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How to Market a Small Retail Shop

Updated on January 30, 2012

In a perfect world...

Where said small retail shop has enough resources to cover the right campaign for them, this is the plan I would use, if I were managing the marketing of said small retail shop. This plan is set up to increase consumer/client awareness, attract partners, generate genuine traffic and to create honest interactions with clients/customers.

In my experience as a marketing manager, these are the necessary skills needed to increase sales. Without these foundational structures in place, most businesses fail in this technological 21st century world.

Step 1: Socialize

The first place I will always recommend for any small business to start, is with social media networks. There's are some very good and appropriate reasons for this:

  • Most are free - which means you can get started with social media right away, even when other methods are not available to you yet.
  • It's where everyone is - and the key to running a successful business, is knowing where to find your customers and making yourself available to them where they already are. This is the reason TV advertising worked so well, and is now the reason why every business is scrambling to get on board with social media.
  • Every other thing you do to increase the success of your business (including creating a website, advertising, etc...) will need to be linked to social media. In my experience, you'll always be more successful if you start out with a strong social media plan first, and will make it so that everything else just falls in place.

Now, in order to give you an edge on the other guys, I'm going to give you a glimpse (a long glimpse) of the plan I've found most successful with small businesses. Just follow these simple steps:


  1. Create a personal profile. Make sure it has your REAL name, or the real name of the person managing your social media if you've hired someone else to do it. There are enough "business namehere" profiles to sink a ship, and it doesn't help any of them get ahead. It actually turns people away. Some other things you want to make sure you do:
    • Fill in ALL of your information - likes, dislikes, activities, business, websites, blogs, bio (about me), quotes, etc.. Do it ALL, because not only will it give people a glimpse at the passionate person behind the successful small business, but it will help increase your SEO, making you and your business easier to find.
    • Start making friends - start first with people you actually know. They will be your "friend equity", and will be the only ones who can virtually vouch for you from physical experience. Once you have them on there, ask them to suggest some friends for you, and then go to work finding friends yourself. Clearly, your main focus will be in finding friends that would potentially be interesting in your business, though that doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't make some genuine connections with others who share your interests. Sometimes it's the last person you'd expect, who will be an enthusiast in your products/services, and some others might even become great business associates or partners.
    • Join some groups. You've already technically "liked" some pages when you put in your activities, movies, hobbies, etc... Now you'll want to go and join a couple of groups. Find a few that can be business related and a few you want to join just for the pleasure of it.
    • Interact with people! I cannot impress upon you just how important this step is. Most people will do all of the above steps, but then never really get involved and interactive with people other than those they knew already. Seriously, interact with everyone you have time for, whenever you can.
    • Share! Your views, websites you've visited, thoughts, gripes, rants, raves, jokes quotes, news, your website, all of it. Share everything, open up and let it all out on your wall. Contrary to popular belief, people actually want to hear everything about you. They feel more connected knowing we are all imperfect, have our own strengths and weaknesses and that no one is alone in this world. Don't worry about looking professional on your personal profile. Just be you.
  2. Create Some Pages. Pages are those crazy applications that everyone "likes" all the time and is always trying to get "fans" for. The full appropriate name for them is a "Fanpage". They were created by facebook, to allow businesses, activists and celebrity personalities, so that people didn't take up all the profile space with that stuff. Pages will be one of your most useful tools on facebook. Now, most people focus on creating just one page and sinking all their time and energy in it. And while that might seem like the most logical plan of action, you have to remember that social media marketing doesn't always follow the laws of logic. So you want to create several pages and focus on developing them equally. Some examples of pages you want to create would be:
    • Your Business Page . This would be the only one you MUST have. It will be your virtual business card and the first impression of your business and the place people go first for customer service issues. Even if you have a website and people see that first, most people today judge you by your fanpage before any other sites you have. And even if you have a stellar customer service contact on your website, people still find it more appealing to interact with a real person on your page instead. So make sure to create your biz-page and set it up with all your information. Treat it the same as your personal profile, expect pretend that you're focusing on your profession, instead of your personal info.
