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What’s Working Now To Drive Traffic

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It isn’t time to do blanket price promotion or a large-scale top of mind advertising awareness campaign. So what should you do?

This is the beginning of a new series to help furniture retailers increase traffic and sales amidst an increasingly difficult economy.

Many of you have seen traditional advertising effectiveness waning. This includes branding messages delivered by TV commercials, Top of Mind awareness campaigns, circulars shouting “sale, sale, sale” and product and price ads. That’s why it is time to pay careful attention to making your advertising work.

In this article we will look at an ad that you can copy and paste into your own advertising program and I’ll walk you step by step through what makes it work. But first we need to lay the groundwork.

Why is the advertising of the past not working like it used to? There are many reasons. The most obvious is the state of consumer confidence. With TV channels scaring people to death with irresponsible reporting, talk of the end of the world as we know it, of course people are going to be a little tighter with their spending.

However, even amidst all the turmoil with the real estate market, credit problems, rising food costs, and incredible energy increases, there is a silver lining. The American economy is stronger than the “media” wants you to know.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, “Real gross domestic product -- the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States -- increased at an annual rate of 0.9 percent in the first quarter of 2008.”

So before we pack it in and close the doors, lets just take a step back and strategically plan on how we can overcome this difficult economic situation.

Of course there are some real challenges, but the truth is that people are still out there spending money… on furniture. They are still making money and spending it, and the question is, “Are you the one that is capturing the lions share?”

So how do you do it? It all starts with doing the right kind of advertising that brings “would be buyers” into your store, and not to someone else’s.

We often hear statistics about the number of buyers that are in the market at any given time. For bedding this buying population might be 2% of the market, for furniture 3%, and for flooring less than 1%.

If these industry numbers are in fact accurate then we learn two lessons:

1. We shouldn’t be advertising with product and price ads to 100% of the marketplace when 97% of them aren’t interested in buying now.

2. Moving people from the 97% to the “buying now percentage” manually, with education and information creates a dramatic advantage in your favor.

Lesson #1

It’s obvious from these stats that everyone is NOT your customer. In fact most people aren’t your customer. So why spend advertising dollars on those people? Some advertising sales people will tell you that it’s because you want to have top of mind awareness.

These days, that just doesn’t cut it. The top of mind awareness program doesn’t pay you back fast enough to justify itself. Especially right now. For years consumers were able to take out equity lines of credit, buy home furnishings, remodel their homes, spend money they didn’t have, and keep furniture buying at record highs.

Obviously this has changed, so now, more than ever, everyone is NOT your customer.

So it’s the job of your marketing to call out to those folks who are in the market, and capture their sales.

In the sample ad above you’ll see elements of an extremely effective advertisement. It is an ad that calls out to people who are in the market for sofas and are going to be buying them. More on that in a minute.

Lesson #2

Use marketing to move people into the buying population who aren’t currently part of the small percentage of buyers.

Depending on your product offering, there is at least 20% of the population that will never be your customer. There is another 20% who made recent purchases and won’t be in the market for a while. The remainder, over 30% can be persuaded to buy if given a compelling reason.

Now, as we mentioned in lesson #1 you should be reaching out to potential customers who are in your market and ready to buy, but you should also use a new strategy… The Strategy Of Concentric Buyer Circles to move these folks into the buying population. This strategy reaches out to those consumers you can’t effectively “hit over the head” with financing offers, giveaways, and great prices.

Instead, you have to educate them into buying. You must show them why buying furniture is the best investment they can make with their dollars.
You aren’t just up against the other home furnishings retailers in the market.

Remember you are selling against a new fuel efficient car, a new ipod, flat screen television, family vacation to Disneyland… plus high gas prices, and poor consumer confidence.

The best way to accomplish this “education-selling” is by offering a valuable report that is of interest to homeowners in the innermost circle, the Future Buyers ring. Consumers don’t pay cash for this “free” information, but they do give you, the retailer, their contact information and permission to educate them into buying from you. Here’s an example of a report title:

Headline: “The Briarwood Community Fall Design and Furnishings Fashion Report.”

Subhead: “How To Make Your Home The Envy Of The Neighborhood, Without Spending A Fortune.”

Of course use your own community name, and make it intriguing so the average homeowner will be interested in learning what’s “in” in their community.

Use this strategy to generate leads from interested future buyers, then nurture them, educate them, and turn them into customers.

Four Elements Of A Great Headline

Let’s look at the ad in Figure 1 that has the headline, “The $2100 Sofa Mistake”.

