A Commentary on a Strategy to Compete.

We are all aware that the Black Friday deals in big retail establishments, followed by the Cyber Monday pandemic of offers is drawing millions (maybe billions) of shopping dollars away from the stores that populate our neighborhoods. These stores owned and operated primarily by solo proprietors, couples and families face this battle every day, but never more so than the holiday season. Marketing and selling efforts are redoubled and compounded to get as many orders, in as short a period of time, as possible. This year, the window is exactly 30 days from Friday, November 25th to Saturday, December 24th. Smaller stores and businesses tend to get steamrolled by larger entities with deep pockets and seemingly unlimited talent.

However, all is not lost along Main Street. There are tactics and tools available that allow our small business brethren to succeed in the face of what would otherwise be overwhelming competition.

Traditionally, the neighborhood stores have used print ads in their local shopper, like the Pennysaver. The offers would need to be very significant and large enough, as well as, attractive enough to be seen and prompt consumer action. However, tracking ad results are a must or return on investment will be an unknown, and if that is the case then perhaps the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Social Media comes to mind as the primary vehicle that our smaller retail businesses can use. It is cost effective, readily repeated or changed, to capture the attention of the local audience. We have seen numerous companies flourish by using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other platforms in a coordinated way. Even if the stores sites are not set up for e-commerce, they can still use devices similar to the big boxes, such as allowing customers to e-mail their orders in and pick-up and pay at the store.

The United States Postal Service has created a special category of mailing, that was designed specifically to blanket a neighborhood, town or even a block without the expense of using a mailing list. Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), is the program that allows local businesses to reach the audience most likely to buy from them, their neighbors. Using oversized cards, stores can pinpoint the areas most desired and the Post Office will deliver to every address in the area chosen. There are certain rules and restrictions, but they are not difficult to understand. The reduced postage makes EDDM a worthwhile weapon in the war against the behemoth big-box brands.

Often overlooked by smaller shops is the power of their very own customer base. Before going in search of new customers, shop owners should be currying favor from the folks who have previously spent money with them; not only are they a golden source of additional sales but so are their friends, associates, and acquaintances. A well-played “Refer a Friend” program tied to a discount for the original customers can produce results.

Creative tactics are necessary during the holiday season but should be utilized throughout the year. The big guys don’t stop marketing and neither should Main Street.