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Top 10 Marketing Questions for Retail Businesses
By Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach

In today's economic environment, retail sales can be tough. There's a lot of competition out there, costs are up, and profits are down, so what's a retailer to do?

For starters, you can stop envying successful retailers, and start being one yourself. The first step is to turn a critical eye to your own marketing, and look for opportunities that you may be missing to connect with and sell to your customers.

Anything you can do to get your customers to come back will result in a bigger bottom-line, since subsequent sales almost always exceed initial sales, according to Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.

Here are ten questions to ask yourself about your retail marketing tactics, along with some recommendations to make your marketing more effective:

1. Is your shop easy to find? You want people to be able to find your shop so don't make them hunt. Put up a sign that is easy to see and read.  Even if they're not specifically looking for your shop, passers-by may be intrigued by your sign and decide to stop in to see what you have to offer.

2. How are you communicating with your customers? Electronic or even hardcopy newsletters are great ways to keep in touch with your customers, and to let them know when you have something new that might draw them back into your store. Just remember, newsletters don't have to be fancy, but they do have to offer value.

3. Are your customers' visits to your store pleasant? Train everyone who has contact with your customers how to interact appropriately. Remind them to greet customers with a smile, offer to help find merchandise, and to ask for the sale graciously. Nothing turns off customers more than surly, inattentive staff members who treat your customers as if they were inconvenient interruptions.

4. Do you suggest items that your customers might want but haven't asked for? Make it easy for your customers to find everything they want (and a few things they didn't know they wanted) by creating display "boutiques." For example, if you're setting up a display of Harry Potter books, be sure to add any other Harry Potter merchandise you have in stock so that fans of the franchise will be exposed to the other possibilities.

5. Is your staff aware of your marketing plans? If you advertise, create in-store signage to direct your customers to the advertised merchandise, and make sure that your staff is aware of the ad (and what's on sale). Customers can be very unforgiving if they feel they have been lured into your shop but can't locate the advertised merchandise, and the situation worsens when your staff doesn't know what ad your customers are talking about.

6. Do you anticipate your customers' questions? Post a store calendar to promote any special events or new product arrivals that are scheduled or that your customers may be waiting for. Make sure that it is always current and eye-catching, and placed where your customers will see it. Video rental stores do this very well, posting a list of upcoming releases right next to or above the checkout counter.

7. Have you introduced your customers to your new products? Schedule sampling or demonstration events in your store to boost sales.  Sales of foods offered as samples in grocery stores spike because shoppers like to nibble, and often shop when hungry, and they are more likely to purchase a new product once they have tasted it. This principle works for non-edible things, too; once people see how useful or interesting something is they may want one, even if that isn't what they originally came in to buy.

8. How can you inspire confidence in your customers? Display customer testimonials. Cards, letters and emails from satisfied customers make interesting (and reassuring) reading for your customers, so share them in a "brag book," your newsletter, or in other creative ways.

9. How do you show your customers your appreciation for their business? Reward your customers with multiple purchase programs (but don't give away the store!). This tactic is best for high-margin items such as coffee and rentals, but if it makes sense financially, use it whenever you can. Many people make their purchase decisions based on reward systems such as frequent flyer miles or buy-ten-get-one-free programs rather than convenience or actual preference.

10. How can you make sales work for you? Make sales events, not the status quo. Frequent sales teach your customers to shop only when they can get a price cut, and raise expectations regarding discounts, which means regularly priced merchandise may not move until it goes on sale. Make your sales something special by holding them only a couple times a year, and offering real savings.

Keep in mind that it is far more expensive to draw in a new customer than to keep your current customers happy (and spending), so focus more on building relationships with your customers rather than getting more and more new customers through the door, and your business will prosper.

Read more articles or view Top 10 lists.

This article was written by Veronika (Ronnie) Noize, the Marketing Coach. Ronnie's web site is a comprehensive marketing resource for small office/home office business professionals. For free marketing resources including articles and valuable marketing tools, visit her web site at, or email her at

Top 10 Marketing Questions for Retail Businesses Veronika Noize 2003. All rights reserved.

"I help small businesses attract more clients."
~Veronika Noize, the Virtual Marketing Coach

Veronika Noize LLC
The Virtual Marketing Coach

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