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Advertising: It's Time To Become Better At It

Furniture World Magazine


Let's forget about reach and frequency and market share!

In going through this museum of an industry, we stumble upon some of the most outdated ideas. Imagine, if you will, an industry that hasn't invented a new product in years... an industry that just changes the skin with different colors and different covers. Imagine an industry that continues to rely on a dying media for the bulk of its message sending. Imagine an industry that doesn't even come close to reach out to the new buying groups of this generation. Of course, all of this pales when we look at the methodology of this industry's use of the most powerful communications tool known to man... television.

It's time to wake up. And in waking up, we must understand that not only do we have to learn about the power of this medium, but forget all that we have been taught about it's use. It must meet the stiff demands of retail today. It must make the cash register sing.

We have to communicate with that mobile base who could, or would or should buy from us. We must reach her when she is available to be reached. We have to activate her when she wants to be activated. And we must sell her on our services and products when she walks into our stores.

Television has to be our focus for the new century. And we must learn that we don't just throw everything we have against the barn to stick. That was the old way. That was the theory of "frequency". That was the theory that if we yelled at them enough times, they would respond. That no longer works. That used to be called "frequency". That is boring. And the potential customer tunes us out. So, throw away everything you have ever learned about "frequency". She tunes you out today.

She has become a moving target that is covered with Teflon. "No No's" are becoming redundant. "Sale" is a word out of the past. Everything today is on sale. Every item in every store today is on sale. Sale no longer means anything to her. So, throw away redundant terms. She doesn't believe us any more.

The other adage of advertising, along with "frequency" was "reach". But "reach" was also associated with "old habits of another generation". We can't reach her when she has taken a totally different life than her mother. She is working. She is a working mom. She is on the go. She is struggling to make her life a better life. She wants things. Rather than "reach", let's try "focus". We have to collectively amass all of our efforts and "focus" on our specific target.

Focusing on the target and reminding her, with meaningful dialog, about her "wants" will effectively gain her attention. And it has to be done when SHE WANTS TO BUY. So, throw away "reach" in your advertising vocabulary and replace it with focused understanding of the target.

What we have to do is make contact. We have to provide the potential customer with what she wants. And provide it to her today, or in a reasonable amount of time. And we have to know that nothing happens until the sale is made. That means that not only is it our task to get them into our stores but to sell them once they arrive. And selling them means selling them... not just taking an order. It means that we have to be focused on the target all the way through the complete sale... not just when we write it up... not just when we prep the furniture for delivery... not just when we deliver it... not just when we follow up with our delivery people to find out how the customer received her new delivery... not just when we follow up with a telephone call to our new customer to find out how her experience went... not just when we receive her payment... and not just when we follow that up with a note to her thanking her for her time and belief in our store with her purchase... through to the conclusion of the sale. We have to remain totally focused. But more about the "Art of Selling" later.

Today, we must understand the need to focus and make contact. What does all this mean to the retailer? It means that you have to learn to use television all over again (and many of you have to learn about the use of television for the first time). We have to embrace the potential customer, the target, with the message of something new. "New" sells. "Same old stuff" doesn't.

This new mission to understand the medium, target and focus on the potential customer, and get to her with her "wants" is all well and good, but it is useless if you don't know how to buy the time to pass on that message of "want".

Instead of wrapping your arms around all of the "cheap" time slots possible... how about sending your message when you know she will be watching?

She will watch the "Academy Awards" each March. She will watch the "Rose Bowl Parade" at the beginning of each year. She will watch CNN when she gets home in the evening. She will watch the local weather and then prepare to retire for the evening. She will watch the Today Show or Good Morning America when she gets up in the morning. She will watch "Biography" on A&E on certain evenings. She will watch "E.R." on Thursday evenings. And then she will probably watch the NBC affiliate newscasts on that station immediately following "E.R.". This vertical positioning of your message in front of her WHEN she is available and watching is part of television use today.

And it is precisely how we will attract her as a customer in the twenty-first Century. Some wise person said, "She is the CFO of the wallet." Let's make sure we capture our share of her wallet. In fact, come to think of it, let's throw out the old term, "share of market" and replace it with "Share of Wallet". It's about time the home furnishings industry stands up, proud and tall and announces to the world that we want our fair share. We want to compete with the travel cruises, the jewelry business, the auto business and all the rest that comes out of her wallet. The reason is simple... we are the only industry in the world that will really make her house a home. Now that's a powerful concept.

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.