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Don’t Lose to Amazon: 13 Best Marketing Tricks You Need to Know Now

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As small business owners in the retail world, we tend to face a plethora of disadvantages due to our size when compared to our big-box competition.  A couple of weeks ago I spoke to a pet store owner that was having difficulty with how Amazon was selling his aquarium pumps for less than he was able to buy them from his distributors.  I spoke to another merchant that explained to me, he could never compete with other retailers regarding shipping costs.  Tomorrow I have a meeting scheduled with a client who says that every day he sees commercials for Amazon, and there is no way he could ever match their spending.  There is light at the end of the tunnel though.  When it comes to marketing, my smaller clients can be nimbler, and adapt faster, as well as be more hyper-focused when it comes to their targeted marketing. Today we are going to review, what is targeted marketing, market segmentation, a few targeted marketing KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) and, closed-loop marketing. 

If you missed last week’s article, Small Business: Targeted Marketing vs Branding, have no fear, you can always read that one next, although I highly recommend doing so it’s not necessary to gain insight from our topic today.  Another fantastic read is Why Email Marketing is a No Brainer for Pet Retailers by Pet Food Experts, as it focusses more on “why” instead of “what.” 

What is Targeted Marketing?

According to Wikipedia niche marketing, otherwise known as targeted marketing, “is a term used in business that focuses on selling its products and services solely on a specific target market. Despite being attractive for small businesses, niche marketing is highly considered to be a difficult marketing strategy as businesses may need thorough and in-depth research to reach their specific target market in order to succeed.  Niche marketing has become one of the most successful marketing strategies for many firms as it identifies key resources and gives the marketer a specific category to focus on and present information to. This allows companies to have a competitive advantage over other larger firms targeting the same group; as a result, it generates higher profit margins. Smaller firms usually implement this method, so that they are able to concentrate on one particular aspect and give full priority to that segment, which helps them compete with larger firms.”[32]  David Ingram the author of Target Market vs Target Audience, said:

“It is important for marketers to know exactly how their target customers use their products.”

Thankfully as small business owners we can do both very easily as most of us do not have millions of customers to keep track of.  Not to mention many of us know our business backward and forwards and if we have a product on our floor, most of the time, a member of our staff knows exactly why we sell it and how our customers are using it. 

To summarize, targeted marketing is the most successful strategy of marketing that promotes products and services solely to a specific audience based on how their target customers use the product.  This strategy often gives smaller companies a competitive advantage over their larger competitors as well as allows smaller firms to generate higher revenues.  When put that way, I find it hard to believe that there are still millions of small businesses out there that are not using targeted marketing.  If you are one of these retailers, I would love to hear your reasoning, make sure to post below, as your feedback could help hundreds of other retailers just like you. 

Market Segmentation

In the section above we mentioned that targeted marketing focusses on selling its products and services to a specific target market.  Unless you are a merchant who only sells one version of one product, it will be important for you to segment your market.  For this, I recommend market segmentation.  According to Investopedia:

“Market segmentation is a marketing term that refers to aggregating prospective buyers into groups or segments with common needs and who respond similarly to a marketing action. Market segmentation enables companies to target different categories of consumers who perceive the full value of certain products and services differently from one another.”

  For our needs, we will be focused on purchasing habits, zip codes, and birthdays.  While there are many other categories, we can use for market segmentation, I find these the easiest for my clients to do the least amount of work with the highest return on investment. 

Purchasing Habits: Rather than define purchasing habits I will use three examples from three verticals, that small business owners can potentially glean intel for their future marketing endeavors.
  1. A pet store owner can send out an email blast to their small breed dog owners once a month for dog food, dog treats, dog toys, special events, and clothes that all focus on small breed canines.  You can also create campaigns designed for “win back” aka customers who used to come in weekly but have not been in for over two months. 
  2. A liquor store can send out an email to their whiskey drinkers every other Friday, informing them of creative whiskey recipes, discounted whiskey brands, or new shipments of unique whiskeys. You can also advertise craft brewing seminars, the craft of the month clubs, or special beer events to your craft beer buyers.
  3. A garden center can send out send seasonal email blasts to people who have attended their Christmas tree sales, pumpkin patch picking, Mother’s Day events, or haunted hayrides.  You can also check in on people who purchased annuals last year but have yet to come in this year for their replacements. 

