Posts tagged marketing campaigns
Adology recently posted a blog entry entitled Marketers Promote Customer Service as a Competitive Edge. In it, an Empathica study suggested companies should begin promoting exceptional customer service as a way to separate themselves from their competition in the marketplace.
Indeed, customer service is an important component of the entire brand experience. But should we be promoting this as a core offering?
A self-proclamation of “great customer service” falls on deaf ears. Unless you happen to be the CMO for a huge multi-national company and winner of multiple J.D. Power Customer Satisfaction Awards, all a potential customer has to say is “prove it.” The only way to “prove it” is to do it day after day after day.
Your patrons expect good service. It’s a necessity of running a viable business in America.
Make improving customer service an internal program. Train employees how to handle these precious customer relationships. Make sure staff understands the power of word-of-mouth, and the positive and negative returns that flow from it. Identify and verbalize the value of your customers, and what it costs you to gain trust and profits from those customers. Millions of dollars are spent on award-winning advertising campaigns, only to be wasted when a prospect phones a call-center employee who’s having a bad day.
Concentrate on marketing what makes your company unique. If “awesome service” is the only thing that makes your company great, what happens when the competition begins providing the same level of service? They’ll be claiming “me too” and you’ll be stuck looking for something else to separate you from the pack.
If the food at the restaurant stinks, it doesn’t matter how great the waiter is.
Promote your brand’s differentiation. If customers have a great experience, they’ll tell their friends.
Because they have three off-campus locations, Beck’s Bookstore has faced certain challenges when it comes to reaching their prospective student customers.
“We can’t utilize the typical lines of communication that our contracted stores do,” explained Patrick Olson, who heads marketing & development for the stores. “So, we’re always looking for new ways to stand out and be noticed.”
As a part of that effort, the store has expanded their marketing initiatives far beyond the traditional approach. For several years, they have partnered with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to present their brand in new and innovative ways.
“Our target market is students all over the Chicagoland area, especially during buyback,” he explained. “So, this is an effective solution that allows us to spread our message throughout the city.”
Combining both print and digital formats, the ads appear in specifically selected locations that are high-traffic and heavily populated by students. For instance, they can be found on the ‘L,’ in parking garages, and even on buses. In addition, the stores also hire employees to wave arrow ads on busy street corners near the store, and offer several giveaways to encourage even more traffic.
“Students are on the go, so it’s important to be more active in your marketing approach,” he said. “We’re especially focused on that effort with the incoming class each year. If we can gain their business once, we know we can keep them coming back. It’s all about ensuring that we get our name out there directing them into the store.”
Once in the store, Olson and the staff go above and beyond to retain customers with unmatched service. His philosophy goes back to the same ideals that the company was founded on.
“My grandfather established Beck’s Bookstore on the value of customer service, and we believe there’s still a market for that today,” Olsen described. “It all comes down to convenience, competitive price, and customer service and we’re dedicated to offering all of those aspects here.”
To other stores looking to enhance their marketing efforts, Olson suggests trying to understand what appeals to your students.
“Every school and store is different,” he said. “But, the one fact that will always hold true is that your students are part of a community. Try to intertwine with the area and learn how you can use that connection to reach out to potential customers. The more you’re involved in the community, the better!”
Nyla Woolard, manager of Black Hawk College Bookstore, is always trying to keep up with the latest trends. So, when she saw that the April Marketing Plan on Foreword Online included Facebook Cover Photos based on what’s popular with today’s students, she knew she had to implement one for buyback.
“They were all so cute that my staff actually fought over which one we were going to use first!” she explained. “But, as soon as I saw the ‘Stache of Cash mustache theme I knew that was it. I’m a huge Pinterest fan and you can’t go on the site without seeing mustache merchandise everywhere; it’s very popular right now, and I knew students would love it!”
Once the theme was set, Woolard decided to run with it. She branded this semester’s buyback as the Mustache Bash and turned to Pinterest to find ways to create an entertaining atmosphere.
