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Multiply Your Ad Effectiveness With The What Factor

Furniture World Magazine


Part 3 of the “Sell Lots More” Series.

This article will introduce another inspired selling principle and translate it into specific action elements that you can use immediately to boost your advertising effectiveness.
This principle is called the “WHAT” Factor.

The “WHAT” factor is very nearly as important as the “WHO” factor (See previous articles in this series posted to the furninfo.com website). Much like the “WHO” factor, the “WHAT” factor seems simple enough. But, also like the “WHO” factor, it is very deep, rich, and nuanced. If you create a killer “WHAT” factor, it will synergistically work in concert with your “WHO” factor and help sell more merchandise. Lots more.

What’s Happening

We know that the universe of home furnishings customers who are ready to buy today is much smaller than it used to be. If one of these anxious customers spots your ad they will give it a look. If they know your store, and had a superlative shopping experience, your ad will attract their attention. The “WHO” factor being satisfied, the customer’s next question is: “WHAT are you selling?” If your offer or deal is irresistible, they will visit you.

However, not only is the universe of buyers smaller and shrinking, the odds against all the necessary elements listed above lining up for a sale are formidable. Therefore, if the price-item offers you make don’t interest them, you need more tools in your arsenal, and more appeals in your advertisement. If all you do is price-item advertising and you neglect to add the extra “WHAT” principles that will capture the attention of your most likely prospects, you may lose them.

Peter Drucker, the ultimate business guru, once said that all businesses are designed to bring in a customer. This can only be accomplished through innovation and marketing, and those are the only two functions of business. Everything else is an expense.

  • The purpose of this article is to provide you with innovative tools that will turbo-charge your marketing efforts and multiply their effectiveness by means of optimization.
  • Being lean and mean is fine, but optimization is not about slashing expenses, it is about optimizing what you are spending now so you get more return for your buck.
  • Optimization is about digging deeper, lots deeper, into your local market share and capturing customers who do not know your store, and to whom you are a stranger.
  • Optimization can even leverage customers who are not quite ready to buy into taking action because you added robust “WHAT” factors that your competitors continually neglect.
  • The “WHAT” factors of any given presentation include: the event and the story behind the event; the discounts presented in creative ways; the benefit-enhanced generic listing and/or visual graphics of every category you offer; the brands you carry; an urgency factor or time limit; dramatic visuals that no one else can show; compelling statements that no one else can make (and that are adequately supported with facts); and other elements that add value and support the claims you are making in your advertisement.

Why Should I Pick You?

Your brand is neither more nor less than your “WHO” factor that we discussed at length in the June/July issue. Some people call this the elevator speech. Imagine you were trapped on an elevator with a prospective furniture customer who said to you: “You know, I am going to spend $10,000 soon on new furniture and mattresses. I’d like to patronize you as a local merchant, but I am just not sure. Why should I buy my home furnishings from you and not that big chain store?” You have a minute or so to answer her question before she gets off the elevator. What would you say that is awesome and fresh and that no competitor can say?

Why is this important? Because, a prospective customer will want to deal with you only to the extent that they see an advantage in it for themselves. To quote Jay Abraham, the brilliant marketing strategist: “The clearer and more powerful you are at expressing, articulating, demonstrating and comparing how you will render your USP (unique selling proposition) better than anyone else… the more business you will get.”

In a print ad, it’s the headline. If it is poorly crafted, it could underperform by a factor of ten. In direct mail it could be the opening phrase. In a one-on-one selling situation, it is the first paragraph a salesperson utters. Abraham again: “The goal is to make the first statement a statement of the powerful, self-serving result the prospective customer is going to receive from availing themselves of your products and service.”

