What is indirect marketing?
Although most social media platforms are geared towards making money from businesses, even if you haven’t got a budget to spend on advertising, it’s still crucial to get your presence sorted and populated with your location, contact details and opening times. This will open a new channel for customers (past and potential future) to communicate, so make sure you’re checking regularly and resolving any queries. If you’re on Twitter, you can search for relevant keywords about your industry or local area and start following people – some of these will follow you back in return, building your audience without any investment.
Giveaways and competitions
If you’re looking to build up your email list ready to start a marketing campaign, giveaways and competitions are a great way of doing this. Customers who might normally be reluctant to hand over their contact details can often be persuaded once you introduce the possibility of winning a reward of some kind. Make sure you ask your suppliers for support, they will often be able to supply the prizes, bringing the costs down for you. Competitions requiring more effort from the customers will give fewer entrants but increased engagement. Consider running colouring competitions for children, photo caption competitions or similar contests where creativity is required, as these types of competition build a much stronger connection with the entrants.
Build your reputation as the experts
YouTube has given the world a how-to guide on pretty much everything that has ever existed. If we’re ever unsure of how to get something done, or finding a better way of getting that thing done, I guarantee that someone will have created a tutorial video and uploaded it to YouTube. Perhaps you sell a product that requires skill to use in the best way, or stock a food that requires cooking in a particular way to get the best result. In almost every independent store there will be opportunities to create instructional videos. You don’t need expensive equipment or experience in video editing to make this happen – most recent smartphones will record in sufficient quality and your computer probably already includes basic software which would let you trim and title your videos. Make sure to use the opportunity to mention your shop and showcase its features, but keep the content informational and as impartial as you can.
Apply for awards
There are many different awards that independent retailers can enter, but look specifically for locally focused awards, as these are most likely to raise awareness of your store to a relevant audience. Make sure you take full advantage of any wins (or even nominations) by creating a press release and sharing with your local press to maximise exposure.
Do you have room to offer to groups? If you can connect with a local organisation with some relevance to your products or services, scheduling regular events with these groups will bring significant attention to your business. Offer an incentive for the group members to purchase from you and give a welcome and introduction to yourself and your business and finish events with a reminder of your offering.
Make your marketing freebies useful & relevant
We’ve seen companies invest thousands on promotional marketing giveaway items which unfortunately are mostly destined for the rubbish bin, the worst of these being the little fluffy characters with googly eyes and a ribbon-tail printed with a company name. The best promotional tools you could invest in offer a real purpose and function that are going to ensure a long lifespan of reminding the user of your business’s existence and benefits. Rulers, pens, diaries and calculators fit this profile reasonably well but we encourage creativity in this area. Think about what your customers might find so useful on a day-to-day basis that they just can’t be without. Over on this end of the spectrum there are things like fridge magnets with emergency contact details for businesses working in property maintenance, branded sportswear for gyms or those in the fitness industry and USB memory sticks for businesses working with technology.
Your junk might be someone else’s treasure
Many independent retailers pay a significant amount for waste collection and recycling. If you are taking deliveries in cardboard boxes and selling products without those boxes, pretty soon you’re going to have a large amount of unwanted cardboard boxes that are going to cost you money to recycle or dispose of. Yet cardboard boxes have a value to them, they are incredibly useful and it’s highly likely that someone nearby will want them – so put a message out on social media offering them for free to anyone who can collect. It’s a positive news story and will help raise awareness of your business as well as solving your packaging problem. Every business is different and while for one store, the cardboard box example will work, but for another company, there might be some other waste as part of a production or logistical process that could be of value to others.
Other than indirect marketing?
It can often be helpful to take a step back from the day to day running of your business to map out the logistics and functions. Reviewing the procedures and processes and getting these down on paper can provide an opportunity to review, streamline and improve how you operate. You might also find while creating these records that you spot an opportunity for indirect marketing that you hadn’t previously noticed.
Steve Hasler, Independent Retailer Marketing. Marketing consultant to independent retailers. He’s been working with working with independent retailers and small business owners in the UK for over 15 years.