Three-Mile Marketing

As John Matthews sees it, a store languishing in mediocrity is a store that has become wallpaper in the halls of retail.  

"Generally, when starting a business, it’s easy to get people excited when its new and fresh," said Matthews, founder of Chicago-based retail marketing firm Gray Cat Enterprises. "After a few years, though, you start to blend into the background—you become retail wallpaper."

What can a retailer do to get off his laurels and stay relevant? Learn how to market his brand. Matthews has released an 80-page manual to simplify the intricacies of marketing.

A 20-year retail industry veteran, Matthews has served in senior level positions at multimillion-dollar companies like Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches and multibillion-dollar companies like Clark Retail Enterprises (White Hen Pantry) and Little Caesar’s.

He’s spent the better part of a decade delivering industry presentations on marketing, offering a particularly unique focus on what he calls "Local Store Marketing," which shows retailers how to grow sales by cultivating that critical three-mile radius around their stores.

"I’ve been doing some form of this presentation for 10 years, and invariably people ask, ‘Do you have that written down somewhere, or a manual or CD-ROM or something?’" Matthews said.

As of October, the answer is yes.

Taking Action
Published through his own company, Gray Cat Enterprises, Matthews has authored the "Local Store Marketing Manual for Retailers," a step-by-step guide chockfull of tips and tactics that offer low-cost—and sometimes no-cost—marketing solutions for retailers at any level.

"The last thing I wanted to do is write a manual like a marketing guy, and then have it sit on a shelf somewhere," Matthews said. "It’s not meant to be read from page to page, front cover to back cover. It’s written very operator-friendly. You don’t have to be a marketing guru to do it."

The manual showcases 22 marketing ideas—everything from suggestive selling and sports sponsorships to coupon books and customer callbacks. Each idea comprises three pages: a narrative, a page planner and a step-by-step action timeline.  

The section dubbed "Fish Bowl," for instance, shows merchants how to grow their customer database by placing on the front counter a fish bowl in which customers can drop business cards.

It sounds remarkably simple, but Matthews takes it much further by etching out follow-up action plans to build a mammoth database from those business cards.

"Those are people who found your store," Matthews said. "They’re customers at your store, people you can send coupons and promotional information at a fraction of the cost of (traditional advertising). All that, for the cost of a $3 fish bowl."

In addition to the Local Store Marketing manual, Matthews authored a "Grand Opening Manual" that skirts the industry vernacular and simply shows retailers what elements and ideas they can use for store grand openings.

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