After the pandemic forced businesses to close their physical doors, many pivoted to virtual storefronts, solely focusing on online sales and services. Some created entirely new offerings, and others changed their target audiences. As the “new normal” takes shape, businesses may find themselves struggling to merge pandemic-related operations with the re-entrance of patrons into their brick-and-mortar businesses.
How can businesses continue to maximize revenue on their online channels while also managing full-time onsite operations? And how can it be done seamlessly and consistently from a branding and marketing perspective?
Learn how to do this and more from retail industry expert Nicole Leinbach, plus get tips on how to boost profits through strong branding and marketing—both in-store and digitally. In this video, you will:
- Discover actionable, realistic ways you can use branding to boost your business’ visibility
- Learn how to achieve a strong and reputable digital presence for brick-and-mortar success
- Get exclusive tips on how to create a consistent visual identity for your business, online and on-site
- Hear about modern marketing techniques to help optimize sales
Nicole is a global retail thought leader, recognized by companies including IBM, American Express, and Vend, and has been within the top 10 of 100 worldwide retail thought leaders since 2015, including having held the #1 spot. In 2022, WWD recognized Nicole as one of 25 inspirational women leaders. Nicole regularly contributes to media outlets such as Forbes, Entrepreneur, and NBC and speaks at worldwide events with a core concentration on commerce and consumer experiences. She is also the co-founder of the Independent Retailer Conference, author of “Retail 101: The Guide to Managing & Marketing Your Business,” and has supported American Express’s Small Business Saturday as their spokesperson since 2014.
Emily: All right, without further ado, I’m going to hand it over to Nicole. I’m so honored you’re here with us today. I love working with you and I can’t wait to see all the tips you have in store. Take it away.
Nicole: Thanks Emily. I’m so excited to be here and hi everybody. As Emily told you, my name is Nicole, and today, I’m going to be discussing Boosting Your Brand and Sales With Effective Marketing. Just to go ahead and give you a little bit more information about myself. So if you’re curious who I am, I live in Denver, Colorado. I have four kiddos, three dogs, pretty busy gal, but between all of that, I am the founder of Retail Minded and The Independent Retailer Conference.
I’m also the author of the Retail 101 which is for Mcgraw-Hill and a Professor at Columbia College in Chicago. I’m thrilled to be here today and I do apologize for my raspy voice. I don’t normally sound so cool, it’s just the aftermath of a little bit of a cold. So here we go. I’m curious, why did you open your business? It’s one of the favorite questions I have when I get to meet small business owners.
Keeping that in mind, was it because you simply wanted to be a part of whatever community you’re in, maybe it’s because you wanted to contribute to your family, or maybe it’s because you were sick of working for someone else at a “office job” or possibly it’s because you really did have a dream of being a small business owner? There’s a lot of different reasons why people open businesses, but at the end of the day, we have to really understand the purpose of operating those, and that’s going to be what we’re going to talk about today.
Let’s get started. Marketing is the process of communicating product or services to customers. The professor in me can’t help, but be a geek. So making sure you’re learning a little bit about the general marketing 101 here before we dive totally in. You need to identify and understand your customers in order to better understand how to market to them. Okay? That’s key.
Identifying and understanding your customers will allow you to better understand how to market to them and increase sales. Make no mistake today when we’re talking, I want you guys to learn valuable marketing techniques, but I also want you to learn how to increase your revenue. That’s going to be our goal. The catch? You have to understand your customers.
I’ve said it once before, and I’m going to say it a few more times today because at the core of any small business will always be the consumer. So with that, let’s go ahead and look at a few data points that have come out within the last year. Eight out of 10 shoppers plan to shop online as part of their spending each year. Okay? So this was a 2021 study in August. Again, this comes after the pandemic, the pandemic’s still kind of going on.
Of course, at that time, eight out of 10 shoppers plan to shop online as part of their spending, and 31% believe Amazon has a negative impact on shopping. Now, why am I telling you these things? Because it’s important to understand the consumer mindset, the consumer behavior, and three-fourths of US consumers have adjusted their shopping patterns due to COVID. I bet if you were to even ask yourself, has your own shopping patterns adjusted due to COVID?
A lot of change has happened as we all know over the last few years, but there’s also a lot of things that have stayed consistent. So today, we’re going to unveil different ways in which you can better understand your customers in 2022 in moving ahead, okay? So now I want to reveal five ways to boost your branding and increase sales, but with this in mind, this is going to be our core piece to the conversation today.
We have to look at not just customers, but the generations of customers. Okay? So you can see just in this visual that we have the little guys, the tweens, the teens, you have your young adults, you have your millennials, you have your Gen X which I fall into. We often get overlooked. You have your baby boomers. There is a lot of consumers. There’s many more that I didn’t even share right there, but the key is you have to make sure that you truly understand the needs of each of your demographics across the generations. That’s a really important piece to truly marketing to them.
