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The Other 98%

Furniture World Magazine


Three weeks ago you prepared for this moment. You and your newspaper rep put together the finishing touches to your ad campaign for this weekend.

You carefully selected which SKUs you were going to put on sale. You checked on your back up inventory and you checked with the factory on how long it was going to take to get in more products just in case you needed them (wishing and hoping that you were).

Then you selected the name of the event which wasn’t too hard, because you simply took the same name of the event you ran the same weekend last year. You looked at the old ad materials and instructed your graphics person to add in a line of text about long-term financing, popped in a disclaimer and slam, bam, you were done!

When the daily paper that includes your ad is dropped off, you quickly find your ad on page 11 of the front section.

As you flip through the pages of the paper, you pass by a competitor’s ad on page seven and a furniture store insert on page 11. Then after going back to check your own ad, you hear another competitor’s machine-gunning spots on a local radio station and TV commercials for a store across town on local cable.

That’s a lot of advertising dollars chasing the same furniture buyers!

So while everyone is chasing prospects who are already in the market to buy furniture, my question is, what are they doing to attract the non-furniture buying customer?

Think Of It This Way…
Imagine you own a hardware store, and you’ve put together an ad highlighting hot-water tanks.

You spent a lot of time putting the ad together, with hot pricing, hot terms and you spent a good buck for a good sized ad– and the ad appears in your local newspaper.

Let’s say you also have your “I’m a consumer too hat on.” This time while flipping through the newspaper you notice a big (and expensive) ad for hot water tanks.
You don’t even notice. Why don’t you notice? It’s because you don’t need a new hot-water tank!

It wouldn’t matter if they were offering “Buy One Get One Free” on hot-water tanks. It wouldn’t matter if they were offering five year free financing on hot-water tanks. You’re still not interested.

That’s the way it is with a great many products. We, as consumers, aren’t interested until our old hot-water tank springs a leak and we find ourselves taking cold showers.

Furniture Retail Isn’t Exactly Like That
Thankfully, furniture retail isn’t exactly like the hot-water tank business.
Sure, sometimes a consumer will wait until all the legs are busted off the sofa, it’s covered with large holes and smells like 30-day old cat litter before they replace it.
But many times they’ll step up and replace that recliner or sofa or mattress just because they’ve been “coaxed” into replacing it.

2% Are Ready To Buy
Only about 2% of the population are ready, willing and able to buy new furniture right now.

The other 98% are sitting on the sidelines. They may be able to buy new furniture this weekend, but they’re not ready and certainly not willing.

That leaves a measly 2% of the market to be divvied up amongst you and your competitors. Kind of gloomy sounding isn’t it?

And to make it even worse all the competitors are chasing the same customers using the same “tools” such as low prices, extended financing, free delivery and set up. The list of “carrots” most retailers use is pretty short.

The Other Ugly Aspect
The other ugly aspect of this is that if you’re the #2 or #3 furniture retailer in market, your chances of growing the business by leaps and bounds in the scenario just described is pretty low. That’s because everyone is using the same events and same enticements to attract customers to their stores.

Unless you greatly increase your ad spend, you’re not likely to grow the business by a large percentage. And yes, by increasing your ad spend you will probably claim more new customers, however, the flip-side is that your cost of sale is most likely going to climb. Hopefully everyone reading this knows what their cost of sale figure is, it’s one of the most important numbers for any retailer.

Free Agency
And here’s how this situation can get even worse.

Do you follow any of the major sports? NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball?
For those that don’t, let me give you a very brief description of what is known as “free agency”.

In all four sports, individual players are allowed under certain conditions to become a “free agent”. The biggest benefit of becoming a free agent is that the player can offer themselves to any team in the market. Typically the high-bidder will end up winning the services of the player.

The new furniture customer is like a free agent in the major sports, but instead of winning them (and their wallet) by being the high-bidder, most furniture stores “win” the customer by being the “biggest giver”.

Big Givers Lose
Big Givers give up profit margin. They give up revenue when they finance purchases for 2 years. They give up profit by offering free delivery, setup and removal.

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to compete this way? You have to admit that battling for the attention of prospects and then having to give away profit to actually turn them into customers is downright depressing.

Another Way
There’s another way to maintain healthy margins. Another way to take market share from your competitors by playing the retail game by different rules. Just turn your focus to the 98% of the market that isn’t ready, willing and able to buy new furniture at this moment.

One thing to keep in mind is that not every person is likely to use a piece of furniture until it’s beat to dust and then in desperate need of replacement. No, many times people will take a look at their sofa and think, “You know that really doesn’t go with the rest of my furniture anymore” or they will start thinking about a new mattress because they wake up with a morning back ache.

The chain of events leading to the purchase of a new piece of furniture may take days, weeks or even months before a thought starts fermenting in the mind of a potential furniture buyer.

So if traditional event advertising won’t get this customer to buy, what will?
Social marketing presents a huge opportunity to talk to consumers who may not be ready to buy today, but who could still be influenced to buy nicer, newer furniture from you.

Notice I emphasized the word influenced? One thing you don’t want to do, or shouldn’t do on social networking sites like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram is overt selling. It’s frowned upon in the best light, and considered invasive and annoying in the worst.

Overt selling on the social networking sites is bad form, BUT influencing is fair game.

So, how do you influence using social media? You influence by talking about either “gain points” or “pain points”. Here are just a few examples.

Potential “Gain Points”
  1. Make your living room the envy of all your fiends
  2. Imagine sitting down with your family during Thanksgiving at your new dining room set
  3. The perfect nap-taking recliner for the large man

Potential “Pain Points”
  1. Does your back feel like a “pretzel” when you first get up?
  2. Tired of those dining room chairs falling apart?
  3. Sick of those mismatched living room pieces?

Don’t highlight brands or prices or financing terms. Feature what a consumer can gain or what pain they can eliminate from their lives by getting nicer, newer furniture.

To make a marketing tool like this work, it takes a plan and persistence. It’s a lot harder than simply taking last year’s newspaper ad and rerunning it this year. Someone at your store needs to be responsible for staying on top of this or hire a marketing company that can do this for you.

The potential payoff of doing this is getting that prospect thinking about doing business with you as opposed to all the other choices available to them in the market. It takes time to build credibility, but once you have it, you’ll gain an advantage that you can’t get by purchasing an ad in the Thursday edition of your local paper.

About Mike Winicki: Mike Winicki is president of Big Noise Marketing. His goal is to make the business life of every furniture store owner as easy as PIE: Profitable, Interesting and Enjoyable. To get a free Marketing Opportunity Report for your business simply call his toll free number 1-800-495-8308 anytime, 24 hours a day, and leave your contact information. Or email your request to info@bignoisemarketing.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.