As John Matthews sees it, a store languishing in mediocrity is a store that has become wallpaper in the halls of retail.
"Generally, when starting a business, it’s easy to get people excited when its new and fresh," said Matthews, founder of Chicago-based retail marketing firm Gray Cat Enterprises. "After a few years, though, you start to blend into the background—you become retail wallpaper."
What can a retailer do to get off his laurels and stay relevant? Learn how to market his brand. Matthews has released an 80-page manual to simplify the intricacies of marketing.
A 20-year retail industry veteran, Matthews has served in senior level positions at multimillion-dollar companies like Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and multibillion-dollar companies like Clark Retail Enterprises (White Hen Pantry) and Little Caesar’s.
He’s spent the better part of a decade delivering industry presentations on marketing, offering a particularly unique focus on what he calls "Local Store Marketing," which shows retailers how to grow sales by cultivating that critical three-mile radius around their stores.
"I’ve been doing some form of this presentation for 10 years, and invariably people ask, ‘Do you have that written down somewhere, or a manual or CD-ROM or something?’" Matthews said.
As of October, the answer is yes.
Published through his own company, Gray Cat Enterprises, Matthews has authored the "Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers," a step-by-step guide chockfull of tips and tactics that offer low-cost—and sometimes no-cost—marketing solutions for retailers at any level.
"The last thing I wanted to do is write a manual like a marketing guy, and then have it sit on a shelf somewhere," Matthews said. "It’s not meant to be read from page to page, front cover to back cover. It’s written very operator-friendly. You don’t have to be a marketing guru to do it."
The manual showcases 22 marketing ideas—everything from suggestive selling and sports sponsorships to coupon books and customer callbacks. Each idea comprises three pages: a narrative, a page planner and a step-by-step action timeline.
The section dubbed "Fish Bowl," for instance, shows merchants how to grow their customer database by placing on the front counter a fish bowl in which customers can drop business cards.
It sounds remarkably simple, but Matthews takes it much further by etching out follow-up action plans to build a mammoth database from those business cards.
"Those are people who found your store," Matthews said. "They’re customers at your store, people you can send coupons and promotional information at a fraction of the cost of (traditional advertising). All that, for the cost of a $3 fish bowl."
In addition to the Local Store Marketing manual, Matthews authored a "Grand Opening Manual" that skirts the industry vernacular and simply shows retailers what elements and ideas they can use for store grand openings.