstice time as the earth turns once again toward the sun.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: A few months ago, we felt we had no other option than to close our store. My partner and I sent out an email and a Facebook message to our customers that we were closing and that all merchandise would be deeply discounted for quick sale. The response was overwhelming, and customers spent like crazy.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: One of our most loyal customers, who loved our merchandise and especially loved buying books regularly, just passed away and left $5,000 in her will to our store. I was thrilled and a bit surprised, but now I feel overwhelmed because I have no idea what to do with the money. I would like to honor her in some way but don’t know how. Do you have any ideas?

Sailing the 5 Cs of Marketing

The four Ps—Product, Price, Place, Promotion—have steered the world of marketing since the 1960s. But times, they are a-changing, and consumers—not products—are in the driver’s seat. Social media lets today's shoppers express their opinions, wants, and needs—and what they want are products tailor-made for them. They’re socially and environmentally conscious, too, so purchases aren’t based on price alone. And, though they’re dialed in to their mobile devices, they still shop brick-and-mortar stores for the experience and personal connection.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: After two years in business, i have decided to sell my store at an asking price that covers just inventory and fixtures. Do you have any suggestions on the best place to advertise it? I listed it on Craigslist, but it has not received much action. A few people in our store’s circle are interested, but no one has made a concrete offer yet.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: My husband is in sales (office machines) and is very successful. He talks to me often about training my employees (and me) to be better “closers,” as he thinks too many people browse rather than buy in my store. He has even offered to come in and teach sales techniques. I know he means well and wants me to succeed, but his methods sound pushy and rude to me.

Shop Talk: Practical Answers for tough business questions.

Question: Sometimes i see articles touting the next big trends, and I wonder where they get their information. Is there a way to predict trends in retail and discover the next hot product?

Shop Talk: Practical Answers for tough business questions.

Question: I know you have been in business a long time, but I am curious about your early years. Can you tell me what your annual sales and your sales per square foot were your first year or two? Did you see a gradual or sudden increase in sales over those first few years?

Shop Talk: Practical Answers for tough business questions.

Question: What do you think of lay-away plans? I haven’t offered layaway before, but I’m wondering if it would make it easier for customers to afford higher-end items in this soft economy.

Shop Talk: Practical Answers for tough business questions.

Question: How can i attract more tourists to my store? With the current economy in our area, it sure would help to have more business from visitors!

Spot the Latest Trends

Spot the Latest Trends

Once upon a time, yoga was a purely spiritual practice. Although this remains true for traditional practitioners, it stands to reason that today’s breed of yogis is decidedly different—with decidedly different gear to match. “They’re not necessarily deeply spiritual, but looking more to do yoga as another form of exercise,” says Jennifer McKinley, co-founder and general manager of Plank, a Charlestown, Mass., maker of chic, high-end yoga mats, totes, and other accessories.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: We launched our online store about five months ago and orders have been coming in. The sales are up and down. It seems like we get a few orders a day for a week or so and then it slows way down. I would appreciate your feedback on how to even out the sales, but my biggest problem is order errors.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I know you have talked about how to price merchandise in recent columns, but I still have another question, and I am not sure how to word it. I am confused because I hear I should mark up product that I can (items like jewelry that are not pre-priced) at a 2.5 or 3 times rate, but doesn’t that slow down my sales? Wouldn’t it be better to have a lower mark-up and sell more products?

More Than Money

Patricia Aburdene is a business journalist and trend forecaster who collaborated with author John Naisbitt on Megatrends 2000, a New York Times bestseller that famously predicted the rise of the “Information Economy” we know today. More recently, Aburdene’s book Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism, predicted an economy based on ethics, values, and spiritual awareness.

Eco-Reference

Eco-friendly. Organic. Upcycled. Sustainable. However you describe it, going green has caught on in a big way. Customers are more aware of the benefits of being a conscious consumer—environmental, social, personal—and are putting their money where their values are. Green consumers are willing to pay extra for their environmentally and socially responsible purchases, especially when they can support a local business and get a superior product in the process. Translation: People will pay more … but they also expect more.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I am hearing again that a close competitor (five miles away) is telling people we are going out of business, which is untrue. Whether it’s a sales technique on their part or what, I don’t know. How can I combat this? Should I send out an email to my customers in case they have heard these rumors?