“I knew we could have some fun with this theme,” she said. “We had to operate on a pretty small budget though, so I wanted to find ways that we could do everything ourselves.”
To spread the word, Woolard customized the free poster template that came along with the Cover Photo on Foreword Online with her store’s specific buyback dates. She also added the image to a postcard which was handed out at the register.
“Students always stop by and ask when they can sell their books, so it’s great to be able to hand them a reminder that they can hold on to,” she explained. “The mustache theme got them talking right away, and they were curious to see what was coming.”
Woolard and her staff created ‘Mustaches on a Stick’ as an incentive for the first 150 students who sold their books at the store. By constructing the ‘staches from cardstock and adhering them to sticks purchased at a local craft store, they kept the cost to a minimum.
“We put a tag around each one that said ‘I got my Stache of Cash at the BHC Bookstore Buyback’,” she explained. “Our hopes were that students would show them off to friends and that they’d be a conversation starter. It definitely worked; everyone loved them!”
The theme didn’t stop there, though. Woolard also came up with unique games to amuse students as they sold their books.
“Every three minutes, we had a timer go off and that meant it was time to play ‘Pin the Stache on 1970’s Burt Reynolds’,” she described. “We blindfolded each participant and whoever got the mustache the closest to Burt’s mouth would win a free drink from the store. It was a big hit!”
The store’s staff got involved in the effort, too, by cheering on participants.
“They were really working the crowd!” added Woolard. “It was a great way for us to interact with our customers on a more personal level and have some fun with them.”
Woolard even planned activities to help those waiting in line pass the time.
“We printed pictures of 20 different mustaches on 8×10 sheets of paper and hung them in the hallway outside our store,” she said. “Students who were in line to sell their books could play ‘Name the Celebrity ‘Stache by filling out a form with their guesses, then submitting them for a chance to win prizes.”
Staff then put those who submitted the correct answers into a drawing for gas gift cards.
“We purchased the gift cards using our MBS Marketing Allowance, so it didn’t cost us anything!” she said.
Throughout the buy, several customers commented on the unique theme, providing positive feedback.
“The younger generation totally gets it and even some of our older faculty and non-traditional students find it hilarious,” she explained.
Overall, Woolard considers the new theme a success as the store spent less than $20 on their ‘stache of fun activities and were able to generate excitement from their customers.
“Buyback is not always a happy day for students, so anything that we can do to make it more enjoyable is worth it,” she said. “We’re definitely going to keep it going and try another fun theme like this next semester!”
The new Facebook Timeline is here and on Friday your Page will have to convert to the new layout. We understand that it can be overwhelming to make the switch, so we’re bringing you April’s Marketing Plan a little early to make the transition as smooth as possible!
This month, we’re offering you 16 creative Cover Photos that will capture your fans attention! We’ve designed these images with your students in mind, integrating the latest trends into each theme! Better yet, we’ve added promotional posters to go along with each Cover Photo so that you can implement an entire campaign for buyback, rush, or anytime in between!
Facebook does have some guidelines for Cover Photos and, based on our interpretation of their rules, we have ensured that each of our images meets their standards.
Check them all out and add one to your Timeline today!
Marketing is an essential aspect of any retail store’s success. But, with strict budget constraints, many struggle to implement effective strategies that will reach their target audience.
With no marketing allowance in their budget, Mount Mercy University Campus Store recently overcame that obstacle with creative, no-cost advertising options devised by their students.
“One of the marketing professors on campus is very pro-bookstore and she decided to have her students help us advertise,” explained Janie Mills, manager. “By working through our school’s division of the international non-profit organization SIFE, which stands for Students in Free Enterprise, her class partnered with us to plan, organize and implement various marketing initiatives.”
For instance, the SIFE students’ first goal was to bring awareness to the store’s soft goods.
“They proposed the idea of live mannequin modeling, where they would each wear a selected outfit found at our store and pose in high-traffic areas around campus,” she said. “We’d never done anything like it before, so we thought, ‘Why not?!’”
