Boost your image… and your sales

1. Find out what makes you unique

For butchers, as for any other business, branding is everything. It is all about standing out from the crowd, and making it easy for the public to recognise you.

Libby Entwisle, director of marketing company Entyce Creative, says butchers should never underestimate branding. She explains they have the advantage of still being seen as traditional family businesses, and it makes sense to retain that quality in branding, but there is a multitude of other possibilities. “You can be very slick and modern, or very traditional, but the important thing is to stick to your values,” she says.

2. Ensure you Reward customer loyalty

Special offers are a good idea if you want to grow sales and entice new customers. “People like bargains, and it gives them a reason to return to your shop,” says Entwisle. 
In Devon, Lloyd Maunder Master Butchers has taken offers to the next step with a loyalty card scheme. For every £10 spent, customers get a stamp that turns into a 20% discount after 10 stamps. General manager David Carter says the operation has been very successful. “We’ve had very good responses, and a year-on-year increase of 7%,” he adds. He advises butchers considering starting a similar scheme to take their time to research the market and decide to what degree they want to take the promotion. “Our customers generally spent £5 to £7, so we put the stamp at £10 to increase individual sales. They spend £100 in total to get the discount, and when they get it they spend up to £300,” he says. 
This type of initiative also attracts local media attention: the Lloyd Maunder scheme gained a lot of newspaper coverage.

3. Showcase products and enter contests

In most cases, what makes butchers unique is their added-value products, so they should promote them as often as possible. 
John Davidson, of Davidsons Butchers in Scotland, explains that he supplies a lot of corporate and charity events for the catering industry. “We are not geared up for selling to restaurants,” he says. “But these events are great to raise awareness on certain products that can be found at the shop, and it’s good 
for networking.”

Entering competitions is also a great way to promote your shop and get free publicity. Nigel Hofmann of Wakefield-based 
H Hofmann & Sons says his business has soared since he won the Champion of Champions competition last October. “It’s a real boost for trade,” he adds.

4. Build up your online presence 

More and more butchers are setting up accounts on Facebook and Twitter, but Entwisle warns that social media platforms require a commitment. “You need to build up an online community and be active with it — otherwise it’s not worth it,” she says. But if you are willing to post a message at least once a day, social media platforms are excellent promotional tools. 
John Davidson has a big screen broadcasting Twitter feeds in the back of his shop, so all the butchers can follow what comes up and answer in real time. “We have come across many good suppliers and got great ideas and recipes. It’s good for business networking,” he says. He set up the Twitter account himself and found it easy, but expresses reservations about Facebook. “It can get a bit out of hand. I had to get professional advice on how to set it up properly,” he adds.

Social media is also a good way to promote special deals. You can post offers with an online code and measure its efficiency when customers come into the shop for their discount. 
Butchers can also launch an online shop, linked to Twitter, but this depends on your products, their shelf-life and the kind of delivery you could offer, says Entwisle.

7. Become tech-savvy

Tom Newitt, of M Newitt and Sons, managed to do exactly that when he launched an iPhone application with cooking advice and information about his shop. He says people really enjoy it and the app has been downloaded about 1,000 times. “The upgrade was very much worthwhile,” he adds. “It’s a natural progression. Originally businesses focused on opening a website, but consumers are now looking at expanding services to mobile, so we need to develop to cater for that market.” He has recently launched a new version, and an ordering service on the app is under development.

5. Think differently

It is important to mark yourself as different from your competitors “Always try to do something different that makes you stand out and gets media attention, even if just for a few weeks,” Entwisle says.

6. Pass on your knowledge and skills

People are increasingly concerned about food provenance, resulting in an emerging trend for butchery courses. Lloyd Maunder has just started organising them, and has had great feedback. David says: “We did a competition with a draw and the winners got a free butchery lesson. They all said they enjoyed it and would be willing to pay, so we are thinking about how much we want to charge. The retail value of the meat they bring home is about £45, so we will probably charge between £75 and £80 for a two- to three-hour course.”

8. Sell 24/7

The owner of Izarzugaza’s butcher’s shop in northern Spain came up with an even more original idea to promote his shop. He installed a vending machine stocked with fresh meat and ready meals outside his shop. Located in an area with a busy nightlife, it has been very successful, and even offers a choice of languages for tourists. Entwisle hails the initiative, but warns: “You have to consider shelf-life and your location, and be careful that 
it doesn’t take away the 
face-to-face charm of going to the butcher’s.”

Is it worth spending on PR?

When it comes to investing a part of their budget in PR and advertising, butchers’ opinions couldn’t diverge more. Lloyd Maunder now has 15 franchises and its own marketing company. 
Tom Newitt hires a PR company to run a weekly campaign with special offers, large banners in strategic locations and editorial work. “It represents a fair proportion of our budget, but it’s important to keep promoting our business and products,” he says.

However, John Davidson says there are cheaper ways to market your shop. “You can spend thousands of pounds on marketing, but you don’t have to,” he says. ”Spending your money the right way matters.”

For Entwisle, the decision depends largely on the size of your business. “Adverts in local magazines are worth investing in, because they get an immediate return,” she suggests. However, the message must be short and clear to catch the readers’ attention, and you must avoid making a list of all your products. “Use ideas people can relate to, such as a Sunday roast, or point to seasonal products, such as barbecues. She also recommends branding your shopping bags: “It’s cheap, and they will advertise for you on the street."