With the economy right now being, shall we say, less than ideal, competition for buyer’s eyes is fierce. It’s not that buyers aren’t spending money, it’s just that they are being more careful in how they spend it and stores and sellers need to get a little more crafty in how they market their products.

Here is my top five tips I have noticed the big companies doing that us little guys could emulate and adapt for our businesses. Once you become aware of them, its easier to think of ways that you can apply these ideas to the products that you sell.

1. Buying our products will save you money! I have to give Target the crown on this one. On the same day the Dow fell, they sent me a catalog that told me the best restaurant was my home and gave me a nice glossy spread of kitchen items. This was pretty brilliant. With more people eating in rather than dining out (or at least planning to) spending money on your kitchen feels like an investment in the future that will save you money down the line. It’s a purchase that you can justify making because it feels thrifty and responsible. This seems to be the most frequently used tactic right now because it just plain works. People are willing to shell out money if they feel that it will save them money in the long road.

Need other examples?

  • Buy a Hybrid car to save money on gas!
  • Buy a new air conditioner and save money on your electricity bill!
  • Come down to Home Depot to buy energy efficient light bulbs!
  • Buy this Wii and save hundreds on evenings out!
  • Buy our hand knit blankets from our Etsy store to keep your heating costs down!

2. Emphasizing value for price charged. Taco Bell used to use this angle a lot. Remember the commercials emphasizing how much more food you got on the Taco Bell value menu versus McDonalds, Wendys and Burger King? (They usually featured people yelling, “I’m full!”) Wendy’s is doing the same thing right now with the “It’s way better than fast food, it’s Wendy’s.”

The focus of these campaigns are, sure, we are charging the same as the other guy but look how much more you are getting from us. This can be easy to apply to a lot of products. Sure, the other sheets on eBay are the same price as ours but we have a higher thread count quality. Emphasizing the durability, features or quality of your items (or service) for the price can make your items stand out and give them the extra edge. Buyers are even willing to pay a little more if you convince them your item will last longer or work better than something cheaper.

This doesn’t have to be you dissing the competition (ala Dunkin Donuts website right now trumping how they beat Starbucks in a taste test). To take a more positive spin, instead of pointing fingers, just offer examples to show why your item is better value for the money. Close up photo of details or a video showing the product holding up under duress would do the job. Get creative! Even if your product and his product are both of the same quality, I am going to be more likely to buy yours if you show me your quality and features with a dynamic video and detailed photos and he doesn’t.

3. Something for nothing. I think you can lump every promotional contest into this one (McDonalds Monopoly game is a recent one that comes to mind). People love treats and presents. With the economy being what it is, getting something for nothing gives people an extra thrill they have been missing since they haven’t been able to buy themselves as much stuff. Free shipping, gift with purchase, buy-one-get-one free, enter their name in a drawing for a larger prize with any purchase. What the offer is doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you are giving them something extra with their purchase. Even if your item is the same price as the other guy, you are more likely to make the sale if they feel like they are getting a bonus for themselves along with their purchase.

My tip? The drawing is the cheapest way to do this. Instead of having to shoulder the cost of free items or extra shipping for every single item, you are only shouldering the cost of a single item (the prize). If its a good enough prize, you can get a lot of attention for it. Just set your terms (say, anyone who purchases an item with you in Nov or Dec is entered into a drawing for a Wii) and draw a name out of a hat when the period is over and give them the item. Easy and cheap!

4. You deserve a break today! McDonalds doesn’t use this old slogan anymore but this is a simple one. Your marketing for this take is centered around the idea that the buyer has been good/stressed etc in the fact of this economy so doesn’t he or she deserve a treat? When you are being thrifty, you feel like you should be rewarded for your good behavior. Offer your product as the reward.

5. Our products are inexpensive. I put this for last as its the most obvious but it needed to be said. If you have the best price on an item, emphasis it! Having the lowest price on an item is the easiest way to win the sale so be proud of your low prices.

Now, for the theme song of this post, Weird Al’s take on Whatever You Like:

I’m sure some of you watch more TV than I do. Please share some other great ideas you have noticed the big stores doing below.