So my first tip for you guys today is to use the five C’s of communication. Now, this is very important, particularly as you start to narrow it down into the generations of which you’re communicating to. Okay? I bet if you were to say, “I’m having a conversation with my 13 year old versus a 33 year old.” That conversation is going to be very different with your choice of words or how you communicate in general whether it’s via text or a phone call or even verbally face-to-face.
So keeping communication in mind with your target audience of customers, let’s look at those five C’s. The first is to be clear. Okay? So what does clear mean? Clear means you need to accurately communicate the message you want to share. All right? So if you’re being clear, your audience will not misunderstand what you’re trying to say. And I’ll go into more detail with that a bit.
The next is to be concise. So you want to be clear, but you also need to be concise because if you’re anything like me, you’re probably pretty busy and nowadays, customers have an attention span that just scrolls through their phone very fast. You need to be quick so that you capture attention clear and concisely. You also need to be correct. In other words, check for errors in your grammar, your spelling, anything that might distract from looking like a professional, but also correct in the accuracy of what you want to share.
So are you trying to say you have a sale on Saturday, but you accidentally wrote the date? So let’s say for example May 22nd, but you meant May 21st. So you need to make sure you have the accuracy in your communication as well. So being clear, concise, correct, and courteous because I like to look at the word courteous as a representation of your brand voice. So being courteous of course means being nice, but it could mean also being humorous or funny.
Maybe you have a witty tone to the branding of your business, but you want to make sure that communication is consistent across all your communication. So deliver that clear, concise, correct, and courteous, and finally consistency. You want to be consistent in all of your messaging because it’s important for your customers to understand not only what you’re trying to say, but have trust that you’re going to say it again and again and again no matter where they try to discover your brand, okay?
Now we’re going to go through a lot of different ways they’ll discover your brand today as well. So be clear, concise, correct, courteous, consistent. You want to do that in your brick and mortar business. So whether you’re a spa, a restaurant, a traditional boutique, whatever type of business you have, as well as online. These five CS of communication are essential no matter where your customer goes.
So we want to look at our digital destinations first because these are the places that your customers are often going to before they ever step foot into your physical business. Even if they have stepped foot into your physical business, hopefully they’re also visiting these digital destinations to stay in touch with you. Okay? So the five C’s of communication should be represented on your social media accounts. Of course, your Yelp account, anywhere that somebody can find you online, and we’re going to go in more depth about online later as well.
You also want to make sure your in-store signage leverages the biases of communication to answer questions and curiosities. So a few key things to think about here would be your store hours. I’m always really surprised when I walk by a favorite main street or even a new main street of stores, and there are missing store hours when I walk by a business. So if I’m there on a Sunday at 7:00 p.m. to have dinner, and then I walk by a store hoping to visit later in the week, and yet I have no idea if they’ll be open Monday for example, okay?
You need to make sure that you’re offering your customers the visibility through communication to understand what your store has to offer them. This also is true for the return policy. Okay? So be clear with using those five C’s of communication. This is all marketing opportunity. It’s also ways to effectively communicate to your businesses or to your customers, I should say.
So these are just 10 different ways we want to really narrow in on our communication strategy. The first would be store hours. We have exceptions to store hours as well. So during the pandemic, of course, a lot of businesses closed or they altered hours, but now that we’ve moved past that and hopefully stay past that, one of the lessons that we really learned was we need to make sure that we don’t just share when our stores are open, but we also offer any variations to what our store hours could be.
So whether it’s holidays or special events, make sure you’re communicating this online as well as in-store. I even like to use receipts to print it at the end so that your consumer can look back at that and reflect on when you might be open. Your contact details are absolutely vital. Make sure those are updated as well. Again, during COVID, we saw a lot of stores, restaurants, businesses in general that were not updating their phone numbers or their email addresses, and it’s not that they didn’t mean to, but they simply forgot.
They may have opened a Yelp page or they may have created a Facebook profile and forgot to update these details over the years. So you want to make sure that you have your own checklist of every digital touchpoint you have online, as well as the physical touchpoints that you need to make sure are always updated. Holiday updates. Things will vary with the holidays even this upcoming Memorial day weekend. What might change that you want to reflect through communication?
Now BOPIS stands for Buy Online, Pick In Store. It’s often Buy Online, Pick Up Curbside nowadays too. This is a great opportunity and a discussion for another day, but if you do offer this feature, you do want to make sure you’re communicating that effectively. Preferences of communication is really interesting as well. So personally as a consumer, I love going to Instagram or Twitter and messaging a brand and hope that they won’t return my inquiry to answer my question.
Others like to go to the website and use the automated chat box. Others to email them directly, others like to pick up the phone and call. So what’s your preference of communication? If you communicate that to your consumers in all these different places, they’re going to be more inclined to actually use that when they want to reach out to you.
Additionally, sales, special events, of course there’s social media handles so that they can stay in touch with you there in a return apologies which we already briefly discussed and gift card details which may even include expirations to gift card purchases. So make sure those fine print details include all the five C’s of communication. My next tip for you is going to be encourage social media check-ins.
