There is a marketing crisis in retail furniture stores nationwide that money just can’t solve.
So, What’s The Issue?
Your customers are not paying attention to your marketing messages! No one is.
The Big Boxes are spending more and more for their advertising and getting less and less return. If you are attempting to follow their method of intrusive marketing, even if you have deep pockets, your ROI is also doomed to decline.
So, what is intrusive marketing? It is old-fashioned marketing. It is any kind of marketing that attempts to capture clients’ attention away from whatever they might be doing. Every waking moment is seen by some business somewhere as an opportunity to interrupt a prospect and strive to capture their attention. TV and radio commercials are the most intrusive. Signs and internet spam add to the relentless assault of overpowering clutter that has made traditional consumer advertising almost worthless. So, how have the Big Boxes responded to the clutter situation? By interrupting even more! It is estimated the average consumer is exposed to at least 3,500 messages each day. Most are:
- Not anticipated.
Most of the money spent on creating and delivering these messages is simply a waste.
Revolutionary New Concept
If you are like most independent home furnishings retailers, you have time tested ideas about marketing home furnishings and mattresses. Most of your marketing has been, and still is intrusive. I want you to clear the decks of those ideas and get you to suspend disbelief while I present you with a tested and proven marketing formula that does work. I will show you how, with the same investment, or less, you can make more money, increase market share, and have lots more fun. The internet has changed everything about marketing at retail. You can now leverage the internet to use the full energy of your Hometown Advantage.
Don’t worry. It won’t be far out or difficult.
Enter Seth Godin & Permission Marketing
What I will attempt to do is marry what are currently the two most powerful concepts in retailing home furnishings: Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing with Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing. This synthesis has proven to be a “silver bullet” for furniture retailers.
Seth Godin is a leading expert, perhaps the leading expert, on the art of Permission Marketing and the author of the book: Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friends and Friends into Customers. Jay Levinson, the father of Guerrilla Marketing, has embraced Permission Marketing, adding it to his arsenal of Guerrilla Marketing tools. Jay writes: “It changed my entire outlook about marketing and can change the beauty of your bottom line.”
Permission Marketing is the modern day skill that makes the point: “Modern technology makes it possible for customers to once again become involved in the marketing process.”
How It Works at Leather by Design
Jeff Cohen is the owner and CEO of Leather by Design of Saint Augustine, Florida. I chose to interview Jeff for this article because he makes social media work with overwhelming success... greater success than any other furniture entrepreneur I know.
I came to Jeff’s store for my appointment an hour before it opened. Jeff began by telling me how valuable Facebook is. “There is no downside,” he said. “All you need is to make your content on your store’s Facebook page have the following four characteristics.”
Something the customer anticipates.
Something welcomed by the customer.
Something that is personal.
Something that is relevant to him or her.
Then Jeff opened his Facebook account to his business page. A customer’s comment immediately popped up.
“I look at that couch and don’t see any comfort the way it’s made…”
I looked at Jeff. “You’re going to get rid of that one?”
“Not at all,” he replied. He then responded.
Leather By Design:
“Brenda, I get that some ‘modern’ furniture looks good, but is not comfortable, but when we go to Market to choose the styles that go on our floor... COMFORT overrides everything else. The Alula is more comfortable for normal and smaller body types. The cushion is of medium density and the depth is not too deep. The arm may look modern but sitting there on either side, you can nest real cozy inside the arm. Not every sofa is going to be comfortable to all body types but we would love for you to come in and try the Alula or any of the other styles we feature. Brenda, since I’m a huge fan of Brenda Lee, I’ll personally sing ‘I’m Sorry’ if I can’t find you a comfortable sofa that fits you! We love the fact that you took the time to comment!!! Thanks.”
“Lol thank you!”
Jeff responded to Brenda within minutes after she made her original comment. So, if you want to turn strangers into friends and friends into customers, this is how it is done. Simple, but you have to know your stuff. It took Jeff about five minutes to compose his reply. That’s all the time it took to turn a stranger into a “fan”. In that five minutes Jeff established himself (for Brenda and likely many of her friends) as a preeminent, trusted source for home furnishings information in the St. Augustine marketing area. It takes patience to develop strangers into friends and friends into customers. But new customers are worth their weight in gold. It takes Jeff about a half hour about twice a week or so to keep up content on his Facebook page. Every furniture entrepreneur has that much downtime.
“It takes a little time,” Jeff said. But best of all, it can cost as little as zero. Social media is productive when you do it right.”
