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Every retailer has his or her favorite marketing tools. Some stick to the tried and true while others are quick to try any and every new trend. The most important consideration when selecting marketing tools is the same as selecting merchandise for your store: know your customer. If the majority of your customers are reading emails on their smart phones and you are still advertising in the newspaper, you are missing your customers.

Here is a look of the top ranking marketing tools in order of use.

  1. Email

  2. Web Site

  3. Social Media

  4. Word of Mouth

  5. Direct Mail

  6. Internet Advertising

  7. TV, Radio or Print Ads

Email, Web Site and Social Media are all computer/on-line based methods of reaching your customers. Each method plays an important role is bringing you to your customer’s attention. If you only have a web site, you are losing customers because they haven’t found you. If you rely on only Social Media, you are losing customers because they haven’t found you yet. You need to use every tool at your disposal to reach customers. Don’t cripple yourself by refusing to try something new to you. Some customers will be avid followers on Facebook or Twitter; others still prefer desktop computers and a visit to a web site. Generally speaking, email is the most preferred form of contact with customers. Are you where your customers are? Who can afford to miss?

Word of Mouth continues to hold the top position of contact used by the smallest retailers. Nothing, nothing beats a positive recommendation from a satisfied customer as far as impact is concerned. Connecting with satisfied customers on social media extends the reach of the customer’s feelings, but you have to be engaged with social media to enjoy those benefits. Plus, word of mouth advertising takes no additional time for the retailer who is already vested in providing quality merchandise with the best customer service possible.

Direct mail is always a good contact but expensive.  Save direct mail for your best customers if an area-wide mailing is above your budget. Direct mail should include, but not be limited to, a personal, hand-written thank you for purchases reaching a certain amount. It may also include personal invitations to attend store events.

Next on the list is internet advertising. This includes adwords, facebook advertising—any advertising on the Internet. Many store owners/managers believe paid advertising is best left to professionals. It is easier than you think but you will have to give it a try. For some owners this testing process will mean venturing out of their comfort zones.

Advertising in newspapers is becoming obsolete. Baby Boomers who grew up reading the newspaper have been replaced by Generation X and Millennials—tech savvy groups big on fast and simple. They are more interested in experiences than things. They prefer tv and radio on-demand and without commercials. They also prefer to complete their own research and find the answer to their questions on their own time, in their own way. Their focus is how they are treated if they venture into your store. While they claim great brand loyalty, statistics confirm they are less brand conscious than boomers and highly willing to switch to a brand available to them when and where they are.

If you do not know where you are customer are, ask. Pick a month or a week, and ask every customer who comes in to the store how they found you or what made them decide to visit your store. It may surprise you. You may find you are spot on in advertising . . . or you may find you are advertising to your customers’ parents. This need not be a major undertaking with pre-printed forms and a selection of writing implements, just a quick question that is tabulated by sales associates. Be sure to record the opinion of the store’s best customers—you want to keep them happy.