For greater volume, cash flow and profit.
Are you planning to advertise the same way as last year? If so, the chances are good you will be left behind. A different kind of customer is visiting retailers this year. He or she expects stores to offer long-term financing; a must for middle-end, full-line furniture retailers. Fewer consumers want to make cash deals. They are convinced that we live in an era of low interest, and believe that now is a good time to borrow. Automobile dealers pound away at that theme. So, all you need to do for long-term success is feature 36 months of no-interest financing, right? Sure, until everybody is offering it. Then where are you? You will be left behind. Resolve to make your advertising and sales tools better to cash in on the boom. Here are 26 Specific suggestions. Read all 26 before you start to work on any specific one of them. You will see things differently when you read the entire list of suggestions.
1. Evaluate and think realistically about your status. Make a list of business areas you believe to be deficient, that you feel can be improved. Be brutally honest. This list will provide a snap shot of the way things are in your organization. Don’t start working on this list until you finish this article.
2. Think about the way things ought to be. Be bold. The sky is the limit. Where do you want to be at this time next year? Not in terms of volume, but in terms of excellence. How can you get better? This is your vision. Make a list of the ways you can improve your sales dynamics.
3. Set a sales objective. Set a goal and quantify it. If you want a 25% increase in volume, specify it. If you do not yet have a direct mail program, such an increase is possible. If you have a good story to tell, and are not telling it, there is an excellent chance for a big increase. Direct mail can be the fastest way to obtain cost-effective increases in business.
4. Clean up your mailing list and plan to use it at least six times a year.
5. If you don’t have an up-to-date mailing list, put someone on this immediately. Begin to capture names. Use sales tickets to create a list of preferred customers. These are people who have been to your store and like it. Remember it costs six times as much to get a new customer as it does to keep a current one.
6. Purchase a list of prospective customers fitting your target profile. Tell your story, present your unique factors and offer customers something special to bring them in. Capture the names of people who respond.
7. Don’t under-rate print advertising. Newspapers are a non-intrusive medium, the only one that people want to contain advertising messages. Make sure your messages tell your story and are exciting.
8. Use circular inserts. These are looked for and read. Inquire about printing your own four to six page custom circular to insert once a month or so. It will work wonders for you if you tell your story and distinguish your store.
9. Use color in your print advertising. It is better to use a smaller ad with color than a huge black and white ad. Statistically, color ads are noticed and recalled better than black and white ads by a huge margin.
10. Sell fashion and style as well as price. A great price on a sofa or table your customers don’t find attractive or appropriate won’t generate sales or satisfied customers.
11. Merchandise in creative packages. Price each item separately and offer a great savings for a “fashion package.” If you have electronics, create your own home theatre package with recliners and tables. Create a complete bedding package with sheets, pillows, bed frame, etc.
12. Give information in your ads. When you run a queen-size mattress sale, use an insert demonstrating that queen-size gives customers more for their money. Establish yourself as a bedding expert. Be sure sales people carry copies of the insert.
13. Show proof of factory sales training: If your sales staff has had factory training in bedding, have a certificate prepared that they can show their customers.
14. Visual aids are an inexpensive, effective and underused sales tools. For example, if you have professional, uniformed delivery people, your sales consultants should carry a good photograph of them by their truck. If you are having a clearance, sales consultants can have a photo of the jammed warehouse. Be creative.
15. Consider a “House Calls” program. This takes some care and thought, but properly done, many retailers find that virtually every house-call will result in a sale. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, assign a fashion-minded consultant to develop a program and consider hiring an industry consultant who has experience in this area.
16. Use signs. Change them regularly. If you have a marquis, make sure it is updated to reflect current store events and promotions.
17. Have a large sign that greets customers with your photo on it. Give a brief statement about what makes your store a special place.
18. Prepare a handout for customers. If they leave the store without buying, be sure they take your unique story with them.
19. Use effective sales tags. The very best sales tags show a list price as well as a regular price. When you overtag for a sales event, use only the list price and the sale price on the overtag. Credit terms should be on the tag. Most powerful… include monthly payments on big tickets and groups if you are having an extended credit event with equal monthly payments. Use a disclaimer such as this: “Qualify for no money down, free financing for 36 months.”
20. Radio is an excellent medium for events. It is possible to dominate a radio station and get your message across because people tend to listen to radio stations. This is not possible with TV, because people tend to surf and watch programs. Consider a remote or two this year for special events.
