How to Create an Effective Retail Marketing Plan
At the 2015 NAMM Show, Brian Douglas of Cream City Music revealed how to make your marketing more effective through having a cohesive, impactful plan—one that’s relatively inexpensive to bring to life.
Douglas, an 18-year veteran of the music products industry and the owner of Cream City Music, faced distinct challenges when he purchased his store from the previous owners. “I went from being just a guy to being the guy.” He added, “I soon learned that the owner perspective is very different.”
As it related to marketing, Douglas set about to establish his store’s brand, inspire customer engagement and ultimately boost sales. And he had to bootstrap the entire marketing plan from the ground up.
Highlights from the session video:
Challenges to Effective Marketing
1. Fragmented brand image. Douglas discovered that his company had four different logos. “For every customer touchpoint we had, there was a different face,” he said.
2. Inconsistent brand messaging across sales platforms. In his case, different people were creating content for each platform, such as the retail showroom, website, eBay, social media and more. It came off as inconsistent and unprofessional.
3. Disjointed perception among retail customers about what your store is and isn’t. Working directly with customers, Douglas noted his store’s pressing problems, which were, unfortunately, all too common in music retail. They included: a different logo on the front door than online; no in-store signage about Cream City Music’s services; products listed online that weren’t available in-store, and vice versa; and decreasing inventory levels. Douglas commented about a confused or unclear store identity: “It’s a challenging perception to fight in the community once it gets started.”
Given these challenges, he said he believed there was one question he and his staff needed to ask themselves: How can we make our marketing relevant to address these issues and drive growth and profitability?
“This is a question that should be asked at the beginning of each year—it’s an opportunity to grow,” Douglas said.
4 Marketing Steps to Drive Growth and Profitability
1. Ask your customers, your staff and yourself who and what your store is. You should have a good idea of what you and your business bring to the table—the services you offer and your distinct value. How do your employees view your business? Most importantly, reach out directly to your customers. There’s benefit in asking long-term customers (who will give you honest answers) and new faces that come in for a specific reason (they have a different impression). As you start looking at the answers, you’ll get a sense of who and what your business is. And as you move forward, a key indicator that you’re successful is when customer feedback matches your vision.
2. Hire a professional graphic designer. Douglas hired a freelance designer, not a new full-time employee. “You can take the image of your store and the words that describe who you are and put them into a logo people can see, feel and connect with,” he said, adding that this has been one of his best investments.
3. Choose your store’s marketing voice. Ownership, management and employees should choose this together. Cream City Music’s is simple: “Please come in and make yourself at home.”
4. Commit to your chosen marketing channels. “To do well at marketing, you have to pick what you do best, what you like best and what you think is most appropriate for your store and focus on that,” Douglas said.
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. His company uses Facebook to engage customers and Instagram to highlight images from the store. You can reach out to people who don’t know you exist with the use of hashtags (e.g., #guitar). Cream City Music also uses Twitter for quick engagement, inspirational quotes and instrument photos but not for product marketing.
According to Douglas, one marketing channel that’s sorely overlooked is the retail showroom. It can be best leveraged with customized retail signage. “It’s free, you let people who know as soon as they come in who you are and what you do, and beautify your store,” Douglas said.
This marketing plan helped create a defined business that now had:
• A focused image.
• A consistent brand identity. People buy from brands they like, such as Apple.
• A consistent voice through imagery in sales platforms—banners, signage and vibe across all platforms.
• A loyal following derived from chosen marketing channels—Facebook, e-blasts, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon.com, eBay and Reverb.com, website, and retail showroom. Douglas recommended putting your logos on all of your images and photos—people share photos with others. Use imagery referring to a lifestyle versus a specific brand. Douglas noted that sometimes the less you say, the more you hear from customers. Use in-store signage that says who you are and the services you offer—and shift where your signs and messages are located in your store.
The Takeaways: How Well Did it Work?
Douglas cited his store’s measurable results in 2014:
1. Email list increased by more than 5,000 subscribers.
2. Social media followers increased by more than 9,500. (And he didn’t buy any of these followers.)
3. Retail sales increased by more than 40 percent. Douglas spent a lot of time talking with customers, and they all liked his new messaging.
4. Website holiday sales up more than 75 percent from the previous year.
His total cost: $15,000. That’s what Douglas spent in one year on marketing for in-store, online, print, social media and a graphic designer. The return on investment was incredible. You don’t have to spend a lot of money in order to see exceptional results.