To start, the students each picked out an outfit that they wanted to model. They then selected the times and locations that they believed would draw the largest crowds of their peers.
“They modeled in the cafeteria during lunch hour and other common campus buildings during high-traffic times,” Teresa Wery, assistant manager, explained. “Because this was going on during the last week before Winter Break, the students were also holding homemade decorative gift tags that let passersby know that their outfits could be purchased at the campus store; it was very effective!”
Drawing additional traffic as well as sales, the store believes the new promotion helped increase visibility.
“We saw an increase of $8,000 in overall sales from the previous year and a $3,000 increase in soft good sales, which was great!” Mills described. “Buyback was going on at the same time, too, and many students were bringing their cash straight into the store to make a purchase. Because we had recently moved, several students told us that they hadn’t even known where our new location was before seeing the live models, so it was great to gain those new customers!”
That’s not all the SIFE team students did, either! They also suggested that the store offer color-coded candy canes each assigned with a different discount value to reward those who shopped there during the holidays.
“Before a transaction was complete, each customer could draw one candy cane and were then awarded the corresponding discount. We even had a couple that offered a free item; everyone loved it!” Wery said.
The SIFE students also decorated the store with festive holiday décor and promoted a ‘Buy Local’ campaign, as well.
“Overall, it was a great partnership and we were very grateful for their efforts,” Wery said. “Most importantly, the students enjoyed helping and seemed really excited to be able to make a difference!”
The project also helped shine some light on the way a college store operates, enhancing their image in the eyes of students.
“I think it gave them a different perspective on the store, and made them realize that we’re not the big, bad bookstore after all!” Mills added.
Moving forward, the store plans to continue to partner with student employees for help in marketing as well as other areas.
“One of the students really took the bull by the horns during the project and was very interested in assisting us further,” Mills said. “Her professor created an internship for her so that she could continue working with us for the next two years; we’re looking forward to seeing all that she comes up with!”
To others who may be struggling with the monetary requirements for marketing, Mills has one suggestion, “Get your students involved as much as you can!”
“Let them take ownership of their campus store and be a part of the process,” Wery added. “They know what your customers like and respond to, and they are willing to share that knowledge if you ask! It’s a great partnership because they get valuable work experience for their resume and your store receives important feedback!”
Between rogue buyers and online retailers, students have options when it comes to selling their books. So, this month, we devised a marketing plan that will help you save market share by offering students an extra incentive to shop with you first!
Similar to a retail reward program, Buyback Bucks are vouchers awarded based on the total value of books a student sells during your buy, and then serve as gift cards for in-store merchandise. Not only can Buyback Bucks help you gain and retain student customers, they’re also easy to implement!
In fact, we’ve created all the marketing materials you’ll need to spread the word about your promotion including a customizable Buyback Buck template, web banner, Facebook profile picture, and a promotional poster. All you have to do is follow our simple instructions; check it out!
Boosting your Facebook fan count is usually no easy task. But, with our newest Marketing Plan, you can watch the numbers climb while you sit back and relax!
We make it easy to host a Spring Break Photo Contest that will not only encourage your students to engage with your page, but also to recruit their friends to do the same! All students have to do is snap a photo in their school gear and submit it to your store for a chance to win great prizes! And, all you have to do is follow our step-by-step instructions!
Plus, we created five distinct marketing materials that let you spread the word with across various channels, including a customizable email and flyer, website banner, and even graphics for a third-party Facebook app!
Don’t miss out; click here to get started!
Almost every college store in the industry advertises their services. What many forget, however, is the importance of the follow-up effort. Without determining if a promotion was successful in reaching its intended target audience, stores risk losing revenue as well as the opportunity to increase sales and traffic.
Understanding the significance of this strategy, University of Milwaukee Bookstore recently reevaluated their marketing plan to look for new ways to communicate with students.
