Give me about three minutes and (if you are open-minded) I may be able to change the way you think about the possibilities of social media and branding your business. Some morning when you are away from your store simply call 701.852.3536. This is the number of I. Keating Furniture in North Dakota. A cheerful voice will greet you and say: “Good morning. It’s a great day at I. Keating Furniture. How may I help you?” Now, call your own store. Or just about any store. Compare the greetings. When you call your store, if you hear a bored voice just say the name of your store, you have some work to do. As they say, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Effective branding and social media are built from dozens of contact points with customers and prospective customers. Each of these contact points are precious moments. Opportunities to be friendly, fearless, and creative. Walt Disney knew this. He judiciously scripted these encounters. And he sold Disneyland almost entirely by means of social media, or what I prefer to call People Media. In the last article on social media I wrote: “Whether you choose to or not, you are using People Media every moment of every day. Social media adds new tools that others (like I. Keating) have learned to use knowingly, creatively and effectively to their advantage. You can too.”
The purpose of this article is twofold. First to establish in your mind that no amount of technology, no sophisticated platform (including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumbler, Instagram, etc.) can substitute for old-fashioned respect, courtesy, and the desire to serve. Every individual in your organization is part of the People Media process. It starts with you, with the messages you send to your managers and staff. And it includes all the contact points from the first greeting to the delivery, and possibly even your service people. Delivery personnel who are trained to re-enforce the purchase by praising how it looks are proven to reduce buyers’ remorse and service calls. The second purpose of this article is to emphasize that a compelling story can make or break an advertising campaign. So, before we have a final discussion on the various platforms of social media, let’s talk about the most blatant failing in furniture and mattress advertising today: No Story.
What Top Agencies Know About People Media That You Don’t
People Media is all about being believed. Top advertising agencies have the same mission as psychologists, teachers, missionaries, politicians and lobbyists. They are in the business of shaping people’s attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviors. They desire to influence and persuade people to believe and act in certain ways that they otherwise may not believe and act. Ad agencies have spent millions of dollars to learn ways to do this. They have learned that there are five levels of beliefs. If you follow me for the next several paragraphs you will know more about how these levels work than any of your competitors. Knowing this, you will create better advertising than ever before.
This is not to say the advertising man wants to influence the same beliefs that the psychologist or minister seeks to influence. We all have many different kinds of beliefs operating on five levels. Dr. Milton Rokeach isolated these beliefs when he worked with Michigan State University. You should find them interesting:
Type A Beliefs: These are cognitive beliefs about reality that you are certain are true. These beliefs concern observable realities. For example, you could say: I know I am reading an article. I know a guy named Larry Mullins wrote it. I know this is a table. And on and on. These core beliefs are supported by one hundred percent social consensus. They are almost impossible to influence or change. We become very upset when these core type A beliefs are challenged and brought into question.
Type B Beliefs: these are acquired beliefs that were developed from your personal experience. There are things we definitely believe whether anyone else agrees with us or not. Many of these beliefs are about ourselves, and they are deeply rooted. Some are positive (what we believe we are capable of) and some are negative (things we are afraid of). Most good entrepreneurs, sales persons, and achievers exude confidence because they believe they are competent and intelligent. These are B-Positive beliefs. But many of us also have B-Negative beliefs. Sometimes they are strong enough to cripple our efforts to achieve. They are neurotic self-doubts, anxieties about our self-worth, our identity and our competence. These are beliefs we should want to change. Psychologists specialize in helping us in this process. Dominating personalities and narcissists with impregnable self-esteem are adroit at exploiting negative beliefs in others in order to control their relationships.
Type C Beliefs: These are beliefs in certain authority figures whom we have come to trust. These third kinds of beliefs, type C beliefs, are powerful, but less difficult to change than type A and B beliefs. All of us tend to identify with certain authorities who tell us what to believe and what not to believe. We do not have the information to be able to determine the truth of many things ourselves. So we turn to authority figures who have earned our trust, scientists, historians, ministers, teachers, pundits, critics, and the like. We look to them to advise us (in their judgment) what is and is not true, beautiful and good in the world.
Type D Beliefs: These involve the specific information a trusted authority provides about an issue. These are called peripheral beliefs. They are not necessarily cast in stone, but they tend to be difficult to change. I believe the planet Venus cannot sustain life, not because I have been there, but because I trust the scientists who have determined this. We can disagree with some specific opinions of authority figures and still maintain a significant degree of respect for them.
Type E Beliefs: Beliefs regarding personal preferences and tastes that you, as a professional furniture expert, will seek to influence. A customer may believe his mattress will last a lifetime, and does not affect the quality of his sleep and perhaps even his health. Another may believe her choices in leather furniture are limited to shades of brown. These Type E beliefs are relatively easier to change than the previous types. And the most powerful change agents for type E beliefs are social media.
To stand out from the crowd you must become the most trusted authority on home furnishings and mattress sets in your marketing area. You must learn to tie peripheral type E beliefs to deeper type D, authority figure beliefs.
