Unleash your inner Don Draper with outside-the-box promotions

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

It seems like every new product and promotion has to go through multiple layers of vetting before it goes public.

It’s quite understandable, as the costs of production and marketing are great. But the risk of failure can be greater. So the truly innovative and cutting-edge ideas may end up getting tossed in the scrap heap.

Imagine, if you will, a conversation in the boardroom of one of the world’s largest beverage concerns as a new product concept was being pitched.

Marketing Team: We have developed a new beverage sensation that serves an unmet consumer need. We have put hours of research, development and testing into this product, and we believe it will revolutionize the global beverage industry.

Board of Directors: On with it then! What have you brought us?

Marketing: We present … the half-liter clear plastic bottle. Five-hundred milliliters of pure refreshment.

Board: Go on … what does this bottle contain? What is the special formula?

Marketing: It contains … water! Pure, unadulterated H20.

Board: You marketing boys must’ve snuck into the distilled spirits sample room again. You expect to sell water?! How much do you think you’d get for it?

Marketing: We suggest a price point of $1 for the cheap brand and $2 for the fancy stuff. 

Board: Two bucks for something that flows out of the tap for free. No flavor and no fizz. It’s madness! Stop this foolishness immediately and get your resumes in order.

After some heavy wining and dining and tickets to the Super Bowl, the board came around and funded the project. Bottled water gushed from the production lines and rolled off the shelves. Today, bottled water accounts for about 28% of all beverage sales in North America. 

Risk vs. Reward

You might be thinking, “I don’t give a hoot about some stuffy board and their bottled water.” Rather, this article is really about taking a risk, reaping the reward and letting innovation shine.

In our own Retail World, innovation in marketing messages is rare. Look at any retail mattress ad and you will only see price, finance and free stuff. Once in a while some warm fuzzies about a mattress changing someone’s life. (Often shown with puppies, kittens and children). It worked in the past. Today it has diminishing returns. 

How willing are you to invest in an innovative, off-the-wall promotion? Think about those grey suits who bottled up filtered tap water and made it a staple on every grocery list.

Can you execute a promotion that is so crazy, it just might work? Here are a few ideas to mull over.  Bend them to fit your retail model, make them simple to understand and as easy to digest as the gluten-free vegetarian non-GMO bottle of Dasani sitting in front of you. 

$199 Mattress with a 199-Day Comfort Guarantee

The job of advertising is to bring in traffic.  Anyone can promote a cheap mattress; imagine an offer to buy back a cheap mattress if your customer isn’t comfortable.  You can really do it — just be sure to offer 100% credit back on any mattress $999 or more, should they decide to reselect. 

Frame it like this: “We believe that you need to invest $xxx for a good night’s sleep, but your needs may be different. Try our base model for $199 for 199 nights, and if you aren’t satisfied, we’ll buy it back toward an upgrade.” Prove us right or prove us wrong, either way we win!

Call us for a Free Sleep Assessment and Earn $100

If you’ve done any training in your store, then your sales associates should know five basic questions to ask before recommending a mattress.

Simple stuff, like “Do you sleep warm or cold?” “Do you toss and turn?” “Does your partner disturb your sleep by snoring or tossing?” “Do you have a TV, tablet or phone in your bedroom?” “Do you wake up with aches or pains? (Not including your sleep partner.)” 

Don’t wait for the shopper to come to your building, just get them to call in, ask the questions, recommend a type of mattress (plush or firm, innerspring, foam or hybrid, and flat or motion base). Give them a range of pricing ($799-$1,799, for example) and offer to email or text them a code or password to bring to the store for $100 off. 

Bed-in-a-Box Regrets Center

Has your business been hurt by those online bed-in-a-box guys? Here’s a chance to capitalize on their shortcomings. 

Many people purchase a bed-in-a-box because of the convenience of transportation or delivery. And there’s no risk, because most of the burrito beds come with a 100- to 120- night comfort guarantee.

The problem occurs with getting rid of the bed when they gotta return it.  Once the wrapper is off, it’s hard to get the frijoles back in the tortilla. Be the hero and become the Bed-in-a-Box Regrets Center. All you have to offer is to remove and dispose of their buying mistake and give them a $200 coupon towards any mattress $999 or more in your store. 

They probably paid a grand for their first mistake.

The goal is to get them to come into your store first, make a selection and then you’ll do the rest. Remember, they probably got free shipping the first time and will want it when they buy from you.

Each of these ideas have been thoroughly vetted (I read them and like them), undergone extensive market testing (the lady who cuts my hair and my college buddy both thought they are “groovy”) and were successful in beta tests (four likes on Facebook). The point is, you gotta be willing to take a risk and be the first person to give these (or any) marketing ideas a shot. Or you can continue to do what you’re doing and continue getting dwindling results.

Innovation and risk taking should be part of your retail marketing strategy. If you have a so crazy, it just might work idea, I’d love to hear it. It can be advertising, store display, pay plans or new pop-up venues. Or if you can share your success from an actual off-the-wall promotion. Send it my way and we’ll feature it in a future article.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at Gordon.Hecht@aol.com.

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