“We’d been advertising in our student newspaper for a long time but we noticed that it wasn’t producing the same results, in terms of traffic, as it had in the past,” explained Caity Laubach, website and advertising specialist. “Even when our advertisements offered free merchandise, we were seeing very low redemption rates, so we decided to explore new options.”
After some brainstorming, the store’s staff decided to reach out a coffee shop, The Grind, located across from their entrance. After initiating a partnership, the store decided take advantage of The Grind’s Java Jackets as prime real estate for their marketing messages.
“We print our own stickers and there’s no cost to put them on the coffee sleeves, so it was very affordable,” Laubach said. “Since the coffee shop is so close, we thought it could be a good way to encourage those students who are already in the building to visit our store.”
Rather than simply add this new strategy into their current marketing plan, however, they decided to run the promotion on both the Java Jackets and in the newspaper simultaneously, to determine which was more effective. By redeeming either, students could receive a free water bottle.
“We ran the newspaper ad for a full week, which cost us nearly $800 compared to $75 for a day and a half of the coffee sleeve promotion,” she explained.
It didn’t take long, however, for the more effective channel to become clear.
“Coffee sleeves immediately started pouring in,” she said. “Within 20 minutes we had a line in the store! Out of the 1200 that were passed out, we had a total of 200 redeemed. On the other hand, we only had 2 students bring in the newspaper ad. ”
What was more interesting according to Laubach, however, was the longevity of the Java Jackets promotion sustained.
“Although we had a big rush at the beginning, students turned them in up to two weeks after they had been passed out at The Grind,” she said. “It showed us that they did find the offer valuable enough to redeem, even after all that time, which confirmed that the majority of our customers simply don’t read the ads in our newspaper.”
Based on the results, Laubach and the rest of the UWM team decided to expand their Java Jackets promotion, adding not only sales but also events such as buyback to the sleeves.
“It’s definitely the biggest attention grabber we’ve found and a very lucrative way to reach our students,” she said. “It took a little experimenting to decide where we should be investing our efforts, but it was worth it!”
Now, the store is exploring other ways to spread the word about their offerings.
“We’re going to put screensavers advertising our textbook options on all of the ATMs on campus,” she added. “We’re hoping it will grab the attention of both students using the ATM, as well as those just passing by.”
Based on this experience, Laubach encourages all college stores to uncover which marketing materials their students are most likely engage with.
“It’s so important to keep your audience in mind in all that you do,” she said. “If you can determine what they like, you’ll be so much more successful. A great place to start is with your student employees and co-workers; ask them for their feedback and use it to your benefit. It’s really helped me a lot!”
Every semester, students receive a letter grade measuring their progress and success in various classes. Stacy Elofir, director of University Store at Towson University, believes college stores should be no exception.
After a transformative year, Elofir wanted to find a new way to showcase her store’s hard work. That’s why she decided to compile a summary of their accomplishments in one easy-to-read document.
“It’s our report card; our time to shine,” she said. “We’ve done so many things this year that had never been done before. My staff and I work really hard to reach that goal and I think it’s important to review the immense amount of we achieved with limited resources.”
Although she had presented similar annual reports for previous positions within the industry, this was a first for University Store.
“We’re operating in an increasingly challenging and dynamic industry,” explained Elofir. “As the director of an independent store, I feel constantly challenged to show my store’s value and prove that we are competitive. This is just one more way to demonstrate that effort.”
As a first step in the process, she designed a structure for the report.
“I knew that NACS offered templates, so I started by looking through their resources,” she said. “I really wanted to include the store’s graphics, however, so that the final result looked as though it could stand alongside our marketing materials. I ultimately used their suggestions but created my own hybrid version.”
Based on a series of strategic initiatives, Elofir then had to decide which content to include, which proved to be no easy task.
“Honestly that was the hardest part!” she admitted. “There was so much to include but I knew it was important to keep it as simple as possible. I integrated a combination of text and graphics to visually balance the page and provided as many statistics as possible to back up each point.”
