5 ways to use Social Media to find success in 2011

Crystal Vilkaitis high res[1]It’s that time a year again: new products, new deals, new themes, new marketing and of course, New Year’s resolutions!

In 2010, if you didn’t use social networks like Twitter and Facebook to market your store, network with your community and find ways to grow your business, then that’s ok. It’s ok because in 2011 you’re going to do things differently. You’re going to embrace social media and use it as a daily tool to help you grow, learn and succeed! (If you did use social media in 2010, leave a comment on how it helped your business; also assess what worked and what didn’t, then make a 2011 Plan of Social Media Action.)

To get started, here are 5 ways to use social media to ensure a successful show this January.

1. Pictures! If you don’t have a phone with a built in camera, make sure you bring your digital camera to the show because you’re going to want to make your customers so excited for your new products they can’t stand it! Take pictures of some new items or lines you bought at market. Post to your Facebook page and let your networks know that in a matter of days they could get their hands on those items. Posting pictures of the showrooms and people shopping at market is also a great way to let your customers in on your business, taking your relationship with them deeper.

2. Follow Vendors and Sales Agencies. The best way to stay up-to-date at market is to be monitoring your favorite vendors and sales agencies on Twitter and Facebook. You might even find show specials posted on their social media outlets. To find their accounts (if you don’t know them already) visit their websites, go to search.twitter.com and enter the company name or try Googling their name +Twitter.

3. Hashtags! You might not know what a hashtag is, so let me first explain.  Hashtags were developed as a means to create “groupings” on Twitter. Through these you can tag a post with a keyword so it can be found or referred to later. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol:  #hashtag. Here are a few examples:

via @AmericasMartATL: AmericasMart launches HD Home juried home furnishings/lifestyle collection: http://bit.ly/hFp0ty #atlmart

Via @AlexasAngles: “To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful.” #quote

Via @snapretail: Cute Displays for the #Holiday Season http://ht.ly/3ipaP #retail#marketing

4. Connect with other retailers. Running a successful retailer store can be hard. One way to learn what works is by talking to a retailer that has proven success. You can find these retailers online and set up a time to share a coffee, walk showrooms together or grab dinner after market. Continuing that conversation throughout the year will help you stay on track and feel the support of someone who knows exactly what you’re going through. A great way to find these retailers is by following the #atlmart hashtag. Another way is by sending out Facebook posts and Tweets that you’ll be attending the market and you’re looking at connecting with other retailers. Finally, go to AmericasMart Facebook page and see who they are talking to/who is posting on their page and reach out to them.

5. Attend a social media seminar at market. As you return to your store after the shows, you should be asking yourself: how will I market the products I just bought? It’s important to create a 2011 marketing plan and make sure social media is a part of that plan.

There are lots of good seminars at Market. I will be speaking on Thursday, Jan 13th in the Social Media Track. Please consider spending an hour with me on: Top 10 Facebook and Twitter Strategies to Drive Sales.

For a complete list of seminars visit AmericasMart seminar page and SnapRetail’s seminar series page.

If you can embrace social media in 2011, you will find how beneficial it is for your store. Just make sure you know what you’re doing, how to use the sites, and create a plan of action first that way you can track your efforts. Wishing you a happy new year and a successful 2011!

Never, Never Stop Learning

was111019 I’ve been coaching retail owners and managers for quite a while now and I  can tell you for a fact, the most successful retailers are the ones who  recognize that they must constantly educate themselves to stay ahead, grow  their businesses, and make a profit.

Let’s face it, just operating your business takes a heck of a lot of your time.  Things like staying on top of trends, buying smart, training your employees,  and planning ahead requires the right information. Since the Business Fairy  doesn’t come into your bedroom while you sleep and magically input that  knowledge in your brain, it’s up to you to make time to learn.

Recognizing your, and your employees’, strengths and weaknesses is a great start. You personally have some retail strengths or you would not be in business. You hired your employees, hopefully, because you recognized some strengths in them. So, the most important question you must answer is: What are the weaknesses that are getting in the way of my company’s success?

