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Small-business Retail Marketing Tips for 2016

Given limited information, time, and money, small retail business owners and marketers must decide which ad formats and promotions merit investment. Their growth depends on making good choices. But what should be the priorities? Which marketing tactics are most important?

Unfortunately, opinions and suggestions are not always helpful when it comes to prioritizing small business retail and ecommerce marketing. For example, in one article titled, “How to Prioritize Business Marketing,” a would-be marketing expert suggested the following.

  • Increase outreach.
  • Get professional help where it counts.
  • Strengthen customer service.
  • Increase distribution.
  • Create strategic alliances.

This list, however, doesn’t seem like it would be all that helpful. What, for example, does “increase outreach” mean in the marketing context, and how would you compare the relative impact on increased outreach for pay-per-click advertising or email marketing?

This list is fairly typical of what you’d find if you searched Google for “how to prioritize small business marketing.” But again, it is not very helpful.

Concrete Suggestions

Instead of platitudes or buzz phrases, what follows are four tips or suggestions for, specific, marketing tactics you should prioritize in 2016.

Remember, all of these concrete suggestions should be viewed through the filter of your business. Also, remember that most companies plan marketing about a year ahead, so that you should be thinking about 2016’s marketing plan in September or October of 2015.

Prioritize Email Marketing

Email marketing is the one of the most powerful promotional tools available to retailers, online or off. When you have a healthy, well-managed email list, you can watch it drive sales.

There is almost nothing in marketing that is more satisfying than sending an email message, opening the administration page for your online store, and watching orders pop up as a direct result of that email message.

Here are a few of the highlights.

  • For every $1 invested in email marketing, expect a return of $44.25.
  • Some 91 percent of consumers check email daily.
  • Email marketing is roughly 40 times better than Facebook or Twitter for acquiring customers.

Make email marketing a priority for your business. You want to:

  • Grow the size of your email list;
  • Segment your list so you can send personalized messages;
  • Use automation to improve email marketing performance;
  • Work to improve customer retention.

Prioritize Your Customer’s Experience

Marketing consultant and award-winning website designer Nigel Gordijk described having a conversation with a prospective client. This potential client wanted Gordijk to help its site rank well on Google for a particular set of queries.

But this client had only “recently launched their business and had created a template-based website using resources from their web host,” Gordijk explained. “The site consisted of a total of seven paragraphs of content, spread across three text pages…The site looked amateurish. Even if potential customers were to find their way to the site, their first impression probably wouldn’t be positive.”

Gordijk’s point is a good one. And it helps us with our marketing priority list. Simply put, prioritize your customer’s experience. Invest some of your available money and time into improving how your retail site functions and looks.

Here are a few specifics.

  • If your site loads slowly, invest in performance.
  • If your site is not mobile optimized, make it responsive.
  • If your checkout is confusing, clean it up.
  • If your product images are small or blurry, get better pictures.
  • If your product descriptions are bland and meaningless, write new ones.

Do what you can to make shopping on your site easy and enjoyable.

Prioritize Content and Content Marketing

Content marketing is the act of creating, publishing and distributing content with the aim of earning, engaging, and keeping customers.

Content marketing works best when it is aimed at helping a customer. In this sense, it must be useful. When it is, it will help you sell.

For example, in 2014, NewsCred, which is in the content business, reported that companies that had a planned and organized content marketing strategy tended to convert customers about twice as often as companies not using content.

To get started, read Jay Baer’s book, Youtility. Once you’re done, create an editorial plan for your 2016 content marketing. Consider these specific tactics.

  • Use content to make product detail pages more helpful.
  • Plan a series of useful videos that show your shoppers how to do a task.
  • Develop a blog or online journal that serves your likely customers.

Prioritize Ads with Instant Results

Almost everything else on this list encourages you to invest time and money into solid long-term marketing efforts. But you also need some quick results. So when you buy ads, buy ads to generate instant returns. No brand ads for you.

For example, there is a retailer in the Northwest that is driving millions of dollars in sales with shared mail coupons. These ads cost relatively little to purchase, but significantly impact sales.

Similarly, a well executed pay-per-click ad campaign might drive instant results.

But how do you know which ads drive the best, short-term return on investment? You test them.

For your paid advertising, test some of these tactics for a short period of time. Measure how much profit each generated, and then reinvest in the best performing ads.

  • Coupon offers in shared mailers like Valpak.
  • Coupon offers in printed publications.
  • Online coupon offers.
  • Video ads on YouTube or Hulu.
  • Radio advertising in select markets.
  • Ads on Pandora.
  • Pay-per-click ads on Google or Bing.
  • Banner ads on leading, niche sites.

Summing Up

When you plan your 2016 marketing, consider prioritizing email marketing, user experiences, content marketing, and paid advertising that generates almost instant results.

Regardless of what you try, have a goal for each tactic and measure the results it generates.

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