It's hard not to think big when you're a business owner. After all, who wouldn't want their store to become the preeminent photo-retail hot spot?
Let's say you've enjoyed modest success over the years; you've weathered the challenges that have emerged due to changing technologies and sometimes-fickle customers. Now you're looking to let even more customers know about your products and services. Or perhaps you've come across some hard times after losing important revenue streams to digital. If only you could do an everything - and - the - kitchen - sink nationwide marketing blitz to really get your name out there and attract new customers to your storefront.
But realistically, unless you're a well-funded, self-sustaining chain, or you're independently wealthy and sell lenses and media cards just for fun, who has the dough to promote their wares from sea to shining sea? And is that really the right tactic in the first place?
Scoping out qualified buyers right within your local area (whether that comprises a town, region, or an entire state, depending on your geographic location) is probably your best bet to jump-starting sales. With the help of the internet, some affordable customized options, and industry support, you could be well on your way.
Stand Out From the Crowd
It's no surprise that leaders in the photographic and retail industries would be trailblazers in helping retailers make the most of their local marketing efforts. "You can have a lot more flexibility and can adapt faster to customer issues in your local market," explains Amy McGibbon, group executive, marketing, for PMA. "You have a much better relationship with your local audience, so you can market more meaningfully to them."
PMA strives to help members stand out from their local competitors through certification programs. "We have the QDPC, which stands for Qualified Digital Processing Center," explains McGibbon. "This program is available to anyone who is an active PMA member and who has the ability to provide some type of output from digital images. There's a simple process that you go through to make sure you qualify. What this gets the business owner is notoriety in their local neighborhood; we give them a door decal and, through another web portal, we put a symbol out there that says they have been recognized by the trade association and that they're a qualified digital processing center. Then we run consumer ads with that same message telling consumers they need to look for this symbol at their local retailer."
Digital AdMaker is part of the QDPC program. "What we've done is provide royalty-free images that retailers can use to build their own advertisements and campaigns-or we can build the ads for them," says McGibbon. "There are some that are set up for newspapers, some that are set up for larger flyers, some that can be totally customized. The neat thing is it keeps putting that digital processing center mark out there, and the consumer will learn to look for that."
The Digital AdMaker program is a fraction of the cost of what a retailer would normally have to shell out, and it's tailor-made for a few different segments. "Because there are so many markets we're serving as PMA, we've expanded Digital AdMaker for the scrapbook and picture-frame markets as well," says McGibbon.
A direct-mail postcard program is another marketing tool retailers who qualify can use through PMA. "A retailer can go in through the PMA website, which is member-protected, and send in his or her own criteria," adds McGibbon. "We've already predesigned some of the templates for them. They simply merge in their database, and within days that postcard piece is in the mail."
The Expert program allows retailers to provide a certified staff to its customers-important for customers who need expert advice. "CPC stands for Certified Photographic Consultant, and SPFE stands for Society of Photofinishing Engineers," says McGibbon. "If you receive this level of certification, it means that during your retail hours of operation, you need to have a CPC or an SPFE on staff, so when your customer comes in, you've got someone there who can answer questions. The training is very extensive for both of those certifications."
PMA has also entered into a partnership with TakeGreatPictures.com. The website features a dealer locator. "If you are a qualified digital processing center, that logo comes up with your entry," says McGibbon. "We've also put together ads with TakeGreatPictures that remind the consumer that May is National Photo Month. We ID'd some photographers provided by TakeGreatPictures, and they built these beautiful ads where they incorporate their own photos and tell what they did to capture the photo and what customers could try at home. The retailer can then use those ads in his local market to encourage what he needs to with his own customer base."
Parsing the Population
Dimitrios Delis, director of marketing research at PMA, speaks about breaking down the demographics to more accurately determine your marketing needs. "Consumers are now developing different workflows-just one approach isn't good for every consumer," he says. "So we started looking at different consumer segments from a demographic standpoint. We just finished a big survey, and we designed the survey so we can create a complete segmentation of the population and how they fit into the existing services-which of those segments are best, what new services we might need for extra segments, and how the retailer should prepare in terms of store layout and services to target those specific consumers.
"They'll then take those demographic profiles and work with mail-lease companies to create an online tool for retailers so they can plug in their zip code and find relevant lists of consumers in their area and how big each of those segments are," he continues. "Then they can take that mail list, look at the literature we have on that segment, and prepare the promotion for that segment on the products we think will be successful within that particular segment."
There are many segmentation products and services out there, but as Delis points out, they may not always be useful for the photo retailer. "There are two problems that generic segmentations have," he explains. "One, it might be too expensive for the local retailer to buy. Two, these segmentations are usually done on overall spending or simply on camera spending. We look at the specific photo behavior of all these consumers-not just spending on cameras, but also on services, scrapbooking, and printing, for example."