Why Traditional Ads Didn't Work for My Store

June 13, 2016 | 3 min to read

When I first opened my store, I thought I would publicize my business mostly with advertising on TV and in our local newspaper.

These methods seemed like the obvious first step to building a new business, but I soon learned they didn't yield enough return on investment to use long term, at least in a traditional way.

Here's what I did instead:

A Negotiated Deal for Commercials

I wanted to use TV commercials to draw in customers, but prime spots were seriously expensive.

Our customers spanned a large range of lifestyles and many of our target customers have given up cable. This made it difficult to select the correct times to reach the largest number of potential customers. So initially, this didn't work for us.

But I wasn't willing to give up on TV all together. Instead, I got to know the staff at the local station and signed a cheap deal. We agreed to one year, and got way more spots than I would have expected. I agreed to have our commercials put in where ever they had unsold spots.

We averaged 80 spots a month and paid an extremely low price. Even got some prime spots. About once a week we had someone mention seeing our commercial and it resulted in lots of new faces through the door.

Newspaper Articles, not Ads

I initially placed ads in our local paper, the Waco Tribune-Herald, but I quickly realized two big issues. We were limited in what we could fit in the ads and our target demographic doesn't use newspapers much anymore.

So instead, I cultivated a relationship with the writers in the paper's office, and shifted to using the paper as a promotional outlet.

When my store was involved with public events, I'd give them a shout. When I had a big announcement or store move, I'd call them. Those stories created much better buzz, and I still controlled the message.

Remember to check with your city, convention center, and local TV station calendars for public events. These may include conventions, concert series, fairs, carnivals, or even parades. Many are affordable to participate in and setting up at an event can get you in front of many new faces.

You can use the resources on the marketing materials page to create flyers and signs. Set up demo stations to introduce Magic to people and give away Welcome Decks. Just contact Retail Support team to place an order for these no-charge samples.

Cross-Promotions with Local Movie Theater

When I first opened, I took out ads at the local movie theater during the previews. I paid over $1,200 a month, but only about one new customer every six weeks came in and mentioned having seen it.

Even with a reasonable assumption of four more new customers that didn't mention it, we were only seeing five customers per period for one of the most expensive forms of advertising.

After our ad contract ran out, we tried something different. We set up in the movie theater lobby to promote movie-related products and our store events. We ran demos, showed off new products, and gave out flyers and coupons to our store.

In exchange we simply had to promote the theater in our store as the choice of location to view the latest movie. We did this up to twice a year and saw several new faces through our doors following each effort.

Social Media, Of Course

Like most stores, over time social media became our most commonly used tool for advertising. It can be targeted to specific demographics, which makes it great for announcing large events like Prereleases and PPTQs, and best of all it's low-cost. But I didn't rely on it exclusively.

There's nothing wrong with being frugal, but if you only market your store through social media, you may be missing out on potential customers. You can still find other low-cost opportunities if you're creative with the resources available in your community.

Traditional advertising isn't completely dead. There are lots of potential customers that still use the traditional sources to learn about local businesses and events. It just needs to be adapted to work for smaller, specialized businesses like game stores.

by DeQuan Watson

For 16 years, DeQuan Watson owned The Game Closet, an Advanced Plus level store in Waco, Texas. He recently joined Wizards of the Coast as Trade Marketing Manager.

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