By Marissa Amoni-Jansons
The bright blue storefront and silk-flower awning of Moni’s Makeup Lounge stand out among the quaint neighborhood shops on East Sixth Street at North Tucson Boulevard.
Owner Moni Miller banks on unconventionality.
“We have no problem bringing people in,” Miller said.
Determining what draws customers and where those customers are is the key to a successful marketing plan for a small business. Each is a unique proposition.
For Miller, the unique draw is that her store is, well, unique. Miller’s shop thrives on hot pink and banks on its original marketing to draw people into the glitter and glitz.
Miller, once a makeup artist for Chanel, started her makeup, accessory and clothing boutique with the intention of being outrageous.
“We want to capture that bit of wild imagination,” Miller said of her store at 2510 E. Sixth St.
“We make our own products; everything matches. And we keep it as authentic as possible,” Miller said. Her daughter Gabrielle added her own boutique, Cry Baby, earlier this year.
Marketing was the furthest thing from Miller’s mind when she opened the lounge.
“I didn’t even have product,” she said about the lounge’s initial days. “I worked at Dillard’s just so I could pay for the store.”
Her marketing plan was not a plan at all, but rather an evolution, she said. The crux of her campaign is sending about 500 direct mail fliers to high school students and current clients. She also advertises in Campus Magazine, a national publication distributed at the University of Arizona and on community radio station KXCI.
As her shop grows, so does her advertising and marketing budget, but it will not surpass what is really important – giving customers what they came in for, Miller said.
The lounge “warms your heart,” she said.
For Miller, branding and marketing is easy, because her shop is a very personal endeavor.
But what works for a unique boutique is not for everyone.
BKM Creative Services owner Bettina Mills points out the importance of individual marketing plans.
“A restaurant might benefit from a newspaper ad, but not a clothing boutique. For them it is better to have a direct mailer,” Mills said. “It is hard to generalize a marketing plan,” she said. “I customize all projects I do for my clients. Everything is very specific.”
Mills has helped Russell and Christine Long of Long Realty Co. establish an identity separate from their company that bears their name. Direct-mail postcards were part of that effort, as was a Web site separate from Long Realty’s.
Mills said what works for one client may not be worthwhile for another. For instance, it is advantageous for home builders and developers to have a Web site. Often times, it is how the companies are found. But for an automotive shop, the same is not true.
“Auto places don’t need a Web site. They are found first through referrals and second through the yellow pages,” she said. “Web sites are not something that every business needs to put money in. They can save some money and put it in advertising instead.”
Businesses that benefit from Web sites, Mills said, are restaurants, guest ranches and online product companies.
Mills has found that advertising in magazines and newspapers has been most effective, if the business sticks with it.
“It takes a steady flow of ads. It takes time,” she said.
Most importantly, Mills recommends that a business remain professional and credible. She also advises that businesses set a good amount of money aside for advertising and marketing.
It is a tax write-off, she reminds.
Barbara Peck, principal and public relations director of LP&G Inc., suggests businesses heed advice from the Small Business Association. When it comes to failed businesses, she said, the SBA has correlated their demise with their marketing expenditures.
Peck said a standard marketing budget is 2 percent to 5 percent of the sales budget.
Once a business is benefiting from marketing efforts, Peck said, it is vital to find ways to thank customers for continued business. Peck recommends starting a customer referral program, offering gifts, hosting parties and sending personal thank you notes to important clients.
With any new marketing program, employers should always discuss it with employees and find ways to track customers, Peck said.
“Your best future customers are your past customers,” Peck said.
Zona 78 restaurant is one of LP&G’s clients that has followed the philosophy.
A fun, energetic staff has helped Zona 78 stand out as a “great little neighborhood restaurant,” Peck said.
The brick oven pizzeria on River Road at Stone Avenue has a simple menu and a fresh special every night.
The owners are typically in the restaurant and circulating with customers, Peck said.
“They know their customers,” she said.
Most importantly, concentrate your spending when it comes to advertising.
“Don’t spread your advertising dollar too thin,” Peck advised. “Pick one or two mediums you know will work and stick with them. Send a consistent message. Just when you are sick of an ad, customers are starting to understand it.”
But consistency does not mean a business can rest on its laurels.
“Don’t get complacent,” is MJ Jensen’s advice.
The “chief idea officer” of IdeaMagic marketing and promotions said many times what works is looking at a business through fresh eyes.
“Many times we overlook simple approaches,” Jensen said.
Whether it is a name change to reflect a new direction or creating a four-color postcard, Jensen believes in creating a “wow” factor for customers.
“You want to get the brand out there and keep the brand at the top of their minds,” she said.
Trying a different approach can often grab the attention businesses hope to get from customers.
An easy way to see if a marketing technique is working is to get customers involved, Jensen said.
When Canyon Community Bank wanted to see how many people were reading its newsletter, it sponsored a trivia contest.
The contest let the bank gauge how many people were actually reading the newsletter and it got customers involved, Jensen said.
Customer involvement also creates customer loyalty, and it does not cost a lot of money, Jensen said.
But it may take a little more strategy and planning.
Commercial upholsterer Restor-To-Nu, 4011 E. Columbia St., Suite 121, is starting over with a vibrant name and a new image, Jensen said.
The former name of D&B Commercial Services did not represent what the company was doing, she said.
Now the name says what the business does, Jensen said. A postcard sent to customers announced the change and got people’s attention.
Brad Simonis, partner with Commotion Studios, says of marketing: “We approach it from a branding standpoint. You need to understand the role of the brand.”
Businesses should be consistent, Simonis said.
When you hear a company’s name, you should know what it does.
A theme needs to be carried out consistently – from menus, to coffee bags, to signs – he noted.
Small business resources
U.S. Small Business Administration
2828 N. Central Ave., Suite 800
Phoenix, AZ 85004-1093
Phone: (602) 626-2817
Fax: (602) 745-7210
Business Development Finance Corp.
186 E. Broadway
Tucson, AZ 85701
Phone: (520) 623-3377
Fax: (520) 624-1728
Web site: www.bdfc.com
Tucson/Pima Public Library Business Center
101 N. Stone Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85701
Phone: (520) 791-4010
Pima Community College Center for Business Solutions
401 N. Bonita Ave.
Tucson, AZ 85709-5500
Phone: (520) 206-6569
Arizona Small Business Association
4811 E. Grant Road, Suite 261
Tucson, AZ 85712
Phone: (520) 327-0222
Fax: (520) 327-0440
Microbusiness Advancement Center of Southern Arizona
10 E. Broadway, Suite 210
Tucson, AZ 85701
Phone: (520) 620-1241
SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
10 E. Broadway, No. 208
Tucson, AZ 85701
Phone: (520) 670-5008
Fax: (520) 670-5011
Pima Community Access Program
655 E. River Road
Tucson, AZ 85704
Web site: www.pcap.cc