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Advertising, Is It Really Better Than a Poke In The Eye With a Sharp Stick?

January 28, 2010

If you are like me, you probably agree with the old saying; “I know only 50% of my advertising works. I just wish I knew which 50%!”  However, advertise we must; so, I thought I would talk a little about what we are doing this year.


My advertising agency and I sit down every year at this time to set up our schedule for the year. Last year, we made a decision to cut back on our print advertising, both event oriented and institutional, and concentrate on television. Our print advertising just didn’t seem to be working anymore. Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads the newspaper besides me. With the money we would have spent on print, I upped the amount of televison spots we ran.


I am lucky in that television time in the New Orleans market is not as expensive as it is in other markets. Plus, the television stations in New Orleans are seen in cities within a 50 – 100 mile radius. This means we don’t have to buy time in several markets. I think we get a lot of bang for the buck.


Typically, our television commercials start airing in the middle of the week and run through Friday. Some months we will be on every week, some three times a month, and some just twice monthly.


Establishing when we are going to run is the easy part of the job. The hard part is deciding what we are going to advertise. While I admire the institutional advertising large companies do I think event advertising is more efficient for a smaller business (read: much tinier budget). This means everything we do this year will tie to some sort of event.


If the weather is good, our season usually starts the weekend after Mardi Gras which is February 16 this We are anticipating good business starting Thursday, February 18. Our advertising will start that day announcing our “Sneak Preview” sale. I love the idea of this sale. We invite customers to take a sneak peak at this year’s new introductions at sale pricing. We also emphasize that we will have the largest selection of any time of the year during this sale; so, they customers can get immediate gratification. Our saying is, “It’s only gratification if it’s immediate!”


But we will be doing something new for this sale. In addition to big discounts, we are going to give the customer  a gift card worth 10% of the sale price that they can use on future purchases. We are hoping this extra incentive will bring customers in even though it will be a little early in the year to be using the patio.


March will be our pre-season sale. In the past, this has been our biggest sale of the year. Not so much in the past few years. My advertising people and I are still working on an event sale that will draw more people in this year.


Spring is sprung in April; so, that is when we have our Spring Sale. In the past, the Spring Sale commercial just talked about discounts throughout the store. Again, we are going to do something we haven’t done in a long time: feature at least one value priced set with a price. Towards the end of April we will announce a big Brown Jordan event. This year, Brown Jordan has changed their retail and MAP pricing and discounts so radically, we can push them and still make our margins. Yea, Brown Jordan!


Next up is May and Mother’s Day. Again, something a little different, a gift card promotion. Give Mom a gift card from our store and we will ad 10% to the value of the gift card. At the end of May, we are going to have another value priced product oriented commercial. In April the value product will be in the $2,000 range. In May we are going to be pushing something in the $800 range.


Everyone wants to give Mom something special for Mother’s Day; not so much for Dad’s and Father’s Day. We used to have a big hammock event; but, that hasn’t drawn people in as much as it used to. Neither do barbecue pits. So, instead, we are going to have a sales tax holiday. Louisiana has a state sales tax holiday the first weekend of August. It surprises me how many people wait for that to save the 4% state sales tax. For this event we will pay all sales tax for any sales or orders over a certain amount. Depending on the taxing district that can amount to as much as 9.25%. Not a bad deal.


By July, it is so hot here, no one is thinking about going in their backyards. We will run a generic summer sale event during this time but won’t have an additional promotion tied to it.


The first weekend in August will be the State sponsored sales tax holiday. It will be a big deal that doesn’t require much advertising because every news outlet in the city will be talking about it. After that weekend, we will have our In-Store Warehouse sale. Again a fairly generic commercial with no special promotions.


Finally, in September, we will have, dare I say it, our End-of-Season sale. We hate to characterize any sale as End-of-Season. It means we are saying the season is over; so, no need for patio furniture anymore. It is better if customers decide that for themselves. That is why we do a Summer Sale and an In Store Warehouse sale in the slower months of June and July. Neither description discourages people from coming in thereafter.


We don’t do the Christmas category; but, we are in hearth. Hearth season usually starts in October when we finally start getting some cooler days. But, it is not unusual for us to get into the 80’s on some days, too. This goes on through November. That is when we run our “One Day It’s Hot, One Day It’s Cold” event where we advertise discounts on both patio furniture and hearth. We kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.


After all of this planning, our biggest hope is that the clients are still out there. January has been unusually slow for us. Not a good omen after such a good December. Next week we have a big election for mayor. day after the election is the Super Bowl (did I mention the Saint’s made it to the Super Bowl?) The following week is Mardi Gras. Between those three events, no one in our trade area will be thinking about outdoor furniture. That will make the next two weeks sort of rough. But, hope springs eternal. We have had some clients come in planning their outdoor rooms and that makes us feel there is a lot of pent up demand out there. Let’s hope I am right about that.


Yours in confused retailing, Bruce