More on Event Marketing

Last week we posted on a session we attended on the topic of show and event marketing.  The first half of the presentation was given by Sally Cheney of Sally Cheney’s Superstore in Tennessee.  The second half presenter was Mike Piper of Best Sewing in Seattle.  Today we look at Mike’s take on the subject.

Mike began by saying that as advertising becomes less effective shows and events become more important. Continuous activity will lead to continuous sales.  He likes to do a variety of events, both in-store and out.  He feels that post cards are the best way to promote his events.  "You have to do something every month."

Mike’s a believer in having lots of activity going on at a home show or other off-site event.  Have lots of working samples.  If one is good, five is five times as good.  He also sells his demo models during the event.  He gets the money up front and delivers the demo when the event is over. 

Probably the key to Mike’s event success is his attitude.  "We sell things!" he says.  He’s not spending the money to do a show just to visit with people.  If you come into his booth (and he will come into the aisle to get you) someone’s going to ask you to buy something. (See our earlier post  There’s Nothing Wrong with Making a Sale.)

One thing that is often overlooked is residual business.  If you put on a good event, you’ll have customers coming into your store for months because of it.  Events and shows don’t just lead to immediate sales, but also to on-going sales all year long.

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Short and to the Point

From Franklin McMahon’s Media Artist Secrets podcast, here’s an extremely simple, six-word business plan. 

  • Act big.
  • Be confident.
  • Aim high.

Never willing to leave well enough alone, we have to expand on this, at least a little bit.

Act big–There’s nothing wrong, in fact there’s a lot right, about giving the impression that your business is bigger than it really is.  Back in the days when Tacony was in the air conditioner business, I called on a local store.  It was a small store with virtually no storage space.  Everything was sold from floor samples and was delivered to the customer’s home.  When a customer had made their selection, the owner would say "Let me see if it’s in my warehouse."  Then he’d call the local distributor and place the order.  He had no warehouse.  He had a telephone and a truck.

Eventually the dealer did get big.  He did get a warehouse.  He wasn’t lying when he acted "big", he was just projecting into the future.

Be confident–This one’s easy.  Anyone who invests their money to open a retail business has to be confident.  But when you have a bad day, or a string of them, it’s easy to lose that confidence.  Don’t do it!  Stay confident and good things will find you.

Aim high–This one is really a combination of the first two.  You know to begin your sales presentation with the more expensive items because it’s always easier to go down in price than it is to go up.  The same applies to the rest of your business, too.  Run the big ad.  Go after the big sale.  Play the percentages.  You’ll never hit the bigtime if you don’t try.

A Cab Driver’s Observation

Mark Ramsey at the Hear 2.0 blog writes about an interesting conversation he had with a taxi driver recently.  Mark is in media research and he asked the cabby about satellite radio.  Her answer?  "I don’t pay for radio."  She’s perfectly happy with her favorite station and has no interest in the new technology.  Then the driver made a very profound statement:  "

"The eye wants the new, but the ear wants the familiar."

In other words, people look at what’s new, but they want to hear something that they can relate to.  Mark goes on to discuss what this idea means to his readers in the media business, but it also has some implications for those of us in sales.  Think about it.  People come into your store to see what’s new.  What’s exciting?  What’s the latest thing?  We know that.

But how do we make the presentation?  Don’t we have to put the latest and greatest in terms that are familiar to the customer?  Don’t we have to start with where they are now before we can take them to where they need to be? 

Suppose we take Mark’s example of satellite radio.  Before you can understand the new technology, you have to know the current technology.  Regular radio signals travel through the air for a limited distance.  Satellite radio signals bounce of stationary satellites and can be picked up all over the United States.  You get the idea.  If you’ve never lost a radio signal while you were on a trip, the new service makes no sense at all.  You have to start with what they already know.