    • A Niche Page. You will find this page particularly useful for B2B networking, as well as attracting people who might have been looking for your business or services, but didn't know quite how to find you. When you create this niche page, you'll want to focus on a generalized niche that your business can be included in. So if you're an author, create writers page. If you own a pet shop, create a page for fans of pets.
    • A You Page . A page that features your personality is useful in many ways. You can use it to highlight your skills, connections, abilities, experience and whatever else you want to add to it. Your fanpage is your business card, your profile is your equity, which makes your "You page" somewhat like your resume. You can use this page to increase awareness of you and your business, among other things.
    • A Local Networking Page . I always find it interesting, that most of the people who search for your business, are actually in the same line of work themselves. So you can harness that strange nature of people and help attract genuine traffic and customers by creating a local networking page. If you're a professional speaker and you live in Seattle, you could create a Seattle Speakers Networking page. If you live in Forks and your painter, you could create a Forks Painters Networking page.
  3. Create Some Groups. Pages are important and necessary, but it's groups that will bring you prosperity faster than any other tool. This is because groups become more interactive, there's no wait time to add people, you can control what the public views and it's easier to keep track of what people are doing in your group because it will appear at the top of the page. People prefer groups in terms of interaction as well, because when you join a group, you feel like your part of something special. And if you follow my hubs about the Big 6 Human needs, significance is a BFD. Anytime you can make someone feel special, you should. Now, as with the pages, you'll want to create a few groups. They could be something like:
    • Your Business Group . This will be another way for your customers to reach you. Just like with the page, they'll want to come to your group to get help with your products or services when they need it. The really big difference, is that people will get more interactive with your group then they would with your page. Which is also one of the main reasons you need to make sure to moderate your groups. Keep out anything irrelevant to the group you created.
    • A Networking Group. This would be a match to your networking page if you decide to create one. Give your group a separate name then your networking page, or choose a different niche altogether. So long as it can be relevant to your business in a few ways, you're golden. Remember though, that you don't have to do both a networking group and a page. One or the other will work, though I can tell you from experience that you won't be sorry to have both.
    • A Cause Group . This is an option that many businesses don't consider. It's really easy to do, and will not only further your business, but it will help create meaningful changes in the world (if that's what you want it to do). Try to choose a cause that be related to your business, but don't follow that as a hard rule. Above anything else, your cause group should be about something you are genuinely passionate about. Because when you are excited, people are naturally attracted to you and will voluntarily want to know about you, including what you do for a living. People who find you through your cause, won't require any selling. They'll already like you, they'll feel significant by being a part of your special group and they'll be interesting in everything else you do to find more ways to connect.
    • A Niche Group. Create a group in a niche that can be linked to what you do in your business. This will really give you a chance to get interactive with others in your industry or specialty, which is worth more than words can say.
  4. Sync Your Facebook Tools, with anything else you have going already. If you already have other social media profiles, a blog or your listed anywhere, make sure you you sync up your facebook tools (profile, pages, etc..) with them. Put like buttons on your blog, add your page badges to your website. Do everything you can to get your facebook tools everywhere you can.
    • If you don't have any other marketing tools (like a website or blog) yet, don't worry about this step until after you've created them. You can sync them up as you develop more tools.


  1. Create a Profile - preferably a Business Plus account if you can. This is the same process as with facebook, just on a different platform. The difference is, linkedin specializes in business professionals. So while you want your profile to still be approachable by customers, you can put more of your focus into your professional personality then anythings else. Make sure you fill out everything there is to fill out, so that people can really get a feel for who you are.
  2. Start a few groups. This is where linkedin users are going to get more interactive with you. Create a few groups following the same guidelines as your facebook groups, and build them up. You won't have pages on linked in, so make sure you put some serious focus into your groups.
  3. Answer & Ask Questions. Linkedin is one of the few social networks that has an "Answers" section where you can go to answer questions, show of your expertise and ask the tough questions. It is here that you will get the most help and attract the most attention. Use the answers section to:
    • Ask thought provoking questions that really get people to open up and wonder how you came up with such a question that brought them so much personal insight.
    • Expertize yourself. Show off what you know, what your experiences has been and just how good you are at helping people out. See a need, fill a need.
    • To get help when you need it. Don't be afraid to ask other users what they would do to solve a problem that you have.


