Six Hot Marketing Tips to Drive Your Fourth-Quarter Sales
The fourth quarter is here and, with it, Black Friday—the annual gunshot to start the race to Christmas.
This time of year can be challenging for independent music stores that don't have huge advertising budgets and private-equity funding. So how do you compete with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and all the other deals being thrown around during the holiday season? Here are six ideas that have worked at my store:
1. Keep it simple. National chain retailers always have long lists of exclusions and requirements for their sales. We advertised a flat discount on an entire purchase every Friday for the entire month of November. It was easy for our customers to remember, and when people know they get a discount off their whole purchase, they'll add on accessories. That helps take the edge off making less on a sale.
2. Get there first. Customers budget their holiday dollars. Get customers to spend those dollars at your store before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and you won't have to worry about competing with doorbuster deals.
We all project how much we think we'll do for the quarter. It's a race. Once you meet your projected number, anything you make over that is gravy. Start your sales promotions early, and once December hits, you'll be in good shape.
3. Layaway, layaway, layaway. Starting in September, we offer free layaway until Christmas. We also offer an incentive to customers who sign up for weekly automatic billing on their layaway: We'll cover the last payment. Many people will take advantage of being able to pay a little at a time. Others will pay in full and get the discount. Either way, you win.
4. Make your media count. By now, every store should have at minimum a website and Facebook page. Use them. Post photos of your staff and customers, your promotions, and your employees holding new products. These are quick, easy, free ways to draw a lot of attention. They help remind customers that music stores are cool and can be much more fun than the mall.
Use local media, too, but put your ads where they'll count. We use a variety of local print media and an online radio show for most of our paid advertising, but we use them at targeted times, when we know the most people will see them. Cable TV ads and Yellow Pages aren't worthwhile for our store—most customers get their information via Google searches.
5. Google your store. Your website, Facebook and Google Places listings should come up on the first page. If they don't, you need to spend some time on search engine optimization and possibly get a little help.
Make sure you've claimed your business on Google Places, Foursquare and Yelp and that all the information about your store is correct. Foursquare is like free advertising every time a customer "checks in" and leaves a tip or writes a positive review. How much would you pay to make sure customers in your area could find you? How much do you spend on a Yellow Pages ad? This stuff is free. Spend a few minutes on it each day. Connect all the content on your website with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Have a staff member do it if you're not a fan of social media or don't have the time.
6. Make shopping fun. The convenience of online shopping entices more customers away from brick-and-mortar stores each year. It's more important than ever to be good at what we do, so we can get people in the door.
Be inviting when you talk with people on the phone, via email or on Facebook. Also, make sure you're paying attention to customer emails and Facebook posts. They're as important as phone calls.
I try to treat people as if they're in my living room. Burn holiday-scented candles, and hang some lights. Put out cookies or doughnuts and coffee (or hot cocoa) on heavy shopping days. Invite local musicians to perform in-store on a Saturday. Have a Santa day. Try something new, even if it sounds nuts.
Most of all, be creative. If you aren't, find someone on your staff who is. Not every good idea will come from you, so get your team involved. If they're fired up and having fun, your customers will thank you with their holiday dollars.