Retail Marketing Master Class: From Google to Branding Strategy

At 2016 Summer NAMM, Mike Ross of Sweetwater gave an all-out master class on core marketing fundamentals for music retailers. Ross, vice president of marketing for Sweetwater, is an 11-year veteran of the musical instrument and pro audio retailer.

Here are highlights from the session, titled “Mindful Marketing: From Google to Branding Strategy.” (Watch the video for Ross’ full presentation.)

Ross emphasized the importance of knowing what your marketing goal is and what you want to achieve—for instance, driving more traffic to your brick-and-mortar store or driving more online sales. Ask yourself the following:

What is your value proposition? If you can’t tell someone in an elevator ride what your business stands for, you’ll waste marketing funds.

What makes your customer your customer? Ross stated that this is the No. 1 failure of nearly every company—not knowing its unique customer.

Customer loyalty. Once you become loyal to a brand, you stay a fan. Price becomes secondary because you will do business based on loyalty.

Ross gave examples of positioning from consumer companies, such as 7Up, famous for being “The Un-cola.” Positioning is your company’s primary message (and can also be your store’s tag line). When you think of any brand, you also think of what they stand for and are synonymous with. That’s positioning.

How do you define your positioning? What can you tell someone in 2 minutes or less that establishes your position from the retailer down the street? “We’re the music store in town that ­­­(fill in the blank).” Identify it, and your marketing will improve. Then, begin to beat that position to death.

“It’s your personal reputation as a business,” Ross said of your brand. “It’s the impression you leave with a customer.” Here are questions to ask to help establish your brand:

Who are your current customers today? “You can’t afford to market as if everyone is your customer,” Ross said.

What customers do you want to have? This is a key question. You’ll sell your service accordingly.

Who are your competitors, and what is their brand position? Answer this question to help define your own position.

What problems does your business solve? What opportunities can you create? This can be as simple as playing an instrument.

What is your value proposition? Is it distinctive? Is it relevant? If your product and services aren’t relevant, there’s no point to being in business.

Your website is a valuable part of your brand and can’t be ignored. “Invest in your website and go all in at a level that makes sense for you if you want it to do more for you,” Ross said.

Responsive design. Optimizing your website for mobile is a train you need to get on now, according to Ross, because approximately 40 percent of retail traffic and transactions are taking place on smartphones.

Put your basic information up front. It’s frustrating for the customer when you don’t, and loyalty decreases.

Content. If you’re not willing to create unique content on a regular basis, you’ve lost the race before it’s even begun. Take advantage of every opportunity to create content, and commit yourself to it.

Domain authority. This is earned by Google by having content that customers engage with and isn’t a copy of someone else’s content.

Written copy versus video. Do them both.

Inspire return visits. When you build your website, make sure it’s easy to automatically feature new, exciting and unique product toward the front.

Lower your barriers to selling. Do this on your website and in your store. What are you doing to make it easier for your customer? Provide payment options. How convenient is checkout at your store?

Add value. Pricing is not added value. Loyalty isn’t driven by price.

• Free shipping is no longer added value. If you’re not offering free shipping, you’re not competing.

• Processing and shipping the same day. Product that’s sitting on the shelf isn’t turning inventory in a way that’s profitable for you.

Leverage customer behavior. Data starts with collecting it. Offer things that people want, and trade for customer information. Capture information when a customer will allow it.

Invest in security. Hacks are no longer something that happens to someone else. Customers won’t stay loyal to you if your website isn’t secure.

Invest in speed. We live in an attention-challenged society. You’ll lose people if they have to wait.

Paid SEO. Search engine optimization can be expensive. When it’s appropriate, you have to do it. Use Google Analytics, and understand your website’s traffic sources. Also, use Google Keyword Planner and Keywords Tools to include keywords that work.

Optimize for Google Local. Help your customers find you by including your physical address and completing a GooglePlus profile. Google Local Guides is becoming more important.

Amazon? eBay? According to Ross, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. It’s the cost of doing business.

Google, copyrights and content. Google knows when you’re gaming the system. Unique content wins, and copying content is shooting yourself in the foot.

Why should you spend money on print in a digital world? Because we still want the tactile satisfaction of print. “I’m more comfortable with the brand I see at the party, than what I don’t see,” Ross said.

Set yourself apart from other retailers through mindful marketing, and watch your business grow.