grassroots marketing for convenience retailers

Local marketing programs can boost store traffic without adding any operational costs.

One of the most overlooked promotional opportunities for convenience retailersis a well-planned grassroots marketing program. It’s easy to get excited abouta new trade area in the early stages of your grand opening, but it’s anotherthing to instill this excitement some two years later. All too often convenienceretailers allow their marketing to fall exclusively on manufacturer-driven promotions,failing to utilize a “verticallyintegrated” marketing approach—incorporatinggrassroots marketing with brand-building ads.

The battle is often won for customer traffic by the most successful convenience retailers because they do exactly this: They make an operational commitment to grassroots marketing in order to capture the entire customer base for their stores. And the beauty of implementing grassroots marketing for retailers is that most projects are low cost or no cost.

There are three key areas that are critical to your grassroots marketing efforts:

In-store marketing. In-store marketing includes activities that takeplace at a direct customer interaction point. These projects could include acarefully-crafted, suggestive sales program for your employees that assist themin incrementally increasing the average purchase of every customer. Just imaginehow much your average weekly sales would increase by adding an additional $1.00to every customer!

Another area that helps drive sales—especially with new product introductions—is by creating internal promotions for employees that reward new product sales. Lastly, special attention should be placed on properly merchandising both new and existing product lines to effectively position them in the customer’s mind when they place their orders. Too often sales opportunities are missed due to customers not being aware of certain products.

Public relations. The second area that creates wonderful awarenessfor your store at a very low cost is developing a solid public relations plan.This means making a concerted effort to infuse your store’s brand message intothe local community. Not only does a strong public relation program help youestablish-greater customer awareness, but your store is perceived as a contributorto the community—a community leader. Plus, many customers like to givebusiness to local c-store retailers that help them.

Community outreach programs involving charitable fundraising and showing a strong interest in the local school system elevate your status in the community as a “good corporate citizen” while simultaneously increasing store traffic.

Lastly, local store marketing provides you a roadmap for “pounding the pavement.” This “guerrilla” approach to building sales may involve your store sponsoring community sports teams and after-school organizations.

Local store marketing. Another effective local-store marketing projectis to cross-merchandise with other non-competing retailers that share the sametrade area as your store. Developing marketing materials to be handed out atother retailers on your behalf helps expand your customer reach within yourtrade area and reinforces the credibility of your brand, since it is being endorsedby another retailer. Also, a great way to get customers to try your establishmentis to literally take your store’s product to them by creating a well-planned”free sample” delivery system.

Finally, understanding and capturing core customers through a customer “loyalty” program is essential to cultivating long-term relationships. Grassroots “sweat equity” marketing efforts have just as much power and can go just as far as your advertising dollars. Convenience retailers who effectively augment their ongoing manufacturer promotional plans with strong grass roots marketing build the strongest foundation for long-term growth.

John Matthews is the founder and president of Gray Cat Enterprises Inc.(,a strategic planning and marketing services firm that specializes in helpingbusinesses grow in the convenience retail industry. Matthews can be reachedat


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