Running a brick + mortar retail business or boutique is a whole different ballgame. With only your local market as potential customers, you need a solid marketing + advertising plan to get those feet through the doors.
After managing local marketing + advertising for too many years to count, I'm sharing some of the best ways to get more people through your doors.
The other day someone posted in the Lounge saying they recently opened up a brick + mortar store and that they really need to increase the sales on their website to support the additional overhead.
First, I congratulated them because opening a brick + mortar is a huge undertaking and such an accomplishment all on its own and then I immediately let them know they should reframe how they think about these two parts of the business and that each of them, the online and the brick + mortar should essentially support themselves.
Then of course I went into some additional details about how they can market their brick + mortar business.
For those of you who don’t know, before I was in the eComm game, I spent many years in brick + mortar retail and I’ve done A LOT of local advertising.
And then I realized, oh… I’ve never really talked about this on the podcast.
You know… it always amazes me because there are days when I think to myself, I have nothing else to say. How am I going to continue creating podcast content every single week when I’ve already said all the things II need to say? Do you ever feel like that with your product-based business?
And then, something like this happens. Someone asks me a question either in the membership, the Facebook group or just on social. And it’s either something I haven’t discussed before at all, like local advertising or it is something I’ve covered but their question prompts me to think of it in a different way so that I can present it in a different way to you.
So, like I always tell you – you don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. There’s someone out there who hasn’t heard what you’ve had to say just yet.
Okay, enough rambling… let’s get into the content! And even if you don’t have a brick + mortar business, I still recommend you listen because wherever you’re based, there is still a local element to what you do and there are a few tips and tricks you can probably pick up along the way.
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The Difference Between Your eCommerce & Brick + Mortar Businesses
So, as I said. If you do have an online and brick + mortar, while there will definitely be cross-over, you should treat them as somewhat separate businesses and expect that they will each support themselves. Now, this might not be 100% possible in the very beginning, but it’s what you should ultimately strive for.
And you’ll also want to analyze those businesses separately. It’s likely that you’ll see different best-sellers across the two platforms, different buying patterns, and even different customers. Ultimately, the more granular you can get in your analysis, the better decisions you can make for each of them.
When it comes to marketing a brick + mortar business, the first thing to consider is are you a destination or do you have a lot of walk-by foot traffic? The less foot traffic you have, the harder you’ll have to work to get eyes on your business.
What is Local SEO?
The first thing you’ll want to do is Local SEO through platforms like Google My Business, Yelp, and Bing places. If you have multiple store locations, you can use a tool like Yext to manage all of your locations on all the platforms from one place,
Each of these platforms functions a bit differently so we’re not going to go into all the details of all of them, but I’ll highlight a few things you’ll want to be aware of.
Google My Business for Local SEO
Google My Business allows you to create posts on your listings to keep that profile active. It’s unlikely that they’ll get a ton of action or that it will revolutionize your business, but it does show Google that you are actively managing this listing which will help you in your rankings… Google likes to see activity.
You can also post a walk-through tour of your store, where customers can click around and get a 360 view of the store. You need a Google-approved photographer for this, but it’s not very expensive and you only need to do it once.
And as you’ve probably seen from your own web searches, if someone does search your brand, your GMB listing will generally show up in the right-hand column of the search results page giving much more visibility into your store.
Yelp for Local SEO
You are all very familiar with Yelp I’m sure, and it’s one of the first places people go to read reviews about businesses, so you definitely want a presence there. I do recommend you pay for the enhanced listing (I think that’s what it’s called) which will prevent similar businesses from being promoted on your listing.
Additionally, Yelp lets you highlight features of your business like if you’re LGBT friendly, have wheelchair access, or are minority-owned and operated.
Both of them let you post your store hours, collect reviews and allow customers to ask questions about your business. You can also link directly to your website from these listings.
In terms of advertising, for Google, you would use Google Ads, but Yelp also has a paid advertising option. You essentially bid on your category and your listing then enters an auction to show at the top of the Yelp results to people who are searching for stores in your category.
Facebook Location Pages for Local SEO
You can also create location pages for your stores on Facebook as an offshoot to your main Facebook business page. This is great if you have multiple store locations because you set things like your store hours and contact information on each individual page. and to keep the pages active you can just set it so whatever you post on your main business page will automatically post to your individual store page.
