Part 6: The most effective traffic building tool for furniture retailers.
Advertising Strategy by Brett Kitchen and Ethan Kap
It was an incredible experience. The single best marketing piece I ever received at home was a personal letter in an envelope with a live stamp on it.
Several years ago I came across what appeared to be a personal letter sent to me by someone in my area. It had a live stamp on the envelope and what looked like a handwritten address.
I opened it up and read that, “Frustrated Plumber is practically ‘giving away’ 54 premium pullout spout faucets, 54 top tier disposals, and 54 high grade toilets (The kind large enough to flush a tennis ball).” Okay, he had my attention.
I went on to read 5 pages about this plumber and why he was doing this incredible deal. The piece had no pictures, no prices, and no “Sale, Sale, Sale” anywhere in it.
Unfortunately I didn’t need any of the above plumbing services, but I was so impressed with this marketing piece that I called the plumbing contractor myself. I asked him about the letter, and he told me “We picked the people we wanted to do business with, and sent it specifically to those neighborhoods. Our phones have been ringing off the hook! People love that letter, and are calling us like crazy.”
Just like the “Frustrated Plumber” we all have “people we want to do business with”. These are customers that buy with higher average sales, buy often, and refer all of their friends and family.
Wouldn’t you love to identify, target, and spend your marketing dollars only on these perfect customers to bring more of them into your store on a regular basis? You Can. And it’s simple to do.
You do it by using the best tool available to retailers in the marketing world... direct mail.
Many furniture retailers are finding that right now their newspaper, television and radio ads aren’t working as well as they have in the past.
There are reasons for all of this that we don’t need to go into, but direct mail still works, and will always work if done properly.
The Benefits of Direct Mail
1. It’s targeted.
2. You can customize your message to a specific person or market.
3. You can make it feel personal. Personal one-on-one marketing always sells better than generic mass media advertising. No other kind of advertising lets you connect like this.
4. You target your message to reach the people who are most likely to do business with you.
5. It gives you greater control over your marketing, budgets, and timelines.
6. Flexibility: You have no limits on the length or format of your sales presentation. In fact this is one of the single most important attributes of direct mail. The best marketers know that, “The more you tell, the more you sell.” Contrary to popular belief, pictures and logos don’t’ sell anything. WORDS compel emotions, and emotions cause people to buy.
Some of the most effective marketing pieces are 3, 4 even 5 pages long. Can you imagine sending a 5 page letter to sell furniture or bedding? If your first thought is “That won’t work for me” then you are dead wrong. The most effective marketing pieces retailers use are not postcards or full page newspaper ads. They are personal, compelling, letters.
The letter format allows you to tell your story, give a good reason why your target customer should want to buy, develop emotional wants, and present them with a good offer. The presentation can include testimonials, guarantees and personality. These are all essential elements. You simply can’t work all of this into a postcard or one page newspaper ad.
7. Cheap Testing Ground. You can send out a couple hundred or thousand direct mail pieces and see if it works before wasting much money.
Retailers should be spending at least half of their marketing budget on direct mail. That’s right. It may seem high to you, but it’s all about Return on Investment, and what works, wins.
In fact, the reason most retailers don’t use more direct mail is because there is no direct mail salesperson.
You probably have a radio sales rep, a TV rep and newspaper ad rep. The Yellow Pages ad rep knows where to find you as well. But you don’t have the direct mail sales rep showing up on your doorstep talking you into using direct mail.
It just doesn’t happen. Therefore you don’t spend as much on direct mail as you should.
Individually sent direct mail pieces are highly effective in a way that co-op mailers or buying group flyers are not. Sure, these are inexpensive, but not cost effective in terms of time or money.
Sure you spend a little more per piece for direct mail, but you also get the benefit of being able to target your customers precisely with a message crafted just for them.
In direct mail you can lose small and win big. Let’s recap. First you test carefully to find a winner, and once you find a winner, you roll out.
All it takes is one call to your mailing house.
Now before you run out and stop all your marketing and put it in direct mail, you need to know how to make it work.
Home furnishings retailer Naturwood did over $700,000.00 in sales with a 4 page letter. Giff Gates at Gates Furniture in Grants Pass Oregon had his best December in his store’s history with a 5 page letter. Jim Fisher at Amish Furniture Shoppe, Chicago Illinois did $310,000 in a month off a 4 page letter. Charles Covington at Batesville Furniture, Batesville Arkansas just had his best month in recent history with a 2 page handwritten letter.
All of these sales numbers are nice, but the ROI is what matters. In every case these numbers are even more exciting once you figure in the low cost of the marketing that generated the sales figures. Jim fisher spent 4,000 to generate $310,000. Naturwood spent $20,000 to generate over $700,000. Giff Gates only sent out 10,000 mailings (at a cost of less than $1.00 per piece) to create sales of over $650,000.
