Marketing and Marketing Communications Challenges For the Midsized Retailer

The consumer started to spend a little more in the first quarter of 2010 and, according to Bloomberg data, Wall Street analysts have upped their earnings estimates for more than 100 U.S. retail stocks. Good news, especially coming from Wall Street.

But, what if you’re not a Big Box store or boutique retailer? Let’s say you have about twenty doors and, while your on-line sales may be increasing, as a midsized retailer the “bricks and mortar” versus “e-commerce” investment strategy still presents a challenge to you.

Consider also the 27 percent increase in coupon redemption, according to Nielsen the first time in 17 years that consumers used more coupons than in the year before. You know you can’t continue to discount yourself into sustainable profitability, so to drive profitable revenue in the short and long term – isn’t it time to re-evaluate how you market yourself and what marketing communications tactics to employ?

Learn The New Marketing Environment
Before you start making any changes, step back and determine what your customers and employees think about your product and service offerings. You probably think you know everything about your existing and potential customers, but other than price, are you really sure you know what’s important to them?

And what about your employees? Fortune magazine’s “Most Admired Companies” issue points out, based on research done by the Hay Group, that these companies actually believe that employees are their most valued asset. They are your true brand advocates and probably know a lot about what may be holding you back from further growth.

For instance, in your retail environment, have you trained your staff effectively to deliver value to your customers? Have you provided them with the tools to create an engaging one-on-one experience? Consider leveraging your staff or bringing in a “local expert” for an evening event and creating co-promotion with a brand that can bring you both new customers.

And a similar evaluation needs to be done for your e-commerce business. What does your website say about you? What do you know about these customers and their needs and interest? How are they different from your in-store purchasers? Are your emails or social media tactics inspiring them to purchase?

Forrester, the tech research firm, believes we are now living in the era of “Splinternet” and must move with caution through the new world of consumer data mining, applications and internet standards. Mobile advertising and Facebook professionals moving to LinkedIn, for example, are just some of the most recent media selection challenges.

Find marketing consultants who can help you answer these questions with clarity, and then help you communicate with your constituents. Look before you leap.

Be Media Neutral
Assuming you have enough employee advocates on the floor and your retail environment is inviting and tells your story and your website is “smokin”, how do you determine the best mix between new and traditional media? Don’t be seduced by media efficiency. Media efficiency must be coupled with media effectiveness.

All of this starts, again, with knowing your customer. For instance, age is one key factor. According to a January, 2010 study by SSRS:

  • Only 20 percent of adults aged 18 – 49 read a print version of a newspaper every day, while 42 percent of adults aged 50+ do;
  • Further, while 34 percents of adults 18 – 49 prefer to get their news online, less than half of that number aged 50+ want online news.

And there’s the medium itself to consider. While total spending for U.S. advertising declined last year by 9 percent to $117 billion, Spanish language television increased by 32 percent, and cable television increased by 15 percent. Perhaps these marketers know a lot about their customers and how to reach them.

Also consider direct to customer events. Webinars are extremely useful and efficient (and soon you’ll start hearing a lot of great stuff about this summer’s launch of the Home Dec Show, a turnkey 24/7 virtual marketplace). But be sure to think outside the box for alternative ways of face to face selling, such as pop up stores or tying in with events, where a customer can see and touch the product (and gauge the sincerity of the person selling it).

With so much competition and convenience just a click away, retailers must deliver experience-based and interactive retailing to differentiate themselves. Depending on the customer segment, know what type of information they want and how they want it delivered. And make sure it connects to your web-based communication and sales efforts. Don’t underestimate the power of customer interaction to deliver profit to your bottom line. Seize the opportunity to create a continuum, not an “either or” scenario.

Find Established Marketing Communications Consultants
As it stands now, the marketing and marketing communications environment is complex. Most assuredly, media fragmentation will continue and exacerbate the decision making process even more. There is much to determine and evaluate, especially for a midsized retailer. Finding the right people whom you can trust to understand this environment and how to invest in it may be the hardest part.

Look for strategic and creative partners with demonstrated ability across retail businesses who aren’t “selling” a one size fits all solution or marketing approach. New and traditional media can work well together but you must find media neutral consultants who can master the challenges of efficiency and effectiveness.

And, fresh eyes may help you see more clearly.

