For C-store owners, marketing is one of the most powerful items in your "stand apart from the competition" toolkit. Savvy owners know it's all about the Four Ps: Products, placement, pricing and promotion. Three of those "Ps" involve in-store efforts. The fourth is where it gets tricky.
Products include the standard items everyone expects to find in a C-store. Going the extra mile and offering healthy items like fresh fruits and veggies; wraps and sandwiches; items easy to eat in the car like cheese, salami and grapes packaged in a cup holder-friendly container; and local foods like ethnic selections geared toward your customer base will make your store stand out.
Placement of those items is a chance to get creative, using in-store and at-the-pump signage along with placement of the products inside the store to drive impulse purchases that none of us can resist.
Pricing is a key driver of your store's bottom line, and making sure you're on par with the competition is a must.
Products, placement and pricing are powerful in-store marketing efforts designed to appeal to your current customers by focusing on their expectations, needs and wants with the goal of driving greater purchases. Together, they're Job One for C-store owners - current customers buying more; it's a slam dunk!
That fourth P, Promotion, is a powerful facet of C-store marketing that can make things tricky, or interesting, depending on how you look at it. With any given marketing promotion campaign, you're trying to appeal to both current and potential customers with the goal of broadening everything from your customer base to their spending.
But that's where marketing promotions can get troublesome. Chances are very good you don't have a dedicated marketing pro on your staff. That task falls to you. We'll call that a safe bet. Another safe bet: You don't have a wide swath (or even a few minutes) of extra time on your hands on any given day to spend on marketing promotions. You're too busy running your store, focusing on those first three Ps, putting out fires, dealing with employees who don't show up for work, hiring new employees to replace those slackers, processing payroll, scheduling staff, back-office administrative tasks, and all of the other variables involved in the day-to-day life of a C-store owner/operator.
When, exactly, are you supposed to find the time to brainstorm and deploy marketing promotion campaigns of staggering genius?
We get it. It's not easy to wedge anything more into your day, but there's no denying that done right, promotions can increase your loyal customer base and delight the customers you already have, driving everyone to reach a little deeper into their pockets. Ultimately, it boosts your bottom line and allows you to reach out to develop those customer relationships even more.
That's why you need marketing strategies that take less time and maintenance. You need strategies that you can all but set and forget.
Set It and Forget It Marketing Strategies
Myriad efforts can fall under the C-store marketing promotions umbrella. The key for any busy C-store owner is finding things that work, and that won't gobble up a lot of your time. Here are a few suggestions:
Set up Google Alerts. You're probably already familiar with this tool, but Google Alerts can track the mention of any word in blogs, news items, forums, and just about anywhere on the web except social media. It will send you an email every time your designated search term shows up online. It's free, it takes just minutes to set up, and it's a powerful marketing tool. But you need to put in a little marketing-savvy thinking first. Namely, what do you want Google to track for you?
Many retailers simply set up an alert for the name of their store, and that's effective. But you can go further. You can also set up alerts for what people are saying about your competitors, your industry, articles about the price of gas, and trends, too. Those types of alerts can give you insights into the pain points of customers and how to solve them.
Get a social media monitoring (aka listening) tool. Google Alerts doesn't cover sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and those sites are a gold mine of customer information. Knowing what people are saying about you on social media (both positive and negative) is a powerful way to increase brand awareness, do damage control and connect with your customers. Yet, who has time to constantly search those sites for mentions? Enter social media monitoring tools like Mention. It does the work for you, saves you time and helps you nurture those all-important customer relationships.
An enormous benefit of monitoring social media is getting in front of negative comments. Say a customer had a bad experience at your store. You'll hear about it in (nearly) real-time, and can respond with an offer, an invitation to come back, or some other effort to turn that bad experience around.
