OMG, We're Going to Be on Oprah! Crap. What do we do now?
May 20, 2011 8:04 AM   Subscribe

What do we need to do to prepare for and take fullest advantage of an upcoming magazine article that's going to feature our small, family-owned retail business?

We've just learned that our small, family-owned retail store is going to be the subject of an article in a general interest magazine with a subscriber base of about 2 million people. The article is scheduled to run next month and we just finished doing the photo shoot.

This creates two questions:

1. What do we need to do now to make sure we're fully prepared when it's released; and,

2. In addition to being prepared for a sudden uptick in business, what can we do to fully take advantage of this incredible opportunity in terms of other marketing and publicity that we might be able to produce ourselves?

Additional information that might be helpful: We're a small retail store that sells specialty culinary ingredients (but we're not a grocery store/food market). We sell both in-store and online. The subscriber base of the magazine is an affluent one, but not directly related to our core "foodie" customer demographic. I'm trying to keep this fairly generic, but can pop back in if more information is requested.

Our business is fairly new and so we're trying really hard to not totally squander this once-in-a-lifetime national exposure opportunity!
posted by webhund to Work & Money (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How's your inventory? Is your supply chain able to handle a spike in demand?

Is your website going to be able to handle the additional spike in traffic?
posted by mkultra at 8:20 AM on May 20, 2011

Nothing turns me off faster than contacting a business and not getting any sort of a response. Do whatever you can do to have knowledgeable staff able to answer the phone/email/twitter/facebook requests that you'll get that week.
posted by anastasiav at 8:26 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Do you have a facebook page? Get one. Make sure it clearly links to your website.

Make sure your website is easily navigated by first time visitors, make the hours, address, ordering and contacts as clear as possible if it's not already. Also seconding to make sure it can handle a traffic spike, if you're on the most basic hosting plan you might want to upgrade for a few months, you don't want it to crash for even a couple hours.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:31 AM on May 20, 2011

Echoing T.D. Strange:

Make sure your website and social media is all easy to find and up to date, especially if it's going to be mentioned in the article. You can also use Twitter/Facebook to tell your customers/spread publicity about being in the magazine.
posted by thylacine at 8:36 AM on May 20, 2011

I don’t really know your type of industry or business model, but if you don’t have these things in place, this is what I would do:

Get a blog for your business, and perhaps a facebook page, too. I don’t think that you need to post a lot, but are there seasonal/holiday things that you can capture? Are there ways to get the attention of each type of customer (the foodie, the people from the magazine?) How far can you ship? Can you make a story about it.

I don’t know anyone at this business, but I heard about it on another blog and check out the things they do (see the videos). For example, there is a video about how they can ship to Afghanistan. There are holiday videos.

If it were me, I would try to get things up that a foodie wants to read (I don’t know what a foodie wants, but perhaps recipes? A video experience?) If you don’t have the time, can you make a contest on the blog about …cooking with these ingredients or how far do you ship from? Do you have international food products and perhaps readers from otehr parts of the world can provide info about it?

Are there any stories or motivational things about why you have the business as owners? Put the story on your blog.

Can you put a link to your business on your profile? I don’t know anything about your business/industry, but perhaps another reader in the industry can give you specific recommendations.

posted by Wolfster at 8:39 AM on May 20, 2011

In store:
This is a good time to take the hit and start offering samples if you don't already.

Move a few lower-priced WOW items near the store exit with minimal markup. People will be coming visit and see the store - while they may not buy a big item the first time, giving them the opportunity to purchase a little souvenir at an apparent reasonable price will make them think about coming back again.

Via phone:
If you don't have phone standards for greetings, etc, you want to start writing them down now. This will be handy in the event you that this leads to increased foot traffic and you decide to hire an additional person. Don't hire pre-emptively.

You will probably see a bigger impact online than anywhere else if your store is being featured in something affluent: you are getting exposure to larger markets (in particular NYC and CA). Even a small percentage-wise portion of the traffic from those markets (thousandths of a percent) could mean double (if not greater) online sales for you.