So I know we’ve talked about social media, you and I through Yelp a few times. I’m sure you gave it a million other people over the years, but I want to expand on this conversation today because the path to purchase is not straight and I’m going to go over more of that later today. And what I mean by that is that customer doesn’t always just simply walk by a business and walk into that business. They’re often discovering that business other ways. And one of the best ways they’re doing that is from their other friends and peers and colleagues leveraging social media, and then they’re seeing that in their own feed.
So we want to encourage as business owners for people to check in because the average person spends 2.5 hours a day on social media. Think about that, 2.5 hours a day. So if you’re anything like me, every Sunday, I get a little message on my phone that tells me how many hours per day I’m on my phone. And sometimes quite frankly I’m shocked and I’m a little disappointed in myself. And then I realize, “Well, okay, I might have been playing music and that’s counting it for hours or doing something, but I don’t need to be disappointed in myself.”
If I really look at the reality of what’s happening and as business leaders and decision makers, you get to take this to your advantage because people are making, spending decisions online. They’re making social decisions online. They’re deciding where they want to eat with friends. They’re deciding where they want to shop with friends. These are all really exciting things. So you want to be a part of that. Around 4.2 billion people are on social media, making up for 55% of the world population.
If you narrow that down into your own unique community, how does that look? And again, if we really think about the generations of who we’re targeting, how does that look? So you want to leverage social media so that you could be among those consumers looking to browse for a purchase or a spendy decision. It’s really important that you incorporate this into your own marketing strategy so that you’re not missing opportunity, and that’s the real takeaway here.
We want you to gain opportunity in sales. Social media check-ins drive a few things here. So the first thing that social media check-ins drive is consumer visibility. When a customer goes into your store and they’ve checked in, so whether it’s a store or restaurant, a spa, a yoga studio, I personally work out at a place called SPENGA and I live in just outside Denver, Colorado, and I see through my Facebook feed and my Instagram feed a lot of other friends who are checking in at SPENGA.
So I know that they’re at the 6:00 a.m. workout, and I’m thinking to myself, “Oh, I should have done that one versus let’s say the 9:31 I signed up for.” And myself I’ll personally tag them later if I’m there because it’s important for me to be part of the community of the other gals that I work out with. So it’s one reason, but it’s great for the brand because the brand now gets to push that out and share it and use it in their own peer to peer marketing.
So they’re doing, they’re leveraging their own customers as brand ambassadors. So checking in also helps create that customer engagement. I just explained, and it helps promote those who might not be existing customers be reminded, “Hey, I do need to check out that SPENGA place, that workout place.” Or, “Hey, I haven’t been there in a while. That restaurant, wow, that does look good.” So you want to leverage these check-ins as a promotional avenue, but then of course, leverage the sales component that it will ultimately lead to.
That is the big takeaway here guys. Everything that we talk about today does drive back to dollars and make no mistake. When I asked you earlier why you opened your business, I know that one of those reasons was in fact to make money, right? So that’s a big driver of everything we’re discussing today. A few ideas just to give you some check in ideas. If you want to encourage your own customers to check in for your business, you can do so with a variety of ways.
One of which let’s say for Facebook, for every Facebook check-in, keep five loyalty store points if that’s something you offer. Tag us on Instagram for an instant in-store or in restaurant or in-spa credit. We appreciate your business and would love to know your thoughts, share a review. These are just welcoming ways to say we really value your thought. We want you to be a part of sharing your genuine experience with others as well.
You’re not telling them what to do. You’re simply asking them to be a part of your community and customers love feeling as if they are in fact a part of a community. So leverage those check-ins and encourage people to get involved. With that, you want to make sure you do have easy handles, always available. We talked about earlier through communication so they know who to tag. So whether they’re customer is starting online.
So whether it’s Pinterest or Instagram or Yelp, wherever they are, that helps lead to actual physical in-store restaurant, spa, studios, business experiences, so brick and mortar which ultimately leaves to dollars being spent. But likewise, nowadays you can actually leverage spending directly from digital to pick up in store so that by online pickup in store or curbside delivery of restaurants, of course you can order online, pick up at the restaurant.
So you want to leverage social media to make sure that you incorporate this as part of your marketing strategy. The real value though is going to be that digital connectivity reaches other customers as well. Okay? As much as we want to grow those dollars and grow those sales, it’s essentially free marketing when we’re leveraging other consumers sharing what they’re doing with your business. Okay? Tip number three, we want to leverage technology to help save time and increase productivity.
I want to say that again because it’s super important. We want to leverage technology to save time and increase productivity. So how does that look? Today’s technologies are tomorrow’s sales. I’m going to break that down for you here. First, I want to ask you though, are you equipped? Because that’s really going to be a make or break difference in what you are doing to ensure technology can help you. There’s a lot of technology out there that’s actually free.
This is super important as small business operators which I am myself, I know how important it is to want to save dollars to be mindful of every penny spent. With Google Analytics, it’s free to sign up and you’re going to be able to learn where consumers are navigating your own business interaction online. Now online leads to in physical store, in physical brick and mortar business. So you do want to leverage this Google Analytics to get a stronger understanding of where are customers coming from.