Your store may be the place to go to see all the newest products, but it had better be comfortable and familiar or most customers just won’t shop there.  We’ve seen it many times.  A new retailer comes to town, possibly one that’s been very successful in another part of the country, but for whatever reason, their style, their atmosphere, their way of doing business just doesn’t fit into the community.  That’s an advantage to the independent retailer. 

New products are exciting, but people want to do business with people they know and trust, and that’s you.  So, bring in those new products.  Create some excitement in your store.  But don’t stray too far from the formula that made you successful in the first place.  Be the merchant they know and trust and they’ll keep coming back for more.

Working With Family

As a lot of you know, working with family can be a picnic.  Some days are sunny and cool and some days thunderstorms can spoil everything.  Ron Gattinella knows a lot about running a family business.  He and his three adult children own and operate the four Close to Home stores in New England.  At our recent Baby Lock Tech dealer event Ron gave a presentation on working with family.

A little background:  Ron, his two sons, and his daughter each operate one of the four stores.  Each one of them is responsible for the operation of his/her location.  They meet frequently and each has an equal vote on decisions that affect all four stores.

Here are some of Ron’s tips:

  • In the business he doesn’t wear the "father" hat.
  • You can’t have development without discussion and disagreement.
  • Set up an account with a local bank.  Get them to understand what you do, especially the seasonal aspects of the business.
  • Family members who work in the business must be invested in its success.
  • Multiple stores must be linked by a point-of-sale system.
  • While Ron doesn’t wear the "father" hat, someone has to be the leader. 
  • A leader is someone who can take a group and move it forward.

Finally, and this applies to every business, family or otherwise, you have to be able to "duplicate yourself".  In other words, your business must be process oriented.  There must be systems in place to get the work done, whether you’re there or not.

In an earlier post, we referred to Ron’s soccer-coaching analogy and a great quote from Albert Einstein:

"When a group of individuals becomes a ‘we’, a harmonious whole, then the highest is reached that humans as creatures can reach.

At the end of his presentation, Ron reccomended two books.  I’ve not read either one, but I have them on order.  They are:  "E Myth Revisited" by Michael Gerber and "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman. 

Help Us Help You

In talking to several of our dealers last week, we found that some of you have questions about how best to use technology in your business.  We’d like to help, but first we’d like to know exactly how you’re currently using the computer.

Please take just a few moments to take our computer usage survey.  There are only eight questions.  The whole process should take less than five minutes.  We’ll review the aggregated results and use them as a guide to future blog posts and other services.

There’s also a space for comments, so here’s your chance to let us know what’s on your mind.

Click here to go to the survey.  And thanks, in advance, for your help.

On Tuesday, September 4 (the day after Labor Day), we’ll choose one survey respondent to receive a free copy of Bob and Linda Negin’s excellent book, "Marketing Your Retail Store in the Internet Age."  As they say on the infomercials, "So you don’t forget, take the survey today!"  Here’s the link again.

There’s Nothing Wrong With Making a Sale

This may seem very obvious to you but, a sales person’s job is to sell.  Let me explain.

Baby Lock Tech is Tacony Corporation’s largest annual dealer
event.  Several hundred of the best sewing machine retailers from all
across the country attend to see new items, meet their fellow dealers,
and to attend presentations to learn the latest sewing techniques and
ways to improve their businesses.  This year’s event took place this week here in St. Louis.

While we do our very best to provide our business partners with
the latest and best information, we learn a lot from them, too.  Over
the next few days, I’m going to share some of the things that I learned
from our dealers.  Please keep this in mind.  With some exceptions,
retailing is retailing.  What works for a sewing machine retailer will
work just as well for any other merchant.  One of the values of working
with a diversified company like Tacony Corporation is that we can be a
conduit to pass valuable information from one of our industries to
another.

Mike Piper is a salesman.  He owns Best Sewing in Seattle, a very successful business.  Mike was a presenter at Baby Lock Tech on the subject of special events.  We’ll be looking at some of the points he made in a future post, but for today, I wanted to focus on one thing that Mike said that applies to all sales, whether they’re at an off-site event, or in the store.

