Guest Blogger Barber Martin:

Barber Martin knows retail. It’s in our DNA. We generally work for challenger brands so we are always focused on generating sales by finding the smartest way to maximize resources.

Two of our core philosophies, “conserve and dominate” and “let the customer lead,” are tenets that can be readily applied to local businesses as they navigate through tough markets with smaller budgets than the big guys or even the local competition.

Let’s make some level setting assumptions:

No single business is the permanent champion of its competitive field. And in the retail arena, you have to move the bottom line. Everyday.

Your business is not outspending the competition on marketing. You are competing from a challenger position and this requires winning with the hand you are holding, which is also usually not the best hand in the game. Right?

So how do you do it?

1. Conserve & Dominate

Optimize. That means getting more for the same. It’s an ongoing pursuit.

Put your time and money where it doesn’t have to work as hard. Do this first, so you can do more. This can require reallocation to expend less and return more.

When it comes to reducing business expenses you’ll be tempted to reduce marketing investments too. However, don’t cut marketing. For this exercise, we’re trying to get more out of that allocation specifically. Don’t sacrifice advertising. Make it better. Make it smarter.

By identifying your most effective ad channels you’ll be able to find new returns and find more of your audience as an ongoing process. If none of your ad channels are working well in an apparent manner, it’s time to identify some.

We’ll offer a general philosophy and provide an example.

Susan has a storefront. It’s a single business location. She advertises on local cable and radio. She buys print ads in local pubs. Susan’s store has a Facebook page with no content strategy. Her twitter account had a good run but hasn’t been updated in a while. She knows a guy that builds websites. He built her WordPress website with a shopify store but there’s not much in it. She hasn’t verified her Google MyBusiness listing which is free to do and helps people find her store.

There’s a lot there that’s not working for Susan. What can we suggest?

Susan could show off new inventory to her existing customers and friends on Instagram. And she can share that on Facebook and Twitter. Now that she has a source of frequently fresh content, she can then use minimal paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram to extend that reach to prospective customers. This promotes her merchandise and grows her social community. These two things nurture traffic to her updated website that is now measuring the results of those campaigns and feeding integrated shopify store.

Now that she’s successfully marketing her inventory she can also offer local delivery via bike messenger or Lyft or Uber for online purchases. And now that she’s taking her product to the doorstep she can reward delivery customers with a loyalty coupon to use in-store.

None of these examples require a new budget.

Most of them simply need to be implemented with a little know-how. Once in place, they are effective in saving time and effort ongoing. Creative problem solving connects the dots. Learning from the results can lead to extremely effective marketing adjustments.

With an engaging system like this in place online, the awareness advertising mix of cable, radio and print ads, can all promote a creative message with a hashtag, website address or social handle to grease the wheels and nurture that customer journey in a measurable way.

This is the “Conserve and Dominate” ethic applied to local retail.

2. Let the Customer Lead

This has been all over the retail blogs and newsletters in a major way the past few years.

Big Retail is trying to learn from local retail to better provide personalized and experiential value.

Best Buy, WalMart and even Starbucks or Chick-fil-A will never have the long term or direct relationships that are possible with truly local purveyors. This is where independent retail has an unfair competitive advantage! Max it out! Figure out ways to make shopping with you fun, fulfilling and personal.

Retail today is always about filling a need with a purchase transaction but if simply visiting the store becomes a worthwhile or entertaining use of time, more transactions will follow.

Big Retail has big challenges in today’s competitive landscape.

Online/Scale/Delivery is dominated by Amazon and Personal/Experiential/Niche is dominated by diverse, independent, local businesses. Stick it to the bigger guys however you can. Show them what they can’t do.

Local retail is not necessarily about being small and staying small. It’s about embracing your advantages to grow into your potential. Maybe that’s small with better relationships. Maybe that’s emerging, growing without compromise to do more business. Maybe it’s much more grand and longterm.

No matter what, you gotta use what serves you now. When you let the customer lead and learn from their direct feedback and their collective behaviors, you can anticipate what they want before they’re demanding it and find new traction and sustained results in the process.

Barber Martin Agency builds effective strategies for national brands.

We’ve served our clients and built our company by fighting the uphill battles to stay competitive in a field of constant flux. It works because we measure and get results. We partner for better business through better marketing.

Our Market Navigator tool identifies the most effective allocation of budget by market according to greatest opportunity. This works great across large regions of US supporting eCommerce and brick and mortar. The scale may be different but the overall sense of economy and investment focus can fuel success for an emerging retail brand in Richmond Virginia too.