Trending Now

Trending Now

Remember the swirling predictions that 2012 would herald an age of enlightenment, the start of something vast and new on a global scale? The way I see it, that shift happened quite some time ago—2012 simply marked our recognition of the great changes already taking place.

We’re now able to communicate instantaneously with anyone anywhere from the comfort and convenience of our smart phones. Indeed, as we enter 2013, we’ve got both feet planted firmly in the changing world ushered in by the Digital Revolution.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: The free local magazine in our area has folded and this was our main source for advertising. I am exploring different options and wonder about TV ads. Has TV advertising really helped you? Would you recommend it to a small store with 900 sq. ft. of sales space?

Showmanship

Showmanship

January and February are alive with trade and gift shows for every persuasion. This year try something new—pick a show you’ve never been to and find products your customers don’t yet know they will love.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: I have questions about how to price our merchandise. I am talking about the actual numbers we use rather than the cost analysis behind the pricing. When my husband and I traveled around this summer and took the time to visit and enjoy other retail stores, I was puzzled. Some stores used prices ending in .99 or .98, while others had prices ending in .50 or .00.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: It’s time we begin a customer loyalty program. Can you offer details, such as how to make or punch the card and what has worked for other stores to reward customers?

Make the Holidays Merry

Make the Holidays Merry

Angry customers. Long hours. Missed deadlines. Sound familiar? It’s the usual litany of woes that hitch a ride on Santa’s sleigh. Little wonder that for most retailers the year’s busiest sales season is also the most stressful.

Look for more of the same this Christmas. “Uncertainty about the economy is bound to increase stress levels for both managers and employees at retail stores,” says Jon Schallert, president of The Schallert Group, Longmont, Colo. (www.destinationublog.com).

Jingle All the Way to the Bank

Jingle All the Way to the Bank

While your customers are soaking up the last rays of summer sun and making sure their kids are ready for back-to-school, you’re already fast-forwarding to visions of snowflakes and festive giftwrap. It’s a retailer’s prerogative—indeed a necessity—to plan ahead for the holiday season. After all, holiday shopping accounts for between 25 and 40 percent of annual sales for most retailers. Just think about those numbers. No wonder store owners are so focused on the fourth quarter.

Good Business

Good Business

Imagine if every month dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, more people found out about your store and products. What would that mean for your sales? Increasing the amount of people who know about you can happen without you ever leaving your computer. It’s all due to the prevalence of social media, a communication phenomenon that is here to stay and growing by leaps and bounds.

Trending Now

Trending Now

What if you had a crystal ball for your business? You’d never have to wonder about your next decision—every time you gazed into it, you’d clearly see the direction that would bring your business prosperity and growth.

The problem is, many retailers do have just such a crystal ball at hand … but are often too busy to use it.

Boost 4th Quarter Sales by Responding to Trends in Your Customers’ Lives

Recent reports by the National Retail Federation suggest sales are finally trending up, and fall/holiday looks promising. That’s great news—but what the data doesn’t show is how much customers have shifted energetically over the last few years. Most have experienced tremendous change and growth; they’re simply not the same folks they were before. Your challenge? Meet them where they are now.

Keeps on Giving

Keeps on Giving

Consider this: More than half of all consumers bought at least one gift card for the holidays last year, according to a report from First Data Corp., an Atlanta-based e-commerce processor (www.firstdata.com).

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions.

Question: Often people come into our store, look at things we carry, and start writing down information about the company or the artist so they can order it online, obviously hoping to get it cheaper. I’ve tried taking off as much information as possible from the item so they can’t accomplish this discreetly, but some of them actually ask for the information!

Spread the Good Word

Spread the Good Word

Let’s face it: Marketing is usually all about you. Well, at least about your business and enticing more customers to shop with you. But, marketing doesn’t have to be just about that; you can do good for your community while also spreading the good word about your business. How? It’s called cause marketing: the combined efforts of a for-profit business and a charitable cause—a nonprofit organization—for their mutual benefit. It can also be called social responsibility marketing.

Something to Talk About

Something to Talk About

People are talking about your business. Do you know what they're saying?

The answer can spell the difference between success and failure. Positive reviews on internet message boards help boost revenues and fatten your bottom line. Negative reviews can spike your best business plans.

“People are increasingly putting reviews online as the internet becomes more social,” says Daniel Burrus, a business consultant based in Hartland, Wis. (www.burrus.com). “All of the reviews are in the cloud and available for anyone to read.”

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