Answering that question requires a serious reality check and some ego adjustment. Weaknesses can be found in all areas such as: sales ability, merchandising, hiring, training, business tools such as a POS system, or on-line marketing. Write down all of the specific weaknesses you can think of, and be specific. Then ask your employees to do the same (let them know this is not a test, you are asking for their honest input).

Now that you have the weaknesses list, the next step is do something about it.

There’s a ton of information out there to help you succeed. You can find it in bookstores, on line, in seminars and workshops, and in your fellow retailer’s brains. You just have to go and get it. That means making the commitment to learn and then acting on the knowledge you have gained.

What you do with your time on a daily, weekly and monthly basis dictates how successful you can be.

Speaking of time and learning, if you are coming to the January Market, be sure to carve out some time to attend the great retail seminars offered through AmericasMart University.

http://www.americasmart.com/markets/gift/amu-seminars

These free seminars are designed to help you stay in business, grow your business and, above all, make money.

Come join me, and the excellent group of presenters at the January Market.

Remember, time is money. It’s your time.

Never, never stop learning.

William Smith’s seminars at AmericasMart:

Friday, January 14, 2011- 1 pm “The Dreaded ‘S’ Word”

Sunday, January 16, 2011- 9 am “So Where’s My Profit”

Sunday, January 16, 2011- 10:30 am “When the Cat’s Away,  What are the Mice Doing?”

 

Take Advantage of the Free Educational Seminars at Market

AMUevents1In between buying, watching fashion shows and discovering fabulous trends, be sure to take time to learn—and do it for free! During Market, take advantage of the free AmericasMart University (AMU) educational seminars and learn from business professionals as they discuss a variety of topics pertinent to the success of your business. Learn how to retail in the new economy, how to become successful by embracing the latest technology and much more. Not only will you bring back fabulous finds to your stores, but you will also bring back long-lasting retail knowledge!

For a complete listing of the AMU seminars click here.

So, are You Ready for Market?

julyblueIt’s a month from the start of the July 2010 Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market® and Atlanta International Area Rug Market®. Are you prepared?

There are basic components in the groundwork for a successful Market trip. Taking a few simple steps before you ever leave home can make the difference between feeling overwhelmed and scattered and being focused and on top of things.

The key is preparation and organization. What do you need to accomplish? Are you ordering from existing lines to simply fill in inventory? Are you considering expanding into a new category? There’s an adage to “buy what you sell, don’t sell what you buy” that applies to almost every retailer. Make a plan and stick to it; otherwise it’s easy to get sidetracked and suddenly find you only have a day left until you go home, and you haven’t accomplished what you intended.

Whether you’ve been coming to AmericasMart for 30 years or it’s your first time, here’s a pre-Market checklist to get started:

  • Hotel Reservations
  • Business Cards
  • Calculator
  • Pre-planned appointment schedule
  • Credit information for new vendors
  • Estimated budget
  • Knowledge of store inventory
  • Purchase plan by categories
  • Assignments for each member of your buying team
  • Planned merchandise delivery dates
  • Re-sale license or local sales tax number
  • Fast Badge Registration for returning buyers
  • Comfortable shoes.

We want everyone to have the best possible Market experience in Atlanta – starting before you ever leave home. Use AmericasMart.com and the AmericasMart Magazine to plot a course for each day. Don’t forget to include time for educational events (there are some phenomenal learning opportunities at Markets) as well as some of the social events. Markets are about more than shopping ‘til you drop – have a focused plan so you also have time to enjoy Atlanta hospitality!

Guest AMU Blogger Darrah Brustein Shares On Saving Money, Driving Business

dbrusteinIt’s the dream of many young girls to one day be in the fashion industry! After college, I was lucky enough to find myself as a rep for a high-end denim line and seemingly living my dream of the glamorous life of fashion! As many of you know, the glitz n’glam can be fun, but there is a lot more to the business. After a couple years as a rep, I was ready for a new challenge and was fortunate to be introduced to the world of merchant services. I had a soft spot for the needs of a retail business owner who certainly could use some help cutting costs where they are unnecessary. When I learned how unscrupulous people in the credit card processing world can be, I jumped on the opportunity to parlay my newfound knowledge to the boutique owners I knew and cared about.

