BY CAMA MCNAMARA
It’s 2014, and if you’re still selling mattresses like you did a decade ago, your sales are suffering. Just as the technology in mattress components has advanced over the years, so have opportunities for advertising and marketing.
Today’s ever-evolving media mix offers a plethora of opportunities to reach consumers. From seniors to Gen Zers, each generation in the collective material world has a favorite way to communicate—and that constantly is changing. Newspaper, television, radio, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are all part of the mix, making it difficult to evaluate the best way to reach consumers.
Sleep Savvy spoke with advertising experts, industry leaders and successful retailers to help sort through the melee and get a better understanding of how to convey an effective message to your particular customer.
The first step: Identify your market.
“You have to be clear on your intended audience and then decide which media will give you the most effective, measurable avenue,” says Mark Quinn, segment vice president of marketing for Carthage, Mo.-based industry supplier Leggett & Platt and a member of the Better Sleep Council, the consumer education arm of the International Sleep Products Association.
“The absolute most important consideration is determining the audience,” agrees Phil Johnston, senior vice president of strategic services for Marcus Thomas LLC, the BSC’s agency of record. “The better the retailer understands who his customer is, the better he is able to target his audience.”
Since women are responsible for 85% of mattress purchases, you’re almost guaranteed that your customer is a female. The challenge is in defining her age, interests, income level, cultural background and preferences for receiving information. Is she an older woman who relies on the newspaper, a younger boomer addicted to Facebook or a professional connected to LinkedIn?
Then comes customization, not only of the media, but also the messages you send. “Marketing is shifting from one of reaching the masses to honing in on individuals,” says Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerMedia, a New York-based advertising agency specializing in social media and other forms of digital marketing. “It’s more about the retention of human beings rather than selling.”
Once you’ve done the research, pinpointed your market and are using the appropriate media to drive traffic, you need to track results. “Tracking is so important,” says Jeff Giagnocavo of Gardner’s Mattress & More in Lancaster, Pa. “Measure what’s working for you, so your money counts.” If your efforts are not working, explore new opportunities.
Now that you have customers in your store, don’t underestimate the power of customer service. Your marketing efforts will be fruitless unless your customers are satisfied, not only with the product, but also the staff and service. In fact, the No. 1 marketing tool—which can’t be replaced by any type of technology—is word of mouth.
Above all, each of our experts says, your advertising efforts should call attention to the benefits of a good night’s sleep. “Take mattresses away from being a commodity product and sell sleep,” recommends Scott Williams, president of Emisare Inc., the High Point Market’s agency of record. “It is more about the experience than the product.”
Dig into digital
“One-half of all purchases begin in a search engine, so for reaching most demographics, it’s the highest-priority tool,” Johnston says. That means your company should not only have a visually appealing and informative website, but one that utilizes search engine optimization. Use the site to educate consumers on products and services, as well as the benefits of sleep.
Giagnocavo and his business partner, Ben McClure, who have created a successful digital program for Gardner’s Mattress & More, say that 50% of mattress retailers don’t use the Web to sell. Recognizing that an educated consumer is the best consumer, the store’s site features a book the two developed—What’s Keeping You Up at Night? A Guide to Overcoming Common Mattress Buying Mistakes—which provides an opportunity to educate consumers before they enter the store and collect email addresses, which are then used to develop a relationship with potential customers.
“Our Web presence is very important,” says McClure, who also praises the value of customer testimonials on the site.
Of course, there are many more to a digital-marketing options than a website: Blogs, social media, videos, email and banner ads, to name a few, are all components. Michelle Montgomery, vice president of marketing communications for Atlanta-based Simmons Bedding Co., stresses the need for a full strategy marketing mix, beginning with the Internet. “The marketing strategy for Beautyrest is focused on health and wellness,” she says. “One of our most effective tools has been videos we post on YouTube featuring the absurd behavior of dysfunctional people who have not gotten enough sleep (because they haven’t slept on a Beautyrest).”
