Crush the Competition
50 of the Greatest Marketing Tips You’ll Find Anywhere
We were going to start our “Best Promotions” feature with a quote from P.T. Barnum of Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus fame. Barnum, one of the world’s greatest marketing geniuses, said “Without promotion something terrible happens ... Nothing!” Guess what, though? In January, The Greatest Show on Earth announced it would close after 146 years.
Even P.T Barnum himself might have had trouble promoting his show in today’s world of fragmented media spread over radio waves, printed page, LCD screen, Duratrans sign, and — sure, why not? — painted bigtop canvas.
Fact is, today, there is no one best marketing and promotion solution, says Vicki Lynne Morgan of Animal Brands. “The old tried-and-true are not working.” Instead, she says, “there’s strength in numbers of what you have working for you simultaneously.” Which means you need a multifaceted, multimedia approach to marketing where your business is popping into the minds of potential customers in different places at the same time.
In that spirit — and to keep “nothing!” from ever happening to you — the team at Pets+ has assembled a list of 50 ideas for events, sales, smart practices in promotion and direct marketing techniques. The goal? To bring more people into your store and, once there, get them to buy more.
CHANGE IS GOOD. Change a design element on the front page monthly, whether it’s a special or an upcoming activity or something else.
MOVING PICTURES.Use video when it offers a better experience than text and images can. That could include video testimonials, a nicely produced short on the history of your business, or perhaps an instructional guide on how to train your dog to sit. Should you need a video producer, start your search at SmartShoot.com, a network of thousands of pros who’ll bid for the job.
FILM RAVES. The next time a customer pays you a compliment, pull out your phone and ask the person if he could repeat it so you can film it. Upload it to YouTube, and the places you can use it are endless — from your website to an in-store video display. — Rick Segel, retail consultant and speaker
GRADUAL GROWTH. Let’s face it. You’re never going to have the time to create that giant website with all your inventory like you’ve been planning. But why not start by simply putting new items online every month or two? That’s a good way to keep people coming to your site to check out the fresh stuff. And after a year or two, you’ll realize that hey, almost all of your key products are now online.
STAY POSITIVE. Always use positive language, even for the simplest statements. “Orders received by 2 p.m. will be shipped out today!” is much better than “Orders received after 2 p.m. will not be shipped until the next business day.” Use “Join Now” or “Sign Up,” rather than “Submit,” to register for an email bulletin.
SECRET CODE.Google Analytics offers a free piece of code that your web designer can place on your site that gives you a wide range of information on how consumers are using your website as well as how they are finding out about you. It also provides you with Web-based software to consolidate this data.
BLOG ON. Write a regular company blog to create fresh and keyword-relevant content on your website. Once you’ve created this content, tease the information across your social networks with direct links to your website.
UPDATE OFTEN. To keep conversation going on Facebook, update your page at least two or three times a week.
GET A BOOST. On your Facebook business page, you may have received messages saying this or that post is one of your most popular and asking if you want to boost it. Most people ignore those notices, thinking Facebook just wants more of your money. (Which, admittedly, is true.) But boosting already-proven posts can often provide excellent bang for the buck. Give it a try!
MEET PEOPLE. Using search.twitter.com is a great way to find people in your local area that share similar hobbies and interests. Click the “Advanced” link on the search page, type in something you’re interested in, add location search parameters, and click search. You will find people talking about what you are interested in.
CUSTOMER-MADE COMMERCIALS. Retail consultant and author Rick Segel suggests creating a contest video promotion for YouTube, encouraging customers to make a video promoting your business for a prize. The only requirement is that it’s clean and relates in some positive way to your business.
MAKE A SANDWICH. For nice sandwich boards, check out sidewalksigns2go.com and buildasign.com. Be sure they’re water-resistant, which requires a protective lip at the top of the board to deflect rain.
DEAL CARDS. Have each staff member hand out just two business cards every day outside the store. The grocery store, dry cleaner, beauty parlor — anywhere. After all, you are their customer, so it’s only logical that they become your customer.
SWEET SURPRISE. Want a friendly freebie? Offer customers coupons for a free cone at the nearest ice-cream shop while their pet is being groomed.
GET A HANDLE. For customers to remember you, the name of your business may not be enough. Sure, it means a lot to you, but a name like “Smithville Pets” tends, over time, to seep out of the cerebrums of your customers. To make your business identity stick, find yourself a moniker, says Ron Geilgun, author of 222 Ways to Promote Your Business. Make yourself known as “The Mobile Groomer,” “Home of the World’s Longest Biscuit Buffet” (thanks, Woofers Grooming & Goodies in Spanaway, WA), or “The Fin Folks.” Use this tag line, in addition to your real company name, in all your advertisements.