Are they originating from emails that you’re sending out and landing on your branded website? Or do you find that most of them start by Google search and then land on a social media page? Every business is different, but Google Analytics brings clarity that the human eye simply cannot see alone. So it’s really important. You could get a free account there. You also want to of course, do social media which we’ve discussed already quite a bit here.
So leverage that also free unless you choose to spend more with some of the added features, which is great. Those are amazing added features, so you do want to consider that as well as a small business owner, but at the very minimum, get that baseline account. The other thing I will say here is that if you’re a business and you have not even captured the handles to compliment your business name on the various accounts out there, please go ahead and try and do that because you do want to be consistent going back to those five C’s with where your brand is represented and the handles and how your consumers can find you no matter where they land.
The next thing here is virtual video selling. I am of no partnership with these companies that I’m talking about today other than being here today with Yelp just as a huge fan as I’ve been forever with them. But to another company I’m going to about today is called CommentSold, and that is basically video selling. And what this means is that you can be in a physical brick and mortar store. So this is not going to be for the restaurants who might be dialed in today.
This is going to be for anybody who sells inventory. So whether it’s home goods, clothing apparel, children’s, pet stuff, whatever it might be, you can actually use CommentSold to do a live video from social media and customers can comment directly, and that item is sold. So yes, there’s a few more steps involved there, but it’s actually formidable investment can give a very, very strong return.
Think about during the pandemic, having had this could have really been a huge opportunity for you to move inventory for let’s say, curbside pickup from your physical brick and mortar store. It’s still a very, very exciting and hot opportunity for those boutiques and stores and shops that are leveraging debt. So if you want to check that out, that’s CommentSold.com. Again, technology is what’s driving tomorrow’s sales.
So you do want to consider how technology can uniquely compliment your business. The other technology that’s been around for a while, but certainly cannot be overlooked is email marketing. You guys know about it. I’m guessing many of you use it. These happen to be three companies that do a great job at it within the small business category, but there’s many others as well. Email is the number one driver of online commerce, but almost more exciting is it drives that in-store sales.
And this is true for your restaurants and your spas, your yoga studios, your workout places, email acts as a reminder to consumers because consumers have to elect in to get those emails. So it means that they want to hear from you. And when you’re giving them a message, make sure it’s something that is worth sharing. You’re not just talking, but rather you’re giving. You’re giving them insight that adds value to why they want to receive those emails so they’re not having that unsubscribed button that’s the key.
There are 4.3 billion email users worldwide which means that the benefits of email should be in fact huge, the first being customer retention. So when you have customer retention, it means you have customer loyalty. And if you are [inaudible 00:23:18] to gain emails from someone, it means you want to know what they have to share. So make your emails valuable. It also gives you referral opportunities. It’s very easy for consumers to forward emails to others. So if you’re offering a share a friend promotion deal, a buy one, get one free experience, let’s say a happy hour appetizer buy one get one free for a friend.
These were all different things you could use email for. Customer perks rewards. The fun of emails that you get to be creative, promotional experiences. These are things customers want to know about partnership marketing which is when you’re working with, let’s say another business, whether it’s a charity, a local high school, a community business that’s non-competitive, but like-minded which I’m going to talk about more later as well. Those are great ways to leverage email where you can say, “Hey, I’m going to share this with my email list.” But to the partner and whatever partnership that you’re creating, they’re going to share to their email list, and now you’ve been exposed to potential clients or customers you’ve never met before.
So you want to leverage email because it’s effective, okay? That’s the real takeaway. It’s effective. The other technology here which I really love is called Salesfloor. Now, Salesfloor is typically going to be for those businesses that want to elevate their customer care. So it’s going to be a little bit higher end of items being sold whether it’s furniture or apparel, this is going to be a traditional piece of inventory so to speak that you’re using this for.
Big box stores just to give you a reference like Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstroms use this technology. Often, it is what’s called white labeled so you would never know that it’s produced by a company called Salesfloor. It looks like it’s just produced by that retailer. But what you can do with this is you can take this or even if you just go to their website, which I’ll share with you here and explore what they do, you can create your own version of that to elevate your communication strategies with all your customers.
So with your customers, you’re going to have the opportunity to say, “I’m going to text you new inventory as it arrives. If you like it say yes, and I’m going to have it shipped directly to you.” But it’s automated. It actually tracks that inventory management as part of your point of sale or omni-channel experience. The other thing here is that I want you guys to gain more clarity to foot traffic in your stores, spas, restaurants, brick and mortar businesses.
Technology actually gives you clarity to where your customers are navigating your store. This is so cool guys. There’s a company out there called Door and there’s a few other companies like them that essentially what they do is they take a device and they put it in a sensor throughout this business environment. So whether you have a boutique or a restaurant, maybe a really big store and your eyes simply can’t catch everybody as they’re navigating around.
