Small Business Marketing Blog

May 11, 2010

3 Marketing Tips to Learn from American Apparel

Shoppers lined up for American Apparel's Rummage Sale in San Diego's Gaslamp District on May 8, 2010.   471, 472, 473 clicked the attendant in the green shirt.  It was the number assigned to me, my teenage daughter, and her friend as we descended down into the basement of clothing retailer American Apparel in San Diego’s Gaslamp District.  When I first saw the crowds snaking along several blocks I thought they were waiting to buy tickets to a concert or Padres’ game. Little did I know I would be waiting in that very line for three hours before we would reach our final destination, the 3rd annual American Apparel Rummage Sale.

These days, not many retailers have people waiting in line to give them money. In fact, most are reporting their lowest sales in years. So how does a retailer like American Apparel, dealing with the same business pressures as everyone else, post an 8 percent increase in sales for the last quarter of 2009? From what I could see, it comes down to three things.

Consistency.  American Apparel is consistent with their brand (simple, quality, American-made fashions) and this builds trust because people know what to expect. In addition, American Apparel stocks a large selection in their stores and many of the styles are not available at other retailers.  This winning combination has garnered American Apparel a loyal fan base.  

Socially Connected.  American Apparel uses social media effectively to keep in touch with customers. Most of the people I asked in my small circle in line had found out about the sale on Facebook. But American Apparel does more than broadcast promotions on Twitter and Facebook, they also engage in meaningful conversations with their online followers. For example, in one of their posts they asked people who were planning on attending the sale what they were hoping to find, so they could make sure it was available. Another post offered tips for avoiding a long wait. It was evident they were using these real time online tools to improve the customer experience.   

Constantly Promoting. American Apparel’s Rummage Sale was obviously successful, but that did not mean the staff was going to rest on this one event, they continued to promote for the future.  While customers were waiting to get into the store, employees with clipboards walked around to see if anyone wanted to get on their email list and offered a gift when they signed up. They also scouted out the line for possible new hires.  I guess they figured if someone is willing to wait several hours to get into the store, they very likely would make a passionate employee.  And for a final hook, they tucked a postcard into my bag with a 15 percent discount for next time.

Even during tough economic times, when shoppers are looking for the best deals and most retailers tell you how hard it is to make a buck, hard work, good value, and strong promotion can still bring people into a store.  Take a look at the three ways that American Apparel creates the kind of buzz that makes it seem reasonable to wait in line for hours for the chance to buy something.  What can you do in the areas of consistency, connection, and promotion to improve your business?  It might take a little time, but with some concentrated effort, you can create a loyal fan base, and the strong word-of-mouth endorsement that has folks lining up to do business with you.

April 6, 2010

Don’t Let Your Social Media Sites Become Ghost Towns

Filed under: Marketing,Social Media — Robin Witt @ 8:28 am
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Socieal media sites can become ghost town without proper attention. No  fans or followers on your small business social media sites?  As a consultant I hear this complaint many times. There seems to be a misconception that if you put up a site, you don’t need to put any more effort into it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Creating a Facebook fan page or new Twitter account is just the first step.  To be successful long term, it’s important to avoid these three common mistakes.

Mistake #1—No goals. What is your desired outcome?  If you don’t know what you want out of your social media marketing, there is a very good chance you will fail. Like other forms of marketing, it requires clear goals, good strategy, and consistent effort to be successful.

Mistake #2—No plans.  Writing tweets, updates, and blogs all take time. It’s important to identify who is going to do it, when they are going to do it, and how much time they will devote to each activity. Planning this out ahead of time will save you heartache in the long run.

Mistake #3—No value. All the content you post should be aimed at your target audience. This is not about your interests, it is about attracting potential customers. With that said, does that mean you have to stifle your personality? Absolutley not, that is what makes you unique and real. You are not a robot after all! Just make sure you stay on message by keeping your ideal client in mind at all times.  

It is tempting to want to rush into social media because of the opportunities it offers small businesses.  Make sure you have clear goals, a well-thought out implementation plan, and a sense of what would be interesting to your clients before you begin.  If you fail to address these three areas your sites might end up being empty, lifeless ghost towns, instead of the vibrant communities they should be.

December 31, 2009

Social Media Marketing in 2009: White Lies and Half Truths

Filed under: Social Media — Robin Witt @ 8:27 am
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Social media marketing in 2009 included some white lies and half truths. In a year when Twitter was named the most popular new word in the English language, there was a lot of buzz about social media marketing in 2009.  The jury is still out about whether social media is a beneficial marketing channel for businesses. Critics and fans squared off at one end of the spectrum or the other, concluding that social media is either a complete waste of time, or the answer to everything.  Now that we are at the end of the year looking back, it is a good time to sort through all the hoopla about three key claims.   

Social media is free. While it is true that Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube don’t have a monetary cost, to say that they are free, is not entirely accurate.  Instead of cash, business owners will be spending their time, energy, and talent to engage customers on these sites.

Social media is easy. There is a sense that if you build it, they will come. What small business owners have been finding out is that establishing a presence on different networking sites and drawing followings is the easy part. Having interesting content and maintaining the momentum to keep it going is another.   

Social media is the new mass media. Social media doesn’t replace mass media, it complements it. The important thing to understand is how social media is different than mass media and not make the mistake of shouting out an advertising message to everyone.  Customers are getting really good at tuning out traditional marketing and at the same time are spending more time on networking sites like Facebook which added 200 million new users in 2009.

So don’t think of social media as a quick fix or some marketing magic trick. Steer clear of these half truths and white lies and you’ll be fine.  Social media marketing is different than traditional marketing, but in some ways it is the same, requiring strategy, discipline, and time to see the results of more customers and sales.

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