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Guest column: Why advertising fails

Volume 26/Number 22; March 18/25, 2013

(Second of three parts)

In the previous installment, I listed the three reasons most advertising fails flooring dealers—misunderstandings among retailers regarding advertising, unawareness of alternatives to “brand building” types of advertising and dealers duplicating each other—and then discussed the first one in detail.

In this column, I’ll explain the second reason for failed advertising and note other, effective methods.

The alternative to brand-building advertising is direct response marketing, which is what I teach to my Inner Circle members. Direct response covers a wide range of strategies, and one of the most powerful is building, nurturing and protecting your ‘herd’ of past customers.

Most dealers spend the lion’s share of their time, energy and money trying to convince total strangers to do business with them. They do this while completely ignoring the only people on the planet who have proven they will buy from them—their past customers. Madness!

One of the most effective methods for communicating with past customers is via monthly newsletters. I’m not talking about the usual, boring junk you get from your insurance agent (I call those snoozeletters). It is critical your newsletter be structured properly. Here are some tips for writing an effective newsletter:

•Use “info-tainment.” Make your newsletter a mix of 80% to 90% entertaining and informative articles, and 10% to 20% about your business.

Why this ratio? Because in any given month, the majority of your past customers don’t need floor covering, so it’s not necessary to bore them with content that’s 100% about floors. It’s similar to receiving a newsletter from your dentist each month containing nothing but information about the latest developments in root canals. Boring.

•Include language that compels ongoing referrals. If you have 200 past customers, each of them has at least 200 people in their sphere of influence; that’s 40,000 people connected to your previous buyers. Within that expanded group, there are dozens of people each and every month who need flooring.

•Include emotional “triggers” that get people involved in the letter and promote readership. I create a turnkey newsletter for my flooring dealer customers that includes at least 10 triggers in every issue. Three of the most powerful triggers are customer recognition, testimonials and a contest in which people must call or visit the store to participate.

I can almost hear it, “Geez Jim, send a news-letter every month? Won’t that get on people’s nerves?” Space won’t permit an exhaustive answer, but I will say a few things in response.

First, for every month that goes by that your customers don’t hear from you, you lose 10% of the value of that relationship; so after 10 months you might as well be a stranger stalking their neighborhood.

Secondly, I’ve been sending newsletters for nearly 15 years and it’s been a major revenue source. This would not have been possible if I were getting on people’s nerves.

Thirdly, I’ve seen results from other flooring retailers, including one who used newsletters to generate over $250,000 in extra revenue in a single year, and another who went from nearly closing his doors to doing over $2.5 million in business last year using newsletters as his primary marketing strategy.

A properly constructed monthly newsletter is one of many powerful alternatives to image advertising.

In the next installment, we will discuss how to set yourself apart from other dealers in your market.