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AHFA offers tools, tactics to speed recovery

Annual Marketing Meeting set for June 16-18

Expert economists say the recovery is now well underway, but home furnishing companies should not heave a sigh of relief just yet.

“There are some companies that survived the recession that may not survive the recovery,” said marketing consultant Mike Anderson of The Center for Sales Strategy, a marketing and media consulting firm with more than 25 years of experience with clients worldwide. The key will be moving from “recession thinking” to “recovery thinking” in a hurry, Anderson said.

To help marketing executives at home furnishings companies make this transition in time to take full advantage of the coming recovery, the American Home Furnishings Alliance has invited Anderson to conduct an interactive, hands-on workshop as part of its Annual Marketing Meeting June 16-18 in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Anderson’s half-day workshop is designed to jolt executives out of “recession-minded marketing.”

“Worrying about what’s going on in Washington or on Wall Street is of no value, because you have little or no control over those macro-economic events,” Anderson said. “Where you do continue to have influence is in the way you run your business on Main Street and in the relationships you have with the consumers you serve … the folks who live down on Elm Street.” 

Anderson acknowledges consumers have made some changes during the recession that will stick with them long after their finances are stable again. However, he observes many marketers are stuck in practices that will do nothing to propel their companies as the recovery picks up speed. His June 17 presentation will help home furnishings marketers identify and focus on tactics to accelerate the recovery within their companies.

“With those ideas and tactics fresh in our minds, we’ll then go on to examine some key opportunities in the marketplace,” said Jackie Hirschhaut, AHFA vice president of public relations and marketing.

Jayne O’Donnell, “Money” reporter for USAToday, will help marketing executives take an astute look at the motivations and unique influence of a powerful consumer group: Gen Y. These tweens, teens and 20-somethings are profiled in O’Donnell’s new book “Gen BuY,” which she co-authored with marketing and psychology professor Kit Yarrow.

Rather than outline the psychological and social underpinnings of what Gen Y’ers want and why they buy, O’Donnell has chosen a more lively and interactive format for her presentation. The veteran reporter will interview a panel of Gen Y consumers, stimulating them to tell the group in their own words what triggers their shopping and buying.

“Gen Y’s confidence in their ability to earn – in spite of the recession – and their closer relationships with their parents has alleviated some of the fear that’s put the brakes on spending for older (consumers),” O’Donnell said.

Following O’Donnell’s live forum with Gen Y shoppers, AHFA will challenge marketing executives to deepen their understanding of yet another consumer group. This group is not defined by age, nor any other specific demographic. Instead, they are defined by their attitude toward the environment.

According to a 2009 survey called Eco Pulse, nearly half of all consumers claim their purchase decisions could be affected by a company’s environmental record. Suzanne Shelton, whose company conducts Eco Pulse, shared highlights of that research with marketing executives at AHFA’s 2009 Marketing Meeting. This year she returns after having conducted exclusive research for AHFA to look more closely at furniture consumers and their perceptions of “eco-friendly” furnishings.

Shelton’s presentation will be augmented by a practical look at the Green Guides created by the Federal Trade Commission to provide companies with guidance on advertising and marketing environmental claims. The FTC has been working on an update of the guides for two years, and tougher enforcement related to environmental claims is a major part of the commission’s current agenda. Christie Grymes of the Washington, D.C.-based law firm, Kelley Drye & Warren, will highlight general principles within the FTC’s current Green Guides and will alert attendees to possible changes in the update.

Finally, the 2010 Marketing Meeting agenda includes a presentation from award-winning blogger and best-selling author, Rohit Bhargava, senior vice president for digital strategy and marketing for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. Bhargava will address the topic that is causing many furniture marketing executives excessive heartburn these days: social media strategy.
Webinars and educational forums on social media are springing up with regularity, many promising a few quick steps in order for brands to tweet and blog their way to social media success. Bhargava has helped dozens of clients – ranging from Intel to the Centers for Disease Control – navigate the complex social media landscape. Rather than offering quick tips, he promises to provide practical help to executives who have been tasked with launching and maintaining social media campaigns.

AHFA’s 2010 Marketing Meeting will be held at the Myrtle Beach Marriott at Grande Dunes. Registration is $700 for executives from AHFA member companies; $900 for non-members.

The meeting will be preceded by a half-day Product Development Workshop featuring a primer on creating successful products and brands, plus a report on international design trends and markets. Rick Babick and Janine Finkle of Design Research will present “Winning Strategies in Product Development: Turning Consumer Desire into Consumer Demand.” Their firm produces syndicated studies on design trends in home goods and furnishings as well as custom, primary research. Michelle Lamb, editor of Trend Curve, will share her assessment of international fashion directions on the forefront of the recent Ambiente, Maison & Objet, Quebec Furniture Market and Heimtextil trade expositions.

Discounted reservations at the Marriott are available through May 16 by calling 800-228-9290. Reservations also may be made online at www.marriott.com.

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