How do you become the preeminent authority on home furnishings and start winning market share? By providing information. That is what authority figures do. Countless consumers are out there silently begging for a home furnishings expert they can trust. Social media are vehicles of opportunity to connect with these folks. Content is still king. And the only thing that transcends content is context. The supremely powerful social media are still, and will always be, personal, one-on-one contact. Not just by sales people. Everyone in the organization is responsible, from the person who answers the telephone, to the individual who delivers the furniture. All personnel must be informed, scripted, and understand your story. Every good store has a noble story. Every successful sales event has a credible rationale behind it. Every top sales consultant has a captivating elevator speech. For more information on elevator USP speeches, go to www.furninfo.com/Search, enter the number 11660 in the search field and click on the magnifying glass icon.
Here is the gist of the elevator speech concept: Imagine you are on an elevator, and a prospective customer walks in. She recognizes you as a local furniture store entrepreneur. As the doors close, she asks you this question:
“You know, I am going to spend quite a lot of money soon on furniture and new mattresses. I’d like to patronize you as a local merchant, but I am just not sure. Why should I buy my home furnishings from you and not that big chain store?” You have seconds to answer her question before she gets off the elevator. What would you say?
“If you want to have some fun, test your staff to give their best elevator speech in a sales meeting. Strive to devise one yourself. It should be no more than 100-150 words. It should be crafted in the interest of the consumer and must embrace your Unique Selling Proposition factors. This is also your story. People don’t like a sales pitch, but they love stories.”
How does one create a culture in which their associates passionately engage prospects and customers with that clarity? The same way Walt Disney did it. By taking responsibility for it. If you are the owner, you are responsible for the culture of your company. You cannot delegate it. You must create and sustain it.
CONTENT IS KING, CONTEXT IS SUPREME
Content is king, but no matter how awesome your message is, no customer is going to say “yes” if you interrupt her entertainment. She will not like it if you waylay her with a giant pop-up in the middle of a Web page she is reading. Most prospects would do away with all the banner ads and pop-ups and, yes, also TV and radio commercials if they could. These are maximally intrusive. Next to one-on-one People Media, consent advertising is the strongest. You get people to consent to your messages when they are interesting and valuable.
In his great social media book, “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook … How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World”, social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk summarizes his master social media strategy like this:
“Your story needs to move people’s spirits and build their goodwill, so that when you finally ask them to buy from you, they feel that you have given them so much that they would be almost rude to refuse.
“Jab, jab, jab, jab … right hook!
Give, give, give, give … ask.
This revolutionary concept of the service motive is not complicated, but may be difficult for most old school marketers to understand. It is unlike the raw power of classic marketing theories, but rather like power modulated by sincere empathy for the prospect. On its ultimate level, it is like the power of those few who do the impossible and change the world. Not only people like Orville and Wilber Wright, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks or Mother Teresa, but also the business innovators like Sam Walton, Steve Jobs, and Fred Smith.
Now let’s summarize all this social media and People Media stuff:
SOCIAL MEDIA can make or break your business, and it begins with you.
- FACEBOOK is a great medium to tell your story. Take the time to learn Facebook, or someone who knows it’s ins and outs including paid options to help. Be sure to have a Facebook logo on your website, and use it in your ads. It will pay rich dividends.
- TWITTER is cool, but, in my judgment not the right context for furniture and mattress news, which are relatively big ticket items and not very “newsy.” Great medium for celebrities, sports, and some applications if Twitter messages are kept up to date and relevant, but I don’t see it worth the time for furniture stores.
- PINTEREST is hard to ignore. Women outnumber men users by five to one. Gary Vaynerchuk says if you have a product that would interest women “… you’re a dope if you are not on Pinterest.” It is very visual and easy to use, but here are a few guidelines:
• Make your pictures feed the dreams of the women who want more beautiful homes, or if mattress related, better health.
• Give your pictures (called “boards”) clever, creative titles.
• Include a price when appropriate.
• Include a hyperlink to your website.
- INSTAGRAM is mostly artistic content, for the younger generation. Soft sell, no hyperlinks.
- TUMBLR is another artsy medium appealing mostly to 18-34 year olds. Essentially photographers, musicians and graphic designers.
You will achieve a substantial business benefit if you choose to become one of the handful of furniture entrepreneurs who take the time to examine the potentials of People Media. Remember, you are doing People Media every minute of every day whether you want to or not. It’s your decision whether you allow it to be happenstance or planned, compelling, and in proper context. Your big box competitors can never match the hometown guy or gal with an honest, noteworthy story.
Larry Mullins is a contributing editor for Furniture World and has 30+ years of experience on the front lines of furniture marketing. Larry’s mainstream executive experience, his creative work with promotion specialists, and mastery of advertising principles have established him as one of the foremost experts in furniture marketing. His affordable High-Impact programs produce legendary results for everything from cash raising events to profitable exit strategies. His newest books, THE METAVALUES BREAKTHROUGH and IMMATURE PEOPLE WITH POWER… How to Handle Them have recently been released by Morgan James Publishing. Joe Girard, “The World’s Greatest Salesman” said of this book: “If I had read Larry Mullins’ book when I started out, I would have reached the top much sooner than I did.” Larry is founder and CEO of UltraSales, Inc. and can be reached directly at 904.794.9212 or at Larrym@furninfo.com. See more articles by Larry at www.furninfo.com or www.ultrasales.com.