If you think back to your marketing and advertising resources and opportunities, say, even just ten years ago, it quickly becomes evident that times have changed. Seriously. The last time you needed a phone number or the name of a local plumber, did you grab the Yellow Pages directory off the shelf or did you do a quick Google search on your computer? And sending promotional E-mails, marketing through a website and advertising on social networks was not even in the realm of possibilities.
Not everything has changed, of course. Salespeople still hand out printed business cards and brochures, and potential customers still keep and refer to them. Business owners with storefronts still use classy in-store displays as a key marketing tool. And community involvement will likely never go out of style as a means of keeping your business name in the public eye.
Last year was an “interesting” year for award dealers, to say the least. Some engravers have reported a significant decline in sales, others say they held their own and still others say they actually increased their revenue. In any case, after a tumultuous 2009, we could all use a little business jump-start, and what better place to start than with revamping your marketing campaign?
It’s very easy to become too involved in day-to-day operations and even easier to lose focus on marketing, especially for small retail businesses with limited staff. On top of that, many retailers worry that any type of advertising campaign is just too expensive and time consuming. But the bottom line is, if you don’t spread the word, how will anyone know what you sell and who you are? There are many ways to effectively market your business. So let’s take a look at what some industry-based businesses are doing.
Target Marketing is Important
It is critical before embarking on any marketing strategy that you determine your target market, particularly for small retailers and especially in today’s economy. Successful retailers have realized the importance of targeted marketing as opposed to a “shoot from the hip” approach. “When it comes to marketing, a major concern of ours has been making sure the marketing program reaches our target customer. Our marketing strategy has become much more rigidly targeted and as it has, it has become more successful,” says Ed Duprey, Great Lakes Trophies & Engraving Inc., Garden City, MI.
Engraved awards and gifts represent a distinct market but it’s not always an all-encompassing one. There are market segments within the awards/gift industry and the segment you choose to target will depend on the products you offer and to whom you want to sell them. From there, you can develop more precise marketing strategies.
For example, if your business specializes in high-end awards, you will want to reach the corporate award market, and to do that might mean developing and selling corporate award programs. If engravable gifts are your specialty, you may want to zero in on the bridal market by developing a website geared around engravable gifts and showcasing your products at area bridal shows. If trophies, medals and ribbons are major sellers in your business, then schools and youth sports may be your target markets so you may want to increase your community involvement in those areas.
In a nutshell, to get the most out of your time and money, you need to focus on that group or groups of people who will buy your award products, and tailor your marketing programs accordingly.
|What Works Today
So, in today’s technological business world, what really works for R&I businesses? Here’s a look at 17 different marketing tips and strategies for 2010, a few you may want to consider putting on the back burner and some sage advice from successful business owners.
1. Hire a sales manager. While small business owners tend to do it all, realistically you can’t, or at least not effectively. If you are serious about jump-starting an effective marketing program, consider hiring a salesperson or manager to oversee it, as Ed Duprey did. If a full-time salesperson is really not in your budget, take a look at your existing staff. A little extra training in customer service can go a long way, or training them in key aspects of your business could leave you more time for marketing.
2. Time it right. One of the biggest issues in launching a marketing campaign is timing. Through effective timing you can capture the attention of prospects when they are most receptive and show them that what you are offering can meet their needs.
Rex Tubbs, owner of Engraving Connection, Plymouth, MI, and a well-known marketing “guru,” does online research to determine when companies and organizations give out awards. With this information, he can ascertain when the company is going to make a purchasing decision and target his marketing appropriately. “Most large companies and organizations like to brag about the awards they give. I use Google Search and Google News Alerts to find the information for specific markets and businesses,” Tubbs explains.
David Takes, owner of Expressions Engraved, Inc., St. Joseph, MO, takes a seasonal approach to timing his marketing. “Without a doubt, the most cost-effective time of year to promote a retail awards business is from November 1 through the end of the holiday shopping season. This is when people are most likely to break away from shopping the same old crowded big-box stores to explore smaller shops they’ve never been in before. It’s the best time to pull out all the stops to draw new foot traffic into your business.”
This past year, Takes embarked on a promotional campaign that touted his business as having the largest selection of Christmas ornaments in the city, and ended up attracting the most holiday traffic in his business’ history. Anticipating increased foot traffic, Takes made sure his in-store displays were up to date and were set up to convey everything his business could offer.
“It wasn’t the wonderful ornament sales that I got excited about, it was all of the new exposure my business gained from the expanded foot traffic. By offering a lower-ticket item such as ornaments, I was able to maximize the number of shoppers coming into the store. Once in the store, they were pleasantly surprised with our selection of gifts in crystal, pewter, silver, wood, etc. I call this time of year my planting season because I am able to plant seeds for business that will come later on as occasions present themselves throughout the year,” Takes says.
Expressions Engraved’s promotion was so successful that next year Takes plans on setting the bar even higher by hosting a late-night sneak preview party in September to introduce some of the exclusive new ornaments he plans to create for 2010. “My goal is to become the first place people will think of when they want an ornament. Those of us in this industry have such an advantage over the competition because of our ability to personalize,” he explains.
