Marketing Minute: What will work for you in 2021? - Jan 2021

By Paul Friederichsen

Management consulting firm McKinsey & Company is predicting a long-tail recovery for retailers through 2021. How long is anybody’s guess. On the whole, floorcovering retailers have weathered the pandemic-induced storm pretty well. One I’m familiar with had his best month ever in November. Maybe that’s because people who spend more time at home become itchy to make those long-delayed improvements.

I was recently told of a sizable residential flooring job going to a local dealer who regularly advertises on his city’s Major League Baseball (MLB) team broadcasts. The young, high-income, childless couple who ordered the job-replacing the entire second floor of their home with hardwood flooring-happened to be loyal fans who rarely miss a game. Both have also worked from offices in their home since the pandemic hit. Sound familiar?

What earned this $16,000 sale was that the retailer identified with this consumer’s passion of being a fan. Your store brand should also relate to the customer beyond their obvious desire for home décor improvements.

Emerging from a disruptive 2020, relating to what consumers care about becomes more important than ever. Psychologist Abraham Maslow called “belonging” one our five basic needs as humans. By advertising and, in effect, sponsoring/endorsing the fan’s favorite team in this example, the retailer is communicating that we all belong to the same community and that we share common values. As you plan your 2021 marketing, look for ways to make your store brand more relevant to your customer through local causes you support or local programs you sponsor.

Consider a creative media strategy. Buying cable ads on HGTV or similar home improvement channels isn’t necessarily a bad choice for floorcovering dealers who can afford it, but there can be a huge advantage to reaching your target audience in an unexpected program venue-in this case, MLB. As they say in the game, the stats tell the story:
• The pandemic curtailed MLB attendance but not viewership in the 2020 season.
• The appeal of MLB (or for that matter any major league or college sport) is local pride. So, not surprisingly, baseball is consistently among the highest-rated local broadcasts.
• During the 2020 season, television ratings improved yet again for MLB, with a 15% increase in females ages 25 to 54. Overall, people under the age of 55 have gone from 44.1% of the TV audience in 2019 to 47.1% of MLB’s viewership in 2020, according to reports.

What also worked in our retailer’s example is consistency. Simply buying spots on baseball games or any other program isn’t enough. Repetition, along with good creative, is necessary to break through the clutter and make a place on your potential customer’s mental short list of options. The couple in our example that bought the entire floor of flooring had been thinking about and planning their purchase for months. Message repetition sealed the deal.

Shared values through media selection are one thing; how those values are communicated is another. The dealer who advertised on MLB broadcasts used a tried and true technique: video testimonials. This retailer knows, as all retailers know, they will be comparison shopped at the local home center. Few can compete with the media weight that Home Depot and Lowe’s can push around, or the selection, the loss-leader deals or credit programs, either. But the well-presented story of a local satisfied homeowner levels the playing field. Video content is more important than ever and also helps you compete for eyeballs online, whether it’s on your own website or on your Facebook or Instagram accounts.

Testimonials supporting a local dealer can be very believable and the next best thing to the all-time “bestseller”-WOM (word of mouth). Are you looking for ways for others to tell your story of service, friendliness, installation professionalism, product quality, selection and follow-up in 2021? You should be. Testimonials, just as with the right media selection, can make your store even more relevant to a potential customer. In our example, the work-at-home couple comparison shopped at one place-Home Depot-but they remembered the testimonials and were impressed with what they saw on the dealer’s website and blog. That was all it took.

Don’t rely solely on online reviews. They lack the story-telling emotional persuasiveness and viewer self-actualization of a video testimonial. Many have become jaded and suspicious of rating systems, believing that they don’t tell the whole story. And they don’t.

And as you plan your 2021 marketing, do what successful dealers did last year-incorporate blogging as part of the overall campaign. Google strongly advises that you post the best content you can. “That’s what our algorithms seek to reward,” says Google. The successful marketer will pay attention to this advice, apply it consistently and support it as an inbound strategy to draw traffic to their sites. Use blog articles to dispense helpful tips, opinions or case studies. Don’t use them to brag about your Christmas party or company dog. Those have nothing to do with what your customer is searching for. Let your content and professionalism shine through. This is your opportunity to reassure your prospective customer that their job will go smoothly and that they will be happy with the result.

Google is interested in your expertise, authority, depth and yes, good grammar. When it works, you’ll see your rankings and traffic improve. When that happens, the bottom line will improve, as well.

Here’s a 2021 checklist as you plan your marketing for the next 12 months. Remember, whatever worked in 2020, keep doing it. To adapt to a long-tail recovery frame of mind, consider these adjustments:
• Find ways to relate to your customer beyond simply flooring and décor
• Look for ways to reach your customer in unexpected ways and places
• Allow consistency and repetition to do its job
• Let others tell your story through video testimonials
• Post quality blog articles that will improve your ranking and reputation

Have a strong and profitable 2021!

Copyright 2021 Floor Focus 

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