Skip to main content

Working with entrepreneurs and speaking to chambers has clarified my thinking about marketing basics. Paco Underhill, author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping and Marc Willson, retail consultant for the Virginia Small Business Development Center influenced my views and I encourage you to explore their ideas. Like them, I believe effective selling incorporates all useful tools and devices, so my recommendations apply to both web-based and store-based sales. The challenge, of course, is to match tools to your purpose, budget and desired outcome.

Doing the "right" or most effective thing must be tempered by the cost-benefit-return analysis. Time, effort and return can be maximized by following this sequential process:

a) clearly define your targeted audiences

b) define expected outcomes for each marketing campaign

c) determine how results will be measured

d) establish your calendars

e) maintain a strict budget for each sales tactic

f) select specific marketing tools based upon your objectives

g) analyze the costs vs. resulting benefits of each campaign

Creating an effective customer environment must be a management priority, and to that end, I suggest ten essential areas of focus:

  1. Do you provide the BEST customer experience? Answer this from the customer's viewpoint and without rationalizing or defensiveness. Delivering a great experience is at the heart of building your reputation and your BRAND.
  2. Product, Price[i], Place and Promotion bring people to your business and then it is all about SERVICE. Train every member of your business team; train them frequently and well.
  3. Collect customer feedback and welcome even negative comments as a way to become better and stronger. Use social media; be timely and attentive to feedback (it is valuable, so treat it that way). Respond professionally and appropriately.
  4. "Get Found and Look Open"[ii] applies to all businesses. From web site addresses to lighting- everything adds up. Addresses and spotlights are most effective when they follow plans and strengthen your message.
  5. From your homepage and your store front, are you catching my interest quickly and motivating me to act? Have you made it clear what you would like me to do? I am your customer… talk to me!
  6. Information is often misplaced and diluted, despite good intentions and expense. Giving instructions upon entering instead of an invitation to shop does not add to my customer experience.[iii]
  7. Businesses are visualized as clean and organized, but what happens when people clutter the picture? Knowing how customers navigate your business is critical.[iv]
  8. Adjacencies[v] are important, and can be a "wide angle" on-line search for bakeries for example or a close-up look at four feet of shelf space. Use and build upon customer momentum because incremental sales and profits benefit.
  9. Collecting data is easier than figuring out what it means. Identifying trends, threats and opportunities in time to act benefits all plans. Create dashboard indicators that work specifically for you.
  10. We all love lists- "Top Ten Restaurants" and "Seven Ways To Save" suit our culture and lifestyle. You can create a list for any purpose and use it to keep things fresh and interesting.

Steven Groner is an Educator for University of Illinois Extension, specializing in community and economic development. Contact Steve at if you would like to discuss any of the ten points further. Steven has worked with entrepreneurs and small business owners since 2009.



[i] Product Mix and Pricing Strategies are large, complex topics not covered in this short post.

[ii] A "mantra" of Marc Willson,, a master of main street and retail strategies.

[iii] A checklist of questions to run through: should it be said elsewhere; can it be simpler; does it need to be said; is it readable? Judge the signage in place, not out of context. Is the message and "look" consistent with your overall concept and brand?

[iv] For example, website loading speeds and pop-ups are minefields. In your store, how do you handle personal space expectations and customers who "touch & test"?

[v] Adjacency as defined in the Encarta Dictionary: "Items situated near one another".