Diversification is not a dirty word

The modern retailer has a huge number of sales and promotional tools at its disposal.
In addition to the accepted ‘must haves’, such as great premises, an attractive website, interesting stock, knowledgeable and friendly staff, and engaging social media, there is so much more that can be done to grab a customer’s attention.

Sell the sizzle, not the sausage. This was something I was told in sales training some years ago, and while the analogy still makes me laugh today, the message certainly stuck. In the current economic climate, is it important for retailers and brands to stay focused on their key message, or is it necessary to diversify? Perhaps a balance of both old and new ideas is the best way to go, to stay fluid as a business and to tap into potential new revenue streams.

I would always advise businesses to stay loyal to their USPs. There’s enough uncertainty in the consumer already, so it’s essential to identify your strengths… and weaknesses! Maximising your strengths can be done by undertaking many activities. For an IBD, I would recommend offering some of the following added value experiences in order to maximise customer relationships. Purely online retailers can be more aggressive on price, which means that the traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ IBDs need to offer something different in order to be competitive. Making the shopping experience alluring and memorable is the challenge.

So what to do? Remember: sell the sizzle, not the sausage! Events are a great way of engaging with new and existing customers. Guest speakers, cycling film nights, wine and food tasting, ‘buddying up’ with local suppliers, maintenance workshops, guided rides out and demos all offer the consumer more than just the sale. Work with local riders, the nearest trail centre, venue, craft brewery or coffee shop to deliver a unique experience. You may even share the event costs and generate revenue from the day, as the event and the potential promotional activity from it are mutually beneficial.

For demos, invest in demo stock and encourage the brands that you work with to support you with product, personnel, time, materials and promotion. Guided rides out are a fantastic way of engaging with local riders. Coaches and instructors sell the cycling lifestyle.Starting and finishing at the store if possible and offering beginner, intermediary and advanced ride options with a coffee and cake is an excellent way of engaging with cyclists from novice to advanced.

Become advocates for cycling in your area by supporting the local scene, with trail and cycle path maintenance days, sponsored athletes, teams, a shop club or supply bikes and product to cycling ambassadors. Supplying bikes, product or support to racers, teams, clubs, journalists and bloggers in your area exposes the store to the core enthusiast, non-cyclists and local press.

Branded clothing and bikes are a great way of getting your store seen on the scene, at the track, in the chain gang or out on the trails. Branded clothing stands out, builds brand loyalty and connects with the grassroots. It helps to create and sustain your own community of riders who endorse you on social media and spread the word with their friends.

I once saw a store with branded/sandwich board bikes which looked very effective and worked well as a moving advertisement. Perhaps even look to make deliveries by bike within your town or city, it would make for a great news piece and would help promote the store, the cycling carbon footprint and health benefits. Mobile or call-out maintenance is on the increase and this could be something to offer when your customers have increasingly busy lives.

Offering discount with local businesses, schools and public sector workers grows the cycling commuter market and opens up your services to the surrounding environment. Stores can be in danger of feeling isolated particularly when economic conditions are tight and this type of community outreach activity is an effective way of generating new business and inviting/encouraging repeat business.

If you have a large physical space, don’t just overfill it with stock, fill it with cycling art, furniture for customers to use, and music. Don’t be afraid to fill “space with space”, sometimes as John Ruskin said: “less is more”. Give careful consideration to the retail experience you are offering. Crowded and cluttered stores do not create an environment conducive to buying, while at the same time empty retail spaces do not inspire the consumer. Find a balance between the quiet and noisy spaces in your store.

If your store has large wall space for art, invite a local artist or arts school to create a cycling mural or offer the opportunity as a competition prize, which would certainly create some column inches in the local rag!

I often get asked: “Will all of the above distract me and spread my resources too thin?” It is true to say that many of the activities need investment, certainly investment in time, personnel and some money, but many of these can be done on a shoestring, or with co-sponsorship. Many of the activities should run as best practices alongside your day-to-day promotional activity and will help to fill any voids in your marketing strategy. We all have peaks and troughs both personally and professionally, but it’s variety that keeps us moving forward!

All of the above makes great content for your social media, website, blog and any marketing materials you have, it perfectly accompanies conventional advertising, SEO, ad words, newsletters, mail outs and competitions. It brings the store out into the community and promotes your services!

Be creative with it, have fun and remember there isn’t a one solution fits all, bespoke marketing solutions work the best!

So, sell the lifestyle: “The proverbial sizzle and the sausage will take care of itself.”

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