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By : Karen Lasser, 05-06-2015

Before you set out trying a new marketing tactic or some wacky PR stunt, make sure you have a strategy in place that will bring your store real value. It's important to remember that while a rise in sales from a marketing campaign is nice, it's not necessarily the most beneficial nor the most profitable outcome for your business. Building long term relationships with loyal customers, for example, will have a much greater return on investment than purchases from one­time shoppers who are just looking for a deal. Your marketing campaign has to facilitate your business goals and store values.

When determining your goals for a marketing campaign, it's important to know who you want to reach in your campaign and why. Keep in mind that not every customer is equal. Identifying your most profitable customer and the customer that's a pleasure to serve is a great first step. A study by Rice University actually found that about 80% of first­time buyers who used a coupon from a service like Groupon would not become repeat customers. You can safely say that those buyers will not be your most profitable customers in the long run.

After you determine who you'd like to market to, the next big step is knowing how to differentiate your business so it appeals to your ideal customer. In today's Amazon and Walmart dominated world, it's very hard, or more precisely, impossible, for small retail businesses (both brick­and­mortar and e­commerce) to compete on price. They have to find a way to offer a superior shopping experience for customers. The best retail shopping experience that comes to mind is none other than the Apple Store. It's worth studying and modeling. Retailers who don't manage to differentiate themselves will have a hard time winning over consumers no matter what marketing material they use.

When looking for creative marketing ideas for your retail store, you need not invent the wheel! There are plenty of well documented successful campaigns readily available online. Simply search for guerilla marketing on Google and you'll find tons of examples of creative, interactive and even outrageous advertising campaigns. Pinterest can also be a great source of guerilla marketing ideas.

Even if you run a small shop, there are plenty of PR ideas you can try out. Think of ideas that are related to seasonal holidays, your community and charity. For example, if you own a bakery, during the holiday season donate $1 from the purchase of every Christmas Cookie to the Salvation Army. This will not only show your good will, but it will help out your community and give people an extra incentive to buy from you. You can host events in your store that are relevant to your neighborhood. For example, if you own a bookstore, bring in local or national authors for book signings. Similarly, offer your venue to local politicians and community leaders for town hall meetings. Every such opportunity is a way to bring potential customers into your store.

Other in­store events worth trying are creative workshops or classes. If you own a flower shop, have a night where you teach people the ins­and­outs of flower arrangements. If you sell computer products, try offering a series of classes on different software (for example Microsoft Excel) for those who aren't so computer savvy. If you own a wine shop, have a Ladies/Mens wine tasting night. No matter what you sell, you can find an event worthy of hosting at your store. Consider offering all the attendees special discounts on your products.

Another great way to generate PR for you retail store is by sponsoring local events. Speak to your city hall as well as local churches, synagogues, community centers, schools and so on to see what events are being planned and what sponsorship opportunities are available. Everything from putting your store's logo on the jersey of a youth baseball league to setting up a booth outside a lecture are ideas worth exploring.

It's important as well to capitalize on the traffic that's already coming into your store. While they are there, don't let them leave without some sort of incentive to come back. You could do this with coupons, contests or free giveaways. Simple contests include guessing the amount of jelly beans in the jar (this is obviously great for candy stores!), guessing what type of flowers are on the counter just based on smell (for a flower shop) and so on. Correct guesses will win a free gift or a discount on their next purchase.

There are a lot of PR and Marketing ideas worth trying for small retail shops. Just keep in mind that the focus has to be not only bringing people into your store, but bringing in the right people! Let us know what other ideas you have and if you tried out any of the above.

Have questions about marketing for retail businesses? We'd love to hear them! Send them directly to and we'll get back to you as soon as possible. You can also contact us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn where we are always listening!

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