Back to basics: stakeholder & community engagement

Today, more than ever, the pressure is on retail businesses to find cost effective and inventive marketing methods that deliver significant ROI. But with marketing budgets often slashed, how can it be done?

Good question. Let’s return to the age-old phrase, ‘stakeholder communications’. Often used as a byword for PR, it is something that should be embraced at all levels to inform the creation of a new business strategy and operations.

In addition, it can sometimes be overlooked in favour of more costly, technological advancements that can be both unaffordable and unsuitable. Sure, a holographic projection of Michael Jackson at an event is both cool and newsworthy, but is it so good that it is worth spending ten years’ worth of marketing budget on? Probably not.

While there may have once been the attitude that it is each man (retailer) for themselves, the challenges facing the industry have driven stakeholders to work together for mutual benefit. You only need a quick glance at the results driven by the Heart of Manchester BID ( to see the power of partnership and the outstanding effect joint marketing efforts can have on footfall and sales.

Through interacting with local communities and finding out their wants, desires and needs, as well as examining appropriate retail and geographical research, annual marketing strategy can incorporate what each area needs to produce mutually beneficial results, delivering ROI time after time.

We have driven this belief into Keel Row Shopping Centre’s strategy and the scheme situated in Blyth, Northumberland, has been putting this into practise this summer holiday season.

With a high rate of unemployment and a lower income than average, research showed that many Blyth families find it difficult to cater for their children during school holidays. In addition, local businesses and organisations were struggling to reach communities and needed additional public space to spread their messages.

Our solution was a cost-effective and exciting six week summer programme that gave the community what they needed. Through partnering with organisations such as Northumberland Libraries, Blyth Wildlife Rescue and local businesses such as Factory Dance Academy, children were able to attend free, weekly events delivered under the brand Keel Row Kids.

Keel Row Urban Dance group

(Factory Dance Academy’s Managing Director Anna Melling and kids who attended her workshop at Keel Row Shopping Centre)

These events not only offered families a fun, free activity, they were footfall drivers that gave retailers a captive audience to sell to and local businesses and organisations the chance market themselves to shoppers.

So far at Keel Row we’ve seen footfall increase as much as 5% YOY, retailer sales increase over 10%, PR coverage worth over £35,000 generated for the Centre and its partners, positive community feedback and stakeholder relationships forged that will be useful for years to come. What’s not to love?

It then becomes clear that as impressive as some big budget marketing campaigns or technological devices are, sometimes going back to basics and being creative with traditional tactics can deliver exceptional results and give you more bang for your buck than you might have originally thought.

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