Question: Faced with the usual seasonal slowdown, I would like some ideas for marketing my retail business during the off season. What do you suggest for someone with a limited budget for advertising?

Answer: Marketing is not something one can turn off and on as the need arises. There are a host of online social media tools that can increase your visibility without breaking the bank. As with any business endeavor, successful marketing requires careful research, planning, and a wise use of your time and resources.

The key is to think of marketing not as a single action but a combination of steps designed to identify, attract, and retain profitable customers. You must find ways to differentiate your business from the competition. This encompasses everything from your company name, logo, advertisements, networking, public relations and community involvement.

You can learn from your competition, but what works for them may not necessarily be good for you. Marketing strategies need to be tailored to your business and customer base. To prepare yourself, create a detailed profile of your ideal target customer.

As you design your marketing message list the benefits your customer will receive.

Be certain to highlight the special knowledge and expertise that sets you apart from your competition. Look for ways to simplify the buying and decision-making process.

Put your marketing budget in proper perspective. Try to set a budget and pace that lets you market continuously, not just during seasonal slowdowns. The off season is a great time to take stock of items that have languished too long on your shelves. To increase foot traffic, consider deep discounts while, at the same time, previewing new arrivals at full price.

Customer’s memories are short and they are constantly bombarded with messages on a daily basis. Your efforts must be ongoing or people will quickly forget. Repetition really does pay off. A radio, TV, or newspaper ad is of little value unless it is shown many times over an extended period.

Be sure to match your message to your primary market. If local, then that’s where your focus should be. Broadly focused TV or newspaper ads may be the wrong choice. Instead, consider neighborhood, community or regional publications.

The Naples Chapter of SCORE is pleased to provide an excellent guide to developing a 12-month marketing plan and how to integrate it into your company’s business plan. To access, log on to https://naples.score.org/resource/marketing-plan-guide

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Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Naples Chapter of SCORE. To learn more about management issues facing your small business, contact SCORE Naples. Counseling is provided FREE of charge to all U.S. citizens and legal aliens.  To register call 239-430-0081 or visit our web site  http://naples.score.org/mentors .

A counselor will contact you within 48 hours.  Please include your name, email address and a contact phone number.