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6 signs you need help with your retail marketing plan


As a store owner, you know that planning your marketing will bring you greater results and return on investment for your business. But you’re also human, and there are all sorts of ways that we can self-sabotage this important process. If you’re feeling unsure about your planning skills, here are six common ways that you might be slipping up and six easy solutions to get you back on track.


1 – “I’m a retailer, not a marketer. I haven’t got a clue where to start…”

Problem – Maybe you’ve had your boutique store for years. Things were simpler back in the day, before the internet and social media arrived, and now you’re worried that your competitors are making better use of online marketing. Or perhaps you’re the opposite – shiny new store; bags of enthusiasm, but a feeling of complete overwhelm about what to do next.

Solution – Firstly – you’re not alone. There are thousands of boutique owners in similar situations. But marketing your business is critical to its success so you need to accept the fact and get on with it; in the same way that you learned to read a balance sheet or figured out your stock management system (and if you can’t do those things either then you’ve got a lot of catching up to do!)

Secondly – as Arthur Ashe said “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Whatever time/money/knowledge you already have – use it and learn as you go. There’s loads of free information on the internet (this blog being one example) and a quick Google will usually solve most technical questions that may crop up. Do just one thing today that will help plan your marketing – whether that’s working out a budget; jotting down some key points about your ideal customer or scheduling your social media posts for the week.


2 – You’re not targeting your ideal customer

Problem – Your marketing mainly consists of adverts in the local free paper; a couple of Facebook posts when you’ve got new stock; sponsoring a prize at the county business awards (because it meant you got a free table on the night) and having 500 flyers produced when the local printers ran a special offer. You think that you’re doing ‘loads’ of activities but none of it is actually reaching the people that would make a difference to your business.

Solution – Do you know your ideal customer? Clue – they’re the ones who will adore your products, buy them and come back for more. The better you get at identifying and targeting them, the more successful you’ll be. It’s not enough to just think about their age and gender. You need to give them a name and a back story. Why do they love your store? What sort of media do they consume? (You’d be surprised how many store owners use the wrong social media platforms for their ideal customer.) What are their shopping habits? What are their likes, dislikes, and aspirations? Try and get into their head and think about what would persuade them to pay you a visit – what do they need from you? Cracking the code on this makes planning so much easier as you’ll instinctively learn what activities will suit your audience.


3 – You haven’t given enough thought to your objectives

Problem – If your goals for your marketing are very loose, along the lines of ‘more sales’ or ‘more customers’ then you’re missing a trick and potentially making some expensive mistakes.

Solution – Have you heard the expression “if you can’t measure, you can’t manage”? Well, your objectives are the results that you want to achieve. If you’re running a promotional activity, you’ll need to define what success looks like in order to see if it worked. And to do that you’ll need your current figures as a starting point. An objective could be as simple as ‘increase Facebook page likes by 20 each month’ or ‘increase average spend per customer by 15% during promo week’. Don’t forget to share them with your staff and look at ways of incentivising them if it’s appropriate.

Remember to keep things simple. Too many objectives can be confusing and can take the focus away from what’s important – stick to two or three at any one time and you’re far more likely to get the results that you want.


4 – You haven’t set a marketing budget

Problem – Without a pot of money set aside to fund your promotional activities, it’s difficult to set your objectives, track your spend or work out your ROI.

Solution – A general rule of thumb is to set aside 5% of your projected gross sales as your marketing budget. Yes, that might seem like a lot and, yes, you do need to spend that amount, even if you’re doing great. Think about all those market leaders – do they stop their marketing once they reach the number one spot? Of course not, and neither should you. You may decide to spend a similar amount on marketing month on month; or focus on two or three larger campaigns during the year. The key is to measure the results you’re getting for the money you’ve spent. Doing this will tell you which activities brought the most profit into your business and will allow you to refine your future objectives to get the best possible return from your hard-earned money.


5 – You’re scared you’ll do the ‘wrong’ thing so continue repeating the same marketing activities; year in, year out.

Problem – Fear of messing up can prevent us from testing out different ideas and concepts – keeping us stuck in the same old cycle and potentially holding back business growth.

Solution – Ask yourself “what is the worst that can happen?”. If the proposed activity is so controversial that you risk losing all your customers, then it’s probably best to steer clear. But if your idea is a good fit with your target audience, won’t bankrupt your store and could bring in extra footfall and/or sales then I’m here to give you the go ahead to test it out. If you’ve got a realistic objective to aim for then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t succeed. And you’ll then have one more proven tactic in the bag for future use.


6 – You’ve done a plan – all colour coded; nice timeline; promotions pencilled in for the next 12 months…but now it’s in a drawer somewhere and you haven’t looked at it in ages.

Problem – You were all enthusiastic for the first six weeks but you had some staff issues and then a supplier went bust and before you knew it you were back to square one – winging it like you normally do and not getting anywhere.

Solution – A plan on its own doesn’t equal results. Only actions can give you those. You need to make marketing part of your daily routine so that it doesn’t slip to one side as soon as everyday life comes knocking. Just 20 minutes a day is a great start – you can easily publish a post to social media in that time and fit in some engagement during quiet moments or a tea break. Doing one thing consistently is going to bring better results than an all-singing, all-dancing marketing plan that hasn’t seen the light of day for three months. So, what are you waiting for? Go and do some marketing!

There you have it – six solutions to common marketing planning problems. If you found these useful why not sign up for my free newsletter for more help and advice on marketing; specifically for businesses like yours.

If you’re ready for some one-to-one advice and support, then check out my 1-2-1 Power Hours.

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