Certainly competing against the well-financed chain stores is a big problem. Not only do they have deeper pockets, they buy at a deeper discount because they’re buying more and buying deeper and they’re getting more co-op dollars on top of everything else.
In other words they have advantages that you don’t.
The question I’m often asked is, “Mike, I don’t just want to compete with ‘XYZ Furniture’ chain I want to take market share from them! How do I do that?”
And while this is a difficult task, it certainly isn’t impossible. I know of several store owners with 1 or 2 locations that have set the large, deep pocketed competitor back on their heels. These independents not only held their own they took customers away from the big guys.
And right now I’m going to tell you exactly how they did it…
1. They used “Personality”. The large chains are who they are. They create advertising that is then blasted out and used by all the stores of the chain. The result is a rather same-old, same-old look to their advertising that may scream low prices and variety but lacks any sort of personality.I’m always gob smacked when I see advertising by an one or two store chain that doesn’t show any more personality than does a 30 store chain. When you look at the advertising there’s nothing about the people behind the advertising–the store owner, the manager, the salespeople, the delivery people. There’s nothing about any of those folks. And it’s a terribly wasted opportunity.Keep this in mind, people buy from people and anytime you can share the “story” of your store and the people that keep it going then the better!
2. They use social media to their advantage. It’s nearly impossible for a chain to “talk” to its customers through social media in any way other than sounding “promotional”, meaning that all of their messages and posts all sound “salesy” which is a big no-no for social media.Social media is about sharing information with the customer and not selling to them. A one or two store operator can talk to his customers and prospects on social media like they’re neighbors– because they are! They’re all part of the same community. A chain of many stores can’t communicate at the same level as the one or two store retailer.
3. They identify and use local celebrities. This is a two-part answer… first off every community has their own share of local “celebrities”. These folks would include, mayor, chief of police, fire chief, school superintendent and the town board. But they would also include prominent business owners and executives, physicians, dentists and anyone else that holds sway in the community and talks to a many people over the course of a week.
As a matter of fact here’s what one smart furniture store owner did…They identified all the “mover and shakers” in their community, created a special direct mail piece just for them (this was a very fancy piece), and with a small gift attached, they mailed each and every person and invited them to a special one-day event just for them!Now don’t get me wrong the cost to do this wasn’t cheap, but he results… phenomenal!
And it’s something that any retailer could pull off.OK part 2 of using local celebrities. There are former TV stars, movie stars, singers and professional sports personalities that live all across the country. No doubt there’s at least a couple of them living in or near your store or stores. I found that those people can be gotten for a very low amount of money in order to be used within a promotional piece for your business. This is a winning strategy that will greatly increase the response to any advertisement or sales event.
4. They became “Specialized”. One of the biggest mistakes retailers make is that they try to appeal to everyone equally. A chain of stores really can’t get beyond that. But the person owning or operating a store or two can certainly can. What I mean by this is that while you’re out there promoting an event that includes all your departments and inventory, you can run smaller ads that target a specific category like say futons for instance or high-end bedding for people with severe back problems. No one says that you can’t run both types of advertising.
5. They don’t sell what the big guys do. If the big chain store in town sells Ashley then the smaller independent doesn’t. If the big chain store sells Serta than the smaller independent doesn’t. It’s not any more complicated than that. I know of a few smaller retailers that try to compete on the same product lines and it usually ends up in some kind of price war– and the only one that wins in that instance is the consumer.
6. They converse with their customers all the time. Some of this can be included in social marketing. But up and beyond social marketing is the use of email newsletters and real ink-on-paper newsletters to stay in touch with your customers. I’m on several of the email lists for large chains and their attempt to communicate with me on a more personal level is “ham-fisted” at best.
They simply can’t do a good job of it. The one or two store operator can talk to the person receiving the email in much more familiar terms. And as I said before people buy from people. Don’t ignore the use of ink-on-paper newsletters either, just because they cost some money to produce, print and mail doesn’t mean they’re a sink-hole for your profits– Not hardly! I know of several retailers who get a great return on investment through the use of a real ink-on-paper newsletter. If there’s one marketing device that will “cement” a customer to you, it’s the ink-on-paper newsletter.
7. They shop their competition. I mentioned before that I’m the email list of several of the national chains. You should be too. You should always be aware of what they have going promotionally. But it doesn’t stop there. You should shop them on a regular basis. And if they know you personally, send in friends or employees, but once a month someone from your store or circle of friends should shop your competition.
OK, let’s recap…
Looking over this list most of the items can be done with little or no additional investment from you. You’re probably already running ads– well redesign them so they have more personality. Become specialized in one or two areas of your business that are currently being “lost” but have potential for much bigger profits.
Putting together a list of local celebrities isn’t all that complicated.
Many retailers aren’t utilizing all of the social marketing channels (Boo to you because it’s costing you money!) it doesn’t have to be a big investment to effectively use Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
If you want to start taking a chunk of market share from your competitors and you’re not sure where to start… I’m here to help. And here’s the best part…
Right now you can get my help totally risk free for two months, click here to see how…
(A personal note from me, Mike Winicki– We just signed up another furniture store client today. They’re doing a decent business but like the owner said to me, “Mike, we’re doing OK, and I don’t want to do ‘OK’. I know there’s more business out there to be had. I know my advertising can be improved. I know my promotions have gotten stale. And that’s why I’m taking you up on your offer.”
Isn’t it time you quit settling for a ‘ho-hum’ business and really started making some money?)