Stop Making Excuses
Most of the time, the reasons why we do not market our shop boils down to money, time or procrastination. If you do not have the time or money to market, you have not grown enough. To grow, you must market. Having more money allows you to market more or hire people which gives you more time. Money will not fix procrastination. You just need to do it.
Keys to running a shop are mastering certain things, or hiring some to do them for you:
- You must learn accounting, or hire someone to do it for you.
- You must learn stocking the right products, or hire someone to do it for you.
- You must market your business, or hire someone to do it for you.
If you are too busy for any of the above, and you are not making money, do number 3 first. The general rule of thumb for any retail business is you must spend 10% of your income on marketing. You also have to spend money to make money. Ladies, I have to tell it to you straight; If you are objecting to this, you will fail. Every single shop I have witnessed fight me on this one has gone out of business and lost all their investment in it.
Money fixes most problems. Now, let's talk about ways to market your shop.
We all love classes. Classes help us build relationships and sell more product. Pick a section of the store and times for classes. You or anyone else can teach fun and exciting classes to make people want to tell their friends and take the next class. Experiment with beginning, intermediate, and advanced classes. Teach more of the ones that bring in the most people. Of course, you must advertise these classes on various forms of media (see below).
We all loves sales. You can customize the sales to either move product you want to get rid of (end of bolt sale) or to bring in as many people as possible. Something fun and engaging will make customers happy and want to come back. Consider sales that will encourage your customers to bring a friend. Get creative. Of course, you must advertise the sales to make them work (see below).
A shop hop is nothing more than a series of shops working together to encourage customers to visit all of the shops. A successful hop involves planning, shops all working together, and customers having a lot of fun visiting the shops for a unified purpose, project or prize. The sticky part is that all the shops must work together.
The advantage is the advertising costs are shared, which reduces the overall cost of the event for all the participating shops. This makes for a great Return On Investment (ROI).
If you are not part of a local hop, see if you can be part of one either by joining the next one or generating interest to start one.
Of course, you must advertise the shop hops to make them work (see below).
If you have a local quilter that people follow or that makes money from products sold in your shop, you may be able to get them to do a special event at your shop. This motivates both of you to provide a successful and fun event that will bring quilters in to your shop. Floriani is very well know for teaching classes at quilt shops that draw in business and make money for both of you. Look for something similar near you. Reach out to people and companies to see if they are willing to do a class or a trunk or product show in your shop. In some instances, they may even help you with advertising it. This is another great ROI.
Quilt shows are a blessing and a curse. Most often they do not produce the results you expect. Look at the return on investment. Many shows these days are far too expensive to have a booth and lug around your products. If the ROI looks good, do it. If not, consider having an event at your shop at the same time as the show to draw people into your shop and then advertise the snot out of it (see below).
Your Website (#1 Task)
Having a website (or even just a webpage) for your shop is becoming more and more critical these days. If people can not find you on the web, they may not visit you. You can start with a simple page using GoDaddy.com done by a family member, or you can do a full fledged website done by Websites For Quilters or Like Sew Websites. This creates the possibility of selling your inventory on the internet.
Newsletters (#2 Task)
Newsletters and social media are the two best ways to keep existing customers coming back. They sign up for your newsletter, and you produce a monthly newsletter to keep them informed, engaged, and interested. Services like ConstantContact.com help you maintain the list, create the newsletters, and send the emails. Costs range from $30 to about $50 a month for most small to medium shops. This is a very low ROI, and a must for you and your business.
Write about upcoming events (classes, sales, special guests, shows). Show examples of customer quilts. This is excellent, because the happy customers will tell more of their friends about you because they were featured. Happy customers come back, and tell others about you like no other. You might consider interviews or articles from local celebrities or quilters that talk about making something. This makes the readers want to read, and likely will cause them to buy products to make the quilts.
Social media and newsletters are the two best ways to keep existing customers coming back. They signup by 'liking' or 'following' your shop page on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram. These are all free, but you can spend money on Facebook as you please. This is a very low ROI, and it will help grow your business eventually. I say eventually, because this is a slow process to get the initial followers.
This is like newsletters. Think of it as incremental work for your newsletter. You may post 2 to 7 times a week. Most of the time it is the same thing that would go in your newsletter, but with far more customer quilts. Because of the shear speed that quilters (especially the younger ones) can share posts and photos with their friends. When you recognize someone for their work, they are happy and proud. They will share that photo and recognition with others. This brings in new customers and encourages customers to submit photos to you for you to post. Just let them know you do not post everything, so there are no hurt feelings.