Back in 1980, Senator Ted Kennedy decided to challenge the foundering President Jimmy Carter for the Democratic presidential nomination. It was a long shot, but the ad agencies were already churning out campaign slogans like: “One last chance for Camelot.” Kennedy was fortunate enough to garner a full hour of prime time on CBS for a personal interview. Near the beginning of the show he was asked the prime question: “Senator Kennedy, why do you want to be president?” It was a golden opportunity for Kennedy to say something like: “My mission is to become president so that I can help America lift herself and her citizens into a new era of prosperity, peace and security.” Instead he fumbled around, and appeared to have no answer.

And, the rest of the show was wasted, as his opportunity vanished forever. The moral: Be prepared to brand yourself confidently, quickly and positively at every opportunity of customer contact.

The Story Behind Your Event

I alluded to the story behind your sale in the last article. There must be a legitimate, honest reason for your event. Are you having a clearance event? Why? “We are overstocked.” So what? Give your salespeople the information they need to give a compelling, brief talk about your sales event, something they can believe in. They might say, “Sales were slower than anticipated this summer. Our suppliers are overstocked, and so are we. New merchandise is on the way, our warehouse is jammed, and we must make room.” Put this in your ads as well along with a photo of your jammed warehouse as evidence of your plight. Renovating? “You may have to step around a ladder or two during this renovation selloff, but the discounts will be worth it… etc.” Again, show a photo. Retiring? “After 33 wonderful years, the time has come to say goodbye. My wife and I… etc.” Show a photo of you and your wife with the store in the background.

People do not like sales pitches, but they love stories. Be honest, frank, and be sure all your personnel are aware of your story and ready to repeat it at strategic moments. Even your delivery personnel should be involved. They should be trained to place a recliner in a home, step back and say something like: “That is one beautiful chair. You made a great buy during our mega selloff.” This simple technique has been proven to cut buyer remorse and returns drastically. Too often warehouse and delivery personnel are treated like bad relatives rather than what is often the final link in a chain of elements that determine the quality of the customer’s buying experience.

What is the Deal?

“Everything is on sale” is a good line if it is qualified. What is everything? A generic listing is important. I realize that you are up against the big boxes that are, week after week, screaming “Selloff,” “Liquidation,” “Save up to 75%,” “Blowout” and on and on. And, all their appeals look and sound alike. Panic is gripping the Big Boxes because, with few exceptions, they do not have professionals creating their ads who are adequately trained to sell in print. That statement may seem over the top, but it is not. Let me hasten to add that there is a great deal of talent in these advertising departments. The failure is with top management. Providing the training these professionals need is one of their primary responsibilities.

I am looking at a flyer from one of the largest of the Big Boxes (See the exhibit at the start of this article). Doubtless it was produced at huge cost and distributed all over the country. It could use much more “WHO” factor, but rather relies upon strong discounts, credit offers, and urgency. It even has a generic listing stating that over 10,000 items are on sale, including “any living room, any home theatre, etc.” is included in the sale. Compared to most home furnishings efforts, it is fairly strong. But what is astonishing is that it does not contain a single enhancing adjective nor does it offer the customer a single benefit other than price. Women want benefits, romance and fashion, and price and credit offers are not benefits.

Copywriters trained in Evidence-Based Advertising know that their job is to sell benefits and added value to prospects. Their job is to explain that the mission of the store is to improve their customers’ lives and those of their loved ones. Their job is to enhance the value of your products and services rather than lowering the price. Trained copywriters know, just as smart salespersons know, that prospects don’t want sofas and recliners. They want fresh fashion, beauty and comfort for their home. Masters in copy know how to weave the principles of persuasion through their story, and win the hearts of prospective buyers. This great company is not alone in their impoverished ability to sell in print. Most other extremely expensive Big Box flyers suffer from the exact same weak copy syndrome. The only exception to the endless repetition of item-price and label copy I’ve found recently is when a Big Box uses copy from Tempur-Pedic material. Tempur-Pedic is the exception to the weak advertising supplied by mattress manufacturers, providing benefit-rich copy supported by strong product features.

