Independent Retailer Conference Keynote on Social Media

Ron Cates, Constant ContactRon Cates, Constant Contact’s email and social media marketing expert, was the keynote speaker at the Independent Retailer Conference held May 20th in New York City. Cates spoke on “Social Media & Email Marketing for Retailers,” at the annual event, hosted by Retail Minded, a news, education and support publication for boutique businesses.

Importantly, Cates shared, people are willing to pay a premium, up to 69 percent more, according to one survey, if they have a relationship with a retailer. Social media facilitates this connection. Facebook posts, for example, should incite people to “like” and comment. “If we know and like a business, we go there.” Another survey found that 51 percent of buyers purchased a product based on online recommendations. Social media is a huge forum for consumers to share opinions. “It’s not a numbers game,” Cates stressed. “It’s about being real. If your business was a person, what words would it use?”

Here are a few social media best practices from Cates:

  • Share insights.
  • Comment back.
  • Say thank you when someone posts something nice.
  • Answer questions.
  • Share comments in other marketing channels.
  • Possibly reward, but do it in private.
  • If something negative is said, seek to satisfy, not to defend.

Email, too, is social media, Cates noted. “235 million people in the U.S. use email, and most of us check it multiple times a day.” It needs to be permission based, he stressed, so make it easy for consumers to subscribe. Tell them the frequency of the mailings. Brick and mortars should post a sample newsletter by their registers.

The message must be valuable information rather than a sales pitch. “People know you sell something. They might not buy what’s in the email, but they might buy from you within the next few weeks if you engage them.”

A few more things to remember about email marketing:

  • HTML emails are opened eight times more than text emails.
  • The subject line is powerful. Keep it to a maximum of 40 characters.
  • Capitalize and punctuate carefully.
  • Scan in your actual signature.
  • Target your emails to interested audiences.
  • In the U.S., mail on Tuesday or Wednesday, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

How often to send emails depends on the strength of your relationship with the email recipient. Therefore, retailers should have multiple lists. “Making a big impact and a small intrusion is your goal.”

To help retailers simplify what can seem like a daunting task, Social Media Quickstarter, from Constant Contact, offers a free resource library, he pointed out. A digital marketing pioneer, Cates has educated nearly 100,000 small businesspersons on the importance of email and social media marketing.