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Capitalize On Your Competitor's Mistakes

Furniture World Magazine


Turn their mistakes and problems with our industry's image into your greatest strengths.

We've all seen them. The "Don't" or "No" signs in the stores, the showrooms, the restaurants, the shops. I like to think of them as "negative customer factors" because they do nothing to encourage business. Sometimes we're not even aware that we have them in our stores. We get hardened from day-to-day business and sometimes see the customer as the enemy. They are elements for reducing revenue instead of increasing sales. You see them everyday (see box below). The list goes on. Now, every one of these signs has a legitimate purpose and logical reasoning behind it at least to the business owner. The customer, on the other hand, may see it as just the opposite. It's not the way the sign reads, it's how the customer construes it. As a matter of fact, you can probably capitalize on your competition's weaknesses in this department. I hate it when I'm at a local fast-food restaurant and the person behind the counter asks, "Do you have any coupons?" I know that if I don't, I'm getting ripped off. I'm paying too much. This must have come to the attention of the restaurant's competition down the street, because they put up a sign that reads, "If you don't have a coupon, we'll find one for you!"

A music store that has been in business for years has a sign near their top-of-the-line guitars that reads, "Don't touch without a salesperson." A new store in town just opened up with a sign next to their premium instruments that reads, "Check out these new guitars and wail your fanny off! You're going to love them!" Customers flock to the store to give them a try.

A major health club chain in town advertises a program of exercising one hour a day. A sign inside the locker room reads, "We are not a baby-sitter for your kids." A new start-up club came up with, "Work out and shower in less than an hour! Magazines and toys while your kids wait." Customers are lining up.

One of the better examples recently came from my friend Ben Gay III who wrote a book called "The Closers, Part 2." He told me about this beautiful, old gold rush town in Nevada City, California. As is the case with many tourist-oriented towns, store owners there have a weird obsession with preventing people other than their current customers from using their restrooms. There were signs warning non-buyers to stay out of the restrooms in virtually every window. It seems they were afraid that if someone entered their store/shop/restaurant, spotted something they liked and made an impulse purchase, it would've played havoc with their inventory controls.

Anyway, Ben said he and his wife were wandering along window-shopping and laughing about the signs, when a pleasant lady named Kathy approached them and introduced herself. She said she owned a magic and toy store that was a couple of blocks off the beaten path. She gave them a flier and said she hoped they'd drop by... if only to use her "beautiful, clean restrooms."

She went on to explain that she saw the Nevada City restroom problem as a sales opportunity for her somewhat out-of-the-way store, so she spends several hours every day walking up and down the main drag inviting people to visit her store using her "beautiful, clean restrooms" as the hook. Does it work? Well, when Ben and his wife stopped by, they found her store filled with customers. Many didn't even know it was there until Kathy approached them on the street. And they were all spending money!

It might be good to spend some time carefully studying the oddities/mistakes/oversights/miscalculations of your competitors, figuring out how to take their negatives and think of ways to turn them into positives for you.

Understand the negative aspects of the home furnishings industry's image (pushy salespeople on commission, deceptive sale advertising, high markups, poor follow-up, inadequate product knowledge, etc.) and then aggressively promote the fact that you don't do these things! Figure out the things people in the furniture business do that would drive you crazy as a customer! Take a little prompt remedial action, and then shout your new approach from the rooftops. Customers just might start knocking down your doors.



  • No shoes, No shirt, No service.
  • Bathrooms for customers only.
  • You break it, you bought it.
  • Don't touch without a salesperson.
  • Keep your children under control.
  • Absolutely no refunds.
  • No food or drinks allowed.
  • Parking for customersonly all others will be towed.
  • Present coupons before ringing up order.
  • We no longer accept xxx coupons... no exceptions!
  • We charge for estimates when no sale is made.

Bob Popyk is the publisher of Creative SellingĀ®, a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies for high-ticket retailers. His sales meetings and seminars are presented nationwide to major companies and industries. Questions on any aspect of sales education can be sent to FURNITURE WORLD at popyk@furninfo.com.