The funny thing about twitter, is that it's so simple, most people end up over-complicating it because they missed the simplicity in it. There are only five things you really need to do with twitter:

  1. Create a Profile. There isn't as much to fill in with your profile on twitter, which makes it easy to fill out your profile and be done with it. Make sure you add a real picture of you to start with.
  2. Add Friends & Follow People. Don't go overboard, or you'll alert twitters filters, but make sure you start following people and having your friends follow you to create that "friend equity" you'll need.
  3. Interact with twitter users. Use hash tags, reply to tweets, ask questions, answer questions, send direct messages and share your thoughts (in less than 140 characters).
  4. Sync your twitter profile with your other social media profiles, and make sure to set it up so that when you post on any of your other networks, it will also post on your twitter. This will save time.


There are tons of other social networks you'll want to check out and decide whether or not they are worth your time. Youtube is mighty useful, especially if you're not camera shy. Ning has numerous possibilities, especially if you create your own ning network. Bizniks is a network I recommend for any small business trying to get out there. You can consider myspace, but for most it really isn't worth the time anymore. Either way, do your research and decide where you want to start out at least. You can work your way up to being a part of all networks if you decide to hire some social media managers. Just make sure you don't sign up for so many that you can't keep track of them. It's better to put your full focus into a couple then to be all over the place but only in minute amounts and with no real dedication put into it.

Step 2: Campaign

Isn't it lucky that you already have all your social media set up, that now you can effectively run advertising campaigns? The greatest part is, since you've taken the time to really make things "homey" for your customers when they click on your ads, you won't have to put as much effort in ever again with your social media. It's all management after that.

So, back to your campaign. The whole idea, is that you want to start reaching out to your demographics in ways you aren't able to with traditional advertising. Your focus is going to be on campaigning around the internet, though you don't want to ignore traditional methods if you can afford them (ex: TV ads, billboards, radio, etc...).

Now, there are two main campaigns that I tend to work with, and they are usually more than enough. They are:

  • Facebook Campaigns - These are campaigns where you target specific demographics and attract them to your page and/or events. They allow you to set your own price per click and you can put as much or as little into it as you like.
  • Adsense Campaigns - It works pretty similarly to a facebook campaign, except that you'll be focusing on directing people to your website, and inside of targeting people who are on facebook, Google will focus on anyone anywhere on the internet who happens to be searching for anything remotely related to your advertisement.

Facebook and Adsense are two of the most successful advertising agencies available today, and they have helped millions find their own success. With either option, you get back as much as you put into it, and you can use as much or as little advertising as you want.

There are other methods of campaigning you'll want to consider as well, such as banner sharing and link sharing. For now, just focus on Adsense and Facebook campaigning, and keep these tips in mind:

  • Short, sweet and relevant is the key with your ads. You only get a small amount of space to say just the right thing to attract potential customers. Use the four second rule - which states that you have four seconds in which to make or break your sale. If the first four seconds don't capture your customers, there is pretty much nothing you can do to gain their positive attention again. So make sure your add is short, sweet, relevant and that it is able to capture interest in four seconds or less. If you can rhyme, that's a bonus.
  • Paying more per click gets a tighter focus on getting your ads in the right places, because Google does discriminate towards the highest bidder. Not to mention, the sites that have the best placement for your ads, are going to want to charge/make more for allowing you to use the space. So consider putting as much as you can into your campaigns,
  • Target your demographic specifically, because just assuming that everyone has an interest in what you have to offer, is just foolish. Just because most people like fish, doesn't mean they want fish patterned wallpaper.
  • Use a shtick. Start a contest, offer discounts, host giveaways, coupons or have virtual "door prizes" for your hundredth fan. whatever you can think of that you can passionately use to call others to you.
  • Run a new campaign every so often, to change things up. Not only will it keep people interested, but it will help you figure out just what sort of campaigns bring you the most success.

Step 3: Blog

Blogging rocks because it's another great way to connect on a real level with your customers/clients. It's a place where you can go to talk about your strengths, weaknesses, successes and mistakes. It's where you can go to let your clients know about any company updates or recent news. Truthfully, a blog is another must have tool for your business.

