By Lisbeth Calandrino—Growing a successful business over the long haul boils down to some key fundamentals—researching your target market, developing a well-thought-out game plan, hiring the right people and executing accordingly.
Following are some tried-and-true (and perhaps some forgotten) steps.
Focus on creating a better customer experience. But in order to do this effectively, you’ll need to identify your competitive advantage and your niche in the target market. To that end, find out whatever you can about your competitors. When I ask about competitors, flooring store owners usually say, “We don’t have any!” I don’t know what this means except anyone with money who’s not spending it with you is spending it with the competition. These days it might be the grocery store or the gas station.
There are different ways to find out what your competitors are up to.
I came upon a platform called Similar Web (similarweb.com). You just put the name of the store in the box, and it will allow you to peek into your competitor’s marketing strategies and ads and see what they are doing. For example, are they focusing on social media, newspaper advertising or some other means? You can see what ads they are running the longest and determine if this is something you can copy or “one up.” Alternatively, you may realize you’re spending your money in the wrong place.
When I was in the flooring retail business, I had a competitor that had a lock on the back page of the only newspaper in the city. No matter how you folded the newspaper the back page was always evident. There was no sense in trying to compete, so we just had to find other ways to get to the customer.
Develop strategic partnerships with other businesses. Check social media in your area and see who the “movers and shakers” are in your target market.
What other businesses are maximizing social media; could they become your partners? Do they have a substantial email list? Do they have a product or service that would add to your mix that would bring you more profit? Are they well-connected and well known? These are companies that might make good partners for you. You can run events together and combine your marketing efforts.
Build an email list. Start a blog and invite customers to become part of your mailing list. It’s even better if you can have them write blogs for you; this way, you can utilize their social connections. Locate a reliable firm to manage/update your list.
Utilize podcasts. This is another way to connect with people in your community. Much like a blog, you can get the people you interview to distribute your podcast throughout their connections. Working with someone else again adds to the scope of your connections and reach. It’s a proven way to grow your mailing list.
Increase customer retention. We’ve all heard it costs five times as much to get new customers as it does it keep an old one. If this is true, why do businesses spend so much time on getting new customers? Consider bringing in your current customers and holding a focus group on a new product or asking them what they think you should do to improve your business. Package this with a lunch or dinner and you will truly have customers for life. How about giving out small gifts for their participation and hand-written notes thanking them for their participation? You will be amazed at the ideas your customers will have for your business. Customers who are frequent buyers will be happy to give you ideas that will help you compete and stay in business.
Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.