Shark
Mike calls himself a shark because he trolls the aisle in front of his trade show booth, looking for customers.  He’s very proactive when it comes to selling, and he makes no apology for it.  He calls it "SHED", or selling hard every day.

To paraphrase (because I don’t take very good notes), it costs a lot of money to operate a selling space, whether it’s a show booth or a retail store.  The only reason to spend that money is to sell stuff.  Period.  If you don’t try to sell something to every person you talk to, you’re wasting your money, and who wants to do that? 

There are some people who will be offended by such a blatant effort to exchange their money for your merchandise, but you can’t lose something you didn’t have in the first place.  If they’re offended by your asking for a sale, then you won’t make a sale.  If you don’t try to sell them something, you won’t make a sale.  What’s the difference?  The difference is that if you ask them to buy, they just might do it.

Remember, there’s more to making a sale than just asking for the order.  But, if you do your job the right way, ask the right questions, and offer the customer a solution to their problem, then you’ve earned the right to ask them to buy. 

A shark has to keep moving to stay alive.  So does a sales person.

Special Events

Baby Lock Tech is Tacony Corporation’s largest annual dealer
event.  Several hundred of the best sewing machine retailers from all
across the country attend to see new items, meet their fellow dealers,
and to attend presentations to learn the latest sewing techniques and
ways to improve their businesses.  This year’s event took place this week here in St. Louis.

While we do our very best to provide our business partners with
the latest and best information, we learn a lot from them, too.  Over
the next few days, I’m going to share some of the things that I learned
from our dealers.  Please keep this in mind.  With some exceptions,
retailing is retailing.  What works for a sewing machine retailer will
work just as well for any other merchant.  One of the values of working
with a diversified company like Tacony Corporation is that we can be a
conduit to pass valuable information from one of our industries to
another.

There’s no question that retailing today can be a challenge.  Regardless of what’s actually happening in the stores, the news media love to tell us how bad things really are.  Housing is down.  Energy prices are up.  The planet is melting.  The sky is falling.  Surprisingly, the typical consumer just keeps on buying stuff.  Go figure.

Make no mistake, if you just sit there in your store and wait for the buyers to come flocking in you’ll most likely be disappointed.  But if you make an effort to get people into your place of business and if you take your best shot at selling them something, you will do business.

Sally_cheney
Sally Cheney is a very successful retailer in the Nashville market.  To get an idea of her business, check out her web site.  She’s about to open a new, even larger store.  Sally took part in a presentation at Baby Lock Tech on successful shows and events.  People love special events.  If you’re not taking advantage of your customers’ desire to have fun, to learn something, or to get a special "deal", you’re leaving money on the table.

Whether your event is held in the store (special sale, workshop, learning event, special guest) or outside the store (home show, state or local fair, expo) the key to success is good planning and good record keeping.  Sally does a number of events throughout the year and she’s always ready to make money when the event begins. She knows if she did make money or not when the event is over.  Obviously, she repeats the money makers and thoroughly analyzes the losers to find out why they didn’t work.

There’s not enough space here to cover Sally’s entire presentation, so following are some key points.  If you’d like more information, click here.

  • Plan for success.
  • Start early.
  • Know who will do what.
  • What will the specials be?
  • Who is the customer?
  • What help can you get from suppliers?
  • Have plenty of merchandise….there and ready to sell.
  • If it’s an out-of-store event, spend the money to get a telephone line and take credit cards.
  • If you offer financing, make sure customers know it.  Have plenty of signage.
  • Pre-promote the event in your store.  That includes asking every customer "Will you be coming to our event?"
  • Get your staff on the phone.
  • If the event is off-site, drive people back to your store.
  • Pre-plan an after the event sale.
  • Create a separate P & L for the event.

Sound advice from a successful retailer.  There’s business out there and it will go to the businesses that aggressively go after it.  If you have any event success stories, fell free to share them with us.