Elofir began the report with a broad summary of the various ways the store provided value to their students as well as to the University throughout the year. She then elaborated on those areas she felt were integral aspects of the store’s success including expanded course materials and savings, clothing and gifts, new products, online sales, and marketing, with more detail.
Although each of these components work together to enhance the student experience, the store’s rental program is one service that sticks out as most significant this year, according to Elofir.
Starting with just 4 titles in July of 2010, University Store has seen tremendous growth in their program with over 500 titles available in the spring of 2011!
“We took a significant risk by restructuring our textbook department over the past year,” she explained. “Because we rent books at 45% of the selling price, fiscally it looks like we’re losing money. But, our program has been so successful that, at this point, 75% of our titles have been rented for 3 semesters or more. So, I was excited to be able to show that all of this hard work has paid off in dollars.”
Saving students more than $600,000 over the cost of purchasing textbooks new, their rental program has also made great strides at enhancing student perception.
“It’s been a resounding success,” said Elofir. “I’m very proud of our numbers and the impact they have made on our students. Our store has integrated basically everything MBS has available, from price comparison to a campus marketplace, to help us stay competitive, and the rental program is just one example of how that has paid off!”
Their program isn’t stopping there, though.
“I left for vacation and asked my textbook manager to submit a list of about 500 rental titles,” she added. “I came back and she told me we were going to have 640!”
It’s that strong dedication that Elofir believes has made the store what it is today.
“I’ve been blessed with an extraordinary staff that’s been so receptive to my energy,” she elaborated. “I think it’s really important to trust your employees and allow them to do their jobs. It’s amazing what can happen when you’re passionate about your job and you surround yourself with people who are just as passionate, too!”
After presenting her report to the campus’ vice president of Auxiliary Services, Elofir received such positive feedback that she has since shared it with others.
“We have a unique entity on our campus called the Incubator, where small businesses can pool their resources in order to perform at a higher level,” she explained. “So, I sent my report to the director to help identify areas of growth for our store. I’m determined to make our foothold so strong on campus that no one would even think of replacing us. “
Based on this input, Elofir and her team identified several ways the store can further develop their success in the future.
“We’re planning to update our website with customer friendly graphics, partner with the Athletics department to link from their site, create web-only sales and promotions, integrate Google Analytics to our webpage, and expand our mobile options, including the use of QR codes,” she said. “You just have to be fearless and take the leap. If you wait, it will be too late.”
Along with those plans, Elofir has one major area in mind that she also hopes to expand.
“My main goal is to make this the students’ store,” she revealed. “We already have 65 students working in the store, which is huge; but that’s a number I want to keep increasing. I’m hoping to eventually have students involved in every process of the store from picking out new products in focus groups to volunteering to run events. The more that we allow them to be a part of our store, the more likely they are to be loyal to us.”
For others in the industry looking to better their business, Elofir suggests first finding a focus.
“Identify one or two things that you know you can do,” she said. “That alone will have a significant impact. You don’t have to do it all at once.”
But, above all, she advises stores to refer back to one simple rule they likely learned long ago.
“The best way to get an ‘A’ in school is to do what your teacher wants you to do,” she explained. “Working at an independent store is the same. If you can find out what both your school and your students want, then your success rate will be that much higher. It’s all about providing the value that your customers are looking for!”
Want to know more about how Stacy is overcoming obstacles to position her store for success? She’ll share her exclusive defensive strategies to combat the competition in our upcoming webinar, Battle for Books. Join the rally; register today!
Social Media Celebration Series:
Wichita State University Bookstore Partners with their Students for Success
Today is Social Media Day, a worldwide celebration of the revolution of instant, real-time media. In honor of social media and its influence on the collegiate retail industry, enjoy the last installment of our three-part series of articles focusing on stores that are connecting with their students by using this forum to its fullest!
With an online following of over 1,000 users, the Wichita State University Bookstore is always looking for ways to keep their social media sites fresh and students engaged. Unlike many other stores, however, they didn’t have a dedicated marketing department. So, to generate new ideas, they assembled their own team.
