By Princess Jones

Most storeowners never went to business school; instead, they had a hobby or felt passionate about a particular industry and so they decided to open a store and offer their expertise in the form of products for sale.

That means all too often they struggle when it comes to marketing their store.

Whether it’s finding new shoppers and convincing them to stroll through their door for the first time or bringing existing shoppers in again and again, marketing can make the difference between thriving and hosting a “going out of business” sale. Here are four huge retail marketing mistakes that could signal the end of your business.

1. Not realizing that sales are NOT the only way to get people to buy.

Many retailers panic as soon as they start to struggle financially and decide the only way to boost income is with a sale. This is just blatantly untrue. While promotional events are a great idea, they are certainly not limited to sales events.

One clothing retailer I’m familiar with holds “preview” events each season, where they offer VIP customers a chance to stop in, drink some win, eat some cheese, and shop new merchandise after hours before it’s available to the general public.

As another example, many pet retailers host puppy parties where shoppers can bring their pets into the store for free treats for both two-legged and four-legged guests.

2. Not engaging with your customers online.

Consumers today expect businesses and brands to not only use social media, but to be responsive. In fact, according to The Social Habit, 42 percent of consumers complaining in social media expect a 60-minute (or less) response time.

That means it’s more important than ever not just to have social accounts, but to regularly monitor them.

But retail businesses aren’t limited to social media. They can also engage with shoppers via message boards and forums. This works particularly well for retailers in hobby-related niches, such as bicycle shops, aquatics retailers or model train stores. The store can leverage its expertise by answering shopper questions and offering up solutions to shopper problems.

It’s worth nothing, however, that the key to engaging online is not to open accounts on every type of social media in existence, but rather to figure out which types of social media the store’s target demographic is most likely to be using, and use those.

It’s more important to engage with shoppers successfully in one or two places online than to fail by spreading efforts too thin.

3. Not using new technology and the Internet at all.

A surprising number of retail businesses have failed to keep up with the times at all—many still do not have websites or have websites that haven’t been updated in the last 5 years. Don’t fall into that trap.

Make sure you not only have a website, but that it has engaging content that will convince Internet users to come visit you in person.

Another place where many retail businesses fail is in successfully using their email lists. Most stores take the time to collect at least some email addresses in store—but then they don’t use them. This is a huge mistake.

When a customer signs up for your email marketing list, it’s essential to email them almost right away (at the very least, within the month) to keep them engaged with the store. After that it’s important to continue to share valuable content on a consistent basis to keep the store fresh in email subscribers’ minds.

4. Not having a loyalty program.

The average cost of marketing to acquire a new customer and convince them to shop at your store will always be more expensive than the average cost of convincing someone who shopped there once to buy again.

Once you’ve overcome that initial hurdle and brought a shopper through your door, be sure to capture their information (so you can follow up with them, add them to your email list, and add them to your loyalty program). Then be sure to actually offer them some incentive to return.

That may mean keeping them updated on the latest new products or an upcoming sale, but it may also mean just keeping in touch with useful information so that the next time they need a product you offer your name is the first one that comes to mind.

After all, that’s what marketing is all about—putting your store in a consumers mind, so that they recommend, visit, and buy from you as often as possible, allowing you to stay in business.