12 Ways to Boost Your Summer Retail Sales in 2015

The summer is typically a slow time for independent retailers. As we move into mid July that truism has probably become painfully obvious to you. But there is no need to fret because here are some ways you can take on the infamous challenge small businesses call “the summer slump”.

In the realm of personal finance there is a saying, “There are 2 ways to improve your finances; spend less or earn more”. The same principle holds true in marketing your business, you can trim the fat from your current efforts (IE spend less) and you can find new profitable marketing channels (IE earn more).

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6 Ways to get more from your current marketing efforts

1. Collect meaningful data. Google Analytics is fairly ubiquitous these days because it’s free and offers a good deal of insights right out the box. However, 9 out of 10 small business owners I talk with have never taken the time to setup goals, or any additional features such as search query tracking. If you’re spending time or money on promoting your business, but not tracking how these resources support your goals, you are throwing money out the window. It should take you less than an hour to go from absolute novice to having your goals setup (if you’re a little savvier you can probably get this done is 15 minutes or less). The insights you gain will be well worth the time.

2. Do some summer cleaning on your website. I know that you’ve probably had your fill of spring cleaning and are ready to give it a rest until next year when it’s time to clean things up again. You’ll find however, that virtual cleaning is much more enjoyable and satisfying then the rigors of real life cleaning (mainly because you can do it while sitting in front of the A/C and sipping fresh lemonade). Assuming you are like most people, a lot has changed on your website since you’ve last looked it over; products, promotions, images and more. That means if you take a few minutes to really look at it you’ll also probably find a good deal of out dated information and some typos that need to be fixed. Fixing these items can help improve conversion rates and ensure customers get the information they need (even if they make the trip to your store, research suggests they’ve already been gathering information from your website, and your competitors).

3. Clean up external profiles. Hopefully your business is listed in a lot of different places. There are many free listings (such as Google business listings) that you can claim and that will drive visitors to your website or better, directly to your store. Claiming these listings may take some time but requires very little up keep once they are going. You should however, give them a once over every so often to ensure your profile is up to date (the email, physical address and phone numbers are all correct). This should probably be done quarterly or more to keep things fresh (think how often you change your in-store displays), but that frequency is not realistic for most small business owners, so let’s just say once a year is a hard minimum.

4. Review current online promotions. Do you have a system in place to know which of your paid marketing campaigns are really paying off and which aren’t? I can’t tell you how many times I hear from small business owners who outline their marketing strategy with the statement, “I’ll give it a try and if it works I’ll be able to tell” that’s rarely true. You have so much going on that if you’re not prompting yourself to check, then you likely forgot that campaign is even running. Worse, you likely don’t even know how much you’re spending. Online tools make it very easy to not only setup goal tracking (see tip #1), but they also can email you the reports you need to get a quick view of what is working and what needs to be turned off at regular intervals.

5. Learn new features of advertising platforms. In the online world, especially when it comes to self service ad platforms (think Google AdWords), changes and updates occur at a lightning fast pace. It’s hard for busy business owners to keep up. Many of these updates however, are made in response to new trends and are features that can really give your campaigns a boost. Even if you’re satisfied with the campaigns you’re running, you should see what’s new because many new features make your current settings obsolete which can wreak havoc on your performance.

6. Run Usability tests on your website. This is one of the easiest tips on the list. Usability testing sounds pretty intimidating, and out of reach for the average person. In the past that was the case however, there are many new services out there that make it very affordable and practically automate the whole process (usertesting.com is one of my favorites). As a bonus you can also test competitor’s websites against yours, or test features you’ve seen elsewhere that you’re considering adding to your website.

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6 Ways to drive more traffic to your website and your store

1. Segmentation – This is not so much an entirely new marketing channel as it is using your old marketing tools in a new way. If you’re not collecting emails, you should be. Email still provides one of the highest returns on investment out there, and it’s not going away any time soon. In addition to your current email marketing, you can use the segmentation features available from most email marketing providers today. This will let you send out emails around the specific interests or needs of each customer. Believe it or not, when people ask to be added to your email list it’s because they want you to email them… but only if you email them with relevant useful content. By segmenting your email subscribers you’ll be able to provide a much higher quality experience (which means more sales generated, more often).

2. Retarget – The mantra for many in retail is that it’s much cheaper to retain existing customers then it is to get new customers. This holds true today, but so many people think marketing is just for getting new customers. Why not spend some resources on keeping in front of customers that already have a positive experience with your brand. Remarketing (also called retargeting) is a growing trend and for good reason; it can give you just the sales boost you needed.

3. Automation –Did you start the year off with great intentions to turn your marketing efforts up a notch (or all the way up to 11)? Now that the year is more than half over, you might find yourself looking at a marketing plan filled with good intentions that got left by the wayside because your day to day projects don’t leave enough time. Well now that you have some down time put in a little effort to look at what is really involved in getting some of these campaigns off the ground. There is a good chance many of the necessary tasks amount to little more than busy work and better still there are tools that will automate them for you. Hey, technology can be useful for things other than looking at funny cat pictures… who knew (now you do).

4. Content – You have spent hours (probably years or even a lifetime) learning your business. You know the industry inside and out, all the major players and how to get things done. So why not capitalize on that effort? Creating content can help build your brand and position you as the go to expert. This will drive name recognition and sales, but it can also have the benefits of putting you on the radar of the media who will reach out when they need an expert’s opinion. It can also open doors, partnerships and other business development opportunities. Your experience and knowledge is a competitive advantage that none of your competitors can copy, don’t let it go to waste.

5. Network – Some of the greatest success stories are driven by people who saw important connections in places no one else thought to look. Spend some time networking, locally, face to face or even online. Be sure to reach outside of your industry. Seeing what others are doing elsewhere can generate ideas that are not even on the radar of your competition or build bridges to new opportunities that are truly disruptive to the status quo.

6. Go Mobile – Mobile marketing is still a relatively new field though it has been around a while it has generally been a niche specialty. However, mobile use continues to rise and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. As a result, opportunity abounds here, especially if you’re trying to drive foot traffic to your bricks and mortar store. A recent study suggests the average American checks their mobile phone 1,500 times per week. Yup… it’s time to at least take a look at the options here.

Bonus Tip – Collect ratings & reviews. Thanks to Amazon, customers rely heavily on user generated reviews when they are researching new products or places. You can collect these reviews on your website. They can be reviews for your specific products or for your overall brand. There are also many popular 3rd party review websites (Yelp is the most notable) that can collect reviews as well.

Now that you know exactly what you need to be doing, get to it. With a little effort you’ll be saying “summer slump? What summer slump?” in no time. If you have more tips to share drop them in the comments below so everyone can be having as great a summer as you are.

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