Local Community Events to Promote Your Brick + Mortar Store
The next thing you’ll want to look into are local community events that you can sponsor or have a physical presence at and local partnerships with other small retailers or businesses that serve your customer. At my previous gig we did a lot of partnerships with bars and gentleman’s clubs if you know what I mean. If we sponsored a local event we’d take a handful of our most popular products to sell at the event and then usually a spin to win to get some email signups. You don’t have to give away anything big, you don’t want to take away the opportunity to sell the actual product if you can, but people love to spin those wheels.
Some local events can be pretty expensive to sponsor, but you can always partner up with another local business and split the booth or even one of your vendors if you have a close relationship with them.
Donation Ideas to Promote Your In-Person Boutique
When I had my boutique I would donate a night out shopping events to local charity auctions. We would hold the events after hours. The winner could bring in 5 friends to shop with. They’d get a gift card and everyone would get a discount on their purchases for the night. We’d serve some champagne and some snacks. They’d get to hang out and shop with their favorites, we’d make some money. and get some exposure. Good times were had by all.
Maybe you host a trunk show and partner up with a local nail salon to come in and do mini-manicures. Or put small gift cards or discount flyers into gift bags for someone else’s events. There are so many ways you can do this, just make sure it makes sense with the product you sell.
Local Press Opportunities for Brick + Mortar Businesses
You’ll also want to look into the local press. This is WAAAAy easier to get than national press because these local publications are all about the community. When I opened my boutique back in the day the local weekly did a feature on me and even gave me a framed version of it. I have it in my office. It’s funny when I look at the photo, I look like such a baby.
These local outlets also have pretty affordable advertising rates and do holiday gift guides. Make friends with the publishers and writers and you’re golden. In a lot of cases they’ll probably find their way to you, but if not hit up some local networking events… 99% of the time, they’ll be there.
If you don’t have the media you need for advertising, partner with your vendors if you can. I sold mostly name-brand vendors at my store who had beautiful imagery. I got permission from them to use some of their runway and brand images to use in my print advertising with them.
There are also media companies that publish in multiple markets like Modern Luxury or Where Magazine. I’m not sure if they still are, but back in the day Where Magazine was inside hotels in their markets, so that could be a good option if you’re located in a tourist destination.
Out-of-Home Advertising for Local Businesses
Another thing to consider, though it seems old school and archaic is out-of-home advertising like billboards, bus shelters, benches, and wild postings. These can be on the expensive side depending on the market, but they do work. The trick is you need it to be close to your location.
How to Get Low-Cost Billboard Advertising
You can usually buy remnants (which are just gaps in their bookings) on the cheap. There are also digital billboard options that are less expensive, but that’s because they cycle you through with other advertisers.
Does Radio Advertising Still Work?
And then there’s always radio advertising. People do still listen to the radio, especially during the morning commute, and you have a lot of control over when your spots run, and how often. You do generally need to make a pretty big investment at once, even though it can last you a long time, so you may want to save that for special times of the year depending on your budget.
Direct Mail Advertising
One of my favorite local advertising tactics is direct mail. It’s easy to think that it wouldn’t do much because you picture yourself throwing away all that quote-on-quote junk mail, but if it’s something that resonates it definitely works. I mean, when it’s relevant to me I keep them and sometimes even take action. You can get surprisingly granular with these lists too if you’re working with a direct mail company. It costs a bit more of course, but totally worth it and really easy to track if you have some sort of offer on it. I love also direct mail as you grow your local customer base. Yes, email is still powerful for a brick-and-mortar but it sure is nice to get something valuable in the mail.
How to do Local Digital Advertising with Geo-Fencing
And then there’s also local digital advertising. If all this traditional stuff doesn’t feel cool enough for you, look into geo-fencing. This is digital advertising but specific to a targeted geographical area. Plus, the majority of the local publications you come across will also have a digital presence so you can focus your advertising spend on the digital property instead of the print one.
The Power of Your Local Community and Word-of-Mouth Referrals
When it comes to having a brick-and-mortar business, the more involved you get with your local community, the faster word will spread. Make friends with the baristas at your local coffee shop, the business owner of the pizza shop, and even the owner of the boutique around the corner. You never know where the next word-of-mouth referral is going to come from.
Before I go…. have you ever seen Miracle on 34th street? Do you remember when Kris Kringle started referring customers to the department store competitor when Gimbal's didn’t have what they were looking for? The executives were pissed but the customers loved it and it made them more loyal to Gimbal's. The same is true in your local community. get to know what’s around. Meet the people. Spread the word. People talk.
If you want to learn more about local advertising, please let me know! I focus so much on eCommerce and only know of a handful of people who have brick and mortar too, but there are probably more of you out there so please let me know!