This is going to tell you what’s hot, what’s cold so to speak. Where gets the most foot traffic in your business? Where do those people go to? So let’s say I know here in Denver, there’s this great local brewery called Acreage, and it sits on top of the hill and it overlooks the rocky mountains and it’s beautiful, it has great food. It has parks outside for the kids, dogs are welcome and I’m thinking, “Wow, that’d be so awesome if they use this because they would know how people navigate their footprint, where people go so that they know what draws the most attention.” How cool would that be for your own business?
So this is technology. Now, the reason it’s cool is because now you can say, “I’m going to merchandise more here.” Or, “I’m going to set up a little bar opportunity for add-on sales.” Because your goal is to make more money. So by taking the data from this, you can better understand your consumer behavior. This is their website by the way, and then you can leverage that to your advantage. It is always going to be about driving that brick and mortar sales. 45% of companies do not use tech-based data to better understand their customer.
This blows my mind that we live in 2022 and 45% of companies do not use tech-based data. So technology is not being used to their advantage to understand customers. So I remember earlier when I was telling you about social media, what I failed to tell you then was that if you’re registered as a business account, you actually get data from that as well for free. So you want to make sure you’re leveraging data simply to gain insight on those consumers, and the reality is that technology will give you data.
Data is going to give you clarity. Clarity is going to give you opportunity and opportunity is going to give you sales. So it really translates for a reason. We want to leverage technology for you guys to ultimately make for money, that is the goal. My next tip here is to encourage customer photos. I feel like we live in a world where all of us are boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, taking pictures. I’m going to personally raise my hand here and say, I do that way too often. Probably more than most.
I call it a fault of my job because I do tend to go to businesses or communities, and I just take lots of pictures and I use them and some of the work that I do, but I’m also a mom and I take pictures of the kids and the dogs and all those good things. So whether you’re the person who takes pictures or not, the one thing I think we all have in common is that we understand that other’s voices speak louder than the voices of our own business.
So customers are your best brand ambassadors. So what does that mean? It means that if somebody else is talking about your business, that’s pretty much way cooler than you talking about your business, right? So you want to make sure that you’re giving them an opportunity to have some fun, and I call that shoppertainment. So whether they’re in a store, a restaurant, wherever they are, let them spend their money and have a good time. Shoppertainment. Who doesn’t like to enjoy when they’re spending money? And with that, coming into your store.
So these are just some experiences, some of the years I’ve found. So in a store, this is used digitally, they’re using a hashtag, and with that to enter a contest, of course they shared more additional rules, but it was like using their store hashtag to enter a contest, take a selfie with a stranger. You’re leveraging digital channels to encourage your customers, to take pictures and share it. So maybe you’re telling them, “Hey, show us a picture of the favorite item you’ve ever purchased from our store.” Or, “Show us your new outfit with a selfie.” Or, “Show us your favorite home decor.”
Whatever it might be that your store or your business, maybe you’re a bakery, and you say, “Show us the cakes you’re baking.” There’s a lot of different things you could do here. You simply want to get creative and have some fun. So this is just a baby’s butt, so it’s going to be cute. So you want to share different reasons for people to take pictures. Here’s one that says share a photo using one of our props, and I think that’s key.
What I really like though is when you guys create reasons in your own businesses for people to take pictures. So I don’t know about you, but I’ve gone to a lot of great businesses that give me a reason to hit pause and take that selfie. So not just digitally, but in your own environment, create a space that’s going to want your customers to take a picture and share it with others, that’s really the key here. You want them to take that picture.
You want your customers to also share the pictures in their own social channels, but you also want them to text their friends. Text is highly underrated in businesses. So SMS texting, SMS messaging is a really great way for you guys to stay in touch with customers, but also for customers to simply stay in touch with others. So if you see people taking pictures in your store, encourage it. It used to be that businesses would shy away from that, they didn’t like that, and now it’s just become the norm.
So you really want to embrace pictures being taken and embrace to being shared. Make sure that they have an easy understanding of where your handles are, so your store handles, in-store signage, employee communication. This is going to be them saying, “Hey, here’s our handle.” Maybe it is actually on your restaurant menus, maybe it’s actually not taped, but somehow beautifully placed within your store tabletop or in your retail when you’re in a dressing room, on the mirror maybe you have your handles there.
You want to make sure that consumers know how to tag you basically because that’s going to take us back to what we were talking about earlier which is making sure that the digital sharing is an important part of your marketing efforts. A store hashtag, that’s another bonus here. I know my hashtag, #retailminded. So if you guys were to look that up later, you’re going to see thousand pictures of stores and of me because I use it all the time, but I love that I get to see other people using it too.
So find a hashtag that makes sense for you and then consistently use it. We’re already onto our tip number five. Make sure you guys are tuning in with any questions you have as well. I talk fast for a reason because I always love to answer any questions you have at the end. So tip number five, turn your business into a classroom. I really can’t stress this enough, and yes, I know the instructor, college professor, geek in me loves to teach and do all those great things, but this really is more about businesses connecting with their communities and with their customers.
