Problem solver: Marketing should hold interest of existing customers
Q I run a ladies fashion shop in a rural market town. Can you give me some advice on how to market my business?
A The reality is that for most small independent retailers, formally paid-for marketing is a rather limited and rare luxury. Usually budgets are very tight and good independent retailers get highly creative with low cost/no cost initiatives to help raise the awareness of their business.
There are some obvious routes that you could look at such as advertising in a regional newspaper or doing bursts of advertising on a local radio station to coincide with either new season arrivals or a sale. I hear varying reports as to how cost effective these solutions can be. Good quality brochures distributed door to door once or twice per year can certainly be effective.
Lots of fashion retailers tell me that running events can be quite successful e.g. running your own-in-house fashion show, etc.
You need to be able to contact your customers and I would strongly recommend that if you don't have a database of mobile numbers (with their permission to contact them) then you need to start building this. Do keep in mind that it is always easier to work with your own existing customers rather than trying to attract new ones.
I used to talk about "the bath tub principle". Imagine a bath full of water. The water is your customers. The bath has some holes. Traditional retail thinking is to rush out, and start advertising to people who are not your customers to try to keep the bath full. I would be suggesting that more time should be put into "stopping the leaks" by working with your existing customer base.
Social media is a subject onto itself and I know many fashion retailers around the country are keeping their customers informed through social media. Once you start thinking about local marketing, there are many exciting initiatives that you can organise for little or no money.