21. Narrow-Casting TV. For some furniture merchants, cable advertising makes sense. The cost is usually low and the market segment very targeted. For most furniture retailers in the majority of commercial markets, television spots are too expensive to produce and for the reasons listed in #20, dominating the medium is difficult. The clutter on TV is increasing and mute buttons negate many commercials.
22.Above all, make things work together. A powerful media mix is print, radio, and direct mail. Be sure they are all orchestrated to say the same things. Be sure your sales consultants hear your radio commercials and see copies of your print and direct mail ads.
23. Keep your website up to date. If you haven’t looked at it in a while, it would be a good idea to do so. Tie in with current events. Tell your story. Check out Circuit City’s website. They were the leading company among the “Good to Great” companies.
24.The least expensive, most powerful media of all is people media. Some intellectual giant once came up with a saying: The medium IS the message. In the case of PEOPLE, this is a truth. People communicating with other people... saying good things about your store and about your merchandise... People Media may be the best-kept and most powerful secret in marketing! Joe Girard reigned for many years in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s greatest salesman, selling 1500 automobiles a year, one-on-one, to customers. To buy a car from Joe, you actually had to make an appointment! His secret? One was his selling technique. A selling expert once bought a car from Joe, to see just how he did it. Mr. Girard spent most of the half hour session asking questions, learning about the specific needs and desires of the customer. Then, because he knew his inventory completely, he took the gentleman to four different cars, each nearly exactly fitting his needs in color, size, price and so on. The second part of Mr. Girard’s technique was his follow-through. Joe Girard introduced the rule of two hundred. Every average person knows, fairly well, about 200 other people. He came up with this by discovering that the average funeral was attended by about 200 people. So Joe reasoned that every happy customer could potentially influence 200 other people. For this reason, Joe sent each customer a card on his or her birthday, and on special holidays. He always wrote these personally, and always said the same thing: I LIKE YOU!
Of course, there are very few sales persons who are like Joe Girard. How many cards do you get from people who have sold you a big ticket item? Insurance people who depend upon you for continuing business are good at keeping contact. But most sales persons forget you the moment you walk out the door. Just think of the opportunity this represents — especially when you apply the Rule of Two Hundred!
To the CEO of a retail furniture company, there are three key phases of PEOPLE MEDIA to constantly monitor:
• The quality of the messages you communicate to your associates, executives and managers.
•The messages that your staff communicate to each other
• The messages that your company, as a whole, communicates to your customers.
In communicating with your associates, the key ingredient in each meeting is YOU. You must provide the leadership, and you must pound away at those UNIQUE FACTORS that have made your business successful. Resolutely communicate that each sales consultant, and each cashier or credit person is a spokesperson for your store.
Make sure that every associate knows that each customer should be told:
• How long you have been in business.
• How you add a personal touch to selling merchandise
•How reliable and trustworthy your company is.
Insist that they emphasize whatever qualities and special guarantees you have that competitors do not have. Otherwise, you may as well not have them! And don’t forget to add those things your competitors omit telling customers. Add value to their purchase with expert information.
25. Teach this concept of ADDED VALUE. A good furniture merchant could enthrall a shopper for hours with information about fabrics, finishes, colors and exciting new designs. Yet, most furniture stores run ads that look-alike. In fact, if you could put a competitor’s name at the bottom of any ad you run, and it could reasonably be confused with one of your ads, then it is a poor ad. Trying to create excitement in an individual customer by reducing prices is far less effective than enhancing the value of the products you sell.
26. The only additional ingredient necessary is superlative leadership. Without leadership, nothing happens. The new leader for the new era will be the one guiding from vision, principle and values… who models integrity and inspires trust… who uses his or her full powers along the lines of excellence, and releases the creative energy of those who follow. Now, meet with ALL your Teams and brainstorm at least 26 additional ideas for making your sales dynamics better, and improving the shopping experience of your customers.
Having read these 26 suggestions and added at least 26 more, sift through and find the best few. You will need to eventually assign these best ideas to several individuals, and empower them to set up Teams to develop and present execution plans to you. Now, go back to the beginning of this article and execute numbers one, two and three. It is time to make a plan. “He who fails to plan, plans to fail.” Make bold plans for a great 2004!
Larry Mullins has 30+ years experience in the front lines of retail furniture marketing. Larry's mainstream executive experience, his creative work for "promoter-specialists," and study of advertising principles has enabled him to continually develop new High-Impact strategies. He is President and CEO of UltraSales, Inc.. Inquires can be sent to Larry care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.