Zip Codes: This is very important market segmentation for a majority of my clients, as most verticals run into issues driving traffic into their stores from greater distances.  For instance, I may really love my old pet store but since the move, I am unlikely to travel 12 city miles to shop for dog food.  Many liquor stores have the same issues. 

Birthdays:  Who doesn’t love birthday emails with special offers?  If you create a smart campaign that provides discounts focused on purchasing habits, zip codes, AND Birthdays, it’s bound to be a success if done correctly. 

A Few KPI’s

Peter Drucker is a very well known and often quoted business analyst.  One of my favorite quotes of all time that lends its wisdom to almost every aspect of my life is, “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”  If you don’t know me, it’s important to understand that I am a very goal-oriented person.  I utilize math, science, and psychology in some of my most mundane of tasks.  I just bought my first home and told myself it was important to time how long it takes me to mow, edge, and clean my yard.  Will I ever get any good data from it? Most likely no, but unless I measure it, how am I ever going to know if I’m getting better at it, haha.  The same could be said about your credit score.  If you don’t track and record it, how do you really know if you’re improving it?  So In this segment, we will discuss open rates, click-through rates, and unsubscribes. We will discuss the most important one- revenue in the next section, closed-loop marketing. 

Click-Through Rates (CTR):  According to Wikipedia CTR’s are “the ratio of users who click on a specific link to the number of total users who view a page, email, or advertisement. It is commonly used to measure the success of an online advertising campaign for a particular website as well as the effectiveness of email campaigns.”  A good CTR will vary from campaign to campaign.  Certain variables such as vertical, industry, audience, content, etc. can play a large role in these variations.  2% is considered the cross-industry average and can be a great place to start.

Open Rates One of the best ways to tell whether your email strategy is working. This number shows what percentage of your audience opens the emails you send them. If you have a great open rate, it usually means your subject lines resonate with your audience.  According to Mail Chimp, the avg open rate for all Industries is 20.81%.

Unsubscribes: Transparent churn occurs when your target email recipient clicks that unsubscribe link. This includes those who go on to report your email as spam, as well as those addresses that are lost due to hard bounces. Hard bounces, for reference, happen when you’ve sent to an invalid address either due to typos, incorrect information, or domains that no longer exist.  According to Smart Insights, the industry average is 0.49%, but again this will vary greatly from vertical to vertical. 

Closed-Loop Marketing

The last term we will discuss today is closed-loop marketing.  According to Marketing-Schools.org

“Closed-loop marketing is a highly effective method of collecting and analyzing customer data from multiple channels and using the information to create targeted content for groups of customers). It provides a continuous cycle of obtaining customer’s preferences and adjusting the marketing strategy to apply.”

With the appropriate POS like Counterpoint or Pet Rewards POS, a merchant can create campaigns via Customer Connect easily directly from the portal, without having to export or import data.  More importantly, the customer will be able to track KPIs like CTR, open rates, unsubscribes, and most importantly revenue.  All too often my clients tell me they cannot actually tie revenue to marketing campaigns.  If they pay for a billboard, or tv commercial, they have absolutely no way to know, if that’s what drove in the sales.  With the two retail solutions, I mentioned above customers will easily know what revenue came in from the campaigns so they can make sure their campaigns are an actual success vs. a virtual one. 

That’s all I have for you today, join us next week when we discuss Small Business Branding, which will be the third installment of the Small Business: Targeted Marketing vs Branding series. 


Mark Nelms is a Business Development Manager for Pet Rewards POS.  He has conducted over 400 interviews with retailers from almost every vertical and size.  In prior roles, he’s assisted clients like Cumberland Packaging Corporation (Sweet N’ Low), The New England Patriots, and NCR (National Cash Register.)


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