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Details Make the Difference

Changing your advertising style to maximize results

The rain that started Thursday evening continues to pour on this Saturday morning with no sign of letting up for the next few days. Understandably, many customers have chosen to stay home. Our case study involves two retailers with similar merchandise and both having big plans for spring sales. The two retailers, Al and Bill, have made their inventory purchases, media buys, and have extra sales help in the building today.

While both retailers are disappointed with the weather, Al sees his plans for a big event as having been "washed out". You can easily see the concern on his face, as he knows spring sales are an integral part of his overall goal. Al thinks of the amount of money he has spent on advertising and what additional efforts he will have to put forth to move the extra merchandise he ordered for the sale.

Bill, instead, grabs a cup of coffee and begins looking at the "rainy day projects"; doing what many retailers do in these situations. His staff is also finding the various tasks that are necessary to fill the time that would otherwise be categorized as an unproductive sales day. The difference in the response of these is not due to their individual demeanor, but is occurring because of their strategy. Al chose to have a sale this week and to coordinate his purchases and advertising.

He started with radio and television advertising on Monday, sent a direct mail piece on Thursday, and placed newspaper ads in the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday editions of the local newspaper.

He even has a local radio station doing a remote broadcast Saturday afternoon. Al had done his homework; the pricing was great as was the product selection. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and he will have to dip into the financial reserves and scramble to create a second advertising blitz to move the inventory the following weekend.

Bill, while being disappointed about losing the traditional Saturday sales, sees it as a bump in the road. Bill's spring plans were quite different than Al's. Bill created a promotion as compared to Al's big advertising event. Bill started with sending a letter in March to all of his charge customers. He also had a similar letter that was used as a bag stuffer for the last week of the month. In the letter, Bill told his customers that April was going to be a great month in his store. He invited customers to come in, enjoy a complimentary drink and snack, and register for the daily door prizes. Bill explained that there would be a different item featured each day with a price that was below cost. There would be two evenings in which there were "by invitation only" sales for customers that had responded to the letter.

On the first Tuesday of the month, Bill decorated the store in the colors that were predominant in his direct mail piece. The parking lot also had banners and signs that clearly told anyone driving by that something special was happening in Bill's store.

It was on the next two evenings, Wednesday and Thursday, that the "invitation only sales" were held. Bill also had t-shirts for all employees imprinted with "the great outdoors is on sale in our store" which they wore every day in April.

Customers were heard to comment, "What's going on?" when they saw the festive look. Sale circulars were delivered on this Friday to customers on Bill's mailing list. Bill utilized a multiple date delivery of the direct mail piece because he knew from previous experiences that he would not be able to accurately predict the sales of all items.

The sale circular was displayed throughout the store beginning on the next day, Friday, as the store went through a one week "dry run". Customers coming into the store were told that the sale prices were not yet advertised to the public. Everything was in stock, and this was Bill's way of rewarding his everyday customers by having this weeklong sale without advertising in the media.

From the initial sales week, Bill was able to better gauge what would be the best selling items. With this information, he quickly reordered several items. On the second Friday of the month, Bill sent out half of the rest of the sales circulars to homes that were north and east of his store. Along with the sales circulars, Bill had some radio and newspaper advertising to back up the promotion. Again, after the weekend there was the opportunity to reorder items that were having better than expected sales.

If there were any items that were sold out, Bill had a rain check that in addition to offering an apology, gave the customer an additional 10% off the sale price of the item. Most rain check items were quickly picked up, as customers were making frequent trips to Bill's store to check the sign where the daily winners of door prizes were announced. The last of the sales circulars were delivered to homes south and west of the store on the next Friday.

Bill had selected this split delivery as previous experience had shown that the shoppers in the north and east areas had higher average tickets when shopping in his store. And from his pin map, which was updated during every sale, Bill also found that a higher percentage of homes in the north and east receiving his direct mail would respond.

There was again, radio and newspaper advertising, but not as much as the previous week. And as this turned out to be the rainy weekend, you can see why Bill was not bothered too much. Perhaps on this Saturday, Bill will call Al and invite him to lunch. If the discussion centers on spring sales, hopefully Bill will share some of his April success techniques with Al. For Bill has proven the old adage that anyone can advertise, but it takes a pro to promote.

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