I speak to a lot of retailers in the course of my business, but when I hear about a store that grows by 18% in one year, I’m on the phone to that store in a flash! This particular 18% growth store is Belleza Ropa in Olympia, WA. It’s business savvy owner, Jeannine, also owns a Port Townsend store, About Time, which has also seen year-to-year growth in the past few years. I had a recent chat with Jeannine (pictured in the middle) and can’t wait to share her story with you!
A little backstory: Jeannine opened her Olympia store, Belleza Ropa, in 2010. That was during the early days of the worst financial crisis our country had seen in decades and — for many boutiques — the toughest to recover from. Technology has since advanced rapidly with Facebook, Instagram, and the rise of online selling/buying. Those of us who’ve been in business for a long time, have had to quickly learn how to leverage these new technologies and Jeannine has done it in aces.
Jeannine’s success is infused with what’s arguably two of the most important qualities of any successful business person: energy and excitement for her business and her willingness to shake things up and evolve what she was doing, which I’ve summed up for you here in 5 easy steps:
- Devote more time to marketing – including continuing education
- Evolve your list-building activity through a rewards program
- Implement and grow social media marketing and creative advertising
- Email campaigning
Jeannine’s conscious effort to work smarter, not harder was focusing on her marketing. She reduced her hours on the floor and devoted that time to marketing her business. Since the market and communication style of her customers had changed so much since her store opened seven years ago, this meant going back to school! She took a course called “Scale Up”, which was offered through her local Economic Development Council and facilitated by the Kauffman Foundation. It’s an initiative started and funded by the Small Business Association of America – the curriculum of which addresses topics like strategy, financing, marketing, and HR. The 8-week course re-energized her.
“It gave me the incentive to focus more on my business,
create a cohesive message, and manyother great ideas,”
she said. “I work hard at branding the store and keeping
the messaging consistent.”
She took what she learned and ran with it. One of her next steps was to evolve her list-building activity.
“We used to get people’s emails manually by giving them a
birthday discount if they filled out their information on a
postcard. We put those emails into Constant Contact and
then sent the postcards out in their birthday months.
We collected a couple thousand emails that way.”
Jeannine’s current method is far more advanced and includes a loyalty program.
“Now we do texting with Splango (in Seattle, WA). My
customers sign up on an iPad kiosk. They [Splango]
charge me by the month. I can send out [a certain]
number of texts at a time. Customers can sign up
by text or email. We switched to that last November.”
When she sends a text, it includes some sort of incentive she creates for visiting. Then she can track which clients came in (and how often) due to a specific initiative. It’s no wonder that retailers are adopting texting. It’s highly effective and the results are trackable. According to Digital Marketing Magazine, “On average it takes 90 minutes for someone to respond to an email. The average response time to texts is 90 seconds. Open rates for SMS messages is around 98% and for emails it’s about 20%. Not only is it more effective, it’s also preferred. Around 75% of people would like to have offers sent to them via SMS.” (source: http://digitalmarketingmagazine.co.uk/mobile-digital-marketing/7-key-statistics-for-sms-marketing/558). Try it yourself! See below for a special Splanglo promotion for my readers.
That’s not to say she’s given up on email. She gets the word out for events using email, in addition to texting and Facebook, and she gets creative with these events.
“Last year, I greatly increased the number of
events we do annually. Currently, we do about
15 per year per store, plus art walks and other
events sponsored by the downtown organization.”
These are NOT your typical store sales. They’re trunk shows, shopping parties, birthday month parties, etc. Check out her shopping party idea: A customer is chosen to “host” the party and can invite 8-20 people. The host gets a $100 gift certificate and the whole store is discounted 10%. Belleza Ropa stays open two hours longer exclusively for these guests and supplies wine and cheese. The hostess does all the work to get people there. The customers love it and feel so privileged to have the store all to themselves and their friends!
To get the word out for her other events, Jeannine she uses email, texting, and Facebook. She will boost her Facebook posts about events. She will spend anon average of $50-$75 to boost her Facebook posts about events, as she says, “to in order to, as she says, “splatter it across my community.” Because of FB’s algorithm you have a much higher chance of your community seeing your post if you pay to boost it. This is what she includes in her Facebook posts:
“Another fun thing to do is a contest. You want your
post to reach more than just your usual community.
For example, ‘Guess how many shoe styles the XXX
brand rep is bringing. The winner gets a $50 gift
certificate.’ When people start commenting that boosts
the visibility of the post. And I ask them to ‘share’
the post with their network and that also helps to
boost the post and get in front of new people.”
Brilliant! She gives her audience a Call to Action (CTA) telling them what she’d like them to do next (comment, like, share, etc).
Now just because we live in a social media world doesn’t mean you should shun traditional media! Jeannine also makes use of her local paper’s free calendar. See if your local paper offers that, as well. In Olympia, she doesn’t do any print advertising, but instead does radio ads.
“They give me a discount and it’s a pretty big audience.
The ad runs twice a day and reaches from Tacoma to
Portland. It’s just me talking about my biz. I hear all the
time ‘Hey, I heard you on the radio!’”
Finally, there’s networking. Jeannine advises joining the Chamber of Commerce and any other neighborhood or downtown organizations where you can meet people and they can meet you. People love meeting store owners. You guys are like minor celebrities in your town!
“Networking is a huge, viable, and inexpensive
way for a business to get the word out.”
At the end of the day, all this engagement (Facebook, texting, emailing, events) creates a connection with your customer and prospective customer. That is what today’s marketing is all about. It’s called Social Commerce. People want the approval of their friends, not advertisers, when deciding on a purchase or experience. Today’s customer wants a connection with the brands and retailers she patronizes or is going to patronize. She wants to know you, quirks and all, and to be a part of the fun! So be your quirky self. Let your personality shine through.
This is a marathon, though, not a sprint, and Jeannine’s final words of wisdom…
“[An 18% increase] didn’t mean 18% increase in profit!
Staffing went up, I put more stuff in the store. This year
will be better because what I really learned was how to
manage the money. Where last year, because it went so
fast, it was hard to manage. I would tell other retailers
[that] even though there’s a lot of money coming in, you
might feel like you have to spend it. But really, track your
expenses really well and spend judiciously even though
sales are growing. That is how you’ll increase your
profits. Don’t get too excited.”
If you’d like to learn more about Splango, you can contact (855) 775-2646 or sign up and check it out yourself! I’ve arranged for a special initial trial for you. If you sign up using the code “Nina Sent Me”, Splango will waive your setup fee ($200 value) and give you a special 2-month introductory price of $59/month (regularly $99). I don’t get anything from Splango for this — I just wanted to give you an opportunity to try the great service!
Comment below with your top 2-3 take-aways that you can’t wait to implement in your business or share some successes you’ve had that others might benefit from. Also head on over to Facebook and show Jeannine some love by liking her Belleza Ropa Clothing and Shoes page.