Hayley Simmons

Answering more of your retailer marketing questions

With so many options, working out the marketing strategy that is right for your business can be a daunting task. Consultant Hayley Simmons answers some of your most vexing questions to help you master the dark art of reaching the right audience

Q: We’ve recently been inundated with marketing calls regarding social media and more specifically AI. I’m pretty clued up on social media but how does AI help? Is this just a buzz word or should I be taking more notice of how this new technology could help market my business?

A: The recent advancement in generative AI (like ChatGPT) has left us all still figuring out the best ways to use it for marketing. It’s not all new though – social media platforms and search engines use AI that we’ve been using to target customers for years. While the tech has evolved rapidly, our purchase behaviour hasn’t. I’m not an AI expert but I have been learning and doing a little experimenting. From what I can see so far, there are lots of ways it can help save you time.

My approach (for now) is, rather than thinking of all the new things that it might be able to do, focus first on any time-consuming/repetitive tasks you already do that it might be able to help you with. Some software now has integrated AI to help speed things up but it can also be useful for research/content creation. For now, I would stay curious but remain cynical about any promises made to you about the results it can achieve. Experiment with it, ask those who are selling their services to show it working in practice.

Q: How do you decide what is the best form of advertising for a KBB company?

A: There’s no such thing as the best form of advertising for any industry as each type serves different purposes. We tend to think about lead generation as the measure for advertising in the KBB industry. However, the likelihood that someone would see an advert and instantly become a customer is quite low. Some forms of advertising are effective to create awareness, the purpose being to simply get your name out there. Before deciding to buy, customers have often known about you for some time and subconsciously built an opinion about you. Therefore, to measure all advertising using the same metrics is a mistake. Ideally, you want to do some activity that builds brand awareness (print, social media) and some activity that pulls them in when they’re ready to buy (search engines).

Q: We’ve been in business 17 years and have tried many ways of marketing our business, with varying degrees of success and failure. We currently use pay-per-click, social media, online directories, local magazines, strong SEO with the top Google ranking and supplier referrals. What else do you suggest?

A: You have a good mix of digital and non-digital activity – so that’s great and investments over the long term in areas such as SEO have clearly paid off. There’s a lot going on here. Do you feel like you have a sense of what is/isn’t working in this? Are you asking customers about how they found you? Are you tracking the sources of traffic to your website? I wouldn’t suggest adding anything else until you can get a feel for the overall ROI. If you don’t feel that you are getting a decent return, look at what you are saying and how you are saying it.

How are you positioned against your competitors? What are your USPs and do these come across effectively? Are your marketing touch-points (website, various adverts, social media pages etc) communicating that well? What does your branding say about you? Strategy is more important than ever for independents given the tougher market conditions. Without knowing your business, my instinct would be to look at this with a fresh pair of eyes before spending any more money. If you’re comfortable with the above already, I would invest more in the activities that are working instead of adding anything else.

Q: We know who we want to market to, but we don’t know where these clients hang out. For example, one of our typical clients is either semiretired or retired. We understand the importance of messaging but it’s the ‘where’ that we’re missing.

A: This age group – I am assuming 55 to 75 – is a diverse one. This group has a lot of disposable income and many independent retailers are also targeting them. At the younger end of this group, internet/social media activity isn’t greatly different from the younger group. Digitally, we can use the same channels but perhaps narrow down the ages of the people we’re targeting. If they’re semi-retired or retired, the one thing they probably have in common is more time to spend on leisure activities.

Offline, you need to find out where your target customers are going. Look at local magazines and ask if they have stats on their readership which are probably skewed towards your age group. Where do they distribute the magazines? Are there other opportunities here for off-line marketing? What other businesses/brands appeal to the same people? When do you notice their marketing and could this inform your strategy? If you’re really stuck, could you survey a small group of these people to understand the types of marketing that get their attention? These are just some ideas.

Home > Indepth > Answering more of your retailer marketing questions