From the October 1997 issue of Entrepreneur

Now hear this: If you aren't using your in-store sound system to amplify your sales and image, you may be missing out on a sound opportunity.

"We know that 65 to 70 percent of all buying decisions are made while a customer is in the store," says Robbin Reynolds, president of Sound Products Inc., a Lenexa, Kansas, communications company that specializes in audio merchandising. Using a satellite music system and customized audio messages, retailers can turn "dead air" into an ongoing sales program--without any extra skill or effort on behalf of the sales staff.

For an initial cash outlay of less than $300 and a monthly fee of about $100, retailers get access to a satellite music system and the ability to create their own in-store commercials. Audio merchandising can:

  • boost impulse and add-on purchases
  • promote high profit-margin items
  • enhance your image
  • highlight community and public service programs.

Some retailers sell in-store audio ads to their vendors. "Customers in your store are a captive audience," says Reynolds. "Vendors know this is a low-cost, targeted way of reaching their market." And not a bad way to reach yours, either.

Joining Forces

A magazine ad for Obsession perfume by Calvin Klein says "Bloomingdale's" at the bottom. Whose ad is this, anyway?

The strategy is called co-marketing. "It's manufacturers working with their channel partners to create [marketing] programs that build business for both parties," explains Jon Kramer, president of J. Brown/LMC Group, a Stamford, Connecticut, co-marketing agency.

Co-marketing can involve anything from television advertising, in which both the manufacturer and the retailer have a stake, to direct-mail that entices consumers to visit your marketing partner's store for dollars off your products. The benefits: shared costs and a more powerful call to action.

This savings is doubly important for small firms. How can you initiate such a program on a modest scale?

  • Team up on ads that feature both a store name and a manufacturer's logo. By sharing costs, you can buy more advertising.
  • Create promotions that bring in customers. For example, offer coupons for $5 off a quilting class with a $25 purchase of Irma Laine's fabric at the Sew Happy fabric store.
  • Strengthen alliances with your retail clients or vendors. Look for ways your marketing programs might be modified to include your partners. With pooled resources and a cohesive strategy, everybody wins.

Getting Noticed

After eight years in the pizza restaurant business, Mike Friedman had distributed his share of promotional coupons. The trouble was, so had all his competitors. "I needed something to help us stand out," says Friedman, who owns three Captain Tony's Pizza & Pasta Emporiums in the Cleveland area.

The solution came in the form of Post-it notes. At the suggestion of his printer, Mike Cohen at Cleveland's Guerrilla Mail Inc., Friedman switched from standard coupons to self-adhesive ones that look like delivery notices.

The first round of coupons brought in a hefty 30 percent response. "It was phenomenal," says Friedman. "In this business, a 1 to 3 percent response is considered good." A year later, Friedman's coupons are still drawing an almost-20-percent response.

"It's a fun, fast way of contacting people that isn't already being done to death," adds coupon creator Cohen. "And the Post-its stick to the refrigerator or telephone, so they're less likely to get lost."

Printing and production costs for 12,500 coupons runs about $450 through Guerrilla Mail. "It's a little more expensive than printing up fliers, but [for us], the response is noticeably better," says Cohen. And Friedman, for one, has definitely noticed the difference.

Contact Sources

Captain Tony's Pizza & Pasta Emporium, 1405 E. 9th, Cleveland, OH 44114, (216) 781-8669

Guerrilla Mail Inc., 3104 Mayfield Rd., Cleveland, OH 44118-1721, (800) 653-7910

J. Brown/LMC Group, 1010 Washington Blvd., 8th Fl., Stamford, CT 06901, (203) 352-0602

Sound Products Inc., 14805 W. 95th St., Lenexa, KS 66215, (913) 599-3666.