For best results, have the post of the image link back to a more detailed page on your website or some place that talks about your shop. This reminds existing customers about you, and shows new ones about you. You can do this in a blog form on your website.
Don't have time, hire a child. Yes -- this works.
Local Print Media
Each of us, no matter where our shop is located, has some form of print media that quilters most commonly use to find quilt shops. In many places in the United States, this is the Country Register, but you all know what your local publication is. If all or most of the shops in your area are in this publication and it is available in multiple places, you must be in it. To not be where customers are looking is suicide. I know shop owners who tell me "I have lots of local customers. I do not need this." You are handing business to your other local shops, even if you are the only shop for miles. If you are too busy, hire someone and use that business to grow even more. "I have too many customers," is a cop out and lame excuse. Think growth, not stagnation.
After the primary source everyone is using, you can look into other forms like local magazines, papers, weekly ad papers, and other similar local resources. Use your judgment; if you are already in the primary local resource, you need to evaluate each for a good ROI. If it has a large reach of people for virtually no investment in your business, then do it. If you have a sale or special event coming, this may be where you advertise.
Billboards & Sign Out Front
If you can get traffic from a local highway that has billboards along it, look into this as a form of getting travelers to you. The cost for this can be very high, so you need do a ROI assessment. Most people report this works for them.
If you are allowed to put up a digital rotating message sign out front to attract attention, consider it.
Shop Index Books
Revised November 30 2016 - We no longer recommend the books. Feedback we get from the shops and the quilters are that these are not getting used enough to warrant spending the money on advertising in them.
Shop Index Websites
As mentioned above, more and more quilters have smart phones and computers. They are expecting to find shops on the internet and common shop index sites. If you are not there, most will assume you do not exist.
Check into your Google Places shop page and make sure it is accurate and has your website linked. Consider paying for an advanced page on Google Places. Keep this information accurate as things change.
Since quilters are using shop index sites to find shops, you must be listed, or you will be handing the business to those shops who are listed. The ROI for these is very low. Often you can be listed for a year for less than the price of a two day ad in your local paper. It would be silly not to be listed with a ROI like this.
To date, QuiltingHub is the only site designed to keep the information accurate without going through a centralized person to manage all the changes. QuiltingHub is maintained by the listing owners and verified by the quilters. Should an error be found, it notifies the owner who comes in and fixes it. Every other site has one person brokering the changes, which is more than a full time job. Eventually it become too much and the site accuracy falls away. Don't waste your time; go to QuiltingHub. Besides, it has over 700,000 page views a month because of the accuracy.
QuiltingHub's events search feature is amazing. So if you choose it, let me tell you how to maximize the additional free events feature to your advantage. Quilters can find events while traveling or when they relocate by searching for events near them. You can put in all your classes, sales, special events, and shop hops. I highly recommend you add ALL of your events to the site. It even supports repeating events, so you enter them once.
QuiltingHub's shop hop event is amazing as well. When you add a hop, it will put a point on the map for each shop in the hop. This makes it super easy for quilters to hop. The more shops in the hop, the more likely a quilter doing an event search will find the hop and the more business you will get.
If you don't want to maintain your events on your site and QuiltingHub, put them on QuiltingHub and use their link icon on your website to allow your customers to view your events calendar.
Now you see why I recommend QuiltingHub, and to add your events. It is an amazing ROI.
Whether you are a new shop or have been around a while, getting new and repeat customers is critical to your business. Do not get overwhelmed by what you read here. Do what you can. If you are not growing, spend money (even if you do not have it) by picking what you can do from this article. I recommend you do the following:
- Conduct events in your shop (classes, sales, special events, guests, and shop hops) and advertise them.
- Get a website up and running, or improve your current one to be social media friendly for sharing into and out of your site.
- Do a newsletter.
- Use social media.
- Get printed in local media that your quilters are using to find shops.
- Verify your Google Sites page is accurate.
- Get printed in shop index book(s).
- Get listing on shop index website(s)
Each of these has costs of time and money that must be weighed for ROI. Do what you can, but if you are not advertising your shop where quilters are looking, you will not survive. Advertise, and you will prevail.