If you are actively involved in the business, expect to have to take a slight step back while you find yourself now in both a PR position as well a manager role. Yes, you did PR and managing before, but increased foot traffic, web traffic and overall stresses on logistics may prevent you from stocking the shelves while customers want to congratulate you, and an online customer want to order an obscure variation and the phone is ringing... You will need to be prepared to end conversations quickly and politely, be confident in your second in command's ability to make decisions, and otherwise be ready to empower your team to be successful.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:44 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Aside from easy navigation on your website: keep it SIMPLE. Man, I hate sites with a lot of Flash; moreover, it'll load more quickly for visitors and give them faster access to info, which is the most important thing. In addition, consider that the general interest mag might draw in people who are less tech-savvy, so it's worth having someone's grandma checking it over :)

If you do get overwhelmed by interest, don't panic! Just be honest and don't overpromise if you can help it. Put up a message saying, "Hey! Welcome to all of our new visitors who read about us in Fabulosity Monthly. It might take us a little longer to get your order out -- maybe five days instead of two -- but we'll still provide the same awesome kumquat oil that all of our customers have loved in the same great package covered with genuine lipstick prints. Thanks for your patience, and thanks for stopping by!" (And then get the orders out in three days instead of five.)

Be proactive. Good luck!
posted by Madamina at 8:49 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

In addition to being ready for all the new customers you'll attract from around the country, be sure to promote this great piece to your existing local customers.

Consider having an event at your shop on a weeknight after the magazine drops. Buy multiple copies to have on hand and give away. Invite your employees, best regular customers, and local notables like Chamber of Commerce president, who can say a few words about how this feature helps spotlight the area and therefore assists other small businesses, etc. Have a champagne toast. Invite the prominent local foodies—ie the officers in the chefs' association, the owners of local restaurants, the food writers in the local papers.

Create and distribute a press release telling the story of how Webhund Spice Shop is going to be featured in BIG DEAL Magazine. Depending on the population in your area, this could be a high interest story for the local papers.

Send this press release to the top national foodie/industry mags and websites as well. The magazine feature signifies that your store is about to be a Next Big Thing, and they will want to jump quickly on it.

Make sure your web analytics are fully-featured and ready for this traffic spike. It's great to have a big bump in visitors... but not nearly as great as using those visits to hone in on what parts of your site are most effective, and where you are converting visitors to buyers, so you can make improvements to enhance sales going forward.

If you don't already have this built into your site, consider hiring a consultant for a couple of months who can analyze the traffic. Make sure he/she is well-versed in concepts like conversion funnels. You will already know where the visitors are coming from; now you want a clear picture of what happens when they arrive.

Congrats! This is a very exciting opportunity. It's like winning the small business lottery, really.
posted by pineapple at 8:50 AM on May 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

pineapple's got it, really. In addition, I'd say that if you are planning any advertising, add a tagline now to all your ads. Something as simple as Featured in National Magazine June 2011 will do the trick - you want to keep people looking for the article after June has come and gone. Also, don't buy an ad in that magazine that month. They'll probably try to sell you one but you're already getting free coverage and you don't need to double it up. Putting an ad in the following month, though, is a good idea and a better use of your ad dollars.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:23 AM on May 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to work at a (sounds like) comparable magazine, and business owners used to ask us this question all the time. The frustrating answer is: It depends. Sometimes businesses are mentioned and they are overwhelmed with new business; other times it hardly registers. Our biggest impact was a small business who was selling a small-but-cool glass vase for, like, $8. The business unexpectedly got several thousand orders in a few days, which totally overwhelmed them.

Is the story going to just be about your cool business? Or is it going to mention specific products that readers should check out? If it's the latter, especially if the products are $25 and under, you may get a spike in orders. The writer/editor/fact-checker (whoever your contact is at the magazine) should be able to answer this question for you, especially as the story goes to print. (And if they are mentioning specific products, they should be double-checking with you to make sure that the product will be available as close to press time as possible; they should not be browsing your website and picking a few products and mentioning them without telling you -- what if you're going to phase those products out? What if they have a weirdly long lead time?)

Don't bother asking the photographer anything. They don't know. (No offense to photographers.) You're best off asking a staffer at the magazine any questions; freelance writers are less likely to give you good info.

Wait, they just took the photos and you're going to be in next month? If it's a monthly, you won't be in June 2011 (that's already on newsstands) and July is likely at the printer already. Is it a weekly mag?

on preview: I like pineapple's answer about how to take advantage of this as a marketing opportunity.
posted by purpleclover at 11:43 AM on May 20, 2011

To echo what anastasiav said, one of the quickest and most certain turn-offs for me (businesswise, I mean) is when I contact a company and they don't respond at all. I really don't mind so much what the response is — "here's the answer to your question", or "thanks for contacting us, we'll look into this and get back to you with the answer", or even "sorry, we don't do that/we can't help with that" — but getting zero response seriously ticks me off, to the point of making me willing to put up with moderate to severe inconvenience in order to avoid doing business with the company in question.

And as others have suggested, follow the Montgomery Scott method and pad your time estimates so your customers will be pleasantly surprised when their order shows up earlier than they were expecting.
posted by Lexica at 3:57 PM on May 20, 2011

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