Build on the brand
Brand building is about customer satisfaction and leveraging that satisfaction into a life-long customer. Susan Ebaugh, chief executive of Lilly Management Group, headquartered in St. Charles, Ill., is an expert on the subject. The former Serta executive was responsible for the manufacturer’s original “counting sheep” campaign, which grew out of a need for the company to distinguish itself from the other “S”-brand mattress companies in the marketplace. The ads, which featured sheep losing their jobs because Serta sleepers no longer had the need to count them, were humorous and entertaining, and drew an emotional response from the target audience of women ages 25 to 54.
The concept worked for print, TV, radio, the Web and e-commerce, says Ebaugh, who notes that retailers were integrated into the program with traditional marketing collateral, as well as plush sheep to give to customers.
In 2003, Ebaugh and her staff won an Effie Award, the marketing and advertising industry’s version of an Oscar, for effective and creative advertising for the campaign.
In fact, the sheep’s popularity has endured and been adapted today for an online campaign featuring display ads, paid search, video, mobile and social media, Ebaugh says. Research shows that people still associate sheep with Serta, distinguishing itself as a true brand icon.
Simmons, which for the 15 years prior to 2012 did little or no corporate advertising, and instead provided retailers with co-op funds, came back in 2012 with a highly engaging campaign that takes advantage of the Web, public relations and social media to build brand awareness for Beautyrest. In addition to marketing on a corporate level, the company provides materials such as logos, radio scripts, photography and television commercials to retailers to make it easier to sell products.
Stand out in the crowd
If you’re taking advantage of the brand—and you should be—how do you distinguish your store from others in the marketplace?
“The key is not about mattresses, but what makes your store different,” Johnston says. “Is it low cost? Service? Customer support? You have to know your customer to be effective. Make sure what you do is relevant to the neighborhood.” And then let people know about it.
“One of the biggest mistakes retailers make is to remain static,” Williams says. “Lifestyles are changing. There are so many ways to buy things. To grow your business, you have to change the way you do business (and) create value.”
A picture paints a thousand words, so if you’re trying to sell the benefits of a good night’s sleep, you might want to reconsider ads that feature numerous boxes, slashed prices
and claims of substantial savings, which can be very confusing to consumers. While such retail ads “can be viewed as minicatalogs to promote as many products as possible to get interest, if you understand your customer, you can develop more targeted ads that promote mattress features,” Johnston says.
“Mattress shoppers are not much different than shoppers for any other item,” Quinn says. “There are some that are very focused on price and promotion, so you need to make sure that they see you can satisfy them on that point, but if you look at how the industry markets mattresses, you would think that price and promotion are all people care about, and that simply isn’t true. There are a lot of consumers that want to be excited about the products, not the price of the products. There is room to do both.”
“Nothing resonates if there is clutter,” says Montgomery, noting that while price can be important, effective advertising must strike a balance. “If you’re having a sale, it’s appropriate to have a call to action and a deadline, but what you really want to sell is a positive sleeping experience.” Taking all things into consideration, at the end of the day, she adds, “You can’t underestimate the value of sleep.”
As you continue to strategize your 2014 marketing plan, you may want to consider the following statistics, collected from WebDAM, a digital asset management platform for marketers.
- 65% of people are visual learners.
- Customer testimonials have the highest effectiveness rating for all types of content marketing, with a rating of 89%.
- Companies expect to double their social-marketing budgets over the next five years.
- 43% of all marketers found a customer via LinkedIn in 2013; 52% found one on Facebook.
- Landing pages that include videos realize an 86% increase in conversions.
- Emails that include social-sharing buttons have a click-through rate 158% higher than emails that do not include them.
- 33% of traffic from Google’s organic search goes to the first item listed.
Cama McNamara is a writer, editor and communications specialist based in Charlotte, N.C. She was the founder and publisher of Today’s Charlotte Woman and Charlotte Parent magazines. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.