Strategic grill donations can heat up sales
Donna Myers -- Casual Living, June 1, 2008
It is difficult for local retailers to respond to requests they get year-round to support every school, sports team, charity ball or other community event. These are usually cash contributions or involve buying ads in the organization’s program booklet and, even at modest outlays per group, add up to a hefty sum at the end of 12 months. Yet being a good corporate citizen dictates you respond generously.
Why not try product placement, a form of giving bigger, more expensive items with a very targeted audience? While requests that fall into this category may actually come across your desk, it is worth devoting a bit of time to ruminate about how and where strategically donating a grill, or perhaps a generous basket of barbecue accessories, can benefit your bottom line by driving new customers into your store.
The most effective product placements vary from one market to another depending on the culture of the community, but in reviewing venues you’ll want to think in terms of creating awareness for your store among the movers-and-shakers and those with higher household incomes who can purchase your grills, accessories, fire pits and casual outdoor furniture you carry.
Here are some opportunities worth investigating: Tours of a Designer House are popular fundraisers in many communities. This is usually an annual event and it will be sponsored by such groups as the Junior League, Visiting Nurses Association or another charity group. Local interior designers bid on the chance to decorate within the house, giving them terrific visibility and a chance to create awareness for their services or company. These days, an outdoor area is nearly always part of the decorating assignments.
Offer a freestanding premium barbecue grill or an island with the grill and perhaps other matching modules. Contact the person in charge of the Designer House project. Your shop will be listed in the House Tour Program Booklet, sometimes credited on signage in the area and you have a good chance of being included in newspaper or television coverage of the Designer House, which is often quite extensive. People taking the tour will tend to be in the audience profile you want for customers.
Local magazines often develop an extensive promotion around Dream Homes or Green Homes. They’ll put together sponsorship packages at various dollar levels. Typically you would agree to provide the grill or other outdoor products in return for having thousands of people see them on the tour. You’ll be listed as a sponsor in the tour program, will be included in all publicity, your product will be highlighted at the VIP reception that usually kicks off with local politicians and celebrities in attendance. The open house tour usually lasts three to six weeks, which means thousands of people will see your products and become aware of your store. Sometimes taking a small ad in the magazine, which will do a multiple-page spread on the home, is part of your package.
Local hunting and fishing TV shows appear in some markets. Do you carry a line of smokers or appropriate grills and fire pits that would fit into such a program? Contact the show’s producer or host and volunteer to donate products for the show. Chances are your products will appear on air multiple times throughout the season and you will be credited on-air as a sponsor and gain the visibility of having your product on camera.
Local TV cooking shows also offer an opportunity to provide a grill and accessories for the host/hostess to use on air. This provides frequent visibility and store recognition and reaches a sizeable audience. You could provide a second grill and other accessories for a prize in a sweepstakes drawing during Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day or any other holiday gift giving time Since the sweepstakes will be promoted over a period of weeks, your barbecue products and store will get repeated exposure.
Numerous charity auctions and fundraisers also are held throughout the year. Products to be auctioned are often on display for some time and sponsors who donate are listed in program booklets and all media publicity. Prestigious golf tournaments also hold auctions as part of their fund-raising. If held at a club, the items to be auctioned may be on display in the club house for a week or two leading up to the tournament to help generate interest in the event and to attract more participants. A basket filled with barbecue accessories, cookbooks, sauces, rubs, wood chips and other popular items can be substituted for the grill. Or give a specialty item such as a premium tailgating grill or an electric smoker.
I’ve barely touched the surface in considering venues appropriate in your market. Think about the most upscale events that take place and investigate how you can participate, gain visibility and have products on display. Remember these events always attract the media which extends visibility and awareness beyond the attendees. The types of people who work on the committees and attend the events are generally the same upper income, more educated consumers you seek to have as customers.