Julie Guest Direct Response Copywriter, Marketing Strategist, Best Selling Author

Marketing Strategies Target, Costco and Starbucks Don’t Want You To Know

A couple of weeks back I stopped at a local gift store in my town. You know the kind of store – racks of greeting cards, knick-knacks, stamps, gag gifts for retiring employees…. faded wallpaper and well worn carpet. As I was standing at the counter I noticed a For Sale sign. This little business has been a permanent fixture in my town for about 35 years. Intrigued I asked the owner – a woman in her late 50s, why they were selling (this was a proudly run, family owned business for more than 3 decades).

Here’s what she told me.

“We just can’t compete with the big guys anymore… they’ve undercut our prices and we can’t match them,” she said with a shake of her head.


Hearing that made me sad.

Not because they were being forced to sell (although it always makes me sad to see a business close its doors).

Not because they hadn't come up with a marketing plan to fix their problem.

But because here was a family who spent the last 35 years of their lives building a business who’s entire marketing strategy was based entirely around price.

I guess no one told this lady that she was actually sitting on the village goldmine.

Here’s why:

People don’t want cheap stuff. They want value.

People don’t want to buy from big nameless, faceless companies.

They want to buy from people.

And not just any people, but people who care about them and their needs.

That little business likely had incredible relationships with its customers. But the problem was they didn't know how to leverage those relationships with their marketing strategy.

Instead, they relied on word of mouth, goodwill and people remembering who they were.

In this new economythat kind of marketing strategy doesn't cut it anymore.

Here are a few marketing tips of things they could, (and should) have done in a big way:

Marketing Strategy #1 They could have run monthly campaigns to people having birthdays suggesting fun themes and invites, or graduating gifts ideas sent to proud parents every May with a personalized looking letter that says “Wow! Can’t believe “little Suzy” is graduating this year – here are some ideas to help celebrate!”

Marketing Strategy #2 They could have positioned themselves as the neighborhood party planners, sending fun promotion and marketing ideas to local businesses, to help them get more clients and be successful.

Marketing Strategy #3 They could have done some joint venture marketing with local schools, creating a sponsorship opportunity for parents (e.g. buy your back to school supplies from us and we’ll give money back to your school). This is a great marketing strategy for any business where school aged parents and kids fit the target market.

Three big lessons from all this:

  • Never, ever base your value proposition around having the cheapest prices. It’s the weakest, most vulnerable marketing strategy there is (and attracts the worst kinds of customers – a.k.a problem children).
  • You have to keep marketing to your customers to give them a reason to keep coming back. How often? Far more often that you think. Remember as David Ogilvy says you’re not marketing to a standing army – you’re marketing to a moving parade. People are moving in and out of your business all the time.
  • If you’re not marketing to your customers then someone else is. ABM (Always Be Marketing). They have to buy from someone, so make sure it’s from you!