And herein lies your opportunity. There is nothing ambitious young people want more than to learn a new skill. Select a savvy individual and offer her or him the chance to learn Evidence-Based Advertising skills. Have them check out my article in Furniture World on Evidence-Based Advertising from the July/August 2009 issue that can be found on the furninfo.com website at http://bit.ly/cpY7hK. This article lists the ten top advertising books of all time.

In their down time have your copywriter prospect begin learning from the masters of persuasion in print. They will learn how to create a compelling headline that can increase the effectiveness of an advertisement or direct mail piece by a factor of ten. Trained advertising people do not come out of universities and colleges. They must learn their craft in big agencies and direct mail houses, where their ads must produce or they are toast. The retail furniture industry generally lacks such skilled writers.

What is Special?

Check out the exhibit in this article from the Wall Street Journal. It is a very small ad created by an expert agency. Small, but white space in the Wall Street Journal is very expensive. There is no room for error. The client can check the effectiveness of this presentation with micrometer-like precision. So the ad is loaded with benefits, added value and persuasion. Compare it with the lazy, benefit-deprived label headlines and price-item offers of most furniture stores and you will see what I mean.

Make your merchandise special. Don’t just say “Living Rooms” in your generic list, say: “Decorator co-ordinated room packages for every taste and pocketbook.” Don’t omit special mention of “leather furnishings of all kinds.” Don’t forget to mention that “our entire selection of [brand] mattresses sets is on sale.” You can’t make price deals on some items, but you can make special bonus offers. If custom orders are included in the sale, say so. Don’t forget to list your brands.

Are You Enticing Me?

In your day-to-day promotion I realize you must make price-item offers. However, be sure to mention something along these lines: “dozens of equally exciting rocker-recliner values on sale.” Also say during a clearance that “New clearance items are being removed from our warehouse and placed on sale daily” or “If you shopped us before, dozens and dozens of new bargains are now on display.” Techniques of staging the floor for a clearance event and pricing in compliance with Federal Trade guidelines must wait for another article. Suffice to say that if your store is shouting “overstock clearance” and the showroom looks about the same as it does for day-to-day sales, you will lose a chance to provide visual evidence that something special is going on.


These elements seem self-explanatory, but there are nuances to be addressed even in what appears obvious. Keep the “WHEN” factor current. For extended sales, give the hours and dates only up to the time when your next ad comes out. For these extended events, have important benchmarks for further and final reductions and special events within the sale. Play up the final days with special hours. The “WHERE” factor is obviously your address. But don’t forget to add a locator phrase. Imagine you are having a party and someone asks directions.

Make it easy. “Across the street from Taco Bill” or “One half mile south of Wal-Mart.” Add a map for big events. The purpose of the map is more than for the convenience of the prospect. It adds a certain importance to the event and attracts more distant customers. The “HOW” factor includes your credit offers. Large attractive icons have been tested to work better than huge type. Be sure to include a line that says “Please ask for details in the store.” Use credit card icons and include a line such as “New accounts welcome… Add-ons Welcome.”

Why Factor

The “WHY” factor embraces all the elements presented here and makes a passionate case for the prospect to enter into a relationship of fairness and trust with you. The objective being to make her life and that of her loved ones more comfortable, beautiful and fun. This is when the shopping experience reaches a new level of art, optimization and profit. This factor is so important that the entire final article in this series will be devoted to it. Be ready for a paradigm shift for you and your associates. You will no longer be selling a rocker-recliner, but rather something that will melt dad’s heart and relieve the awful stress of modern living. You won’t be selling a mattress but rather a solution to a chronic back issue due to an old mattress that has plagued the prospect for years. Until then, good luck on your quest to optimize everything you are doing toward creating the ultimate home furnishings selling machine in your market.

Larry Mullins is a contributing editor for Furniture World and has 30+ years 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 turnkey 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. See more articles by Larry at www.furninfo.com or www.ultrasales.com.