Bunny Trail Stickers

The Internet is a wonderful tool but can be scary if you don’t know how to make the best use of it. In today’s blog post retailer Chris Fox, from Wishes Of Cudworth looks at how to keep your shop’s online marketing local. This article was originally published in Greetings Today Magazine.

Facebook & Your Community

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of what you’re trying to achieve when it comes to social media. You need a reality check. The target at Wishes has always been to get people into our shop. To convert our Facebook posts, tweets and Instagram likes into sales for our bricks and mortar store. It’s about building a local, digital buzz. To connect with new customers as well as give our existing ones a nudge.

Wishes of Cudworth Window Display

My own Facebook feed is around 40 per cent rabbits, 10 per cent friends, 10 per cent geeky stuff and the remaining 40 per cent retail news. A good mix, I think you’d agree. I try to keep up with the promotions that other greetings card shops are running. One of the trends I’ve picked up on is the power of community projects as shops and villages really are stronger if they team up to promote themselves together.

The Power of Twitter

For some great retail inspiration I’d recommend following Richard Shorney @retailmentoring on Twitter and joining in the #IndieHour on Tuesdays 8-9pm. One notable contributor there is @ShopLeominster. Founded in July 2016 to heighten awareness of shopping local in the north Herefordshire town. They use social media channels to promote businesses collectively on daily basis through their Facebook and Twitter pages.

Shopping in Leominster

The initiative was such a success they won the Gold Cup Social Media Award in The GB High St Awards 2016. This championing of the High Street is a great boost for any town or village and, with this in mind, I decide to reach out to other retailers in Cudworth to create our own Shop Local group.

Retail Mentoring Twitter

Cudworth Village

The first step was to post on to our existing Cudworth Village Facebook page and into a few local groups. Tip 1: Don’t start a Facebook post with “I’m looking for guinea pigs” – people will think you want actual guinea pigs. One comment was: “I read your post, thinking you wanted guinea pigs for a photo shoot. I was disappointed by the lack of fluffy animals.” It doesn’t help that my Facebook profile picture is Pedro our pet rabbit.

Still I got some positive feedback but I realised I really needed to get around the shops in person. Which was interesting…

Despite being a small village, not many of the shop owners know each other, and even fewer know me as, unlike our shop owner Julia, I work behind the scenes. Tip 2: If you go into a shop and ask “Are you the owner?” people will instantly be suspicious and think you’re trying to sell them something. Well, in a way I was. I was selling them an idea. A dream of a better Cudworth, if I could be so bold.

The response was mixed. A couple of the shops instantly said no. One shop owner moaned at me about crime/litter/dog poo and asked what I was going to do about it?

One shop owner insightful remark was “So, your shop’s doing rubbish then?” A rather shortsighted comment; every shop can do better and we should always be looking for new ways to promote ourselves. I was expected bemusement but not such negativity – luckily the response from our other High Street neighbours was much more encouraging.

Julia Keeling with her Bunny Map

The Cudworth Bunny Trail

Part of the Cudworth masterplan is to have an event we can all promote together. We’re going to have Shop Local posters, leaflets and stickers of course but, to really capture the public’s imagination, I felt we needed a hook – something that would make our village stand out. The result is The Cudworth Bunny Trail where eight or nine of the shops will have bright, colourful bunnies in our windows. Using the Bunny Stop Map, people can follow the trail. When they find the bunny in the window they can pop in the shop to collect a colour-coded sticker for their map. Once all the stickers are collected they are to visit Wishes to pick up their Bunny certificate. I’ve even created a new website, www.cudworthbunnytrail.co.uk, and it’s all part of a larger Barnsley Shop Local scheme.

Cudworth Bunny Trail Map

Busy Busy…

Along with my blog www.giftshophub.co.uk (which you’re reading now, thank you) and Wishes will all cross promote each other.Yep, I’m busy, busy and all this is done in the evenings – I may start dreaming of bunnies soon. Running four websites while working full time is ambitious even for a driven workaholic like me. And it’s a little risky writing this column so early in the planning stages of The Cudworth Bunny Trail but I felt it would be interesting to document the story as it happens – in the hope it doesn’t fall apart due to the scale of what we’re planning. I guess that’s why some of the shops didn’t want to get involved. Change is daunting and trying something new is scary.

Yet, without such adventurous plans, how can we hope to be seen? As I wrote this article, we had a planned meeting with the council to look forward to when I’m hoping they support the Bunny Trail and the Shop Local campaign either with funding or by getting their promotional team to help out. I’ll let you know what happens, in the meantime I have nine bunnies to spray paint – not real ones I should quickly add going on past controversy!