Evidence-Based Advertising … The New Paradigm
You have a tremendous Hometown Advantage over the big boxes. Jay Levinson: “Modern technology gives small business a blatantly unfair advantage over the big boxes because it allows them to think and act big without having to spend big. The greatest boon to Guerrilla Marketing has been the affordable, powerful, easy-to-use technology of today. I hate to use the word ‘empower,’ but technology definitely empowers small businesses. Technology is the game-changer that is revolutionizing small businesses. Now small business owners can dream extravagant new dreams and attain them in surprisingly brief time periods.”
If you are a tech-shy independent retailer, you are needlessly throwing away your Hometown Advantage. Your most powerful secret weapon against the Big Boxes is technology. Most corporate chains employ nervous IT department fiefdoms and will not allow franchises to host their own websites, or handle their own local social media accounts. This is the prevailing policy, even though these same IT departments are constantly overwhelmed with other priorities and cannot help individual franchises. As a result, local Big Box franchises are helpless while savvy independents grin as they use today’s simple technology to press their overwhelming Hometown Advantage. Levinson points out that modern technology is so inexpensive that you can invest for a low four-figure sum what in 1982 amounted to a medium six figure sum.
Modern technology has removed the ceiling and opened up a whole new world of opportunity for smaller businesses. Jay wrote: “Now you can connect with allies everywhere, ‘being connected’ has never been so low cost and yet so high in value. Guerrillas can now be online, with the power of instant email, and the enormous supremacy of the World Wide Web.”
What to Do Now
It all begins with your own Facebook account of course. By this time most retailers have one and know it’s free to set up and start posting. However, strongly consider “boosting” your posts. Jay Bojan’s article in the July/August issue of Furniture World (Going Hyper-Local) noted, “Boosting a post, page or website allows companies to reach a larger audience by defining a target audience outside of their current fans and followers, for a fee. In general, boosting is one of the most cost effective advertising techniques in use today. It costs a fraction of traditional advertising fees and is extremely effective at building audiences.”
If you are like me you will need tech help setting this all up. Not necessarily by a black belt marketer, that’s your job. But there are lots of young lions and lionesses around who are Facebook savvy and reasonably priced. They would love to be involved. The process of promoting your Facebook presence should never stop. Much of what you need to do is add content. (Gulp.)
Not to worry. Seth Godin suggests that product information (such as Jeff provided in his response to Brenda) is an excellent incentive to attract prospects. The trick is for you to gain permission to market to more and more of your hometown niche. Learn this trick and watch your bottom line explode. Briefly, you offer a client an enticement to accept your advertising messages. The enticement could be in the form of free information on decorating or care for leather furnishings, or perhaps membership in a special club. All you ask for in return is permission to market your goods to these people. Nothing else.
Jeff’s Operations Manager, Steve Lent, photographed the room of a client after he arranged the furniture, which Jeff promptly posted on his Facebook page. An astonishing reaction resulted. Former clients began proudly posting photos of their own rooms from Leather by Design!
Technology offers the opportunity for smaller furniture stores to gain local credibility, speed, and power in an age when local “credibility is crucial, speed is revered, and power comes from being part of a networking team that includes customers.” Jay Levinson added: “If you are Guerrilla Marketing with technology you are headed in the right direction. If you are Guerrilla Marketing without technology you are not Guerrilla Marketing at all.”
Don’t Forget To Add Your “Secret Sauce”
There is one additional ingredient that is critical to your success. You.
You cannot delegate the culture of your company. Jeff Cohen is fanatic about customer service. Each associate of Leather by Design shares this passion.
Peter Drucker was arguably the greatest business genius of our era. Drucker once wrote:
“In a few hundred years, when the history of our time will be written from a long-term perspective, it is likely that the most important event historians will see is not technology, not the Internet, not e-commerce. It is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time—literally—substantial and rapidly growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time, they will have to manage themselves. And society is totally unprepared for it.”
That is why you must be deeply engaged in the creation of your new Permission Marketing culture. This kind of engagement is not for timid souls. These are uncertain, difficult times. Your associates will look to you for inspiration and encouragement. You are the secret sauce that makes Permission Marketing work.
Larry Mullins is a contributing editor for Furniture World and has 30+ years of experience on the front lines of furniture marketing. Larry’s mainstream executive experience, his creative work with promotion specialists, and mastery of advertising principles have established him as one of the foremost experts in furniture marketing. His affordable High-Impact programs produce legendary results for everything from cash raising events to profitable exit strategies. His newest books, THE METAVALUES BREAKTHROUGH and IMMATURE PEOPLE WITH POWER… How to Handle Them have recently been released by Morgan James Publishing. Joe Girard, “The World’s Greatest Salesman” said of this book: “If I had read Larry Mullins’ book when I started out, I would have reached the top much sooner than I did.” Larry is founder and CEO of UltraSales, Inc. and can be reached directly at 904.794.9212 or at Larrym@furninfo.com. See more articles by Larry at www.furninfo.com or www.ultrasales.com.
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