Lynn Switanowski, founder and president of Creative Business Consulting Group, has spent her career helping independent businesses in many industries grow sales and increase profits while appealing to a changing consumer market. Hardware Retailing talked to Switanowski about why retailers should develop a comprehensive digital marketing strategy and how to get started.
Hardware Retailing (HR): How can independent retailers connect to more customers when it comes to marketing their businesses?
Lynn Switanowski (LS): The biggest gap right now between independent retailers and how they market their businesses to consumers is how people are using digital technology, including social media, to research, shop and share information about businesses they want to buy products or services from.
Independent retailers who aren’t in the digital space are missing a big chance with their marketing to meet consumers where they are. Using social media marketing to engage, educate and entertain can lead to purchases. Even if retailers don’t have an online e-commerce site, it is critical for them to understand that consumers want to engage on a mobile device and not always by traditional marketing methods.
HR: How can retailers adjust their internal resources to curate a strong online presence?
LS: The marketplace is very crowded today, and consumers have many options, so it is critical that independent retailers market their businesses 24/7. But that doesn’t mean they have to work 24/7; it means they have to be online to promote their businesses.
I work with many independent retailers who have shifted financial resources to market online via social media. The question they need to ask is, “What am I spending money on to help my business grow every single day?” Many retailers are not even asking this question or looking at expenses to see where they can reallocate funds. That’s the first step.
The other step is to continue to educate yourself about how things work. Think back to when you were creating your first newspaper ad, you had to learn how to do it, and it’s the same way for social media. They must learn how to do it as it is something new. Another option for many independent retailers is to determine if there is someone on staff who has the interest and the skills to transition to a marketing role instead of their current position on the salesfloor or another area of the store.
When I work with clients, we determine the “value” of a salesperson, essentially what the average sales per employee should be. If we shift a person to focus on marketing via social media, we allocate the same sales responsibility. Marketing can and should be a sales-producing role for a business today. The first step to making it happen is to get business owners to understand that marketing produces sales.
HR: How can independent retailers meet consumers where they are today?
LS: Independent retailers do not need to have an e-commerce platform to meet consumers in the digital space or on social media. They just need to have modern websites and use social media to make consumers’ lives easier. It’s all about ease of purchase. An independent retailer who doesn’t have a e-commerce platform can differentiate through other value-added services, like free delivery, early morning or late-night pickup, a text order platform or an online scheduling tool for services. These components all make consumers’ lives easier and help retailers become more digitally inclined.
HR: How can retailers plan today to be relevant to consumers in the future?
LS: Many of the tools I mentioned previously can help retailers exist today and be more relevant in the future. The way I suggest my clients look at their preparedness to meet customers is to pretend they don’t have a front door to their store and every message they get out about marketing must be done via their digital devices. Even if that means there is a lot of teaching and how-to information that sales associates provide when customers do come in the store, if retailers understand that today’s consumer wants all that information about a business before they even walk in, they will be much better prepared.
HR: Can you offer a preview of what to expect at the Retailer Boot Camp at the 2019 Pet Connections Expo?
LS: Our Retailer Boot Camp will focus on the creation of a strategic sales and marketing approach to be used during the fourth quarter of the year to help retailers drive maximum sales and profits.
We will discuss how to use specific tools and tactics to help independent retailers drive more sales by reaching more customers. We will discuss how to use marketing programs to engage consumers and drive sales. We will also focus on how to create engaging posts on Facebook and Instagram and how to use social media advertising to drive sales.
We will also be discussing inventory planning for the holiday season, how to improve visual merchandising to increase sales and how to strategically price for a timely and profitable end-of-season closeout of all holiday goods.
Switanowski will be a featured speaker at the 2019 Pet Connections Expo, Oct. 15-16 at the New Jersey Convention & Expo Center in Edison, New Jersey. At the event, she will lead a retailer bootcamp, which will explore how independent retailers can drive sales this holiday season. The Pet Connections Expo is open to all independent business operators who are interested in learning more about the pet category. Click here for more information and to register.