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Q: What forms of promotion are most effective for selling outdoor furniture at your store?

TONY SCHINDLER, Paddy O'Furniture, Phoenix, Ariz.

As far as advertising goes, we believe in visual things so magazines and television are pretty much what we stick to. There's obviously the whole cliché about word of mouth and reputation, but as far as marketing itself, I'm a big believer that it all works and none of it works. I believe in sticking to the same things so you always have a consistent message out there. If you flip-flop around you just wind up throwing darts, so to speak. I think it's a lot better to find something you think works, trust it and consistently run with it.

BEV SCHMIDT, Outdoor Home, Springfield, Mo.

For us, it's radio and we do it consistently 12 months a year. We're also doing some print advertising in the local lifestyle magazine, but radio is really what's been most effective for us. What you hear on the radio can engage your mind. It gets our customers' imaginations going. As we grow, we pick up another radio station within that area so we'll be the one they hear about.

BRUCE ARONSON, The Pool & Patio Center, Metairie, La.

There is no question that two forms of advertising do the best for us:

  1. Television. We advertise at least twice a month on all of the local stations. Each flight of ads appears at least four times each day for two or three days at the end of the week. By using all of the local stations, we feel we cover our entire marketing area.

  2. Our local newspaper has a weekly insert on Saturdays which shows all of the real estate transfers for the week. About 18 months ago, the paper upscaled this section to include articles and ads about home improvement. This is an ideal venue for our store. We run a fairly small ad in the section every week. The format of the ad is the same each week; however, the event we are advertising changes to coincide with our TV commercials.

  3. Because of Hurricane Katrina, we no longer do direct mail. We may go back to that next year.

  4. The most productive event for us is always our pre-season sale which we start running the week after Mardi Gras, which was Feb. 20 this year. Even though we always have the largest inventory we will ever have during the year at this event, we still end up doing about 40% in custom orders.

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