The role of marketing has always been important, with the recent events of 2020, the importance of marketing has taken on an entirely new necessity. So, we have asked our friend and marketing expert, Cody Fisher, to share some actionable tips that all retailers can use to improve their marketing and messaging.
Cody is a Certified StoryBrand Guide and the founder of Blue Ox Marketing in New York City. Enjoy the interview!
OUR CONVERSATION WITH CODY:
RFTP: First things first, for those who may not know – can you explain what it means to be a Certified StoryBrand Guide?
Cody: Absolutely. Most businesses struggle to talk about what they do. StoryBrand is a simple communication framework we use to help people clarify their message and marketing strategy so their business starts growing again. As a Guide, I work with business leaders all over the country, from leading brands to fast-growing startups, by helping them master this framework so they can generate more leads, win more customers and increase their revenue.
RFTP: What is the number one message boutique retail stores should be communicating right now?
Cody: Right now, you need to be letting your customers know that you’re still there for them. COVID-19 has devastated local economies all over the country which means customers are wondering who’s still around. If they aren’t hearing from you on a regular basis, they’re going to assume the worst. You also need to show them what it looks like to do business with you right now. Have you had to adjust your hours? Do customers need to schedule an appointment before they show up? Do they need to wear a mask inside your store? Have some of your services gone virtual? Don’t assume your customers know the answers to any of these questions. Communicate them, clearly and often, so they know what it looks like to shop with you right now. If you don’t communicate clearly, your customers are going to look for another retailer who is.
RFTP: What message(s) should retailers stay away from?
Cody: Stay away from any message that doesn’t focus on helping your customers survive and thrive right now. The moment you stop doing this is the moment you become irrelevant. Ask yourself, what problems are your customers facing right now when it comes to retail shopping? How do those problems make them feel? The more you obsess over solving your customers’ problems, the more successful you’re going to be.
RFTP: Can you share with our audience a success story using StoryBrand in the retail industry?
Cody: There’s a local retailer here in New York City that quickly pivoted to providing virtual stylist appointments as soon as the pandemic hit. They digitized their fabrics, added new products online and put together physical swatches that they could send out to customers before they met up virtually. They also started to provide closet reviews where you could Facetime or hop on a Zoom call with one of their stylists and review your wardrobe in real-time. Coming up with this kind of business strategy and knowing how to pivot your brand always starts with understanding the needs of your customers and that’s where StoryBrand comes into play. It makes your customer the hero of your brand narrative and it allows you to be the guide they’ve been looking for.
RFTP: Beyond StoryBrand which area of focus would you prioritize for a retail store or e-commerce store; social media sales, website design, etc.?
Cody: One thing I keep telling business leaders right now is that sales funnels equal survival. A sales funnel is a step-by-step process that allows you to generate leads and then through online marketing, turn those leads into paying customers. If you’re not running sales funnels right now, there’s a good chance you’re missing out on thousands of dollars of revenue each month.
RFTP: What are the three biggest potential risks small business owners/ retailers face in regards to marketing today, and what can owners do to allay some of these risks?
Cody: The truth is, most businesses waste thousands of dollars on marketing each year. If you’re a startup, you don’t have thousands of dollars to waste, which is why it’s so important to get it right. So here are the three biggest money pits I see startups fall into (and how to avoid them).
First, their messaging is confusing. It doesn’t matter how good your ad campaign or even your product is, if your messages confuse–you’re going to lose. Customers are drawn to clarity so before you invest in marketing, make sure you get your messaging right.
Second, they build a website that doesn’t place their customers at the center of the user experience. Typically, this happens when someone hires a designer or web developer to create their site. A designer will know how to make it beautiful and a developer will know how to build it. The problem is that neither of them know how to communicate or structure a website in a way that actually makes customers want to do business with you. Don’t cut corners when it comes to your website. Invest in one that will actually make you money.
Third, they only sell solutions to external problems. Here’s what I mean by that. When you’re in retail, it’s easy to think that you’re just selling people merchandise. Someone needs a dress so they buy a dress. Simple, right? But that’s not how it actually works. People don’t just buy solutions to external problems. They buy solutions to internal problems. In other words, they don’t just want a dress. They want a dress that will make them feel a certain way. If you look at the brands you love, you’ll see that each one of those brands connects with you at an internal level. If you want to build a brand that people connect with and love to follow, start by connecting with them at those internal levels.
RFTP: Are there any boutique retail stores that have a marketing message you think is a great example for other retailers to look at as a gold standard?
Cody: I like following Todd Snyder on social media and I think they’ve done a great job these past couple of weeks when it comes to creating a meaningful brand experience for their customers.
Instead of just making a token statement in support of Black Lives Matter or Pride Month, they’ve been highlighting the stories, craftsmanship and products made by individuals from the black and LGBTQIA+ communities. They also donated money, matched their associates’ donations and promoted educational resources for their customers to learn more.
This is so much bigger than a “marketing message” but that’s the point. People are looking for meaningful brands that don’t just sell solutions to external problems. They’re looking for brands that speak to the internal problems we’re facing right now as a society. More than that, they’re looking for brands that actually put action to those words.
RFTP: In today’s climate [decreased discretionary spending, covid-19, etc.] what advice would you give a local retail store with a minimal budget to be able to reach their clientele and make sales?
Cody: I think a lot of the changes we’re experiencing right now are here to stay, which is why it’s so important for you to reimagine your customer experience and take as much of it online as you can. Invest in your online presence. Make sure you have an e-commerce store. Make sure your messaging is clear and effective. Use free social media platforms and tools like Zoom, Facetime, etc. to create personalized experiences and content for your customers. These aren’t just short-term investments, these are investments in the future of your business.
RFTP: In what ways has the role of marketing changed as a result of the events of 2020? In your opinion, what does this mean for retailers moving forward?
Cody: I think 2020 has forced a lot of businesses and consumers to rethink their relationship with each other and you can see that reflected in their messaging. Consumers, now more than ever, are trying to figure out what you mean as a brand. When a brand pivots their message and responds to the issues surrounding their customers, they actually end up strengthening those relationships. This doesn’t just play out in high-level messaging though, it plays out in the day-to-day ways you do business. Are you recognizing the ways your customers have been impacted by COVID-19? Are you making it easy for them to do business with you online via your website, social media, Zoom, etc.? Are you recognizing the social issues around you? Here’s the catch though. You might have great responses to all those questions but if you’re not clearly communicating them to your customers on a regular basis, it’s not actually helping you.
RFTP: When a brand wants to rearrange and adapt the elements within their marketing mix, what should they attack first? Why?
Cody: Always start with your message because it doesn’t matter how well you do everything else, if your message isn’t right, nothing else is going to work.
RFTP: What is the best piece of business advice you have ever been given? Building on that, what advice would you give other entrepreneurs starting out?
Cody: Invest in yourself. Maybe it means hiring that business coach you’ve always wanted to hire. Or taking an online course. Or joining a mastermind. It could look like a thousand different things but always remember to invest in yourself. If you don’t, who will?