As the owner of a small retail business, you know how important it is to develop marketing campaigns and initiatives that:

  • Attract new leads to your store
  • Nurture prospects through the sales funnel
  • Keep customers coming back for more

Basically, your approach to marketing is what allows your brand to stand out from the crowd, and to keep your customers engaged in moving forward.

Of course, your competition knows all of this, too—meaning they’ll also constantly be trying just as hard to attract these same customers to their stores through their own marketing techniques.

For the consumer, this unfortunately means they’re constantly being hit with a barrage of marketing messages from a variety of companies vying for their attention (and their business). In turn, the many messages coming from various brands within an industry can end up blending into one another in the eyes of the customer.

Needless to say, you don’t want your message to get lost in the shuffle.

To avoid having your marketing efforts get swept away in a sea of all-too-familiar campaigns and initiatives—that is, for your marketing efforts to accomplish what you’d set out to accomplish—you’re going to need to get a little creative in your approach.

In this article, we’re going to discuss three creative ways to market your business that will help your brand stand out among your competition—and generate a huge amount of engagement from your target audience in the process.

A Quick Note on Harnessing Your Creative “License”

We’ll revisit this message a few times as we go through this article, but it’s worth mentioning up front that being creative for creativity’s sake is not the best course of action.

Yes, the strategies we’ll discuss in the following sections are unique, weird and even a bit edgy. And yes, they certainly can be used to generate a following for your brand (and to engage further with this following).

But this is only if the creativity, weirdness and/or edginess of your marketing campaigns goes appreciated by your target audience.

Conversely, “being creative” just to stand out—without considering how a specific campaign or approach will be received—can often be a recipe for disaster. In fact, even some of the largest companies in the world have faced backlash after leaving their creative license unchecked.

The point is, while you do want to look for ways to go above and beyond what’s considered “traditional” or “typical” within your industry when creating new marketing initiatives, you still need to develop these initiatives with your audience’s needs and expectations at the front of your mind.

3 Creative Marketing Strategies Your Retail Business Should Be Using

Keeping in mind everything we just said, let’s now dig into three creative strategies you may want to consider using to market your retail business.

In each section, we’ll:

  • Discuss why the strategy is so effective
  • Dig into examples of companies “doing it right”
  • Explain the key lessons to take away from each section

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Get the Most Out of Each Platform and Channel You Use

By today’s standards, you probably know that you should at least be using a multichannel approach to marketing—with your sights set on going fully omnichannel at some point in the near future.

The main reason for this?

Your customers expect it.

Case in point, data collected by Marketing Week shows that the average consumer uses nearly 6 different channels, or touchpoints, along their path to purchase. Going along with this, companies that cater to their customers at each of these touchpoints (that is, companies that use an omnichannel approach to marketing) see an average 91 percent increase in year-over-year retention.

But it’s not enough to simply be “present” on more than one channel. And, as time goes on, even providing the basic value that omnichannel marketing provides consumers will eventually be considered the “new normal.”

In other words, your goal, here, should be to take full advantage of everything the marketing platforms and channels you use have to offer.

If you’re on Instagram (which you should be), don’t just haphazardly post pictures and videos every once in a while; develop a content strategy that involves live videos, Stories, and Shoppable posts.

If you have an online retail store and brick-and-mortar shops, you’ll want to enable your customers to continue their journey on- or offline—whichever they prefer.

For example, furniture store Crate and Barrel embraced the “showrooming” trend a few years back, introducing tablets to their in-store experience; this enabled customers to create wishlists, add items to their cart, and even make purchases all while browsing the physical store. In turn, the actual brick-and-mortar retail store becomes a marketing channel in itself.

Takeaway

Simply put, if your customers are less than impressed with your presence on a given marketing channel, you might as well not even be there in the first place.

If you’re looking to gain a presence on a specific marketing platform or channel, be sure to take advantage of each and every feature the platform offers—and do so in a way that provides optimum value to your customers.

Forge Unexpected Partnerships With Other Brands

As you probably don’t need us to tell you, expanding your retail business in any way isn’t exactly easy.

Whether you’re looking to expand to a new geographic audience or attract an entirely new demographic altogether, it can take a lot of research and trial-and-error to gain any sort of visibility or traction.

But that’s only if you go it alone.

If you want to gain some instant visibility (and, better yet, credibility), you might want to consider partnering up with an established company that operates adjacent to your niche in some way.

For example, Tivoli Audio works with a variety of companies to create co-branded speakers and audio products. Here’s the result of a collaboration between Tivoli and NPR:

It’s a win-win situation: NPR’s audience is exposed to Tivoli’s products, and NPR gets some publicity in front of Tivoli’s customer base.

You don’t necessarily need to co-create a product when partnering with another brand, either. A few other suggestions:

  • Co-sponsor a charity event
  • Run a pop-up shop at an already-established event
  • Co-create marketing content and campaigns

The best part? Since you’ll be working with another creative team, you’ll have even more resources at your disposal to develop highly-effective marketing campaigns moving forward.

Takeaways

However you decide to proceed, it’s essential that you find partner brands whose audience overlaps with your own—and whose audience will appreciate the collaboration, as well.

For example, earlier this year, Bud Light and HBO collaborated to create this memorable Super Bowl commercial:

While we haven’t exactly crunched the numbers, it’s pretty safe to say there’s a major overlap between people who love football, beer and Game of Thrones, right?

Once you’ve defined your new target audience and identified potential brands to collaborate with, this is where your new creativeness comes into play. You’ll need to think about ways you can work with these brands that not only benefit their company as well as your own, but also “make sense” to the customer.

If you can manage to provide value to your new audience through your new partnership, you should have no problem bringing them aboard as customers of your brand.

Build a Community

A big part of customer retention is making your customers feel like they belong within your community of loyal followers—both as consumers and as people.

Of course, simply telling your customers that they’re “like family” to your company isn’t all that new and exciting. Really, this approach has been used so much that the message has come to be pretty meaningless by today’s standards.

Instead of merely paying lip service to your audience, actually put in the effort to build authentic relationships with your customers, and to get them to become more engaged members of your community.

For example, Chick-fil-A—famous for their “Eat Mor Chikin” marketing campaigns—celebrates Cow Appreciation Day every July, inviting patrons to wear cow-related clothing, jewelry or even costumes in exchange for a free entree.

Does it work? Well, the fast-food giant reports that over 1.8 million people participated in 2017 alone—and you can be sure it wasn’t the last time they visited their local Chick-fil-A, either.

Now, you can also showcase your willingness to be “more than a company” to your customers by being more “real” with them in certain situations. For example, Netflix sent out this tweet during the 2017 holiday season:

Surely, anyone who has an obsession with Christmas movies (and who fits Netflix’s target demographic) would see a tweet like this, instantly get the joke and then feel like the people at Netflix just “get” them. By breaking down the brand-customer barrier and being more personable in their approach to marketing (especially on social media), Netflix has become known as one of the most authentic and customer-centric brands in the world.

Takeaways

The key to building a community around your retail brand is in knowing your customers inside and out.

Going back to our examples from above, it’s clear that both Chick-fil-A and Netflix know exactly how their respective initiatives or approaches will be received by their audience:

  • Chick-fil-A knows their die-hard followers and average customers alike will happily don a silly costume or t-shirt for some free chicken
  • Netflix knows their customer base enough to know they can poke some fun at them without really insulting them

As we said, telling your customers doesn’t do much of anything. Instead, you need to tap into who they really are, and engage with them—in ways they’ll appreciate—that no other brand in your industry is doing.

It’s simple:

If you can make them feel like they belong to the community that you’ve created, they’ll have no reason to look elsewhere.