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Guest column: Adapting to survive in today’s changing world

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

By Vinnie Virga

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-3-20-42-pmOnce upon a time it was easy to be successful at marketing to consumers. You ran a great ad in the Sunday paper, came up with a really creative radio or TV spot, opened your doors and voila, it rained business.

The key to succeeding in today’s media-saturated world is a little different. In the past, if you did a good job, the customer told a couple of their friends and you got referrals. Conversely, if there was a problem you had the ability to work one on one with that customer to rectify any issues. Nowadays, if customers are unhappy they tell the world. More than ever, retailers need to understand demographics, segmenting and targeting and how to market on the web. At the same time, you need to be politically, gender, faith and race sensitive. These weren’t even thoughts you had to consider in the past.

Currently, if you don’t understand the alphabet soup of SEO, PPC, along with GeoFencing, GeoTargeting, re-targeting, brand positioning, e-commerce, visualization, social media, Houzz, Angie’s List, Yelp, review aggregation and, of course, Google you’re not going to make it.

All these things need to be part of your brand’s strategy in some shape or form. You should know which to do vs. what you should avoid as well as how much to invest. If you don’t you’re already a dinosaur and your remaining time in the retail world may be limited.

Add to this mix the upside-down funnel of investment many retailers currently employ. This is where their first investment is in traditional media and their last investment entails money they free up or the leftovers toward the bottom of the funnel that they invest in digital. Even worse, as soon as things get a little tough some yank the digital investment altogether. Throw some competitors into the digital mix (i.e., Home Depot and Lowes) as well as Amazon, Wal-Mart and Wayfair.

If you run a small business, especially retail, you’ll find your world is changing at a faster rate each day. The only way to survive is by constantly adapting to keep pace with evolving consumers shopping habits. I know that you just want to sell products, but it’s just not that easy anymore.

So where do you start? It all starts with your web and social media presence. You need to begin by building—in layers—a well-devised digital strategy. Your website needs lots of hooks—basically bread crumbs that invite the customer to begin sharing data with you—in return for information that will help them. Throughout your site there should be easy ways for browsers to raise their hand and ask for service. Be sure to offer a digital product catalog with pictures of product that can be placed into a room scene so the customer can get an idea of what they will look like in their home.

Next you need to list your website so it shows up in online directories. Your phone number (which should be text enabled) and your business email on all the major directories. Ideally, you want a YEXT service, but if you are going to attempt to do this yourself you can get a free listing on Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, Facebook, Bing, Yahoo Local, YP.com, Superpages, Merchant Circle, White pages and more.

Finally, be prepared to consistently monitor, adjust and tweak your online marketing strategy.

 

Vinnie Virga is managing partner and president of Big Bob’s Flooring Outlet and Floors & More buying group. His experience includes management of various CCA Global Partner retail groups, including Flooring America, and he is credited for developing a major flooring footprint in New England.