By John Matthews, founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc.
You may think about your business 24/7, but chances are your customers do not. Hard to believe, right?
I am a big believer that the successful businessperson is always considering how they can “connect the dots” for their customers more easily so that their customers have the ability to say “yes” to offers. Throughout the year, it should be included in your plan, key seasons and events that allow you to entice customers into your store or take advantage of your services. Much like how Hallmark has created a reason for sending a card – including their latest “unemployment condolences” line – you can create the same sense of urgency with your customers. Connecting the dots is all that is required with your local marketing.
Tapping into seasonal or promotional sales throughout the year gives you ample ammunition to generate more revenue. Identify the season(s) that dovetail nicely with your store’s theme—this could mean any holidays or times throughout the year—so that you can bundle your products in gift themes or group packages. Putting ideas into your customers’ heads regarding key seasonal sales (such as a sales promotion leading up to the Super Bowl) is an excellent way to attract time-starved customers.
A seasonal sales strategy can be executed by running ads in your local newspaper, updating your Facebook page or by simply handing out flyers to your customers leading up to your seasonal sale. Run a series of ads highlighting your seasonal sales once a week, including store locator map, pricing and your Website’s URL. The key is to plant a purchasing idea your customers’ minds so that they think of your store prior to your seasonal sale. In other words, connect the dots.
Consider mixing up your ads to maximize your audience reach, if there are more than one media serving your trade area. Encourage customers to “plan early” to avoid the last-minute rush, which will allow them to choose from the best merchandise selection. Your store can successfully position itself as a convenient “anxiety reducer” for harried consumers during a hectic time of the year.
Plan The Year: This part should be easy. Starting in October, plan the upcoming year and highlight the key seasons or events. So that they can be “seasonal ambassadors” to your customers, ensure that you provide ample notification to your staff. A customer that is planning a holiday party most likely isn’t thinking about the details until early December. Letting customers know that they have experts ready to help them – before they realize they need help – will help solidify your expertise in this area.
Provide Answers Before Customers Raise Questions: This is the true sense of connecting the dots. I remember when I worked at Little Caesars, we used to do a decent business for the Super Bowl. Usually, customers would call the day of the game or perhaps a few days earlier to pre-order their pizzas. Sales really took off when we turned the Super Bowl into something truly exceptional for pizza parties. We began to promote our party pizzas as early as Jan. 10, with bounce-back flyers going out on every pizza that promoted our large quantity, pizza pricing for the Super Bowl. Though it was only the first week of the NFL playoffs, we started to provide answers to customers before they had questions and sales soared.
Inspire Activity: Make it easy for the customer to say yes. Think through how merchandise can be bundled or placed within the store so the customer can easily say, “yes” and buy. There is a reason why fast-food restaurants have a menu with a slew of pre-numbered combos – it is easier for the customer to say “I will have a number 1.″ Seasonal promotions should be thought of in the same context.
Tease The Next Season: If Halloween is the season du jour, tease the next season with a snipe or burst saying “Thanksgiving Pre-Planning Is Just Around The Corner.” As the customers become accustomed to your store being the solution to their needs, teasing them to look for new, helpful items in the next month never hurts. Again, the goal is to connect the dots for your customers so that their lives are made easier.
Be The Solution: Many stores sell items to suit the needs of their customers, but sometimes though, customers seek for the pampered, hand-holding inclusive solution. Providing this level of service on an ongoing basis not only strengthens sales at key times of the year, but captures the loyalty of the customer base. Your store staff should view themselves as solution-providers, not simply as cashiers.
While planning your store’s seasonal sales for the year, make sure you don’t overdue it. Having one seasonal sale per quarter is an excellent rule-of-thumb. For example, you may find that Valentine’s Day, June school graduation, Halloween and Christmas are the ideal times for seasonal sales at your store. The goal is to connect the dots for your customers and create an all-inclusive, solution-based source for their needs.
John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries.