Don’t feel you have to resort to discounting to entice customers into the store this fall. A compelling marketing message is a better way to bring them back after this year of COVID—and get your business on more solid ground financially.
For retailers, it’s the scariest statistic of the pandemic—and the one with the most promise.
During the pandemic, 75 percent of U.S. consumers have tried new shopping behaviors. They’ve shopped online, tried new brands, bought at new stores. Clearly, we can’t just assume we’ll get the usual flow of customers come the fall. We need to bring them back into the fold. We need a solid reengagement campaign.
Remember, though: If your customers are in the wind, so are your competitors’. This is your chance to build up your customer base like never before, to steal market share. It’s the time to run a great ad campaign.
A successful ad campaign will gain you customers, grow your sales and help you maintain your margins. And it’s never been easier and cheaper to run effective ads. The precise targeting of Google Ads and social media ads allows you to have a big impact with a small budget.
If you’ve run digital ads in the past, it’s time to double down. If you’re new to digital advertising, this article—the first in a series on creating an effective advertising campaign for your dancewear store—will guide you through crafting a compelling marketing message.
At the Heart of a Great Ad Campaign
So what makes an effective advertising campaign? Is it great copy? Great images? Do you need to be a brilliant writer or designer? While those elements can’t hurt, you already have what you really need: an understanding of your customers.
“Think different.” These two simple words sold millions of dollars’ worth of product at Apple. Why? Because Apple knew its customers. Because they knew that their customers didn’t want to be IBM clones—that they saw themselves as creative and unique.
To create a message that connects with your customers, you just need a process. And that process begins with creating customer avatar(s). Your avatar will help you picture your customer and get inside their head. It will help you dig down and really understand their needs—and then create a compelling message to meet those needs.
The Avatar Exercise
An avatar is a representation of your typical customer. You likely have several types of customers, and so you will have several avatars. The young parent is a different avatar from the advanced dancer. It’s OK to have several; just remember that your avatar is a composite representation.
1. Think of your avatar as a real person (giving them a name helps). What’s their age, gender, income? Where do they live? What are their likes and dislikes? Why are they (or why is their child) in dance? Are they new to dance?
2. What’s your avatar’s biggest source of pain in life?
3. What’s their biggest pleasure in life?
4. What’s your avatar’s biggest worry when it comes to dance?
5. What’s their biggest worry when it comes to shopping for dance clothing and footwear?
6. What’s their biggest pleasure when it comes to shopping for dance clothing and footwear?
7. Why does your avatar dance?
Think deeply about each of these questions. Take your time. The better you understand your avatar’s pain and pleasure points, the easier it will be to create a message that resonates with them.
Are they run ragged in life (question 2)? And worried about buying the wrong thing for their kid (question 4)? Then effective ad copy could be: “Our dance bundle makes getting the right dancewear quick and easy.”
A great marketing message either solves a pain point (worry about getting the right fit) or creates pleasure (the joy of finding a beautiful bodysuit). A great marketing message enters the conversation that is already taking place in your customer’s head.
That thought process in your customer’s head is rarely about price. Retailers tend to talk about discounts because it’s easier than finding another message that resonates. But if you do this avatar work, you will come up with a powerful marketing message and not have to give away margin.
Finding the Right Words
Once you’ve created your avatars, it’s time to craft your message. If you’re good with words, go at it. If not, farm it out to someone. (One of the better freelancer websites, like Toptal, Guru or Upwork, is a good option.)
If you hire a copywriter, make sure you are clear about your message first. Your job is to know what you want to say. The copywriter’s job is to find the right words to say it.
But whether you hire it out or do the work yourself, here are some tips for creating a compelling message:
1. Make one point, and only one point. If you try to tell the customers everything, they’ll remember nothing.
2. If necessary, you can have different copy for different avatars. Just make sure that the campaigns are not contradictory. And put them on different social media channels to reach different sets of customers.
3. You can use photos to support a secondary message. For example, if you want to communicate “You’ll get the right fit,” and you also want to convey a body-positive message, then show different body types in your image.
4. Make it about them. Talk about “you,” not “we,” “I” or “my store.” There’s a tendency in a lot of ad copy to say “We have this” and “We are that” and expect the customer to do the work to figure out what it means for them. But they’re not going to put in the effort. It’s your job to let them know what’s in it for them. So don’t say “We have the biggest selection,” say “You will find the perfect leotard in our store’s huge selection.”
5. Talk about benefits, not features. People are interested in what the product does for them, not what it is. A leotard’s feature may be its microfiber fabric, but the benefit is that you will stay cool and dry all through a long class. “Cool and dry” is what the customer cares about.
6. Have a call to action. What action do you want your customers to take? “Shop now” on your website? “Visit our store today”? Be clear about their next step, and your ads will be more effective.
A Word on Discounting
“Just do it” or “Buy our shoes.” Which tagline do you think would work better? That’s an easy one, isn’t it? And “Buy our shoes” quickly becomes “Buy our shoes at 20 percent off.”
While you may not reach Nike-level copy, I’m confident you can create a compelling message that connects with your customers and brings them into your store. And you won’t have to discount.
If you truly believe that you have to compete on price, don’t give a blanket discount. You can’t afford to do that. Focus on having big discounts on a few key items. These items need to be in high demand and have high price sensitivity. A big discount on hairnets won’t bring people in, but a big discount on tights might. Popular items where customers grumble about price is an excellent place to start.
But only offer a few of these loss leaders at a significant discount. The rest of your products should stay at full price.
What if you’ve always offered a blanket discount? Explain to your customers that you can’t do that anymore because of the pandemic. It’s true, and your customers will understand.
The Bottom Line
I urge you, though, before you turn to discounts, try the process I’ve just outlined. You know your dancewear consumer. You have what it takes to create a compelling marketing message that will bring them in and get them shopping with you. In two follow-up articles, I’ll cover how to get your well-crafted message before the right audience with digital campaigns using Google Ads and social media ads.
Gilbert Russell is president of Brio Bodywear, which has two brick-and-mortar dancewear stores in Ottawa, Canada. Through his consulting firm, No Qualms Retail, he also enjoys sharing his experience and knowledge with other independent retailers.
For more great marketing tips from Gilbert Russell, watch his presentation from Dance Business Weekly’s June back-to-school webinar for retailers, available on our YouTube channel.