Finding Internet Marketing Services Right for Your Business

The Internet is huge. No one will deny that, and the role it plays in business is becoming more and more important as well. It is no longer sufficient to do business offline, if you want to succeed in this technology driven new age, then you will have to do a bit of Internet marketing.

There are a number of Internet marketing services available to you, whether it is in the form of companies that specialise in it, or various standalone apps or tools that, if you have the time and knowledge to do so, can provide information on number of visitors, clicks, purchases and such forth.

If you are looking for Internet marketing services for your business then, what aspects of it should you particularly focus on?

Design will be more important than ever this year. It could be a wise idea therefore, to look for companies specialising in internet marketing services that also offer web development and design as part of the service.

Not only will they be able to offer typical SEO and PPC services, a vital part of any strategy, but they will also be able to offer services above and beyond others, by specifically tailoring your site for the purpose of attracting customers.

With a site tailored to not only your needs, but to attracting customers and getting them to make that all important purchase, you could soon start to see an increase in revenue from the online side of your business.

Social media will continue to offer internet marketing opportunities; however, it might be worth considering services that focus on the visual aspect of campaigns too. Photos, images and videos are a great way of drawing in customers to your site. Many studies suggest a picture or video is a lot more likely to stick in our memory than a bulk of text.

On the social media side of things, there are many tools and apps out there to best utilise social media platforms for your business. Whether it be Wildlife from Google or analytic programmes like SproutSocial. Do a little research into the advantages and disadvantages of these for your company.

You should also look for Internet marketing services that know a thing or two about the potential of mobile, if you find an Internet marketing firm which is not aware of mobiles potential, you definitely need to look elsewhere. Mobile is getting bigger than ever, with more people picking up smartphones, tablets and the like and surfing the web.

Many people will even surf the web on their phone or tablet whilst watching TV, so a product that generates an interest on the TV will quickly get them tapping away on their smart device to find it or similar products.

It is also important therefore to make sure that any marketing that you do online is cross transferable, whether it’s for desktop, tablet or smartphone. Look for Internet marketing services which offer you the best way of utilising all of them.

Content marketing is another vital component of a company offering top level Internet marketing services. Google is constantly punishing sites with substandard or copied content, so it is well worth your while to either invest in companies offering tailor made content services, or looking to do something yourself via company blogs and other such things.

Internet marketing services will be vital in anyone wanting to move or even consolidate themselves in the online world this year, so it is vital to get a grip on them.

How Your Company’s Lifecycle Impacts Your Marketing Communications

Marketing communications is an area that’s rapidly affected by advances in technology — not only in the way companies create marketing material but also how they distribute it.

Like email did in the late 1990s, social media has exploded in popularity among marketers. Online video grows by leaps and bounds. And mobile marketing is escalating so quickly that companies are scrambling to ensure their marcom is mobile friendly.

Marketing communications can be sliced into two segments:

  • Pull marketing (also called inbound marketing). Potential customers find your product or service at their choosing. Communication channels for this type of marketing include: search engines, online forums, blogs and social media.
  • Push marketing (outbound marketing). You directly contact potential customers at the time of your choosing to promote — or push — your product or service to their attention. Communication channels include: email bulletins, sales letters and catalogs.

But how do you know which of these marketing channels to focus on? There are a variety of factors that influence this decision, including demographics, firmographics, purchase history and customer lifecycle. All of these aspects will come into play at some point, depending on the markets you serve.But one dynamic that doesn’t get as much attention as it should is the lifecycle of your company?

In the startup stage, getting customers is an urgent activity. You can’t pay your bills and your employees for long without sufficient customers. Because of its expediency, push marketing is often a focal point at this stage because you may not be able to get enough customers with pull marketing to sustain your business in the short term.

This doesn’t mean you ignore implementing pull marketing during this phase, but you clearly have a need to acquire customers relatively quickly. SEO may take awhile before traffic increases. And direct selling is frowned upon in social media, as the emphasis in this arena is relationship building and customer engagement.

Here are three tips on startup stage marketing:

1) Don’t wait until after your company opens its door to start marketing. Make sure you have your website, marketing collateral and advertising finalized and ready to go so you can hit the ground running.

2) Ask yourself “Can I generate enough customers in the short term by using pull marketing alone?” If not, what push channels would be most appropriate for your target audience?

3) What methods have you implemented to measure the success of your marketing communications? If you can’t measure the response, how will you know if you’re getting the most out of your marketing dollars?

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