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Thomas Russell

Creating a buzz...

Low cost promotions are nothing to swat at

In today's marketplace, it is a fact that advertising dollars go a fraction of the distance they have in the past due to the sheer volume of media vying for those dollars. Thus, smart retailers are learning the secrets of maximizing exposure by taking advantage of every opportunity to create buzz.

"Promotions can be the most cost effective use of our energies," said Libby Lechner, owner, The Patio Shop, Erie, Pa. "We do not have the advertising budget of large retailers; but we do take advantage of our local connections as well as vendor opportunities."

Creating a bigger bang with limited promotional bucks can be done. It just takes time, effort and a little help from some friends.

TIP 1: A little time...

Retailers are creating a great deal of buzz with little expense by participating in charitable events and promotional partnerships. In Lafayette, La., retailer Percy Guidry has found success taking part in the local Parade of Homes event.

For the past three years, Percy Guidry has decorated the outdoor space of a home and has realized direct sales not only of the backyard design package, but also additional customer requested sales.

"We handpick the homes and neighborhoods that fit our market and decorate the entire exterior space from lamps to patio furniture," said Keith Guidry, owner.

Creating an alliance for an event with other businesses has been successful in Erie. "We have tried lawn and garden shows, but they have become cost prohibitive," Lechner said. "We find providing items for sunroom, siding or even fuel gas company displays have resulted in contacts being generated at little to no cost." These events often allow for literature and signage at the display that equates to future buzz.

TIP 2: A little effort...

Exposure can be created by researching the name of your local newspaper's home editor and getting to know her or him.

For lawn and garden tabloids, local comment is often needed to add to service supplied stories. National magazines look for retailers willing to "loan" props for photo shoots and stories. Retailers should research what magazines are published in their area and contact an editor with an invitation to visit the store and to use them as a source for product. In this instance, the retailer would receive a listing in the back of the magazine. Remembering to use a Web address or a toll-free number is recommended as buzz received will not be only in the local area.

Television programming may search for product sources at the local level, also. In most cases, the retailer will receive mention at the end of the broadcast. For shows like "Don't Sweat It," local retailers have been asked to appear on camera delivering product. This was the case when Mitchell-Simon of Englewood, N.J. was asked to deliver a hammock set resulting from the producer's request to The HammockSource.

"We took advantage of this opportunity," David Simon said. "We do not know if it directly resulted in sales, but we have had a good year and exposure anywhere helps."

With such buzz-worthy activities, any effort is far outweighed by the results.

TIP 3: A little help from some friends ...

Manufacturers are a valuable source for promotional assistance. Taking advantage of these opportunities, sometimes at no cost, can create buzz times two.

Many programs offer consumer catalogs, table tents, banners or images for promotional use. Vendor events also can create local exposure.

"Our reps work with our dealers to hold 'Meet the Brown Jordan Expert' events," said Stephen Elton, director of brand opportunity, Brown Jordan. "They make themselves available to answer questions and create heightened activity at the retail location."

Creating buzz and future business can be as simple as a listing within the manufacturer's Web site dealer locator. "Consumers are using the Internet to research the product line prior to shopping," said Rhonda Travis, sales manager-specialty division, Pride Family Brands. "Our Web site drives consumers directly to dealers."

A listing is also important when the manufacturer is placing national advertising.

Manufacturer Summer Classics provides its retailers multiple ways to benefit from its national advertising. "We reach millions of consumers through our advertising," said Harold Hudson, vice president of sales and marketing for Summer Classics. "Consumer leads from our national advertising are first sent to the participating dealers and then to all of our sales representatives for distribution to the Summer Classics dealers in the consumer's area."

Buzz on...

Every day, retailers are surrounded by opportunities to create greater exposure and consumer awareness at the retail level without the expense of conventional advertising. By keeping a target audience in focus, their minds and options wide open and following a few proven tips, they will soon find themselves buzzing with business.

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