There are four important elements in this ad that make it extremely effective.

Element #1 - The Headline: The headline of any ad is the MOST IMPORTANT piece of the puzzle. If you don’t get your prospects’ attention, you lose. If they don’t read your ad, then they obviously aren’t going to be responding to it.

The same goes for radio and TV. The first thing they hear must be an engaging and interesting line, or they are gone.

Here’s a quick checklist on headline creation called, “The 4 U’s of Headline Creation”.

For every headline you create, you must rate each of these criteria on a scale of 1-4. If you don’t have at least 3 of the 4 rating with a 3 score or higher, you’ve got a weak headline.

Rate each of the following criteria on a scale of from 1-4: Urgent, Useful, Ultra-Specific, Unique.

Here’s an example of how you might critique the furniture ad headline, “Crazy Tax-Relief Sale.” Of course this is a subjective exercise, but based on the 1-4 scale, I come up with the following analysis: Urgent: 1, Unique: 2, Useful: 2, Ultra-specific: 1.

Obviously it’s a bad headline, as it scores below 3 on every single criteria. So here’s how it can be improved. “Save $1,795.31 On New Sofas This Weekend Only… With Our Crazy Tax Relief Sale!”

Now as you go through the formula you can see it is:

• Much more useful for the reader, “Save $1795.31 on sofas.”

• Uniqueness could still be improved.

• More urgent “this weekend only”.

• Ultra specific, we talk about the product, the exact amount of savings, and this weekend only.

Use this formula for every ad, tv or radio commercial to make sure you get maximum impact from your ads.

Element #2 - Value Sell. Instead of shouting about how cheap the prices are, here the ad focuses on the fact that we are saving the customers money in a different way, by offering a good value instead of cheap price. This is done with a nice demonstration in the graphics. They don’t just shout product and price.

Cheap prices are demonized by showing or inferring that buyers can save money and be much happier by buying better quality and not having to live with broken down cheap furniture that needs replacing so often.

Element #3 - Personality: You see in the bottom corner a picture of the owners, a personal guarantee. This lets the reader know that this isn’t just a nameless, faceless organization, but real people, just like them.

Putting personality in your copy is critical in today’s market. For more on this subject read, “Double Your Store Traffic - Part 3” that ran in the June/July 2007 issue of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine (posted to the marketing management article archives on the furninfo.com website).
Element #4 - It’s Different! Being different is critical. A famous advertising man once said, “To be successful in business, all you have to do is look around at what all the competition is doing and do the exact opposite.” Truer words were never spoken.

If your competitors are giving away the farm on free financing, free delivery, cheap prices and free giveaways, then why would you want to do the same? You wouldn’t.

Be different in your advertising. Look different, educate the consumer, help them feel like they can trust you and like you. Let them know you are a real person, with friends and family, and you care about them.
Offer them some real value, instead of shouting at the top of your lungs that you are the “dirt cheapest, lowest price, nobody lower, we’ll give you your furniture for free then pay you to take it out of the store.”

In today’s economy it’s our responsibility as business owners to educate our customer base. Share with them the “good economic news.” Heaven knows, they aren’t getting it from anyone else. You need to encourage and uplift people. Be the leader, not the meek follower.

Play up the fact that their home is their best investment, and if they decide to save a little money and not take that expensive vacation they were thinking of, now is the perfect time to spend some time and money to make their home as nice as they would like it to be.

Educating of the consumer is of paramount importance. Even though the web has all the free information they could ever need, it’s now become too much. No one knows who to trust, or where to go to get quality information.

You can become that trusted advisor, the expert who helps them make the right decisions for their homes, families and design tastes.

Next Issue

Next time I’ll show you a letter that has proven to be a big winner for retailers in the USA and Canada. It deals with 3 very important pieces of the persuasion formula. “Reason Why Copy,” “Belief and Credibility” and “Effective Direct Response Copy”.


Brett Kitchen and Ethan Kap are Co-founders of Traffic Guys Publishing, and are commonly known as the "Traffic Guys." Brett and Ethan run a retailer Marketing Mastermind Group to help retailers increase store traffic and sales, while cutting the fat and waste from current advertising. They also provide Done-For-You ads and promotions along with other systems to help retailers consistently drive in paying customers.

Questions on any aspect of their programs can be sent to Brett and Ethan care of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine at bretk@furninfo.com.

Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada.  In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact editor@furninfo.com.