Experiences welcome sales opportunities. It really is that simple. Here was a great example of a coffee shop that partnered with a nearby home store and used some of their home decor for a tasting of a coffee roasting experience. So they actually did a partnership. I think it’s just great because they brought people in who were curious about learning more about the fine details of being a coffee cup store so to speak. It welcomes experiences that become memorable.
It gives excuses for those things we’ve discussed which is taking pictures, sharing pictures, pushing things down on social media. Those are all going to bring your store visibility. Offer demonstrations in your physical environment. You can also share what’s going on in a physical environment via demonstration to your video feeds or even due to tours and post them on YouTube, that’s going to encourage consumers to want to come visit your business as well.
This is just fun. I could use Costco as example because I feel as if we’re all pretty familiar with that, but there’s a reason they have people offering tastings in Costco because people want the taste, but then they’re also very likely to buy the product if they enjoy it. And data tells us that. They track that because they’re tracking what’s being sold and they could compare that. So use that strategy in your own business. However it might make sense, scale it down to meet your budget and your size and your consumer audience, but demonstrating and giving experiences is definitely going to reward you.
You want to make sure you’re also considering what I refer to as our new customers who never personally spend. So here, you have a technology-based business who sells modes and different technologies. They actually do a program for children this summer just for them to learn the basics of coding. And I think that’s so great because even though they don’t spend, guess who does? Their parents, their grandparents, people who love and care for them. So you want to make sure that you’re giving experiences that reach out beyond your traditional customer if that makes sense for you.
Here’s a few other ideas that I’ve seen over the years. This is a breastfeeding class. The other one is for chalk paint. These are experiences that are in physical brick and mortar businesses. You can see here that the chalk paint one actually charges a fee, whereas the other one does not. So that’s something to think about for your own business as well. Can you leverage your physical space and actually make a service charge on an experience you might offer?
So those are just expanded ways to boost that marketing as sales. The real takeaway here is you want to engage your audience. You want to answer questions that they might have, particularly if you’re selling a service or product that comes with a lot of questions. Maybe it’s yoga enthusiast, maybe it’s just health. The benefits of vitamins if you’re a vitamin store. Activity, exercise, general wellbeing, even styling.
There’s so many questions about like summer, winter, fall trends. There’s a lot you can do here. You want to answer questions. You want to ask questions too. As you’re starting to brainstorm ways you can incorporate events, consider how to ask your questions for your customers so you know what to offer that might mean using social media, using email, leveraging your email marketing list to find out what your customers want from you, and ultimately, I’m going to provoke curiosity from your audience so that you can then benefit by giving them something that they’re actually intrigued about.
Share insight. So this isn’t going to always require a sale. I think that is a big key takeaway here. Sometimes giving an experience doesn’t mean you’re going to get a transaction at the end, but if you’re memorable and you give them something that’s meaningful, the customers are more likely to both talk about you to their peers and friends. It also return and spend money at your business.
You want to be approachable. I think that’s a big takeaway too. Too often businesses can be almost intimidating to consumers, particularly if you’re selling something they don’t know about yet, but want to. Even I think of a bike store, I recently went looking for a bike for my 13 year old, and it’s intimidating for someone like myself because I don’t know a lot about bikes. So I was able to approach a really great salesperson, but they told me they had a bike day coming up at the end of the Memorial day weekend, and I’m actually going to return for that.
So there’s a lot of great things you could do through experiences that will boost your marketing and sales. And of course, be dependable. If you’re sharing insight, if you’re sharing opportunity, make sure that your consumers could trust the experience that they’re having. That what you’re sharing is in fact accurate, correct, going back to those five C’s we talked about customers want to feel a genuine trust with who they’re working with.
Be a business others talk about. So in life, I think that we typically are like, “It’s not nice to talk about others.” But as a business, you want people to talk about you, but you don’t want it to be in the bad way. The same way you go to Yelp and you look for reviews that others have shared, you want that to be both verbal as well, and of course, you want to be bragged about on Yelp also.
So if you’re delivering a positive experience, people want to tell others about that. So that’s a really good thing. And of course, I can’t do any presentation without talking about the value of partnering with non-competitive, but like-minded businesses because this is really going to boost your opportunity and meeting potentially new customers as well. So what do I mean by this?
If you’re a bakery, you could partner with a boutique and you could work together to deliver an experience that really provides value to each of you. The key is you want to make sure that both sides of this equation have a full understanding of what that partnership looks like. So if you’re a bakery, maybe you do a pop-up bakery in a boutique for an afternoon, and then a month later, that boutique does a popup within the bakery, that’s just one experience, and maybe you both commit to sending out emails [inaudible 00:40:26] social media.
If you’re a pet store in a kid shop, maybe you actually have a little Instagram set up for pictures where kids could come and take pictures of the store with a buddy around the Easter holiday. There’s always a lot of fun you could do when it comes to pets and kids, lots of things get creative on there. Spa and yoga studio. The ideas are truly endless. The key takeaway here is to work with a non-competitive like-minded business so that your customers are complimentary.
