Christian Retailing

Are you talking at or with your customers? Print Email
Written by Kirk David Blank   
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 03:21 PM America/New_York

KirkBlank-NewHow to create emotional connections to specific products

At my home, and likely at yours too, we receive letters, flyers, bills, political advertisements and catalogs, plus more email than my wife and I could possibly get through in a lifetime. Admittedly I can’t stand to have unopened emails in my inbox. Like me, many suffer from what’s been dubbed EOCD, Email Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The constant barrage of email, even from my favorite retailers, can bring clutter and even confusion.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not dismissing the effectiveness of utilizing email, but a retailer cannot rely on email alone to drive traffic and sales. There is a great need today for retailers to cut through the clutter to be seen and heard.

More and more companies, including retailers, are taking a closer look at content marketing. During my early days of retail, I was taught, “Product is King, and Price is Queen.” Now, more than 25 years later, I still agree with that principle. However, the retail landscape—customer behavior and preferences included—has changed.

At the Munce Group, we saw this shift coming more than a decade ago and began to develop beneficial content that would connect with customers and ultimately result in a purchase. We started working on a concept called “More to Life,” a community that brought together the elements of content, community, cause and customers that would drive commerce. More to Life identifies the felt needs of consumers and effectively connects them with content and products that meet that individual’s felt needs. More to Life reaches millions of consumers who, until visiting the site or reading content like MTL online magazine provides, didn’t realize that there were Christian products that met their felt needs or where they were available.

One significant strength you have as an independent Christian retailer is the fact that you are the gateway for the customer to life-changing products that meet specific felt needs. So, what will it take for you to win with content marketing? The secret to effective content marketing is to interrupt less and engage more. Retailers can best engage more by emotionally connecting to their consumers with meaningful content—content that points to product.

From time to time, the fear-based advertising approach of “Hurry, don’t miss this limited opportunity” or “Beat the clock” or “You’ll never get this unless you come now” rarely works in a soft economy unless you have a unique product offering that is in high demand. Consumers are listening, but rarely do they want a sales pitch. They want retailers to earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy.

Traditional marketing talks at people. Content marketing talks with them.

Keep in mind that your customers hate when their time is wasted, and they are impressed when you give them some of your time, so use a variety of ways to communicate with your customers, but always consider: Is what I’m communicating worth their time? Have I connected with the customer’s emotions or felt need? Am I talking at or with the customer? If you can make that emotional tie—if they feel you “get” them—they’ll engage more and look forward to what you send next time.

Research shows that direct mail may be the best way to cut through the clutter to reach your consumer. Are your direct-mail marketing materials in step with your customers’ desire to connect with you? Your publishers, music, DVD and several gift companies want to help you make that connection through content marketing. Ask them for an excerpt from a book or for the “story behind the story.” Ask music companies to provide you with the heart behind the song. Ask your gift companies to help you identify decorating trends, ways to display their products or other suggestions you can pass along to your customers.

At the Munce Group, member retail catalogs include a significant amount of content that connects the customers to the products. For instance, Lighthouse Christian Products wrote an exclusive article in our Easter catalog that introduced the “Reflecting Him” mirror collection. The article was an encouragement to see ourselves through the eyes of God. How many of your customers who deal with rejection, poor self-image, abuse, loneliness and low self-esteem need to be reminded to replace negative thoughts with declarations from God’s Word?

Another article introduced a new Tyndale House Publishers author, Jennifer Smith, as she described the difficulties of marriage but also God’s intervention and redemption. We had the book featured at a 20%-off sale price, but what do you think would sell the book better, the image of Smith’s book, The Unveiled Wife, at $12.97 or a personal article from the author along with the image and sale price?

Take some time this month to evaluate your marketing. Are you driving sales by talking at your customers, or are you talking with them as you provide content that earns their attention and loyalty? CR

Kirk David Blank is president of Largo, Florida-based Munce Group, an association of 400 independent Christian retail stores, and publisher of More to Life (