8. It’s reusable! It’s a system. Once you create a winner, you can reuse it, re-target it to other market segments and employ it year after year with just a few small tweaks.
We will now briefly look at the three steps you can take to create effective direct mail pieces. Further discussion of these steps will appear in the next issue of FURNITURE WORLD Magazine.
STEP #1: THE MESSAGE
The most important part of any advertising you can possibly do is crafting a believable, compelling story. The story is the basis of all successful marketing. You can also call it the “Concept.” The concept is what creates interest in customers. It lets them ‘buy in’, and helps them to believe that what you are sharing is a legitimate offer. This is one of the reasons why direct mail is so effective. A newspaper ad, television radio commercial doesn’t allow you the space to tell a story that is compelling enough to have our customers take action.
STEP #2: THE HEADLINE
Imagine walking out the front door tomorrow morning, hot coffee in hand, picking up your newspaper only to realize, there are NO headlines. None-just page after page of text. Tons of content with no way to distinguish what articles were about.
How excited would you be about reading the paper every day? You wouldn’t know where to start, what articles interested you, or where to find them. Finding an article you were interested in would be like finding a needle in a haystack.
In this analogy it’s easy to see the importance of using headlines to direct people to read what is interesting to them. Yet time after time furniture retailers use ads and marketing that simply broadcasts “SALE” or “Company Name” as a headline. Neither of these are remotely effective in grabbing customer interest or encouraging them to read your marketing piece. Yet, this is absolutely critical for success.
What is one good way to learn to write good headlines? One of the quickest, is to look at the magazines on the grocery store rack while you are checking out.
Who can resist reading...
•“99 Ways to lose weight fast (but we’ll show you the ONE that actually works)”
•“NEW DISCOVERY! Secret ingredient in eggs and nacho cheese that could cure cancer!”
•7 Ways Celebrity Furniture Writer Brett Kitchen got back to “Pre baby shape” just 43 days after delivery!
•“How to have your friends and family secretly whispering behind your back…envying your beautiful home”
Direct Marketing experts agree that the headline is between 75% and 90% of the ad. Putting your company name, or the same old “Labor Day Sale” at the top of your ads will ruin the rest of the ad…no matter how good it is.
STEP #3: PERSONALITY
You want to make sure that your customer feels like they know you, the owner personally, and that when they buy from your store, they are actually buying from you.
This is one of the premiere ways independent “David” retailers can beat “Goliaths” in your market. People don’t want to do business with a nameless, faceless “big box” organization. In fact, “Anti-Megacorporation (Wal-Mart, Home Depot, etc.) sentiment” is as high as it has ever been. People want to have a relationship, they crave the feeling that they belong, and want to feel like “Everyone Knows Their Name.” More information on making yourself a celebrity expert/spokesperson can be found in Part 4 of this “Double Your Store Traffic” series, posted to FURNITURE WORLD Magazine’s article archives section on the furninfo.com website.
You can give customers the illusion that they know you, without actually having ever met you. Start to do this by putting “personality” into your ads. Include pictures of you, your family, dog, and staff. The other critical element is to have your ad text “speak” to customers one-on-one.
People resonate and respond to targeted messages, so you want them to believe that this was a letter sent specifically to them, directly from you. You don’t want to give them the idea that they are being sent a message from a lifeless company, and that it is being sent to thousands of customers in order to get their money.
So if you aren’t using lots of direct mail now in your business, you must start today. If you are, but aren’t using the techniques mentioned above, then you are missing out on business that should be yours. Implement these techniques and you’ll see results in a hurry.
Direct mail is proving to be more and more effective, even while traffic and sales slump for most furniture retailers. If, however, you find that your direct mail results are flagging as well, then some review may be necessary.
Dufrense Furniture one of the largest independent retailers in Canada had this experience with their “New Mover” direct mail program. They were sending a ‘one shot’ mailing to new movers in their area. Unfortunately it wasn’t working as well as they’d like.
After applying these 3 principles above, plus the 8 Direct Mail principles of effectiveness, Dufrense is now getting 3 times better response, and gaining extremely high value customers.
Direct mail can be used in at least 7 different ways to produce more business for example: lost customer campaigns, new movers, private mailing invitations, radius marketing (hitting the neighborhoods of recent customers with a timely message), to name a few.
More essential direct mail elements and advanced strategies to make sure that your mailers are getting maximum impact.
Brett Kitchen and Ethan Kap are Co-founders of Furniture Marketing Systems, 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 don’t sell advertising services. Questions on any aspect of direct response marketing can be sent to Brett and Ethan care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.