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The Keys To Advertising When Sales are Down

This is the second in a two-part series focusing on how retailers should tackle their advertising plans when sales are down and times are tough. Part 1 offered advice on how to make each advertising dollar work harder.Retailers know that it’s a game of numbers – increase in foot traffic = more sales. So, the question is, how do you get that traffic?

1. The 20/80 Rule: Continue talking to current customers. Reach out to current and past customers regularly through direct mail and email. Keep them abreast of current offers and promotions, new products and information about your company. And, more importantly, ask for feedback on your store, products, Web site and overall experience. Find out what brings them into your store. What can you do to bring them in more frequently – or ensure that they choose you over the competition? Feedback also helps you determine where your advertising dollars are best spent. And, thinking enough of your customers to ask for their opinions will build a deeper, more loyal relationship.

2. Be a resource: Have a presence where your target audience is conducting their research – on theWeb. Have a quality Web presence that measures up against the competition. Provide consistently updated product and promotional information – in other words, become a valued resource. Be sure to walk through your target’s process on the Web. It’s likely they are starting their research through a search engine. Make sure your site is built to perform in search engines – with content that brings you to the top of the organic search list when relevant keywords are entered. Also, you should be listed in relevant online directories so your name, address, phone number, Web site and a map comes up when they search within your category.

3. Drive foot traffic: Most likely, your consumer is a woman – they influence more than 80 percent of household purchases. Hold events at your store that match up with her interests or lifestyle – a cooking demonstration by a local chef, an interior design or construction seminar on how to refresh an outdated kitchen, or a spring design kickoff educating her on what’s new with fabrics and colors this year. Turning a visit to your store into a social/educational event creates an opportunity to connect with current and potential customers prior to any negotiation or sale.

4. Connect with your customer on a deeper level: Hold a “Friends and Family Sale” event once a year. Let your current customers do the advertising by inviting them and a friend to a private sale at your store with a portion of the proceeds benefiting a charity that is relevant to both you and your customer base – children’s causes, healthcare organizations, etc. Aligning with the right charity can do wonders for your brand perception and ultimately increase customer preference. In fact, according to the 2008 Cone Cause Evolution Study, “almost 80 percent of respondents said they would switch brands (provided price and quality were equal) to the one that is associated with a good cause.”

5. Generate local publicity: Use press releases and distribute them to local media in order to generate buzz around your charitable and community efforts. With the right hook, retailers can garner thousands of dollars worth of media coverage and increase awareness and preference of their store.

Ultimately, you want to be where your audience is at the time they need your service – and then connect with them on a deeper level to gain trust and loyalty. It’s not easy, but with a focused plan and message – and a commitment to follow through – you will begin to see results.

With more than 30 years of combined experience, Kathryn Baird and Kim Hiltachk of Torus Marketing provide expert consultation services and develop award-winning, results-focused campaigns for clients such as BrandSource, the $11 billion dollar, 3,000+ member-strong buyer’s group, and the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Over the past two decades, Kathryn and Kim have worked with Amtrak California, DirecTV, Sutter Health, Sizzler Restaurants and Tahiti Tourism, among others. To learn more about what Torus Marketing has to offer in terms of branding, advertising, promotions, marketing, and media planning and buying services, please email [email protected], [email protected] or visit