Print media, such as a circular or a newspaper ad, should not be used like a billboard. When you put huge announcements (so common today) that say only: "no payments or interest for a year!" you are not telling the prospect much. Even if the letters are a foot high and the ad is in full color, unless people know you and already like your store, they are not likely to respond.
In my business, when I prepare an ad, it MUST work. There is no excuse, no tomorrow. So I use a checklist of 76 points to verify that I have covered everything.
You might wonder why an "expert" uses a checklist after all these years. For the same reason an experienced pilot uses a checklist: it is a fail-safe procedure. Here is the formula I used to develop this checklist: WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, and WHY. Just like in journalism 101. These points are not just nice things to cover, they are essential things to cover if you want to edge out competition. Each point may only help you a fraction of a percentage point, but these points begin to add up. Add as many points as possible, and soon, the ad space you paid so much for is two or three times more effective.
WHO? is more than simply dropping in your logo. WHO? is the factor that determines whether a customer can trust you; WHO? Is the foundation of your integrity. Who? also means: years in business, for example. It does not take much space in an ad to say: "22 years of serving Hutchinson." Or, "We believe this will be one of the most important events in our 22 year history." WHO? May also be information about you or your store manager, it may, now and then, even include a photo of you and/or your associates. WHO? is store identification, and requires that your sig be placed at both top and bottom of the ad. And, by the way, look at your sig. Has it been re-shot by the newspaper so many times it is worn-out and fuzzy? You may be the last to notice. (Broadway shows that go on the road have objective observers who are paid to check on scenery that is worn-out and costumes that are frayed. The performers and stage hands are too busy to notice). WHO? may be membership in the BBB or the Chamber of Commerce. WHO? is also your reliability and integrity, and your key guarantees and service policies. WHO? is getting credit for who you are and what you have accomplished, awards you have won – and telling folks about it in print, in air media, on the sales floor, everywhere. If you fail to get credit for what you are, you give away a precious advantage. The competitor down the street with three years in business could not be happier that you gave it away.
WHAT? Means: what is the event? "Tell me quickly" says the prospect, "I'm busy." No matter how much information you put in an ad, make sure that when you stand back and look at your ad you can tell what is going on. In one glance, very quickly, in less than a few seconds. Will everyone read your ad or your letter? No, but prospects will. And, furniture prospects stay in the market longer than small-ticket prospects. People procrastinate on larger-ticket discretionary purchases. For example, when real wear begins to show on a sofa it usually takes three years before a customer makes the new sofa purchase. Remember the last time you needed tires? You did not see any tire ads until you realized your need, and then (if you are a typical consumer) you began to notice all the tire ads.
WHEN? is simple enough. Days of the week, dates and hours are requisite. Yet, I have heard furniture retailers say things like: "Oh, everyone knows we are open Thursday night." No, everyone does not know this, no more than you know the hours of the beauty shop down the street. If you are open evenings for the convenience of the customers, tell them. Make the days and hours of your event look important. Add-value to your advertisement by getting credit for the fact you make it convenient to drop by, and easy to know when to come and see you.
WHERE? tells me not only your address, but also makes it easy for me to find you. Are you near a known landmark? Do you have a distinctive awning? Near an important cross-street? How about including a well-drawn and clear map for an important event? If you were having a party at your home, you would not hesitate to draw up a map for someone. A map can also make an event seem more important, even if it is really unnecessary for most people. A line of copy inviting out-of-town shoppers also adds importance to the event.
HOW? helps me understand the factors that make acquiring new furniture or mattress sets from you easy. Make your event user-friendly Special terms, small shots of the credit cards you accept, the layaway policy, extra sales consultants on duty, and other such buying conveniences need to be expressed. Do you offer childcare? Easy parking on lighted lots? Overnight delivery? Brainstorm with your associates about all of the things you do to make buying easier and more convenient. Tell people about your unique factors in your ads and mail-pieces, tell people about them when they visit your store.
WHY? is the cruncher, the "buy-now" close. Without a call to action all your work may be for naught. The buy-now factor may be time: a limited time offer or a limited time event. It may be scarcity of merchandise – once these items are gone they are gone. Time can also be used to point out that benefits from the purchase - comfort, service, pride of ownership, beauty, and so on - are being delayed until the decision is made. Time can be used to point out things such as when school is to open, and how the new bedroom would be a great motivator for the young student.
Start a checklist today
These are the bare bones ideas for developing your own promotion checklist. Air media, radio and TV commercials should have an abbreviated list of some kind with the few key points you want communicated in every commercial. Later in this series we will discuss the most important and effective medium of all, person to person communication. Improved "People Media" is best achieved with a series of established points and principles you want communicated to every prospect who enters your store. That is how Walt Disney "sold" Disneyland and Disney World, virtually by word of mouth alone – in the Parks and outside of them – and not just from customer to customer. Also, from associate to associate.
Begin to put the principle of continuous improvement into action. Begin with your advertising, try to make it just a little more informative and interesting each day. Get your associates thinking about your "unique factors," and how to communicate them to the public.
In our next article we will explore Lost Secret #2: THE THREE LAWS for MAKING EFFECTIVE DECISIONS ABOUT ADVERTISING MEDIA. I believe you will find some of the things we have learned through research and experience interesting - and, perhaps in some cases, surprising.
Larry Mullins, President of UltraSales, Inc., has 30+ years experience in the front lines of retail furniture marketing. Larry's mainstream executive experience, his creative work for "promoter-specialists," and study of advertising principles has enabled him to continually develop new High-Impact strategies for independent furniture retailers that are sound, complete, and innovative. Inquiries can be sent to Larry care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.