At my core, I am deathly afraid of operating a “me too” business floating in a sea of sameness. We sell mattresses just like you; possibly even the same brands. We order them and deliver them like you.
But there are three distinct differences in how we continue to grow our business in a very competitive market: How we market to and attract our customers; how we speak to and assess our customers’ sleep needs and how they might be a fit with our sleep solutions; and how we showcase products not sold by the top name-brand companies.
We never promote product at a low price. I challenge you to look at your advertising and your competitor’s advertising. Cut off the company logos and store information; can you still tell your ad from your competitor’s? Can your customer?
In the beginning days of my ownership of Gardner’s Mattress & More, I was also working as an on-the-road independent sales rep and immersing myself in the study of small business marketing and the world of direct response marketing. For years, I’ve invested heavily in myself through the study of others, reading books, attending conferences, and participating in business growth meetings. I often say I have a Harvard level education invested in the small business/direct response marketing world.
When my business partner and I took over Gardner’s I made a promise that nothing we did would be the same as what others did in our market or, frankly, what I had been exposed to being inside other retailers’ businesses over the years.
During my tenure as a manufacturer’s sales rep I sold lower- to medium-price point products. I saw firsthand the peril of leading with price. The most ironic part of leading with price is that the price is never low enough and everyone always asked me “where are the customers?”
I set out in my retail venture to be truly different, swim in a blue ocean, be the purple cow—the opposite of what everyone else was doing.
We began with a foundational marketing piece, which we now call information-first marketing, by creating our now famous mattress buying guide “What’s Keeping You Up at Night? – a guide to overcoming seven common mattress buying mistakes.” This educational buyer’s guide immediately set us apart from the competition. In the eyes of our potential customers we were the authority, the retailer to be trusted and respected, and THE place to purchase a mattress in our community. To date more than 40,000 copies of this book have been given or mailed out, and online the guide is downloaded dozens of times each day.
You can view this guide and learn more about my retail store by visiting our website www.GardnersMattressAndMore.com.
The next piece of our marketing and selling plan came with the development of our “Try Before You Buy” Dream Room. Think of this as an analog version of the online retailers’ 100-night comfort trial that is so prevalent today. We’ve been doing this for six years now.
The Dream Room is a wonderful in-store experience that allows our customers to try out the mattress they wish to purchase before they have invested in it. The Dream Room is a private room, akin to a luxury hotel room, in which (for a deposit that applies to their purchase) we install their choice of mattress complete with adjustable bed base, mattress protection, freshly laundered sheets, and pillows. Guests can enjoy the mattress for as long as they wish, but most take about 90 minutes. Upon exiting the room, they’ve affirmed for themselves that our work together to find the right fit is confirmed and the mattress is right for them.
We use our Dream Room as a “down sell.” If the sale isn’t happening that day for example, we ask the customer if we’re a fit and if the mattress selection is in the ballpark. Typically, two out of 10 customers will book the Dream Room for a future appointment and, once they have the chance to digest our conversation in the store, come back and try the mattress, they buy it.
Another key shift in how we sell is to engage our prospective customers in an assessment of need. Before we get into a comfort test or any kind of blathering (because that is how your customer feels about the dialog they have with you) about coil technology, foam types and differences of one brand versus the other we have a conversation.
In our customer lounge, we sit down looking away from the showroom, and through a series of questions related to comfort and use of the mattress in the bedroom we formulate a plan by which we will showcase our products and how they best fit our customer’s needs.
This is a very different experience compared to our competitors and we find our customers appreciate it. It also allows for our sales staff to have the same sales plan each time a customer walks in the store.
We all know the reality of mattress retailing. In the hours between sales opportunities the mind can wander and other tasks can distract. Our assessment process allows our staff to approach each customer with the same goal in mind—how our sleep solutions fit their sleep needs. A benefit of this process is that everyone in our company is telling the same story, repeatedly. We all work from the same playbook.
How we market and attract our customers is also different than most. We do not discuss lowest price. We do not attempt to sit in a position of being the best; we simply approach our marketing by identifying who our ideal customer is and putting our message in front of them in the media they see most often.
The power of matching the message to the market in the media THEY use, not which one is cheapest for us, has transformed our business. Today we have a deep mix of digital efforts and offline print efforts. We manage our own online campaigns like AdWords Express, Pay Per Click and social media ads on Facebook. We also write our own long form sales copy which is used in direct mail, advertorials and sales letters. We multiply these efforts with targeted video-on-demand and cable television commercials to deliver our message via video. All of this can de done by you and your staff, too.
These efforts have paid off well and today we are proudly able to claim the title in our market as The People’s Choice to buy a mattress. With more than 140 online 5 Star reviews we have found the number one thing people say about our store is that they searched for stores, saw our reviews and simply had to see what all the buzz was about.
All of this can begin and happen for you too, but I challenge you to get off the price, product and promotion hamster wheel and to begin truly communicating two key messages in your marketing.
First, what sets you apart? What can you and only you say? Secondly, start selling the benefits of a great night’s sleep. Commit to selling the benefits of amazing sleep and all the health benefits gained from good sleep.