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Promoting grills to attract customers

Emails, social media and expert service build relationships

According to the HearthAccording to the Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association, charcoal made up 41%, gas accounted for 57% and electric made up 2% of the more than 14.3 million grills shipped in 2012.
It's become a year round war with grill retailers fighting pitched battles for the hearts and minds of grillers everywhere.
     According the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association's 2012 State of the Industry Report, 62% of grill owners say they use their grill all year. That number represents a six percentage point increase from the last time the report was compiled in 2009. For some, those increases represent potential sales.
     Promoting grills and their accessories can attract customers and drive business. But it's no longer just about traditional promotion. Consumers want more. They want expertise, content and care. They need reasons to come in, and savvy retailers who are creating them and talking about them are winning the war.
     The HPBA's findings set the scene this way: Men are most likely to make the decision to purchase a grill;
gas and charcoal grill owners view color as a major factor in a purchasing decision, and a majority of those surveyed said an easy ignition system and a large grilling surface were key features of a gas grill.
     Other numbers that represent potential increased revenue show that 75% of consumers who grill use barbecue sauce during cooking. Also, dry meat rub usage has increased seven percentage points since HPBA's 2009 survey.


Credit: Kieffer’s AppliancesCredit: Kieffer’s Appliances

     Altogether, these are just numbers, but Ron Cates, director of new market development with Constant Contact, an email and social media marketing firm, said they add up to information that can be developed into content that drives business.
     Cates said that customers are craving content, and regularly emailed newsletters are a good way of delivering the information. "They want intellectual property, education and expertise," Cates said.
     He recommends leveraging expertise into newsletter content that will help people better understand something associated with cooking outdoors like the difference between a rub and a sauce and how to use both. This shows the recipient that the marketer is working to make their lives better and trying to establish a relationship, rather than just sending an advertising email.
     Where marketers make the biggest mistake, Cates said, is when they send emails that only say "buy my stuff ."
     Alan Davis, general manager of Yankee Fireplace and Grill City in Middleton, Mass., takes his email marketing one step further. "We have displayed grills in other local businesses for cross-marketing purposes ... and actually raffle off that grill," he said. Davis collects information from the entry forms and "places their information into our point of sale system and this way we can send promotions or events to their email address."
In addition to promotingIn addition to promoting grills, Alan Davis of Yankee Fireplace and Grill City said grilling accessories and aftermarket grill parts can be profi table and are a large part the company’s revenue stream.

     Jace Kieffer, marketing manager of Kieffer's Appliances in Lansdale, Pa., said nearly 70% of the business coming into his location has some kind of design professional helping a client.
     "We're not a traditional retailer," Kieffer said. "We don't target residential at all."
     Kieffer's grill sales come in the form of including them in outdoor kitchens. However, the way he keeps in touch with his customers is much the same as Davis' method: email.
     "We are not a pressure sell, but consultative, and there is oft en a year lead time" to close the sale, Kieffer said. "About two years ago we added a CRM (customer relationship management) system to track the whole process, with quotes attached and reminders written to follow up to see how they're doing."
     Abt Electronics, an electronics and appliances retailer in Glenview, Ill., has a different take on content creation, said Megan Magnuski, Internet sales associate in the company's corporate sales division.
     "We create YouTube videos with buying guides that make it easier for people. It gives them the Abt experience even if they can't make it to the store," she said.


Kieffer’s leverages constantKieffer’s leverages constant communication to stay on its customers’ radar screens.

     With a business that works with numerous designers, Ryan Hassid, assistant sales manager at Bay Cities Kitchen and Appliances in Beverly Hills and Santa Monica, Calif., said his salespeople oft en plant the grill or outdoor kitchen seed when talking about indoor remodels. He described it as a longer sales process, but said it seems to work.
     Hassid also works with local professional design associations to host events at his stores where designers can directly interact with salespeople.
     Magnuski said the company hosts an event in their parking lot during the summer where grill manufacturers cook for customers, giving people a chance to see each grill in action. She added, "Who doesn't want hamburgers or hot dogs while shopping?"
     Don Sivesind, VP of sales at Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet, said events that involve designers and consumers are great ways to promote grills. "If you're demonstrating them in a way that is relevant and meaningful, they will remember you as an expert and call on you when their clients are in need of a grill for replacement or if they are building an outdoor kitchen."

     Things come full circle when the customer sets foot in the store.
     Kieffer said he offers customers a slow and consultative sell.

Abt offers in-store promotionsAbt offers in-store promotions and sends out email blasts to draw attention to the spring and summer grilling seasons.

     Hassid said it takes expertise and focus to get grills sold. "People go to other places with a large quantity [of grills] and they get confused," he said. "People come to us to get educated." Expert knowledge helps him close the sale.
     Davis said his team maintains their competitive edge through product knowledge training put on by manufacturer reps. "They're very important to us," he said. After the sale, Davis said his team reconnects with customers through email marketing. "We provide what we call a grill 'tune up' during the spring, summer and fall. One of our technicians [goes] out to the consumer's house and clean[s] out the grill as well as changes any parts that need replacing.
     Abt has a similar program, Magnuski said. "This is the house that service built," she said. "We service what we sell. It gives us the ability to maintain the relationship much longer."

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