The next time you are traveling, training, or working in a retail furniture store, take a trip to the break room. It’s the little corner in back of the store where the staff can grab a quick coffee or lunch, or unwind after a challenging customer experience. While you are there, snoop into some of the drawers or cabinets and check out the packaged condiments and spices left over from trips to fast food restaurants.
If my hunch is right, the number one branded packet you will find is Taco Bell Hot Sauce. And if my second hunch is right, you will rarely find McDonald’s ketchup. All of those packets have a cost. I can picture a boardroom in Oak Brook, IL where McDonald’s accountants and food scientists have painstakingly computed the cost per packet and matched it to the number of packets needed, by demographic group, to ingest an order of Supersize Fries. That number may be 2.174 packets, and a directive may have followed to their franchisees to pack no more than 2 packets of Ketchup in each to-go order.
Meanwhile I picture another boardroom in Irvine, CA. The “off the wall” people at Taco Bell figured the cost per Hot Sauce Packet at 4 cents each. They also researched how many people keep packets in their home, and how many people see those packets. They may have also sent a directive to their stores to be sure to pack an extra “handful” of sauce packets in each to-go bag. Six packets cost less than a quarter, but keep their name brand in front of customers. The Taco Bell people took it a step further and now print funny one liners on their condiment packs, ostensibly to show, share, and collect! Taco Bell knows that every packet drives home its name and keeps customers coming back.
Now, think about our Furniture Business. We represent the largest investment (in dollars and product size) that consumers make inside their home that does not have Name Branding on the products. Go home tonight and look at your refrigerator, toaster, vacuum cleaner, and alarm clock. You can plainly see the brand name, and that name stays firmly in your mind for years. My Smart TV is so smart that it reminds me that it is an LG every time I turn it on.
If you want your business to remain viable, you need to keep your name brand top of mind for your customers. It is far less expensive to retain an existing customer and, when they remember your name, it is easier for them to give long-term personal recommendations. While most of your customers would be resistant to gleaming chrome lettering on their dresser shouting “Made By Jones Furniture Company” there are other ways to convey brand name.
Powerful Attraction: Use the power of refrigerator magnets to increase your Brand Magnetism. Once a magnet is placed on the fridge, it is rarely removed! Right now in the Hecht kitchen there are more than two dozen magnets including the 2004 Cleveland Browns Schedule, Pioneer Citizens Bank (I stopped doing business with them in 1993), and a “Save the Date” wedding announcement for Patrick and Tabitha, who have been married six years.
Just handing out magnets won’t do it. Here’s how to accomplish two tasks with one action. (I am a wildlife enthusiast and will not kill two birds with one stone): You can eliminate “Not at Home” delivery customers by marking their delivery date on a refrigerator magnet in the shape of your delivery truck, or make it a “Save the Date” with a photo of your store front. Leave a blank space for the date that they have to be home. Ask your shopper to place the magnet in a visible place. Chances are that you have just bought a five year advertisement that your customer will see several times a day.
The Gold Seal: Case Goods experts will tell you that the top left dresser drawer is the most used drawer in the master bedroom. If you want to remind your shoppers where they made their purchase, invest in Gold Foil labels with your store name and phone number, as in, “Furnished By The Colonial Shoppe (702) 555-1776.” Add in your logo to keep your store image clear for them.
You can also place those labels inside china cabinet and TV cabinet doors, or on sofa decking.
Bumper Crop of Shoppers: Boston is a great shopping town and competition is razor sharp. There, Jordan’s partnered in a local promotion and shared space on Bumper Stickers with the Boston Red Sox. Both store and team logos were brightly featured. The stickers were free and those sports-crazy Beaneaters pasted them on about every bumper, even a few with New York license plates! Traffic jams made thousands of cars into slow moving billboards.
You might think that partnering with a major league team is expensive, and you would be RIGHT! But why not think locally and support your local High School or Little League? Minor league teams and other local festivals are another option. BTW-you will get brand exposure for the life of the automobile.
Easy as Pie: You may have never heard of the pie company that had a unique shape to its pie tins. The tins were on the shallow side, which made them perfect for skimming them through the air after the pie was eaten. Students in the Northeast discovered this and made the tins into a recreational plaything. Later, Wham-O Toys made a similar dish out of plastic, but saved the Pie Company Name-Frisbee!
Summertime and Back-To-School are great times to give away those flying discs to everyone who enters your store. Sponsor a Fun in the Sun event and your name will be flying through the skies. People will keep those for years, and will remember where they got them.
There’s an old joke about Pie are Square, but pies are usually round. Another great way to keep your name in front of your customers is to provide a round mouse pad with every desk or home office you deliver. Take it a step further and provide a pencil cup and desk calendar.
Tip of the Day: If your store is in a typical American or Canadian town, your customers dine in a restaurant for about 1/3 of their meals. Most restaurants accept credit cards for payments, and diners are more likely to pay with plastic than cash. You have the chance to make an impression on every one of those diners.
Next time you enjoy a meal out, be generous. Leave your server twice your normal tip. The extra $5 or $10 won’t break you, but will have a big impact on that server’s day! And, leave more than a tip. Take a few pens with your company’s name and logo, and leave them on the tip tray.
Restaurant Servers are always short on pens because they have to leave one at every table they work. You’ll get your just desserts by knowing that your pens will be used by several servers and seen by hundreds of shoppers within the first week that you give them!
Full of Hot Air: Celebrate your customers’ delivery day and make life easy for your delivery team. Getting new furniture and mattresses delivered is a special event in your customer’s life. We deliver every day, but they only get new furniture every few years. Why not make it a party!
After your customer purchases, give them a bag with ribbons and a few balloons (with your store’s logo on it, of course!). Let your shopper know that they can help the delivery drivers identify their homes as a delivery address if they would inflate the balloons and use the ribbons to tie them to the mail box or front door. The upshot is that your drivers won’t have to search for hard to find house numbers, and your customer’s neighbors will know something special is going on! Nosy neighbors will want to see what’s new, and you might just profit from the “Keep up with the Joneses” syndrome.
Want to have a bigger impact? Spend a few bucks on some “We’re Expecting a Special Delivery” signs. Make it extra eye-catching-like a stork carrying a sofa! You can recycle the signs by having your delivery team pick them up after delivery.
Talking Heads: I travel to a lot of cities and small towns where I make it a point to watch the local morning news shows. While there are varying degrees of production quality, almost every news show has a portion where the TV Hosts sit on casual chairs and chat. If you are advertising with any local TV station, call your media rep and request the opportunity to donate furniture for a new stage set. All you need in return is a line in the closing credits “Chairs and Sofa furnished by Manor House Furniture”. That 3-second line will appear five or more times a week for the next year making it well worth the $1000 - $2000 investment on your part.
Getting and keeping your Brand Name out front is a vital step in moving from” just another place to shop” to the first store chosen. You might think that good customer service, great products, and the lowest prices will get you there, however, the three or four stores down the street think that will get them there too! Be proactive and invest your time and a little money on creative ways that will not have an immediate pay-out, but will lead to long term success.
The last line on the theme song for TV sitcom Cheers went something like “You want to go where everyone knows your name”. Be the store in town where everyone knows YOUR name.
Editor’s note: If you have some “Name Game” items of your own please send an image and description to Gordon care of russ@furninfo .com. You will receive by return email a photo of Gordon’s refrigerator magnet collection!