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Andy Malis: Stre-e-e-e-e-tch those advertising dollars

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During these lean economic times, adjust your marketing strategy to take away share from your competitors without breaking the bank.

By all accounts, most retailers will have it pretty tough over the next year or two. But now is not the time to cut back on ad spending. Instead, your marketing strategy should be readjusted to focus on taking share away from your competitors. A softer sales period for all is an opportunity to outsmart your competition. 
 
Consider implementing the following tactics to help increase your sales, brand your store and gain a competitive edge in your market without breaking the bank. 
 
1. Keep it simple. The average person is exposed to approximately 5,000 pieces of marketing material a day, making the marketplace cluttered like never before. Radio, TV, direct mail and the Web — along with time pressures and short attention spans — add to daily distractions. If your message is simple, focused and pertinent to your target audience, you will effectively reach your consumer. Analyze every piece of customer communication from your customers’ point of view before making a final decision. Keep what works and cut what doesn’t to make sure you stay within your budget. 
 
2. Just say no to co-op. When the economy slows, it can be tempting to turn to more co-op advertising. This is a mistake. Co-op does nothing to brand your store. The preponderance of your advertising spending should be about convincing prospects that your store must be considered. Your prospects must like you, and they must think your store “gets it.” A product shot with your logo says “me too” and does nothing to differentiate your store. Instead, be daring and create your own advertisement to position your store as the go-to source for a particular product. 
 
3. More than ever, it’s all about the diamonds. While designer jewelry is all the rage, the one part of your business that never goes out of style is the diamond engagement ring. Make the effort to grow that part of your business, attracting new customers who could become customers for life. But remember, the typical 25- to 35-year-old consumes media very differently from your average customer. When advertising to this demographic on a tight budget, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. For example, advertise at bars and restaurants — places this group hangs out. Go where they go, and think like they think. 
 
4. Measure as much as possible. Most advertisers have no idea if their advertising is working. You may experience increased traffic and increased sales, but is it from your advertising? And if so, from what specifically? To address this, develop ways to measure the effectiveness of your advertising. Use targeted promotion codes, varying website addresses or different phone numbers, and make sure to track it. Measure your advertising frequently to adjust your campaigns to ensure more bang for your buck. 
 
5. Ignore the competition. Just because a competitor is running a lot of TV advertising, doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon and do the same. Your competitors may be good jewelers, but that doesn’t make them good marketers. Don’t be like them. Don’t respond. Create a strong and memorable identity for your store — in different media — that resonates with your target and stick to it. TV advertising might be appealing, but it’s sometimes more expensive and less effective when targeting a variety of demographics. 
 
6. Create happy customers and they will do your advertising for you. Play to the front row and make your raving fans lunatics. They will spread the word. Go above and beyond in customer service and make sure that it permeates every touch point of the customer experience — from the time they enter the store to the point of purchase. Mystery-shop your own store to uncover any potential problems and create an environment that customers will want to return to and have their friend’s experience. Happy customers are the most reliable and inexpensive form of advertising. 
 
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