Including everyone from store employees to students, the team meets weekly to bounce around ideas that fuel their innovative and continually updated marketing campaigns.
“We found that when you put together a group of people with completely different backgrounds you can output some great ideas as a team!” explained Noura Souccane, accounts payable and member of the bookstore marketing group.
It was in these meetings, in fact, that the store came up with a new approach to advertising their buyback through a different medium.
“We wanted to find a way to promote our buyback that was relevant to students,” said Souccane. “Our Buyback Video turned out to be both an attention-grabbing and cost-effective way to get our message out, while also driving traffic to our Facebook Page.”
Rather than relying on outside resources to produce and create the video, however, the store used what they had right in their own store; their students!
“Our student employees participated by acting in the video, and we had a former employee who was finishing her communication degree, film it,” she explained. “She then used the facilities on campus to edit and create the finished product. So, overall, it was very low-cost for us, and she was able to get valuable experience to put on her resume!”
Debuting in 2010, their original video starred Blondie, a WSU student, who stumbles upon Jack Buyback, an amusingly well-spoken pile of talking books in the aisles of the bookstore. Jack guides her through the buyback process and lists off all the reasons that Blondie should sell her books at the Official Buyback of Wichita State University until she’s convinced it’s ‘like, totally the best option.’
“We wanted the video to be very tongue-and-cheek and a little bit cheesy,” Souccane added. “I think it ended up being exactly that; students loved it and thought it was hilarious!”
As a sequel to their original masterpiece, their 2011 Buyback Video again featured the two popular characters who relaxed in the sun after finals with all the cash they received after selling books back to the store.
“We immediately received tons of compliments on the video from students and even staff,” Souccane said. “We were one of the first departments to really experiment with social media marketing and others were impressed with the results. One of the professors on campus even used us as an example in his presentation on the topic!”
Looking again for a way to get students involved, the store also recently implemented a Top Model contest.
“We needed photos of our new merchandise for our website, and we knew we wanted to have students model them. But, because we try to integrate social media into each of our marketing campaigns, we decided to position it as a contest on Facebook, “she explained.
Interested students, alumni, and staff were asked to submit an application and their picture to the store for the chance to be the new face of face of their Spring/Summer Fashion Campaign.
Out of 17 applicants, WSU Bookstore then narrowed it down to three male and three female finalists, based on who they thought would be the best representatives for the store.
Using a third-party polling application, they posted the finalists’ pictures to their Facebook Page and let students vote. The Top Girl and Top Guy whose picture received the most “likes” were then crowned the Bookstore’s Top Model.
The two winners received an exclusive Top Model Swag Bag full of Shocker merchandise, a photo shoot modeling the latest Spring/Summer Shocker Gear for the University Bookstore, and of course the celebrity status that comes with becoming the Bookstore’s Top Model!
“The contest was a lot of fun, and students enjoyed participating, which was ultimately our goal,” she said. “We try to get students directly involved in our marketing campaigns as much as possible. They know what’s cool and what’s not, which helps us send better messages; plus, they get great experience too.”
In fact, the store attributes much of the success of their interactive social media campaigns to the involvement of their students, who participate in everything from the brainstorming phase all the way through implementation. Based on her experience, Souccane suggests other stores take advantage of the knowledge their students have to offer, as well.
“Use what you have! We’re at a real advantage in the collegiate retail industry because our target audience is easily accessible. Having students involved in your marketing efforts is truly invaluable. Not only are they in-tune with the group you’re trying to reach, but they can also show you how to use up-and-coming technology, such as social media, because many are learning about it in school!”
As for the future, Wichita State University Bookstore has no plans of slowing down their social media efforts anytime soon.
“It’s become a huge part of everything we do,” she said. “You have to get involved to stay ahead of the curve because that’s where all of our customers are now!”
Happy Social Media Day! See how we’re celebrating by checking out our exciting new look on Facebook! For information on how to integrate successful social media promotions into your store’s marketing plan, talk with your MBS representative.