Bring your strategy to life and execute it flawlessly.
Once you have identified your direct mail advertising goals and objectives, you are ready to develop the creative - the advertising message, offer and look - that supports your strategy. The first part of this article ran in the July issue.
How would my customers describe my store?
Identifying what is important to your shoppers and what their experience is like when shopping at your store will help you develop meaningful messages. If different customer segments perceive your store differently or have distinct needs, you could send unique messages to each group. For example, a recent ADVO survey of furniture consumers shows that younger consumers are more price-sensitive than their older peers. Knowing this, you could target "low price" messages to this group, highlighting your more affordable products. Alternatively, your high-end merchandise could be featured prominently in ads to upper-income neighborhoods around your store. Your bottom line goal should be to make the messages as relevant as possible to the target group.
What's the one thing I most want consumers to remember about my store?
What makes your store stand out versus the competition? How do you want to be positioned in the market?
Your competitive positioning and point of difference should be clearly communicated in your advertising, in the message, the look and the offer. Your direct mail advertisement should provide consumers with a good sense of what to expect when entering your store.
It is imperative that consumers' in-store experience meets the expectations you have set with your advertising. For example, don't advertise your store's "personalized service" if your staffing situation does not allow such service.
What Have Been My Most Successful Promotions?
New promotions and themes can be quite alluring. While there is nothing wrong with innovation, if you know a tried and true promotion will "blow the doors off," don't abandon it. Perhaps try a variation to keep it fresh, but revel in the fact that you have identified a trigger that will truly influence consumer behavior.
Execute Your Strategy Flawlessly
Even the best strategies will fail if not executed properly. Thus, establishing the right media plan is imperative. Your plan should identify the specific role direct mail will play in your overall media mix, as well as when you will advertise, and how you will reach and influence your target consumers most efficiently, given your budget and resources.
How Do My Sales Vary Throughout The Year?
What are your best sales months? According to the Census Bureau, home furnishing sales are strongest in November and December and also peak slightly in August. Does this hold true for your business?
This information helps you establish a full mailing plan for the year, with promotions reflecting your sales cycle. In addition to running ads throughout your peak periods, you can plan for more aggressive promotions or special sales events during weaker sales months.
Advertising frequency should also be a vital component of your plan, as repetitive advertising helps generate "top of mind" awareness of your store. This is particularly important to furniture store sales, because consumers purchase furniture relatively infrequently. ADVO's recent survey found that, on average, consumers make major furniture purchases only once every four years. Research has also shown that, with direct mail, advertising frequency can significantly increase consumer response rates.
How Can I Maximize The Effectiveness Of My Media Mix?
Take a good look at your media mix and the role that each medium plays in achieving your advertising goals and objectives. Your direct mail program should work in concert with - complementing and reinforcing - your other media. Thus, make sure your advertising messages are consistent across all media. And, never dismiss opportunities to leverage media "tie-ins." For instance, you could increase awareness of an upcoming mailing through a radio spot that alerts consumers to look for the ad.
What Has My Experience Been With Targeted Print Advertising?
If you have used targeted print advertising, how well has it worked for you? What, if any, factors could be changed to enhance response?
Advertising should follow a continuous improvement process. It is important to reflect learning from prior experiences into your initial plan and to also modify your plan throughout its implementation based upon your ongoing learning.
What Are My Resources?
Your advertising budget is obviously a critical consideration when establishing your media plan. The amount of money you allocate to direct mail will be a key factor in determining how often you can mail, what your coverage will be, and whether or not you will mail to specific households using solo mail or to ZIP codes or sub-ZIP codes, using shared mail.
You should also consider what consumer information you have available. One of the first questions we generally ask furniture retailers is if they have a database. A database can help identify your primary and secondary customers, as well as help find "look-alikes" - consumers with similar characteristics to your existing shoppers, who are therefore likely to be potential customers. It can also help you define where you should mail, based upon where your current customers live. And, of course, it enables you to send customized messages to your best customers.
While a database is an extremely powerful tool in creating and implementing a direct mail plan, we work with thousands of retailers who develop highly successful direct mail campaigns without one, based largely upon their own knowledge of their customers and syndicated consumer data.
There is no "cookie cutter" solution to any furniture retailer's marketing challenges. However, asking yourself the questions outlined above will help lay a solid foundation from which to develop your own customized targeted direct mail marketing program.
Sheila McCusker is Director, Strategic Business Development for ADVO, Inc., the nation's largest direct mail marketing company. In this capacity, she leads the Company's efforts to identify and leverage strategic growth opportunities within the media industry and the many retail and service industries ADVO serves. Questions on any aspect of direct mail marketing can be addressed to Ms. Mccusker care of FURNITURE WORLD at firstname.lastname@example.org.