Chasing The Shiny, New (Marketing) Object

John-NYC-238x300By John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc.

I admit I like technology. I was one of the first adopters to laptops, mobile phones and social media. I remember joining LinkedIn when it had 3 million users – not the 200 million like it does today. Technology is a blessing in many cases and often a curse for marketers. In chasing the shiny new technology solutions to marketing, often marketers overlook simple, basic marketing tactics that have to be put in place in advance of its execution.

While technology and all of its delivery vehicles clearly can provide opportunity for the savvy marketer, in many cases it is putting the cart before the horse. All too often retail marketers race to set up a Twitter account or Facebook page and then watch them distract from basic local store marketing in and around their physical store locations. Rather than walk next door to market to their neighbor or customer, they post something online in the hopes that it is seen.

Sometimes “old school” marketing tactics are cast off as unsophisticated in the world of social media. Marketers cannot afford to fall victim to this thinking or core opportunities may be missed. A retail food establishment, for instance, that is trying to create catering business in a one mile radius around their store, needs to physically visit all of the local businesses with food samples, menus and a friendly face in order to generate ongoing revenue in catering. The social media page should reinforce their catering message with online menus and ordering, but failing to make a “sales call” is opportunity lost.

A House Of Cards: Several of my clients are in the retail space and I work with them in a variety of capacities one of which is in the marketing area. All too often, my clients are yearning for the latest-and-greatest social media marketing tools in order to reach their customers. They race to create Facebook pages or Twitter accounts then once they set them up they realize two truths: a) the don’t have that much content to deliver, and b) they don’t have any followers to read their lack of content. Social media is the sexy portal of delivery, but without the followers and relevant content to deliver, it is all sizzle and no steak. Their social media marketing is built on a house of cards.

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener: Social media should augment core marketing tactics. In my business, I have used social media to communicate my blogs, connect with key contacts and provide a fluid branding connection with my retail consulting and presentations. It all seems to work well because I have fostered many connections over the years that make my networks large enough to be effective and I am constantly delivering content. Without those two core tenets – contacts and content – the social media portals fall flat. Shiny objects tend to blind our perspectives to the point of missing obvious opportunities – i.e., walking across the street to invite a potential customer to your store.

Don’t Out Kick Your Customers: One of my favorite stories from my Little Caesars days was when I had an opportunity to spend some time with the Founder and CEO of the chain, Mr. Mike Ilitch. Mr. Ilitch and I were in the field and he was telling me how he wanted the menus to only display pictures of pizzas with a price point. “I want customers to come into the store and just simply point to what they want”, he said. I am a big believer in understanding that customers are not always as interested in things you may be. They simply want a product and get on with their lives. One point of reference I stand by is making sure that a portion of my marketing still includes tactics that worked ten years ago – that way I am confident that I haven’t “out kicked” my customers that haven’t nor want to progress to the digital age.

Delivery Wins Always: Give me the good plan that gets executed flawlessly over the great plan that misses the mark – every single day. While I feel I have been an early adopter to technology, I haven’t been the trendsetter. Rather, I have waited for the kinks to be worked out in a number of advances before diving in. Marketers that push the envelope too quickly, will fall victim to diminished results because their customers have not moved as fast as them. It is time to check your marketing ego at the door – you don’t always have to be first to market. A marketing plan that slowly introduces new delivery avenues combined with tried-and-true marketing efforts, can achieve great results.

John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises, Inc., a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helping businesses grow in the restaurant, convenience and general retail industries.  With more than 20 years of senior-level experience in retail and a speaker at retail-group events throughout the U.S., Matthews has recently written two step-by-step manuals, Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers and Grand Opening Manual for Retailers, which are available at www.graycatenterprises.com.

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