STICK IN MINDS. The lowly refrigerator magnet can be your version of Amazon’s Dash. Mary Oquendo of Pawsitively Pretty Mobile grooming salon in Danbury, CT, can attest to their long-term effectiveness: “I was just at a new client’s house that had my magnet on their fridge for 10 years before calling me.” Check out zazzle.com for something a bit more unique than a business card with magnetic backing.
PURPLE HIPPO.. If a handle’s not your thing, how about being the store with the purple hippo out front? Similar to Seth Godin’s purple cow, everyone’s first question will be, “What’s up with the purple hippo?” but they’ll also say, “You can’t miss it; it’s the place with the purple hippo out front.”
HOT STUFF. Great service for a store, especially in summer? Cold washcloths. People come in hot, dirty and irritated. They leave fresh, happy, and likely to remember you forever. Ahhh.
SING A SONG. A great way to be remembered by your customers came from an accountant we heard of. Like many businessmen, he sends his customers birthday cards every year. But then he calls each client and actually sings “Happy Birthday” to them on their big day. No wonder his clients absolutely love him and he has more business than he can handle.
BREAK THE RULES. When it comes to rules, says Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, “You have to either follow them. Or break them with gusto.” For instance, you’d think that a store would need to have a pronounceable name to be successful. But Underhill tells of a friend who named his store after a character in Superman comic books. The name? Mxyplyzyk. (The store is now closed, but had a solidly successful run.)
GRANT ACCESS. Never run an offer that tells customers to sign up three friends for your newsletter in order to receive a discount or gift card. This makes customers feel like they’re selling out their shopping buddies. Instead, change the offer to “You and every one of your friends who signs up will get a 15 percent discount.” Now your customer has special access to a discount that she can pass along to friends.
GIVE A TREAT. “Pay” your customers for providing you with information. Let them know that by giving you personal data such as their birthdays and the birthdays of their pets, they’ll gain access to special sales, programs, invitations and other benefits. Then keep your promise and provide them with the reward.
CAPTURE FRIENDS OF FRIENDS. Every email you send can have a ripple effect if you encourage the people who are already on your list to pass your emails along to their friends, says Wendy Lowe of Campaigner. Incentivize with a gift if the friend signs up and mentions them.
ACTIVATE CUSTOMERS. To reach inactive customers in your database, contact them with a special offer, information about something that would be of interest to them, or educational information that would benefit them, suggests Steve Robinson of Constant Contact. No response after two or three attempts? Consider those addresses inactive and either remove them from your list or move them to a list you contact only once or twice a year so as not to lose contact completely.
TESTIMONIAL GATHERING. Create an event around gathering testimonials, says John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing. Promote it as a chance to gather with other pet lovers, swap stories and star in the creation of new marketing materials for your store. Hire a videographer and photographer and let your customers cycle through the video seat to tell their stories of success at your store. Keep it light and fun (wine and treats help). Once you capture the video, audio and still photos from the event, you’ve got a testimonial and success story library that could infuse your marketing materials, broadcast and print ads for years.
CREATIVE INSTINCTS. Hold a pet art contest. Work with a local school for this. Have the kids paint or draw their pal. Volunteer to help judge, donate a gift card for pet food and supplies, and display the winners in your store at an award-night gala.
PAINT A PET. It’s now a thing for people paint their pets’ portraits over the course of an evening, plied by a bit of wine and hors d’ouevres. (Google “paint your pet party.”) Participants send a photo of their pet, an outline of which is then prepared on canvas, and artists help even the most unartistic oaf paint a keepsake portrait — all while having a memorable time in your store. Eric Mack of Purrrfect Bark Market in Columbus, NC, uses the occasion as a fundraiser for a local animal shelter.
PET ELECTION. We’re either a bit late or a bit early with this one, depending on how much planning you want to put into this: Host an event where attendees can vote on their favorite animal — dog or cat?
CAMERA-READY. Invest in a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera to bring your photos to a new level. Combine with an 18-55mm lens for the best shots of people and their pets.
POSTABLE PICS. Want to draw a younger crowd to your next event? Set up a photo studio where a professional will photograph your customers and their pets, and then post the pictures to their Facebook pages.
THE PRICE OF FAME. What should you be spending on advertising? According to Jay Levinson, author of Guerrilla Marketing, most businesses invest 4 percent of gross revenue in marketing, most of this going to advertising. But to really capture mind-share in your community, Levinson suggests spending 10 percent on marketing, with about half of that going to mass media advertising. The other five percent should go to direct mail, telemarketing, brochures, sales videos, a catalog, a newsletter, infomercials, and research. In the early days, your advertising expenditure might be higher so you can start obtaining the mind-share you need. You might even spend twice as much the first year as you would the second. Once you are established, you will have the benefit of repeat and referral business and can make do with smaller ads.
