Organizing Cross Promotions

If you’re like most furniture retailers, you’re always looking for ways to stretch your media dollars. While buying remnant space at the last minute accomplishes this goal, it usually leads to poorly conceived, ineffective promotions that were developed without much thought to an overall advertising strategy.

So what is the best way to stretch your media dollars? Why not consider planning a series of coordinated cross promotions throughout the year that add co-op dollars to your budget and excitement to your advertising campaign.

Having spoken to furniture retailers throughout the country, I know that there is a high level of interest in adding cross promotions to advertising schedules. The problem is, you may not know what’s available or how you can get the programs organized.

Actually, organizing a cross promotion is a lot easier than you might think. All you need is a little imagination, a good sense of what motivates furniture buyers, and the ability to create a winwin situations with other businesses that share your goals.

Here’s a great example of how easy it is to develop a cross promotion that works. One of my clients in Philadelphia has a store located near a number of great restaurants. So we combined shopping for furniture with giving away a romantic dinner for two. This made it a lot easier to bring couples into the store, and thus more likely that they would make a decision the first time around.

We created an advertising campaign offering a free dinner with any purchase over $500. Then, we called several of the restaurants in the area and asked if they were interested in co-oping the promotion.

The deal was as follows. The restaurants paid for a percentage of the advertising campaign and we mentioned their restaurants in the ads. We decided on a combination of radio and direct mail for a total cost of $6,000. The furniture store contributed $3000 and each of three restaurants kicked in $1000 each. The furniture store gave away a $50. gift certificate good at any of the restaurants and everyone went home a winner at the end of the day.

I once suggested to a client in Sandwich, Illinois that he should offer new customers a free gift just for coming into his store. He replied, “That always works for me. I’ve found that my regular customers will walk a mile for a free gift and my affluent ones will walk five!

What does this tell you? Advertising is all about perceived value. An extra 10% off a sectional valued at $2000 represents a savings of $200. But more often than not, the customer would rather get a free area rug to go with their new sofa, an offer which is worth considerably less than the 10% discount. Rug stores love working with furniture stores to cross promote. Most people need new carpeting when they redecorate. Why not work out a special incentive with a local rug dealer and split the cost of advertising?

The possibilities for external cross promotions are limitless. The trick is to know your customers and what motivates them. One of my clients was a wine connoisseur and found a company that manufactured the finest wine glasses she had ever seen. She asked me if I had any ideas how we could cross promote wine glasses and furniture. We decided to host a wine tasting right in the showroom. We mailed out invitations to a list of wine enthusiasts along with the furniture retailers customer list, and got the glass company to split the cost right down the middle. The promotion was so successful, it became a semi annual event.

Using your imagination means looking around for the latest trends. If you sell wall systems, consider co-oping with an electronics store nearby to offer televisions, VCRs or DVD players. Remember, all good cross promotions have to offer both parties a mutually beneficial outcome- increased traffic and sales.

Often, your best sources for cross promotions are right inside your store. Regardless of how much your vendors might tell you that they can’t give you co op dollars because of the factory discounts you are already receiving, don’t believe it. They want to move their products through your store just like you do, and if you offer them a well thought out advertising campaign to sell their goods, more often than not, they’ll find the money you need to make it work.

If you’re thinking of doing a bedroom set promotion, why not offer the bedding at your cost. Then get the bedding manufacturer to pay for a part of the ads. The same is true for dining room promotions. Consider teaming up with a company that sells table pads and offer them for free or at a substantial discount with the purchase of a complete dining room.

For many of you, the problem is that you’re hesitant to pick up the phone and ask a stranger to enter into a business arrangement with you. But think of how you would react if a business person that you didn’t know called and offered you the opportunity to be involved in a cross promotion. You’d probably be thrilled, and chances are, the person you are calling will have the same reaction!

Once you see how far you can stretch your advertising dollars with simple cross promotions, you’ll be ready to consider setting up a full-scale vendor program. A vendor program takes considerably more planning, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

To set up a vendor program, you have to develop a complete creative and media campaign for a specific sales event including an exact cost for creating the advertisements and a fully negotiated media schedule. Once the planning is complete, invite all of your key vendors to a breakfast or lunch meeting and unveil your advertising campaign. If the value is there for them, you’ll get their participation. If the promotion works, the vendors will be asking you when you’re planning to do it again.

There are many ways that you can get started. If you work with an advertising agency, ask them to develop some ideas about how you can use cross promotions to increase you budget and make your promotions more interesting. If you do your own advertising, consider asking media reps if they have any cross promotions that would work for you. Of course, you can always use your own creativity and business savvy to create an effective cross promotion. It might take a little more planning and thought that what you’re used to, but in the end, you’ll be glad you put out the effort.

Susan Fox Lipschutz is past president of Dynamail Marketing. Susan has worked with furniture retailers in many varied markets to create direct mail campaigns that offer a very high return on investment.

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