Smart marketing can be a game changer for retailers – especially in a pandemic

Dan Cotter on Contemporary Marketing Concepts

As if retailing hasn’t always been hard enough, when you toss in a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, with its limits on traveling (and therefore tourism) and customer capacity restrictions in stores, many retailers in our area must feel like they’re living a bad dream. Add to that the growing popularity of online shopping via Amazon and other websites that take stores out of the shopping and buying equation, and it’s a bit of a nightmare scenario for brick-and-mortar businesses.

Customers are increasingly hard to come by. On one hand, shoppers have more options than ever, especially online. And with the COVID-19 limitations, the pool of in-person store shoppers has shrunk, putting added pressure on local businesses to compete smarter and more aggressively for market share and profitability.

Some business owners aren’t quite sure how to do that. As one friend of mine said, “I used to think I knew how to promote my business. I ran some ads in the paper and occasionally on radio. That was all it took.” But of course, consumer shopping and media habits have changed dramatically in recent years, and even more so now as a result of the pandemic.

Smart marketing in today’s tough environment requires additional firepower and sophisticated techniques to reach the right sales prospects and persuade them to patronize a business.

The good news is that some powerful new digital marketing tools are well along in their development and available to even the smallest businesses. Having been widely adopted throughout the country in recent years, they are now battle-tested. They work. And the best part is that they’re not all that expensive to deploy.

Strategies that incorporate digital marketing tactics allow businesses to readily identify and reach their best potential customer prospects. The secret to their success is that these digital techniques are HIGHLY targeted. Instead of offering broad reach of the residents of a marketplace, like traditional media do, these digital tools zero in and reach just those people who are most likely to need the products or services a particular business offers — sometimes at the exact moment the consumer needs it — so, of course, people who see the ad are likely to respond right away.

When a business adds the laser-like precision of some of these digital tools to its promotion plan, it can make a dramatic difference in the company’s financial success.

Getting the word out vs. getting found

Broad-reach media like newspapers and broadcast, especially with their large audiences and the attention-grabbing creative opportunities they offer, are perfect for getting the word out when a business needs to generate awareness, manage consumer perception of their brand, or alert a large portion of the community to a sale, event, or special offer. But it’s also critically important for a store to get found by the people who are actively looking for the type of merchandise the store sells. And usually, those people who are currently searching are ready to buy right away, making them highly attractive sales targets.

Think about it. When today’s consumers want to buy something, but they don’t know where to buy it, the first thing they typically do is search online. They Google it.

And right at that moment, if you’re a merchant or service provider in the greater Woodstock area who can provide what the searcher is looking for, it’s imperative that he/she finds you online and understands exactly what you have to offer.

To have success, then, retailers and service providers must have a very strong online presence. That’s where many of the potential customers will be found – especially during a pandemic. Therefore, the way a business appears online is just as important as the appearance of its physical storefront. In fact, online is the first place many shoppers will encounter a store, and the impression they take away will dictate whether they patronize the store or not.

In a series of articles over the coming weeks, I’ll discuss some of the amazing ways that businesses are using modern marketing tactics to compete in today’s challenging environment.

Remarkable targeting capabilities

It’s fascinating. Businesses can now display their online advertising only to the people who live in a very narrow, specifically defined geographic area — such as their store’s custom trading area, and they can even “geofence” certain locations where they think their customer prospects are most likely to be found and advertise just to the people who go to those locations (for instance, just to people who go to their competitors’ stores).

Businesses can also run ad campaigns that reach just the people who live in their trading area and meet certain demographic criteria, like age, gender, income levels, people who have children or pets in their household, etc., and they can also choose to reach just people who have already exhibited the specific interests and behaviors that would make them a very good prospect for their business (e.g., entertainment patrons, art or book lovers, various types of hobby enthusiasts, people with certain needs or health concerns, etc.).

A business can also identify and advertise directly to the local people who are right at this moment searching online for the exact type of products they sell or services they offer. Talk about a qualified prospect!

The bottom line is that modern marketing techniques now allow a business to connect with just the right potential customers, often in just the right moment when they are ready and willing to buy. And that has never been more important for local businesses than it is in our current environment. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss ways businesses are doing just that!

Dan Cotter is publisher of the Vermont Standard. In its effort to provide local businesses with a full spectrum of traditional and contemporary marketing services, the Standard has established a partnership with one of the nation’s best digital marketing service providers. Business owners who would like a free consultation to learn more and explore whether they could benefit by using some of these marketing techniques are invited to contact Mr. Cotter directly at (802) 457-1313 x102 or [email protected].