Now.. the optimal way to host a blog, is to write it yourself at least two or three times a week. The other options are to hire a blog writer, or to just write in your blog once per week.

The benefits of hosting a blog for your small business:

  • You'll attract better attention from search engines, and in turn become more visible to your customers and clients.
  • Your clients and customers will have a chance to really get to know your thought processes, which creates killer rapport.
  • You can use your blog to highlight any campaigns, deals or new services/products
  • You can encourage your readers to get involved in your business by sharing their views in your comments section.

Step 4: Go Local

This is an important step that can't be missed. Especially since the world is ultra focused on local sustainability right now. So, you have some options, all of them fairly traditional, that you can use to help create awareness and cultivate genuine interest in your company.

Now, being that you own and operate such a fantastic small retail business, most of your business is focused locally anyway, which makes this step that much more important. So aside from billboards and local radio ads, you'll also want to consider using these local tools:

  • Pinup Boards - Grocery stores, libraries and convenience stores are your best chance for finding highly visible pin up boards.
  • Snail Mail - If you can keep it light, preferably use recycled paper and you have the resources for mass mailings, you can send out advertisements to those old mailboxes.
  • Street Teams - Street teams are actually uber traditional, but they have been revitalized and urbanized, which makes them even more useful. Now, you can either hire your own, or you can have someone else manage that job. Either way, you can make great things happen with a street team. Some ways you can use a street team:
    • Door-to-Door advertising/canvassing
    • Advertising at local events (like festivals)
    • Street corner calling (standing in areas with lots of foot traffic and telling everyone about your business)
    • Hanging fliers and posters showcasing what your shop has to offer
    • Windshielding - placing advertisements on peoples cars (not my favorite method due to littering reasons, but still effective)
  • Local Events - You can host your own, and you might consider hosting those events in your own store, or you can go to other events and bring your business cards. Remember, even grocery stores have had great success in such simple things as having live acoustic bands play inside or just outside the store. It stands out.

Step 5: Expertize

One of the most effective forms of marketing known to date, is Expert Marketing (a.k.a Boom Marketing). Nothing builds better rapport and trust than being seen as an expert in your field. If you're in the business of selling antiques, people like to know that you really appreciate and know just how to find valuable antiques. They want to know what your special secrets and insights are, because even though they probably won't ever use them, at least they know they can come to you whenever they need an expert.

A great example, is this hub. I am a success coach, and although I didn't originally write this hub with the intent to market my success coaching business, it works very well. I have more than 7 years of experience as an entrepreneur, business owner, marketer and social media manager. And because I write a lot of hubs and articles about my experiences, it doubles the value of my business and services, because you now see me as an expert in the field of business marketing.

You can use that same method by:

  • Writing articles, hubs, lenses and other publications that answer the questions people are asking. The more you write in a field related to your business, the more people will realize your the expert they need.
  • Writing about your experiences before being a business owner. How you did in the employee work force, and telling what inspired you to own your own business.
  • Writing about your experiences as a business owner. What troubles have you come across, what have you found really easy?
  • Writing in many places on the internet. Hubpages is the best place to start. Factoidz, helium, ehow, triond and examiner are also options you should consider.
  • Writing hardcopy and digital books. Trust me, even though you may not find your experiences all that interesting or special, there are plenty of people out there who don't have the skills you do, and they want and often need those skills in order to succeed themselves and achieve the same level of success you have. If you own a business, you're successful, even if the business is new or not overwhelmingly prosperous. And since you're successful, you might as well write about it and help people out. You might try writing some books called:
    • Ten Steps to Opening a Small Retail Business
    • Everything You Need to Know About Running a Small Retail Business
    • Small Retail Businesses: Is It Your Path?
    • How to Make Money: Open a Small Retail Business
    • What Kind of Small Retail Business Should You Open?
    • The Worst of the Worst Retail Businesses
    • The Best of the Best Retail Businesses
    • Balancing Act: The Memories & Experiences of a Small Retail Business Owner
    • To The Top - How I Started and Succeeded
    • From Unemployed to Self Employed

Step 6: Open a Virtual Office

My favorite tools for just such a fantastic idea, are:

  • LinkedIn
  • Bitwine
  • Skype

They are free and easy to use, and they allow you not only to be available virtually for your clients and staff, but they also give you just one more way to attract customers in ways you couldn't do otherwise. Just as with creating a writing portfolio, being seen on Bitwine or LinkedIn, shows you as an expert in your field. And even if you never really capitalize on that feature, you still have a free virtual office where you can chat, email or use video and phone calls to communicate with your customers and staff.

