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Formulating a Marketing Game Plan

Small c-store chains can attract and retain customers by knowing what they're up against.

It's no secret that larger convenience store chains have larger toolboxes. They have the power of size behind everything they do. Whether it is relationships with distributors and suppliers, or connections with customers, their reach is wide and strong. 

In the convenience channel, however, small operators are in the majority. As a result, thousands of consumers are as close, if not closer, to a convenience store run by a small operator than one run by a bigger player in the industry. Turning that consumer into a loyal customer, though, is the marketing code these smaller chains need to crack.

According to industry experts, the first step is determining exactly what they're up against. The next step is to devise a game plan. Carl Orsbourn, a former executive with ampm and author of "Delivering the Digital Restaurant," stressed that retailers of any size must be confident they can deliver on whatever commitment they are making to their customers. The biggest challenges, he pointed out, are speed, accuracy and timeliness.

As Jake Bolling, CEO of Skupos, sees it, three things should be on every small operator's checklist as they develop and begin to implement a marketing game plan: check the data often, start small, and find a partner.

It's also important not to forget the loyalty piece of the puzzle. With a loyalty program in place, small operators can invest in their customers and get to know them on a one-on-one basis, according to Punchh's Lori Stout, vice president of marketing.

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