Saturday, November 13, 2004

Marketing Makes the Difference

Marketing Makes the Difference


I was watching "The Apprentice" last night. That's the reality TV show where Donald Trump has a dozen or so contestants tackle business situations while dodging personal responsibility for their mistakes.

Last night's challenge was to organize a four-hour bridal fair to make as much money
as possible.

Both teams loaded their respective spaces with plenty of bridal merchandise. The difference was that one team was much more effective in getting people in the door. The winning team sold 27 dresses and earned $12,800 and the losing team sold 2 dresses and earned only $1,000.

The winning team rented a list of email addresses from, a bridal registry
website. They sent an email to registered brides in the New York area and informed them of this limited opportunity to save big bucks on their gowns and things. It was the right message sent to the right people at the right time.

When the doors opened at 5 o'clock, the winning team had a line of 40 or more brides waiting for their chance to come in to save big bucks. The losing team had only two people waiting.

Think of the psychological pressure on the brides who were standing in line. They were much more predisposed to buy, because they knew that if they didn't act quickly, one of the dozens of other brides would buy "their" gown.

You might have the greatest selection, prices, and service, but if you have no customers, people will wonder what's wrong.

Conversely, a business that is teeming with customers reassures the shopper that it must be a really great place because so many other people are there.

Companies like Krispy Kreme, Chick-fil-a and IKEA invest heavily in generating first day crowds. They inform the news media that there will be traffic jams and potentially unruly mobs of shoppers in the area. This gives the news people something interesting to talk about, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In Yellow Pages sales, I often hear the objection, "I already have too much business to handle. I don't need to advertise." That's short sighted.

My family owned furniture stores for 40 years. In 1989 we bought a competitor's store in a nearby city. We ran a going-out-of-business sale to clear out their old merchandise and re-launch the business with a new format. The store was mobbed with people waiting in long lines to get in.

In 30 days, we sold more than
the previous owners had sold all year.
In 60 days, we made enough to pay off the loans. The crowd mentality pressured the shoppers to act quickly before the best deals were gone.

Sometimes business owners need a gentle reminder that customers will pay more, wait longer and be more satisfied when they feel like they're competing for a business's attention.

In your presentation, use examples of local businesses that routinely get people to wait in line to buy. Crowds attract crowds.

Yellow Pages can't generate the type of short-term excitement like newspaper or radio. However, a powerful Yellow Pages program will build a valuable, steady flow of customers throughout the year. It's the hustle and bustle of the crowd that makes one business better than another.


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