MIX IT UP. When it comes to media planning, Levinson suggests mixing one fixed media (e.g. newspapers) and one active media (e.g. radio or television). Then use one to support the other. For example, on your radio ads, say “Look for our advertisement in Saturday’s Beacon.”
IN THE KNOW. Make sure your employees know what you’re advertising, says Michael Corbett, author of The 33 Ruthless Rules of Local Advertising. When clients come in asking for the special they saw in your latest banner advertisement, too many times an employee scratches his or her head and says, “What special offer was that?”
JUST THE FACTS. In promotional copy, don’t use fancy phrases, use fancy facts, says Levinson. Here’s an example of a fancy phrase: “Our pet store offers the best selection of food and supplies in the entire community.” And here’s a fancy fact: “Our pet store has more than 50,000 items in stock and can get you any of 500,000 other items within a week.” Which is more powerful?
FOR THE AGES. If you are looking for buyers under the age of 40, says Corbett, you will find fewer of them by advertising in the newspaper than in other media.
NO MAN’S LAND. Looking for advertising space that’s cheap? Buy something that’s never been bought before, suggests Levinson. Let’s say you’re driving around and see no advertising on the fences at the local little league field. Go to the league organizers and tell them what you’ll pay for an advertisement on the outfield fence. Since it’s never been bought before, you’ll have no competition and the price should be low.
GET PRESS. Not many pet businesses send press releases. But local news services really eat them up. Send a news release telling about your new store to every media outlet (print and online) in your area. And then, every time you get some kind of recognition, send another news release. Cultivate the right reporters, and you’ll become the go-to expert on all matters pet-related.
THE LATE SHOW. What hours are your competitors open? Same as you? Then change your hours. If your competitors are all open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., keep your store open until 8 or 9 p.m. Or if that sounds like too much work, have normal hours all week and then choose one day to stay open until 10 p.m. (Promote this fact in all your advertisements.) This will give those folks who have to work late a chance to see what you’ve got.
BOTTOMS UP. If you purchase a mailing list, work from the bottom of the list. Most people work from the top. Give old Archie Anderson a break. Call Zeke Zoolander instead.
E ME. Include an email address on all direct mail materials, especially if it’s an invitation to a special event. Many customers prefer to respond via computer.
ALL NEW. Don’t like to hold sales? Instead, let your best customers know a shipment of “new merchandise” has arrived. Tell your customers to come look at the best stuff before it disappears.
THE WRITTEN WORD. When doing mailings, don’t take the easy way out and computer-print envelopes, or even worse, use printed labels. Instead, hand-address every envelope. Case studies show that handwritten envelopes are five times more likely to be opened.
TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Be careful when you mail, says direct marketing expert Ruth King. Don’t send direct-mail pieces so that they’ll be received on a weekend if you’re not open on Saturdays. (By Monday, the customer will probably have forgotten all about you.) Instead, mail on Mondays and follow up on Wednesdays.
LISTICLE. If you don’t have a list of every dog trainer, boarding kennel, groomer, vet, pet bereavement counselor, pet cemetery — any service you don’t offer — that you recommend in your area, start compiling one today. And be flattered that your customers assume you know of and about all these other services.
BAGGING IT. If you’re cross-promoting with other stores in your mall or Main Street area (and you should be), try printing special offers for all the stores involved in the promotion on one side of your shopping bag. The other side should have your logo on it. You’ll get extra mileage from being located outside the bag, as opposed to having your brochure or coupon simply dropped into the depths of the bag, where it will most likely remain unnoticed. And each person who walks around with a purchase from one of your allies provides additional exposure for your company.
THINK DIFFERENT. Think a promotional partner has to be related to pets? Think again. “We’re partnering with our local brewery to do events and use their spent grains in a new treat we developed,” says Kim Loper of Harbor Pet in Greenport, NY. “Partnering with a local business that is so different helps us both gain new customers that might not have enter our stores otherwise.”
REPRESENTATIVE HELP. Cross-promotions don’t have to be limited to other types of retail businesses. Talk with your manufacturers’ reps about how they can help with their own resources. “My hardworking brand reps have been one of the best things I accidentally discovered,” says Karen Dilbert of The French Dog in Rockwood, PA. “We share on Instagram and reach a combined network of well over 100,000 followers. For a company in business one year, I have been very pleased with the results of this advertising.”