Lessons learned about furniture, advertising, and steaks on the grill.

My career in marketing started in the mid-80s at the in-house advertising department of Virginia’s largest furniture retailer. While working there, I was introduced to a couple of sayings that have stuck with me throughout my career – and quite frankly, I still shake my head in disbelief when I think of them.

The first one was, “Sales are bad BECAUSE of advertising and sales are good IN SPITE of it.

People are quick to put the blame somewhere else… especially when business is bad. As marketers, there are many things we can do to influence consumers. We can build brands that people want to engage with. We can develop sales events that create excitement. We can design great looking ads, websites, and point of purchase materials. We can produce clever TV and radio commercials. We CANNOT, however, close sales once the customer walks through the door.

That’s why I was always more interested in traffic counts than sales numbers. I wanted to know how many people I convinced to take time out of their day, to get in the car and drive to the showroom to buy something. If traffic counts were up, I had done my job… at least as far as I was concerned. So, where’s the disconnect? Shouldn’t higher traffic counts translate into increased sales? The answer is not necessarily.

I remember what my father always told me, “If you see a problem and ignore it, you’ve made yourself a part of it.” As marketers, we have to be problem solvers. Sometimes that requires putting boots on the ground and doing a little reconnaissance in the form of mystery shopping. Take in your client’s shopping experience from a customer’s point of view. Then, do the same thing with your client’s competitors. I’ve done this on many occasions and have even recruited team members to get multiple points of view. The information collected is presented in a document with recommendations on how to make improvements. In most cases, they already know that the problems exist. You’re demonstrating your willingness to help. Remember, clients, measure your worth by their success.

That brings me to the other ridiculous quote that I heard quite often; “Let them (the customers) smell the steak. Let them hear it sizzle on the grill. But, NEVER give them the steak.”

Customers expect a certain degree of quid pro quo. If you make a special offer, deliver on it! Consumers today have more choices than ever where they can spend their hard-earned dollars. Creating disingenuous offers with lengthy disclaimers is a quick way to turn high traffic counts into disappointing sale numbers.

When you start “serving the steaks,” your customers will reward you with sales and brand loyalty. You can quote me on that.