Colette A. Weil, MBA, is managing director of Summit Marketing, an independent marketing consulting firm that specializes in strategic marketing, program management and efficient communications. She can be reached at www.summitmktg.com, on Facebook at summitmktg or 415-388-5303.
There are hundreds of ways to promote your business. Promoting is an ongoing endeavor to stimulate sales and keep your brand in your consumers’ and referral sources’ eyes and minds. Here I will focus on one strategy, promotions through events, which uses multiple marketing tools to reach a broad swath of new and current customers, and appeals to consumers’ thirst for education.
Promotions, whether in-store or online, enable a business to target specific markets and customers with competitive angles and marketing activities. They help build brand awareness and increase word of mouth referrals, while rallying employees to contribute to the effort. Promotions that are based on an event, whether a themed activity or a specific sale, require a creative angle to capture attention and motivate action.
For your promotion, first select a topic where you see customer need. You’ll identify this by product sales, your main categories—mobility, sleep, back care, diabetes care, etc.—pertinent local health issues or customer feedback.
Structure the promotion to allow plenty of time to plan. This usually takes at least a month, but two to three months is more common. The most effective promotions use more than one marketing tool (more than advertising in the newspaper, for example) and are run over a timespan that gives people time to read, think and get to your store. Online promotions take less time to prepare, but still require creativity, a compelling offer and a reason to buy.
Let’s use as our example promotion “Home Modification Month: Make it Easy.” Select the products and services you will feature. Contact manufacturers to obtain special promotional discounts, in-store demonstration help, speakers, free giveaway items, videos, marketing materials, special displays and more. Ask for everything you will need. If you don’t ask, you won’t know what they are able to provide. Consider them your partner in the success of the event—after all, your success is good business for them.
Schedule a different speaker and/or topic per week. You want to continue to drive momentum and interest with different home modification topics throughout the promotional period. Offer a door prize each week from one of your manufacturers. Keep in mind, door prizes do not have to be related to the speaker/topic. Make them something you would enjoy and odds are your customers will enjoy them, too.
When determining your special offers, make it worthwhile for someone to visit your store. Five percent off is not compelling. Deeper discounts, free service, buy two get one free or buy now with special financing offers are more likely to inspire customers to act. If you’re not sure what will click with your customers, try offers on several different items or services. Your goal is to sell and hopefully gain a customer for life, or at least earn another opportunity to make a sale.
Create an advertising plan that uses local media, e-mail, Facebook and YouTube. The branding for your company and the promotion should be used consistently in all these mediums to get the most impact. For example, take videos of the speakers and post clips on your website. Match these with product demonstration photos and videos on your website.
Be sure to direct some of your marketing to referral sources. E-mail or mail them flyers, reprints of your ads and/or a personal letter inviting them to a preview wine and cheese reception to kick off the promotion (this can just be an open house).
Submit a press release to local papers on advances in home modification and how people can easily adjust their home to fit their needs, and include a schedule of your speaking events. Post the events in all online community event calendars. (You’ll need to do this yourself, as most newspapers don’t have reporters to do this any longer.) Be sure to include Craig’s List, senior blogs, senior center calendars, caregiver blogs and websites. If you don’t have time to do this, hire a marketing student.
Finally, be realistic about your efforts and don’t expect your promotions to generate massive crowds. The HME industry is not known for barnstorming events, but every promotion generates new customers and reminds past customers of the importance of your products and services. Make sure you capture all those new customer names and e-mail addresses to add to your ever-growing customer database.