If you’ve ever wondered ‘why am I paying so much every month to a credit card processor?’, ‘what’s the difference in what it costs me to transact a debit card, credit card, or a key entered order?’, or ‘would my business benefit from an influx of cash with an advance on my credit card deposits?’, then come meet me as I share what I’ve learned from working with hundreds of retailers and e-commerce stores about merchant services.  I’ll be offering guidance on how to get the best rates on your processing, as well as how to drive more revenue to your business with merchant services. It’s time to take the confusion out of this business and shed some light on the matter!  

Join Darrah on Friday, April 9 at 11 a.m. to find out how to Save Money and Drive Repeat Business during her AmericasMart University (AMU) presentation. More details here.

AMU Guest Blogger Peggy Johnson Spills on Survival Strategies

peggy-head-shot-medI often refer to a quote by Helen Keller’s teacher: 
“I came to teach, but I stayed to learn.”  That describes every class I have ever taught, every fashion show I have done….and more.  I have always found frontline decisions and experience to be the most valuable…along with sage advice from our sales reps…that give us insider tips on survival.  I always look forward to market to pull me up out of the fray of my  everyday retail life to re-focus in a beautiful and caring market atmosphere… reviewing the designer’s current offerings (while searching for some “new” to add to the mix). 

But something keeps us going.  It’s the smile of a satisfied customer who received rave reviews at last night’s reception for her company…or on her cruise. A “where did you get that gorgeous outfit?” goes a long way!

One of my current favorites from a forever customer while at the airport in LondonEngland….A very gentile English lady came up to me and said “Would it make you mad if I threw you down on the ground and snatched your jacket?  I just love it!”

Laura smiled and said “It probably would, so why don’t I just tell you where I got it.” You couldn’t make that one up!

Our survival strategies seminar covered many diverse directions gleaned over the years, including:

·          Fashion Show Production, made easy and profitable

·          Closet Makeovers

·          3 X 5 Wardrobe Plan

·          Packing Checklists for Planning Travel wardrobe (For men and women)

·          Conducting Fashion Seminars

·          Publicity opportunities you may not have realized were there.

·          Question and Answer portion

There is always more from where that came from. Find out here: http://www.petuniapatch.org/

Peggy held a seminar at the Atlanta Apparel Market this past weekend.

AMU Speaker Alison Ilg Tells how Social Networking is Another Opportunity for Connecting with Customers

AI HeadshotMore and more businesses are using social networking as communication tools. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others are all great ways to tell your customers more about you, and your store and products. Social networks are also a way to create relationships with customers and give you another touch point.

But, where do you start? The best way to approach social media is to first determine which networks are your customers or potential customers using. Ask your customers if they have Facebook page and how they use it? What’s their Twitter name? What’s the last video they watched on YouTube?

You can also search their names on Facebook and topics on Twitter via Twitter Search.

Then, set up a plan and start using one network. For example, set up a Facebook fan page and use it to promote the same messaging you would promote via advertising or public relations efforts. Bring you and your store’s personality to Facebook with pictures, words and style. You can pre-plan your messaging a few months out. Provide tips and information your customers can use.

Have fun with it. Ask your customers if you can take a picture of them trying on the newest spring dress and post it online. They will tell their friends about it too. Or you  could encourage customers to take their own pictures and post it on their Facebok pages.

Go to Google or Bing and search topics you want to know more about. You’ll find articles, blogs, websites, free webinars and more about Facebook and other social networks. I’ve been in communications for 20 years and this is first time I’ve seen such an abundance of information and sharing. 

As I am writing this article I checked my Twitter account and found these two articles being promoted by social media people I follow. Look at

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/12/business/smallbusiness/12guide.html?_r=2&ref=business  for tips for small businesses or look at  http://mashable.com/2010/01/18/better-social-networking/ for more tips.

Find out more from Alison at her AMU presentation at the Atlanta Apparel Market on Friday, January 22 at 10 a.m.