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Ken Combs Running Store Fights Direct-to-Consumer [Interview]


Welcome to Retailers Rule!, an interview series exploring digital marketing insights from the perspective of local retailers and the brands they sell.

Our latest interview features Larry Holt, owner of Ken Combs Running Store in Louisville, Kentucky. After purchasing the store from his stepfather, Ken Combs, in 1991, Larry took over the store’s various day-to-day operations. He now has a team of about ten to thirteen employees.

Larry Holt, Ken Combs Running Store

Larry Holt, owner of Ken Combs Running Store

Over the course of our conversation, Larry and I talked about brand digital marketing support, the effectiveness of Facebook targeting, and the ongoing retail battle against direct-to-consumer.

Describe your typical day at work.

I’m pretty much running around doing everything. I do IT, housekeeping, security. I wait on customers. I do most of the buying, specifically futures and big buys. I do all of the advertising and marketing for the store, too.

What types of trends do you see happening in the specialty run industry?

The trend I’m seeing is that there is more competition due to the internet, particularly in regards to competing with vendors.

I don’t have the marketing dollars that they do, and a lot of them will now do the “Shop Now” buttons and calls-to-action like that on Facebook and totally bypass the local retailer.

It’s direct-to-consumer that I’m trying to fight, more than anything. Big-box doesn’t bother me. We can compete against them. But it’s very tough to directly compete against these manufacturers.

Related content: Retailer Support Keeps New Balance One Step Ahead [Interview] >

How does this affect how you market your store? What are you doing to stand apart?

In our digital marketing, I emphasize that people can come into my store, physically try on the pair of shoes, even run up and down the sidewalk outside. Customers can have a person with expertise and experience help them make the right choice. Somebody who’s a local, who’s been here for 36 years.

ken combs running store

Ken Combs Running Store in Louisville, Kentucky

We also market the fact that we’re involved in the local community. We do races. We do events. We raise money for local charities. You don’t see large online vendors or e-commerce sites contributing in this way. It means something to people when they see your face out there. It helps to re-emphasize the buying experience that we provide.

Related content: 5 Questions with Aligned Speaker Kim Hoey of Mizuno USA >

What digital marketing channels are you currently utilizing?

We use social media. We do paid ads on Facebook and Google. We use website banners on other sites that are relevant to our business, too.

How are you measuring the ROI for these digital marketing efforts?

We definitely have people come into the store and say that they saw our ad, especially when we boost a post on Facebook.

We have a good targeted audience on Facebook that I’ve narrowed down to our ideal customer type. It’s just become the best channel to reach the people who will actually come into the store and make a purchase. As opposed to print media or anything like that where there is no targeted audience whatsoever.

How long have you been using Promoboxx?

I’ve been using Promoboxx for about six months to promote New Balance and about a year for Mizuno, and I use it quite frequently.

What has your overall experience on Promoboxx been like so far?

It’s been great. As soon as I get an email letting me know that there are new digital assets or campaigns for me to promote on Promoboxx, I’ll go in, pick a couple out that will work for our store and audience, and send some out then and schedule some others. It helps to keep us top of mind.

Related content: The Top Digital Campaigns Showcasing Brands and Local Retailers >

How do you receive digital marketing support from the other brands you carry in-store?

Yeah, they do provide some support there, but it’s pretty lame. They’ll send out a zip file filled with photos of the products, but I’m supposed to dig through it and then fix them up to where they’re presentable for Facebook or email. It’s a lot of extra work.

But none of those alternatives are nearly as good as Promoboxx. Promoboxx is just a few clicks, and it’s done.

[Quick side note: Thank you for the Promoboxx love, Larry! Retailers like you are what inspires us every day.]

Have you utilized the Promoboxx Local Ads feature?

[Promoboxx Local Ads extends national brand content, targeting, and media mix to local retailers, where both benefit from reaching nearby customers on mobile devices.]

new balance retailer local ad

Example Local Ad on Facebook

Yes, I’ve used Promoboxx Local Ads for New Balance. It was easy to use, and I definitely noticed an uptick in engagement. It made people ask questions and inquire about specific products.

What is your biggest piece of advice for retailers just starting on Promoboxx?

I think they need to get in there and just play around as much as possible. I suggest they take advantage and spend some time in the beginning figuring things out.

I would like to see more of my vendors on Promoboxx, personally. As a business owner, I just don’t have time to do a lot of this kind of stuff, and Promoboxx makes it easy and fast. It helps to make us look more professional, too.

A special thanks to Larry for taking the time to speak with us! Be sure to check out Ken Combs Running Store on Facebook, Twitter, and their website.

Want to make digital marketing easy for your specialty retailers? Promoboxx can help.

With Promoboxx, leading brands like New Balance and Mizuno give their specialty retailers access to professional marketing content for promotion across key digital channels, all co-branded to highlight both the brand and the retailer’s store.

By leveraging Promoboxx, brands extend national messaging and amplify brand awareness at the local level, all while providing their dealers with an effective, easy-to-use digital marketing solution.

Ready to see it in action? Download the Aligned Awards 2016 Lookbook to view the top digital campaigns showcasing brands and local retailers.

Related Content:

Retailers Share 5 Tips to Drive Local Consumer Engagement >

Retailer Support Keeps New Balance One Step Ahead [Interview] >

Local Retailers Hold the Keys to Your Brand’s Online Reputation >

The Top Digital Campaigns Showcasing Brands and Local Retailers >

5 Questions with Aligned Speaker Kim Hoey of Mizuno USA >