So many small companies I work with pull out all the stops when it comes to marketing. They take out ads, run coupons in Val-Pak or similar envelopes-overstuffed-with-coupons-companies and even get hoodwinked into running cable TV or radio.
The truth is that most small retailers can’t afford to market themselves effectively in today’s highly fragmented world. In the past, I’ve written about the importance of developing a database and marketing to your existing customer base and ensuring that there’s an ROI on marketing initiatives whenever possible.
Another simple marketing tool that many retailers don’t employ is grass-roots marketing. This term can mean just about anything but for the purposes of this post, let’s call it anything you can do to drum up awareness and traffic in the immediate area around your store. It’s simple, inexpensive and can be very successful.
Grass-roots marketing can involve creating flyers and putting them at the various retailers in your immediate area, hosting events, working with mall management (if you’re in a mall or strip center) to get in their email campaigns and in-mall marketing and advertising, working with a neighborhood association or shopping district association, etc.
I’ll blog on all of these in the future. But for today, let’s focus on one area: The Open House.
THE REAL WORLD RETAILING TAKEAWAY
Key Influencers are people that have credibility in a particular area or subject. And they exist in the retailing world in a big way. Who better to recommend your store and it’s products and services than the people who work in the stores and restaurants around you. That’s why hosting an open house for them is the perfect way to get to know them and for them to get to know you. Here’s how.
- Set the Time and Date – Set the time for evening and run the event from 7 or 8pm until 10 or 11pm. That way, the people who are working that night at other stores can close up shop and still come by.
- Offer a discount – Everyone loves a deal. Give everyone who comes a discount of 25% or whatever you feel it will take to get them to make the move to show up. Promote the discount on the invite.
- Market the Event – Create simple invites with the date, time, location, DISCOUNT, and any other relevant information. You can simply print these out on your computer – again nothing fancy. You may also want to create an 8.5 x 11″ sign that other retailers can hang in their employee area promoting the event.
- Make it a Party – Of course music is a must. But serve some appetizers and offer a glass of wine as well as soft drinks. You don’t have to break the bank. Make it simple but show you’ve gone the extra step to make this something special.
- Meet and greet your fellow retailers – the most effective way to let people know is to pound the pavement. Hand-deliver the invites and posters to each store manager and personally greet them. After all, this is the whole intent of the open house – to get other retailers to know and recommend you.
- Host the event – It’s all hands on deck. Make sure you have plenty of employees on hand to interact with your guests [you can even makes calls ahead of time to each of the stores you delivered invites to and gauge how many people may be coming]. The key is to ensure that every guest walks away with a great experience and understands your store and what you’re selling.
- Follow-up – Exchange business cards with other store managers at the event and pop them an email or give them a call and thank them for coming. It’s a simple gesture that seems to have gotten lost in today’s busy world.