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Have A Huge May Without The "Used Car" Mentality

Furniture World Magazine


Tips for firming up your advertising plans now!

May is one of those wonderful months when everyone seems to be anticipating summer and all is excitement and joy. It's a time to plan weddings, picnics, trips and that restful vacation away from the mother- in-laws. It is an idyllic time. And it is a time when home furnishings dealers can make a lot of money.

But the planning for May begins in early February. There is product to buy, there is display to think about and there is an advertising challenge awaiting you. Now is the time to plan.

Most of the potential customers in May will be ready for some excitement. They have just gone through another hard winter. Many have been locked up in the house for much too long. They want to get out and experience the fun of shopping again.

Plan the event now. It's a great time for a storewide event, perhaps an Anniversary event which talks about the wonderful new product which has just arrived...the great new fabrics for the season...the terrific new leather sofas which have just come in...the new "Evolutions" bedroom from Stanley which will knock their socks off...or that great "Fontana" by Broyhill dining room...or that terrific new sofa from Furguson-Copeland...or how about that new "Paris" collection from Bernhardt. Have they seen the new entertainment centers from Hooker, or the new home office selection from Sligh? Have they seen the new Century upholstery or the new E.J. Victor bedroom? How about the Crosswinds armoire or the Hancock & Moore loveseat? Whatever you want to talk about, remember It's About Excitement!

And there are two things you can remember when you bring this excitement to the public.

First: You don't have to talk about the word sale. You will be surprised how wonderful it is to not have to sell discount. You don't have to give your product away to sell it. People will buy from you because of your service, your selection, your reputation for excellence, and your selling ability. And you don't have to use the crutch of the word "Sale" unless you can't sell anyone without that crutch. It's all about determination and guts. It's all about margin. It's all about rebuilding a great industry and throwing away the crutches of the past. Imagine, no more negative selling. No more NO NO NOs. No more price off. It's just pure selling. It shouldn't scare you. It should excite you. Cultivating great selling skills is how you will survive the great fall out scheduled during the first part of the Millennium.

Second: You have to use television with the majority of your advertising budget to promote the excitement. There is no other medium capable of bringing in those who could, those who should or those who would purchase from you during this event other than television.

Examine this fact for a moment. The window of opportunity is wide open for new direction and new sales because for the first time in the history of the world, more people are passing through the window, with money to invest on home furnishings, than at any other single time since the creation. The Baby Boomers are ushering in the graying of America. They are the single largest group of consumers ever to pass this way. They have hopes and dreams yet unfulfilled. They have the ability to buy new furniture. They are products of the television age. Remember, television has been their total source for news and entertainment for every day of their entire lives. They are the first group to experience that. Newspaper does not and can not influence the majority of them any more. They don't have time to read the newspaper. They don't rely on the newspaper. As that great noted authority of advertising once said, "It's television, stupid!".

Sure you can continue doing the same old thing. You can continue to have the newspaper dominate your every thought. You can try to reach that new audience by another ad in the tired old form of communications the new generation of adults ignores. You can continue to do that. Or, you can grab ahold of television and use it for all of it's worth.

And May is a great month to use it. First of all, rates are not at the highest levels. Second, the television season ends during the month, just before Memorial Day, and you can have large audiences watching big events, like the final episode of Seinfeld. You can reach your audience with television.

You are afraid to try and really get behind television because you don't understand it or cannot create commercials that don't look like local garbage. You don't know how much to budget for television. You don't know what other dealers do to make their television efforts successful. You need information. Well, maybe we can help.

Today there are such things as "competition" in the marketplace. There is more television than just ABC, CBS and NBC. There is FOX, WB and UPN. There is cable. And it dominates. Start with this idea. Eighty percent of your advertising budget must be dedicated to television. The other twenty percent should go to whatever else makes you feel good. Begin with the majority of your television budget going on your local CBS affiliate (approximately 40%). Why? We are anticipating another ratings sweep period win for CBS in May. Big programs including several specials, will mark the schedule. This will mean that the 11PM (EST) newscasts will have big impact in increased viewers on CBS. Thus, you will be buying lower rated local programs but have the advantage of buying at a time when their audience is increasing. Thus, you get more for your dollar. To the CBS schedule, add a healthy dash of FOX, especially on Monday night. Then grab a piece of the Seinfeld rush and buy the local news on your NBC affiliate for every Thursday late news possible for the entire month. This should take up approximately 65% of your television budget. The remainder of your budget should go to cable. Buy CNN heavily and A&E especially around "Biography". Make sure you add Discovery, The Learning Channel and Headline News.

Second: Make your commercials emotion driven. Don't yell and scream. Don't continue to barrage the public with "down and dirty" deals which insult the intelligence of all who are in the audience. It is no longer considered "cute" to insult with stupidity. Come on! How many times can you have the "World's Greatest This or That Sale". Make your commercials compete with the national automobile commercials. Have your commercials made with some production value. Make the people want to come in and buy from you because you have something wonderful to sell. Demand from your advertising agency new excellence. Demand that the commercials drive in qualified traffic and set up the platform for the sale. Dedicate approximately 18% of your television budget to the making of the commercial(s). If it looks like crap...you must be selling crap.

Stop selling used cars. You're selling home furnishings.

It's only May once each year and it is a TERRIFIC TIME TO SELL HOME FURNISHINGS. Make sure you do it right this year.

Lance G. Hanish is the President of Lance Benefield & Co., Inc. Worldwide, a leading marketing communications firm serving home furnishings retailers. Questions on any aspect of television media management or production can be direct to Mr. Hanish care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at lhanish@furninfo.com.