Use social media to create buzz about your product line. See what we did there? We combined two of the four Ps. Here's how it works: You've spent time and effort bringing in healthy items like fresh fruits and veggies, wraps and sandwiches, small meals that are easy to eat in the car like cheese, salami and grapes packaged in a cup holder-friendly container, and local foods like ethnic selections geared toward your customer base. But it can be a "tree falls in the forest" type of situation, especially when you've just started to do it. People don't know it's there. The fix? Snap a shot of those great new products and pop it onto social media.
You can also use social media to publicize specials and promotions you're running. You really should be doing this every time you run a new special or promo. Why? Social media marketing feels personal. It's much more intimate than a sign or a billboard or even an ad at the pump. It feels like it's one on one, and that's the relationship you want with your customers.
Pro tip about posting on social media: Use a tool like HootSuite. It's a social media management platform that allows you to plug in all of your social accounts —Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram — into one dashboard. The beauty of it is, you can sit down for 20 minutes in the morning and schedule your posts for the day. It's a one-and-done tool so you won't have to spend time hassling with sending the same messages to different platforms multiple times a day.
Ask customers for reviews on Yelp, Google or Facebook. Testimonials from independent brand ambassadors — satisfied customers, in other words — are among the most powerful marketing tools out there. This could be an upshot of your other online activities, or you could simply put up signage at the register or on the door asking for reviews. This helps in several ways. Your customers will know you're engaged and committed to offering "five-star" service, which is always a plus. It creates more engagement on their part, too. And one huge bonus is mentions of your store location will make it rank higher in Google search results. People searching for C-stores in your area will find you first.
Get a loyalty marketing app. A mobile app loyalty program is a great way for customers to stay in touch with your brand 24/7, whether that’s for general business information or to ask you a question about your business. Loyalty customers typically spend 18% more in your store than non-loyalty members, are more engaged and stick around awhile. With a loyalty app, delivering great customer service can come as a surprise. Mobile apps give you the ability to offer in-app only special offers and discounts which help deepen the relationship you have with your customers. We humbly suggest ours.
Another benefit of a loyalty marketing app is the data you'll glean from it. Analyzing your data allows you to spot trends in customer behavior and develop specific targeted offers that are relevant to their purchasing behavior. Don’t fall behind the competition when investing in new technology. A mobile app is something that customers want. Data shows that customers want to download and use mobile apps from businesses that they frequent. Don’t ignore the data that is right in front of you.
Apps help you keep a pulse on your customers through advanced analytics. You can track in-app activity to see the type of content that’s engaging the most users. You can view demographic information to help refine your sales and marketing efforts. See how our Simpliconnect loyalty rewards app with features like push notifications, special offers and frequent buyer clubs will grow your customer base and help your loyalty program succeed.
Go local, and go old school. Not every marketing campaign has to involve the internet, although it is a powerful ally. But why not try going old school? Target the neighborhood around your C-store with a postcard, direct mail campaign offering coupons, or pay a couple of your employees to spend an afternoon hoofing it from door to door with flyers. These types of marketing campaigns are time tested. They work, they're cost-effective, they're simple and they bring people in the door.
Offer full service at the pump. When is the last time you had somebody else pump your gas? We can't remember, either. You can designate one day, or a certain time each day, that you offer full service, complete with window washing, for no extra cost. Call it a fuel happy hour. Publicize it on social media, through a direct mail campaign, or even with a curbside sign letting people know. Then watch how many satisfied customers post great things about you on social media.
Busy C-store owners and managers don't have a lot of extra time to devote to complicated marketing campaigns, but the benefits of reaching out to customers are profound. Focusing on promotions that you can easily execute, manage and maintain is the key to keeping loyal customers happy and attracting new customers to your store. Doing it right will give a much-needed boost to your bottom line.
At Simpliconnect, we're committed to helping C-stores connect with their customers. To find out more about using our technology solutions to create effective and easy loyalty programs, contact us today. And to dive even deeper into the subject, download our free whitepaper, 8 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Loyalty Program.
We look forward to finding out more about your business, and how we can help!