So you’ve made the decision to run a sale event in your store. Maybe you want to move dated or slow moving inventory. Maybe you need to increase store traffic. You might even be thinking about retirement and closing your store, all good reasons for a sale. Developing an effective advertising campaign that fits your particular store and marketplace is critical to the success of your sale. Seems obvious, but don’t forget - you can have a great sale event and pack your store with all sorts of new and exciting inventory, but if nobody knows about the sale, your efforts have been wasted.
So what is the most cost effective means of advertising and generating store traffic? The question brings to mind John Wanamaker’s familiar saying illustrating how difficult it can be to reach potential customers: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” You want to generate the most amount of traffic and spend the least amount of money.
The mix and match of different advertising media often depends upon where your store is located - whether it’s in a densely populated, city location, or more rural area where customers will drive from neighboring towns, even counties to shop. For example, sign walkers strategically placed at high traffic intersections in major metropolitan markets are incredibly effective in generating store traffic. They are much less effective in less densely populated or rural areas.
Newspaper print ads in major metropolitan areas have become so expensive they are often cost prohibitive; neighborhood newspapers, many published weekly, offer a cost effective alternative. Local radio station spots on local news or talk shows can be productive but costs vary widely by market as do the cable television stations. So where to begin? How do you build your sale event marketing strategy?
No matter where your store is located, direct mail is an attractive starting point because it will allow you to contact your current customers and target prospective new buyers as well. Hopefully you have a mailing list of current customers that you use periodically. If not, you can begin building a customer database using customer information stored on your computer system or your Outlook™. Many point of sale systems used today have the ability to transfer customer information into your database every time you run a credit card.
Once you have developed your own in-house list, you may want to research compiled mailing lists to attract new customers. Match the demographics of your own customers with that of the list you rent. Now might be the time to do your own customer survey and try to develop your own customer profile - what is your typical price point? What’s the average customer age? Are they married? Do they have children? What percentages are male/female, etc.
Buying a mailing list of customers who have purchased from consumer catalogs - and therefore are responsive to direct mail - will give you a better response than names on a general compiled list. There have been studies that say 50 percent of families will not be motivated to buy anything by mail. If that is the case, renting a catalog list already eliminates those that are not responsive to direct mail marketing.
Another possibility is to purchase a list based upon change of lifestyle. Lists are available for new movers, giving you the names of families that have recently moved into your area. Recent engagements and bridal registries are also excellent sources. Community newspapers also may rent their subscribers list to you. With the right mailing list and customer database you’ve got a good foundation for your direct mail campaign, but there’s more - what about the offer?
Whether you mail a postcard, letter or flyer there should be a call to action, a reason for urgency: what’s going to get your customer into your store? Usually the answer is discount savings. Everyone loves a bargain and with the recent downturn in the economy and competition from Internet dealers there are more bargain hunters than ever. Make sure you have some categories or merchandise with a sufficient mark-up to take into account that consumers these days are looking for a significant discount - up to 50% or more is the magic formula. It’s obviously important to tie the discount offer into the theme of the sale. For example:
- Inventory Clearance Sale: Save Up to 50%
- Store Moving Sale: Save Up to 50%
- 25th Anniversary Sale: Save Up to 50%
- Store Closing Sale: Save up to 50%
Have a coupon in your mailer and offer an additional 10% off (coupon expires in a week to ten days). Consider mailing two versions of your mailer - one to your customer base offering a “private sale” event for your own preferred customers to preview new inventory before the “public” sale begins - and to thank them for their continued patronage. Again, make sure to include a sale ends by date deadline. And don’t forget to mention the little things like convenient shopping hours and no-hassle return policies and free gift wrapping.
Direct mail is our favored media as the results are immediate and measurable. With the right mailing list, a strong offer and call to action, you can connect with your customers - no matter where your store is located and what other advertising media might come into play.
Bob Epstein is CEO of Silverman Consultants. Offering a legacy in sales strategies for jewelers since 1945, Silverman provides guidance to store owners seeking to turn around a business, sell off unwanted inventory, or liquidate an entire store. With offices located in Charleston, SC; New York City; and Saskatoon, Canada; the company helps jewelry store owners and chains formulate strategies designed to maximize revenue in times of transition, whether due to retirement, store closing, or simply when needing a boost in sales. For more information, visit www.silvermanconsultants.com or call Bob direct at 800-347-1500.