Finally, the road, the path to purchase is not straight. I want to say that again because I know I’m a little stuffy today, I apologize for that. The path to purchase is not straight. Customer behavior has changed. Even before COVID, the path to purchase wasn’t straight. How consumers identified where they wanted to shop did change and will continue to change over time. The evolution of consumer behavior is going to continue to blend from online and offline, but make no mistake, physical brick and border experiences are extremely important, but discovering these places often begins online. More commonly begins online.
Customer connectivity cannot be viewed as a one way journey. That’s a big takeaway today that I want you to remember. Customer connectivity cannot be viewed as a one way journey. You need to give them the opportunity to navigate you despite the roadblocks of competitive businesses trying to get their attention, despite the detours of life getting in the way like someone getting it cold like I have, or their kid getting sick and they have to change their plans for the day, but you still want them to come back to your business if that was originally on their calendar so to speak.
The one way journey to purchase is log behind us. You need to have an understanding of that. Selling to customers should include multiple touchpoints that can each accept transactions. Now, what I mean by that is that if somebody goes to Yelp and calls you, they should be able to in theory, place an order over the phone for a pickup. That’s not a traditional in-store purchase, but the opportunity for transaction is still there.
Customers need to know that you can support them the variety of ways in which consumers want to be supported nowadays. Consumers are not the same. How I shop versus how my 17-year-old shop versus how my 35 year old colleague shops, very, very different. So we need to make sure that we are offering consumers opportunity and merging online eon offline experiences through technology is the key for long-term success.
This simply means that we’re going to gain clarity through data. Now with the business of retail, we use that word omni-channel a lot. It means that you’re connecting online and offline so that there is an understanding of what’s being sold, and that happens through your point of sale system. Without getting too technical there. I just simply want you to take away that you have to merge online and offline and leverage technology to help you in order to have that long-term success as a small business operator that I know you want.
The way to achieve this is actually surprisingly not as hard as it might seem, but it’s 24/7 connectivity. Consumers need to have that. If it’s 2:00 a.m. and a wide awake wondering where I want to go tomorrow for breakfast, I need to go online to figure that out or if it’s 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, and I’ve suddenly decided that I want to get my hair cut, by the way I need to, I might be looking for a new hair salon and it means I could be discovering a new place to go.
So you want to have 24/7 connectivity no matter what time of day it is for anybody. No matter where your customers land, you need be to be there, that is the goal. So again, I want to ask you, why did you open your business? Whether it was to be a part of your amazing community, whether it’s big or small, to help contribute to your family, to maybe mix up a former past job corporate life and create a totally deal with as a small business operator, or simply because you love something and you wanted to sell that something as a small business operator.
The end of the day, your goal is to make money, and hopefully with these tips today, you are able to gain some ideas on how to do so more effectively. Thank you. So I do want to open it up for questions and also let you know that there’s two ways right there you can get in touch with me on Instagram, @retailmindedworld and on Twitter @retailminded. And with that, I’ll hand it over to Emily to help share some questions.
Emily: That was so awesome Nicole, thank you so, so much for that presentation. I was taking tons of notes and jotting things down, and we do have some questions coming in. Just a reminder for everyone who’s with us. At the bottom of the screen, you’re watching us on, if you hover your cursor, there’s going to be a Q&A button, it’s two overlapping bubbles. You can type in there, and I will read your question to Nicole. For our first question, do you have a recommendation for the best website for hosting your online business? Is there one that you prefer or have heard people love?
Nicole: Yeah, that’s a great question. And if you’re truly a small business with plans that you do not anticipate to become ever enterprise level, but remain more of what I would just say, a small business operator. I would say that your shopify.com is a really solid place to go. They have a lot of great templates that you can refer to no matter what category of a business you are to help have a turnkey design, you can customize it with your colors, with your logo, and then of course they are integrated.
This is a really important word to think about too. They are integrated into other technologies that can help you with your business also. So being integrated means that they can easily link you to your Instagrams, to your Yelp Yelps and the social media pages of the world. So you want to make sure that’s the piece of that, but definitely check out shopify.com.
Emily: Yeah, I’ve heard a lot of businesses use that, especially if they’re doing online transactions or sales as opposed to just hosting information. So I think that’s a great, great bit of direction for them. Let’s see if there are any other questions coming in here. I have a lot of people chatting how valuable it was. Thanks so much for the tips. People asking for the recording which you guys will get by the weekend.
Are there any other questions for Nicole while we have her for these next five or seven minutes here? All right. Oh, this is a good question. This is a Yelp question. “I have an online course that I sell and I had to close my physical store when I was doing dog skin care. Now I’ve moved it online. Can I use Yelp to have them go online?” So the best way to determine if your business is Yelp eligible is to think about if the consumer searching to find you is doing a local search.
So you don’t have to have a brick and mortar, but you do have to be targeting local consumers, and let me explain what I mean. If you’re making jams, for example, in your house and you’re delivering them locally or hosting that pop-up farmers, markets, things of that nature, you can have a Yelp listing and you’ll be able to connect with those people in your local area to do deliveries or transactions.
