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10 Tips for Growing Sales in ’09

Jan 18, 2009  •  Post A Comment

From the looks of things, you’re going to need all of your experience, tools and a few extra tips to come out ahead this year. With annual sales down 20% or more in many retail categories, marketers who know how to grow sales and market share in a down-tracking market will be the rock stars of 2009.
So what follows are my top-10 tips to maximize your dollar.
Some are marketing tips, others are marketing strategy; the rest are customer service tips. They really work, and when used in combination can result in great retail progress in any market.
Get back to basics. Trendy marketing imagery and editing seemed to be popular when the market is hot and sales are easy, but when sales are tough, your message should get back to what the customer is buying your product for in the first place. If your TV commercials have gotten vague over the last few years, consider a new simple and frank message. You may find that an “underproduced” ad may actually become one of your more successful campaigns.
Promote a value. Yes, consumers are more careful with their money, but they won’t hesitate to buy when you show them a value to buying now. But here’s the catch: It has to be a real financial value. McDonald’s 2008 sales went up 3% when it rolled out its dollar menu.
Companies like McDonald’s know how to move with the consumer. That’s how it has built up its massive market share—it is always one of the first to react to market conditions. Also, there are ways to create value without reducing your product profit margins. More on that later.
Promote a bonus. A gift with purchase will bring your current customer back sooner and also lure new customers. Develop your own gift-with-purchase program or maybe just a trial plan to bring new customers into your business. I’ve seen car dealers roll out buy-one-get-one car sales. This concept always generates massive local media attention, and customers love it.
More dealers should do this.
Have some fun. Just because the economy has the blahs doesn’t mean your campaign has to be tragically serious. People are still active and spending money; restaurants are still busy. There are creative ways to tell your story in a fun manner and still deliver the goods. Keep it light; people have enough seriousness in their lives.
Sell multiple purchases. A retail tactic proven to drive profits is to ask the consumer to “bulk up” his buying from you. Consumer product companies will shrink-wrap two bottles of soap and place a special price on it. They sell more family packs in a slow economy, as consumers will organize an informal buying group. Clothing retailers will offer a free shirt when you purchase two suits instead of one. A word of caution: While these sales have a tremendous impact on your short-term profits, there can be a negative long-term effect since you will cannibalize future sales. Think about your business needs and plan accordingly.
Enter new markets. Arm & Hammer baking soda has about a dozen products that use its soda as a key ingredient. The folks that manage that brand have magnified their sales dramatically with these product developments.
Create a new market. A friend of mine, John Cranor, was president of Kentucky Fried Chicken a few years back. He is the person who changed the company’s name to its current KFC.
What’s the difference? Kentucky Fried Chicken is a product; KFC is a brand name. Also, fried foods have a negative connotation with today’s public. This simple move was brilliant, as it literally helped the company enter the mainstream fast-food market well beyond chicken dinners. Want another way to create a new market? Talk to your customers about other ways they use your product. You may be surprised at how resourceful the American consumer can be.
Delight the customer. These days, little things matter. Sam’s Club and Walmart welcome customers with a free coffee station at the entrance to their stores. Although they forfeit profits from coffee sales, they also delight the consumer and set the tone for a positive shopping experience. My local car dealer offers free car washes any day of the week. This keeps his customers coming back again and again. The salespeople love it as they can say hello to their customers without any pretense. How can you delight your customer?
Ask for referrals and give rewards. When you super-serve a consumer, you are entitled to ask for referrals. Research has proved that referrals are many times more likely to buy than other potential customers, and they buy at a higher profit margin than average. Please ask for referrals—and remember to reward customers for giving them to you.
Close the deal: In your commercial, be sure to ask for the order. Ask consumers to act now, and tell them what they need to do. This could include visiting your Web site or your stores.
There are thousands of TV commercials that air every year that lack this critical component to a successful campaign. Why educate and captivate a consumer without motivating an action? Ask for the order.
There’s no doubt that 2009 will require extra innovation and creativity in all markets. Implementing these basics can make your efforts more dynamic and successful.
Adam Armbruster is a senior partner with Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. He can be reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.

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