3. Get creative. As a member of the recognition and identification industry, you have to be inherently creative, so why not put some of that creativity to work in your marketing plans? When Rex Tubbs targets large corporate accounts, he often has difficulty getting past the “gatekeeper” when trying to reach the decision maker. To get around this stumbling block, he uses a “shock and awe box.” Before he visits a potential customer, he packs a box with sales materials, including a plaque engraved with his sales message, catalogs, a CD and anything else that might impress the CEO, and labels the outside of the box “Awards.” “It rattles a little bit, it looks important and guess what? It gets past the gatekeeper,” Tubbs says.
| 4. Track customers. Both Tubbs and Duprey use customer relationship management (CRM) software to organize customer information and automate marketing activities. Duprey’s system, for example, is used to track a variety of customer characteristics, including whether the client is a new or repeat customer and how the customer heard about the business, e.g. word of mouth, Yellow Pages, direct mail flyer, Internet, drive by or business card. Based on that information, Duprey can determine the best approach to reach that customer. “It’s a great tool for knowing where to spend marketing dollars,” says Duprey. There are many different CRM software packages available in a variety of price ranges, depending on your needs.
5. Mail campaigns. Mail campaigns remain an effective way to sell products and services. The difference today, of course, is that in addition to direct mail, E-mail has entered the picture as a cost effective way to instantly reach customers. Here again, good CRM software can make E-mail marketing campaigns an automatic process.
For example, after Tubbs makes a sale, the customer is automatically signed up to receive a sequence of E-mails that highlight different areas of Tubbs’ business. The particular E-mail sequence that a customer is assigned depends on the product purchased. For example, a customer purchasing engraved wedding gifts will automatically receive a promotional E-mail about etching toasting flutes, then one on engraving cake servers, etc. “This goes on for multiple E-mails and has been very effective for me,” says Tubbs.
6. Develop a website. Business websites have gone from being an optional marketing tool to an essential one. With a website, you can effectively compete on any level—local, national or even international—because your business is accessible to anyone who has an Internet connection, anytime, anywhere. (It is reported that over 25 percent of the world’s population utilizes the Internet.) Through an effective website, potential customers can find information about your business, including products, services and contact information, and even make purchases while you’re home sleeping. And while the website itself is a fantastic marketing tool, it also opens a floodgate of opportunities for not only marketing through that website but establishing an overall “Internet presence.”
You can get the most out of your website by utilizing the many different tools that are available, such as shopping cart capabilities, online web forms that can capture names and E-mail addresses, and links to your site on affiliated sites.
Another current trend is the concept of establishing multiple websites or sub sites that are specific to a niche market. This strategy can give you great placement on search engines and it also opens the door to highly-targeted marketing strategies based on specific customer data. Tubbs has had great success with his website www.weddingengraver.com which he developed to target the wedding market specifically. (For more information about online marketing, read our two-part series “Online Marketing Strategies” in the 2008 Awards Advisory and the Feb. 09 issue.)
Note, too, that some industry suppliers have free end user websites that you can use in your marketing strategy. These are established websites that you can direct your customers to through links on your own website that highlight various products. LaserBits, Phoenix, AZ, recently introduced a marketing site called LaserPlaces that showcases a variety of laser engravable products, including photos and descriptions (www.LaserPlaces.com).
7. Hit the show circuit. Attending shows and events in industries where your products and services might be needed is another way to expand your customer base. For example, set up a booth at a dog show to engrave dog tags on the spot, show your line of engravable golf accessories at a golf show or offer engraving services at a gun and knife show. Once you get your foot in the door, the potential for additional business is great. Instead of just engraving dog tags, next year you might be the business selected to provide all of the awards for the dog show.
Tubbs regularly displays his products and services at major bridal shows where he attracts some 2,000 brides from all over the metro Detroit area, southeast Michigan and even Toledo, Ohio. He pushes his website with great success at these shows.
You might also consider organizing your own “show” of sorts. Rex Tubbs has started a “wedding workshop” show promotion in cooperation with other area vendors that is held several times times a year at a local banquet hall. Couples come to the event to visit each vendor’s table and receive advice from various wedding experts; every nine minutes, a bell sounds and the couples move on to the next booth. The entire event lasts 90 minutes and is not designed as a venue for businesses to sell their products but rather a place where couples can receive expert advice in one place in a short period of time. Tubbs, for example, offers hints on how to avoid engraving problems, e.g. have the wedding bands sized before engraving to avoid distortion of the engraving.
The event is promoted through flyers handed out at bridal shows and E-mail blasts inviting couples to sign up for the workshop on the event’s website (Wedding Specialists United). “Think of speed dating events. This is where the idea came from. We usually get around 40 to 50 couples attending the workshop, it’s a lot of fun and time goes very fast. It has been a very successful event distinguishing my business from the competition,” Tubbs says.
8. Business cards. The good old-fashioned business card is a time-proven marketing tactic and retailers agree that this is a selling tool that has definitely not gone out of style. Duprey purchases them by the thousands and Tubbs says he hands out 500 business cards in a month’s time.
15. Sales, promotions and discounts. There are many ways for R&I retailers to offer customers “added value” on their purchases. “Giving a little something extra is the way to go. I offer six letters of free engraving with just about everything. This cuts down on the perception that engraving is expensive,” says Tubbs.
What Doesn’t Work
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
EJ HOME PAGE