One more bonus: Because you'll have a virtual office (where you can make appointments, set hours and be available to anyone anywhere), you'll save time, money and overhead compared to offering the same thing in person.

Step 7: Communicate

After all that work, there are only two more things you need to do, and the first is to Communicate with your employees, partners and customers. Get everyone involved by seriously pursuing their honest thoughts, ideas and opinions about how your business is doing, what you can do to improve your business (if anything) and what you should try out next.

You also want to make sure your customers know they can come to you with any problem they have, and that you will truly listen and at least attempt to craft a solution to fix their very problem.

Even if you're only current employee is yourself, you'll always want to make sure you are taking care of your staff. If there is one thing I have learned in my experiences as a business owner, is that it's better to have qualified, dedicated and happy employees, then to have bodies that can breath who don't stick around. Make sure that once you find your team, you pay them well, communicate with them often, solve any problems they are currently having and allow them to contribute to the company (you) that they work for by helping to solve problems and come up with innovative ways to make the business (you) and themselves more successful.

Some ways that you can really get the conversation going with your clients, fans, friends, staff, partners and anyone else:

  • Create quizzes, surveys and tests
  • Create polls that ask thought provoking questions
  • Avoid "yes" or "no" questions where the person can just say yes or no. You want to ask people open ended questions that they really have to think about, and questions where they have to give you a detailed and insightful answer. So instead of asking:
    • "Do you think we should add this product to our shelves?", try asking:
    • "What kind of benefits do you think we can get from adding this product to our shelves?"
    • Or instead of asking, "Are you happy working here?", try asking:
    • "What is your dream job and how can customize your current job to fit the expectations you'd have for your dream job?"

Step 8: Get Listed

This is probably the most commonly under-utilized forms of marketing that I see businesses miss out on. For that matter, many of the businesses that I've tried to express to that they need to be listed, still fail to see the benefits. So I am hoping that you'll give your small retail business the best chance it has for success, by not missing out on this opportunity.

Now, what I mean by "getting listed", is that you need to list yourself on any available database and directory you can. Some of the most effective ones to use are:

  • Yelp
  • Yellowpages (dex)
  • Craigslist
  • Cannabook
  • The BBB
  • Behance
  • Yahoo Directory

Getting listed has some obvious benefits, and some of them are (but are not limited to):

  • Visibility - Search engines and searchers will find you faster
  • Convenience - people are already using these directories and databases, and if you're already there, it's majorly convenient.
  • Transparency - Most of these lists (like yelp), give users the opportunity to vouch for or rant about your business. This makes your business more authentic and transparent in the eyes of your customers. And remember, bad reviews aren't always a bad thing. I would rather find a business with a few downfalls, or see that a business has made a few mistakes in the past, then to see only perfect rainbows all over the comments section, where someone has clearly gone through and deleted all the bad reviews.
  • Reputation - This goes hand in hand with transparency and authenticity. By being listed where people can review your business, you'll build a strong reputation. Just remember, if you want a good reputation, you can't try to buy it. You have to earn it through stellar service, valuable products, intimate interaction and quality customer service.

What have you found most beneficial in your adventures in business marketing?

Submit a Comment
  • BizGenGirl profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Lake Stevens

    Totally! I'm glad to help, and marketing is something I've always felt I have a flair for. Is there anything in this hub that you'd like more details on?

  • creativebutterfly profile image


    7 years ago from Florida USA

    this is good for me as I am looking to open a store, most of what you have written I knew about but there are a few things I did not. Thanks for a great Hub...


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