Ad Secrets

Updated For A Digital Age

Part 3: How can you squeeze the most out of every ad dollar now that our industry isn't booming?

Advertising Strategies by Larry Mullins

Imagine an industry that spends millions of dollars every day of the year on advertising, and most of that money is wasted. You may think I am exaggerating. No, this is no time to exaggerate. Recently it was the giant screen TV fad that greatly cut into home furnishings sales. Then the housing market tsunami followed. Many big players have tanked, or are tanking. Man has never built an unsinkable ship — nor an invincible furniture chain. You may be looking around and wondering: "Who is going to survive?"

The answer is: two kinds of furniture

stores will survive — and prosper. The "stack 'em up and blow 'em out stores, and the stores that adopt new marketing techniques to tell their story. If you are the former, this article will not be of much help. However, if you are service oriented, open-minded, and hungry, I will suggest some techniques you can use to take advantage of the most exciting opportunity in home furnishings history.

Did I write "opportunity?" Isn't the world falling apart? No, regardless of the negative press, the world is not falling apart. TRENDS E MAGAZINE

( ) observes in their latest issue: "Whether it's the S&L crisis of 1989, the Asian debt crisis of 1998, the "tech wreck" crisis of 2000, or the American subprime mortgage crisis of 2007 ... the problem, the solution, and the outcome are fundamentally the same in every case ..."

The article goes on to point out that in times of crisis the market always sorts out the winners from the losers, sometimes in spite of government or private intervention. First, the winners strive to figure out the big picture. Then they look for new tools to adapt to the situation. What are these new tools for today's home furnishings dealers? How will they work? In this article I will explain a few — and how you can profit from understanding and using them.

"Well, OK," you may counter, "But isn't the United States economy falling apart?" No again. History tells us that a free economy system has ups and downs. And that is precisely why smart entrepreneurs use tough times to look for the new opportunities that are sure to come, and prepare to take advantage of them before their competitors wise up. TRENDS reports that employment continues at record highs. Average hourly earnings are up 8.4 percent verses September of 2005, the fastest pace of wage gains for any two year period since 1990. Incomes are growing rapidly and consumer net worth is at a record high. TRENDS suggests that we forget

Use Headlines That Work

"O AT HOME" uses benefit headlines to capture readers for its successful magazine. The home furnishings industry generally lacks the talented advertising people who know how to write such headlines. The top pros in the best ad agencies apply proven principles to double or triple the effectiveness of their print media or they would not have jobs.

You Can Advertise More Effectively Than The Big Boxes

Is 'No Payments Until 2012' really the only message we have for the consumer? Don't we have anything to say about the things our fabulous products, dedicated service and unparalleled expertise can do for their home?" Ads like this can be slapped together in twenty minutes and are a colossal waste of co-op and the store's advertising dollars.


about any short term recession. They expect a mild recession in 2011, but another explosive run-up until then.

So why isn't the home furnishings industry booming? Where are all the consumer dollars going? Don't people know that they are getting more for their money than ever when they buy furniture? Why don't they respond to our slick advertising messages any more?

In my judgment there are three reasons the furniture industry is foundering. First, creating selling messages in print is a lost art in the furniture industry. Promotional flyers, ROP newspaper ads and direct mail all look alike and fail to tell a story. Is "No Payments Until 2012" really the only message we have for the consumer? Don't we have anything to say about the things our fabulous products, dedicated service and unparalleled expertise can do for their home? At first, gorgeous computer generated color images and dramatic graphics, were effective traffic builders. But now everyone can do about the same thing and so beautiful pics and flashy graphics are table stakes. They can no longer distinguish a store and sell by themselves. They need to be complemented by a compelling message. Without persuasive, creative copy, computers only enable graphic artists to create bad advertising more rapidly.

Second, new techniques must be developed by smaller, middle of the road independents to deliver their message to the communities they serve. The big furniture boxes succeed in drowning out the independent by sheer volume of weak, look-alike advertising. But there is an empty Blue Ocean of opportunity out there waiting for tomorrow's winners — those who are willing to commit the time, resources and energy — to take the plunge.

Third, those who would be tomorrow's leaders in the furniture industry must learn to plan strategically with vision and execute tactically with precision and flexibility. No professional football team enters a game without a strategic game plan ... a plan that every player understands and buys into. Moreover, a successful game plan must embrace a large number of complex plays (or tactics) that every player knows how to execute. In other words, the team enters the game prepared. Every wise athlete knows the game or the match is won or lost before it's played. And, there is more.

A professional football team has a crew of expert coaches. Their job is twofold — keep the game plan on target and make adjustments when things go wrong. No one can predict if or when the quarterback will be injured, the left tackle will break a rib, or when the weather will weaken the passing game. Coaches inspire and lead. When the coaches give up the game is over. They don't have to say anything. But, if they lose heart they may as well wave a white flag.

Everything you will read in this article boils down to these

Add More Cushion to Your Profits!

Increase your profits with an extraordinary collection of sofas, chairs and loveseats with coordinating tables. Luxury leathers with exposed wood frames and down-filled's easy to add style, selection and value to your showroom.

the perfect chair

How Top Pros Sell Furniture By Mail

The "Perfect Chair" ad above is from a Sharper Image flyer. You may want to ask an ad person who claims that direct mail doesn't work anymore, or that a complete copy story is old fashioned: "How can Sharper Image sell a $1,999 chair with a direct mail flyer?" Check out the benefit headlines and compelling copy in the Sky Mall catalogue exhibit at right. Why do the copywriters for Sharper Image and Sky Mall work so hard on small space ads? Because the cost-effectiveness of their efforts are constantly measured. Troubles in the economy or not, if they don't get response and sell merchandise in the expensive space allotted to them, their jobs will be in jeopardy.

conclusions: You need to learn to tell your story effectively and persuasively. It must be orchestrated to your prospects' personal interests and needs. You need new, inexpensive, uncluttered, media to reach the public and tell your story. And you need to craft a dynamic new game plan that your entire team understands and buys into.

Let's take a look at these three complex issues in turn and see if we can hammer out an action plan for selling lots more furniture in 2008.

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