Advertising might seem like it’s for the big players, but it can pay off if you’re small too

Let me start with a question. Which of the major car manufacturers does not advertise on television? Answer none; they all do. Advertising works. If it didn't, they wouldn't advertise - and neither would the retailers in the grocery industry.

Before he invented the disposable razor blade, the crazily named King Camp Gillette had been advised that to make his way in life, he'd have to invent a product that would sell over and over again. And, when you think about it, that's exactly what we are doing in our own businesses; encouraging consumers to come into our shop, over and over again, to buy our products.

And to help us to achieve that goal, we advertise. It starts with posters on the window apparently, some of the earliest ads were the 'Wanted: Dead or Alive' posters in the Wild West and it gets more sophisticated as we go along.

Kishor’s advice on advertising
1) Understand your customers
2) Keep advertising relevant, simple and consistent
3) Plan your advertising well in advance eg of the Olympics
4) Meet your customers' expectations and beyond
5) Analyse the results of specific marketing campaigns
But I often wonder if the independent retailer really appreciates the value of advertising or marketing his brand. I'm sure he appreciates the value of getting people into his store, persuading them to come back, encouraging loyalty and increasing footfall, but has he sat down and thought about the numerous opportunities he has to sell himself and his store?

There are so many different ways that store owners can advertise, from national print and broadcast media advertising organised by a buying group Nisa, Costcutter, Spar, Budgens, Londis, etc through to the more basic placing of an advertisement in the local newspaper.

Sometimes marketing is direct such as promotional leaflets delivered door to door and sometimes it's indirect slowly building a reputation in the community for trust and credibility by getting involved in good works PR, in other words.

Advertising can be expensive, but it can also be done less expensively (note I didn't use the word 'cheaply') and still provide rewards. It all depends on your budget and the size of your business of course.

We start by understanding our target group, and then we tailor our marketing. Eye-catching posters with a clear, concise message should be posted inside and outside the store. I believe in the benefit of leaflet drops in the community consistently connecting with existing and potential shoppers, with regular promotions that are easy to read and to follow.

A lot of it is down to relationships. For example, you could use theme days and special events to hold regular meetings with the local press and get your store featured in their papers. I back this up with advertising in the local paper as well as advertorials in the local, 'freebie' magazines. I've also found that developing relationships with suppliers to promote their brands in store on special occasions works well on a local level, because you are doing something different from the multiples.

Modern technology means it is easier to connect customers quickly and less expensively (note again I didn't use the word 'cheaply'!) and more accurately than in the past. Developing a good website, with an interactive element, allows you to gather email addresses and target customers directly. Facebook and Twitter are brilliant for getting your message across, too.

Those who have marketed their store successfully over the years have made sure, before they embark on this advertising expedition, that their store and service is in order. Don't encourage your customers to flock to your store if they're going to be disappointed when they walk through the door. Crucially, you should never be out of stock of a product advertised on a poster.

It's the usual things cleanliness, lighting, value for money, quality products but mainly, it's your people. Friendly, helpful staff reinforce the message you have conveyed through your marketing. If your people are happy, feel motivated and valued, then they will be the best advertising you could possibly wish for.

Business Barometer

Do you ever advertise your business?
No: 65%
Yes: 35%

Do you try to attract attention of the local media as a means of generating interest in your business?
No: 74%
Yes: 26%

Do you have a marketing budget?
No: 92%
Yes: 8%

Have you ever sold tobacco to a customer who was buying on behalf of a child?
Don't know: 25%
No: 55%
Yes: 20%

Should the government crack down on new out-of-town developments to aid the high street?
Don't know: 10%
No: 9%
Yes: 81%

New in my store: Paul Fisher, Fisher's of Gerrards Cross
Location: Gerrards Cross, North London
Type of store: 5,000 sq ft convenience store
Main suppliers: Nisa and local suppliers

How often do you get new products in? Once every couple of weeks.

What new products have you started stocking recently? Most of our new products have come from local suppliers. Chalfont Chillies have just brought out an F1 Chilli Jelly. It's so popular they've had to produce more varieties. Man Meat Fire has brought out a Piri Piri sauce, which is proving popular.


Is any one product selling particularly well? It's barbecue season and we sell loads of burgers and sausages made on-site, but what else do you need for barbecues? Kitchen towel. We've sold a lot of that.

Are any products selling badly? Sales of sweets have gone down massively over the summer but now the kids are back at school sales have picked up again. We're really glad that they're back.

Have you delisted any products recently? We've delisted a few slow sellers and items that have been discontinued by suppliers and then replaced, which happens quite a lot.

Are there any other products you've got your eye on? Crabbie's have brought out a couple of products off the back of its ginger beer success and we're keen to get them in. We work quite closely with suppliers like Halewood who are keen to come in and hold tastings with customers.

Propertyof the week

Nedderton Service Station in Northumberland comes with a four-bedroom house, and is located in a semi-rural location within a few miles of Bedlington, Cramlington and the market town of Morpeth.

There is good schooling in the area and the business is on a busy commuter route, which links to the three towns as well as the A1 trunk road.

Fuel is supplied by Total on a spot basis, with average fuel sales of around one million litres per annum and good margins on petrol, red diesel and kerosene.

The store includes off-licence goods and attracts average weekly sales of £4,500 to £5,000. Nedderton Service Station is on the market freehold for £450,000. For further information, contact Andrew Birnie of Christie & Co on 01912 221740.