If you make jewelry in your house, for example, and you’re shipping it all over the country and you’re selling on Etsy and through your website, Yelp probably isn’t going to be the best place for you because every search on the platform has to have a location indicated. So you would only be able to be found locally. And so it’s probably better to spend your energy and resources on other digital platforms that can help you get more visibility because there aren’t really people searching on Yelp for a specifically eCommerce business.
They’re looking for a local business that maybe they’re doing a digital transaction with or visiting in person, having a service provider come to them, etcetera. Okay, let’s see what else we have. Was there anything you wanted to add to that Nicole? I’m sorry.
Nicole: No, that’s perfect.
Emily: No. Okay. Good.
Nicole: I always say that’s a great question because if people are looking for you, I know it’s my go-to. I know it’s so many go-to so fair for her to ask that, good question.
Emily: Yeah, absolutely. Another, it was so helpful. Thanks so much for the tips. Oh, here’s another question. “Have you heard of Nift? They do marketing.” Have you heard of them?
Nicole: So briefly, yes. With detail, no. Nothing that I could really adequately communicate about that because although I have heard of them, I’m not familiar with them and I don’t want to speak without being educated on them more.
Emily: No worries. I totally understand. Do we have any other questions for Nicole while she’s here? I think in regards to the Nift for our question asker there, what I would do if I was trying to vet a business that would help with my marketing is I would maybe look at their website and see if they have a client list and then do some internet searches for some of those clients and see what they have going on on their website or on their social.
See if it feels connected to you, or if you can identify a strategy there, and that might help you determine if they’re a good fit for you. I know sometimes looking for marketing companies to support you is all based on budget and what you have available to spend. So that could be an early on conversation with a potential provider as well. Do you guys have minimum budget spends that you work with? We’re trying to gauge the types of customers that they deal with.
Nicole: And then the other thing I’ll say is going back to that integration approach, look at who they’re currently partnered with. What other companies might they be either integrated with or partnered with because that’s very tallying of the type of support and partnerships that you could expect within your own effort when they’re working with you.
Emily: That’s absolutely right. I’m just going to drop two things in the chat here. My email address if anyone needs to get in touch with me, or has Yelp specific questions that they wanted to get answered, that’s firstname.lastname@example.org. And then the other thing I’m going to drop is business.yelp.com. Many of you might be familiar with that and we’ll link it in the follow up email as well.
It’s where you typically go to log into your business owners account, make changes to your Yelp page, but it’s also now the site where you can find tons of resources and information. So this webinar will be hosted there on demand by the end of this week. You’ll also get a recorded link sent to you. And that’s a great place if you’re looking for other education, whether that’s live events or previous events that we’ve hosted with different experts and specialists. Another question. I love this question. “Nicole, what do you think about yard signs? Are they tacky or they’re good?”
Nicole: No, I think there’s so much fun in that. I even love personally those chalkboard signs and I’ve seen variations of what those are so yard signs as well. I think they’re intriguing. Seriously, they’re fun. So if you were to go to @retailmindedworld on Instagram, you’re going to see that I post them sometimes also. So I say go for it.
The one thing I’ll say about signage in general though, whether it’s outside, yard sign or in your physical business, think about those generations. If you are catering to let’s say baby boomers, cursive might not always be the best if you’re doing like a hand cursive, baby boomers’ eyesight actually starts to fade as the beauty of aging. So think about those details of like, “Is this easy and clear to read?”
Still make it aesthetic to your business, have fun with it, but you want to make it clear because that’s the one thing I hear customers tell me all the time. It’s like, “I love it. I have no idea what it says.” They make it really busy with some pretty art. Awesome. Just make sure that you give it enough space for the words to be easily understood.
Emily: That’s great advice. I love those tips. Anyone else? We have about two minutes left with our wonderful expert. Nicole, I can’t thank you enough. You always do such a great job, and I learn something new every time which is great because then I get to take some of those learnings to my audience as well. Is there anything that you want to share maybe parting words or wisdom with our group as they’re getting back to their business?
Nicole: Yeah. So you know what? I think I’ll conclude it with my favorite three tips for red carpet customer service. The first is you want to be starstruck no matter who walks in your door, make sure you treat them like a celebrity so to speak. Give them attention. I’m sure as a consumer yourself, you recognize that not always do you get that. So make sure you give that in your own business. So be starstruck.
Giving them VIP treatment simply means you want to give them that treatment that your store, your business has identified as the customer care you want to deliver on. And that final piece which is get their autograph doesn’t always mean capturing a sale which would in fact, mean getting their autograph if they signed a credit card, but rather it means also stay in touch with them. Give them your social media handles, get that email so you can stay in touch with them on their email marketing list. So be starstruck, give them VIP treatment and then get their autograph.
Emily: I love it. You did great. Especially considering the cold. Thanks so much for powering through with us and for everyone on the call, thanks for making the time for your business. Sometimes you have to step away from working in your business to work on your business.