From Home Furnishing Business
Take 5: Eric Grindley
Eric Grindley wasn’t always the CEO of Inc. 500’s number six company for advertising/marketing. Prior to that, he was a corporate attorney — and before that, spent his days signing bands at a Florida-based record label.
Now, at 38, Grindley is trying something entirely different — revolutionizing marketing in the home furnishings retail industry. After creating the advertising technology company Esquire Advertising in 2012, Grindley and his team of tech and marketing experts execute unique, hyper-targeted marketing strategies for furniture retailers across the country.
Grindley first became interested in the concept of marketing strategies through his role as general counsel for a large advertising firm. Since then, he has committed himself to the steady process of perfecting those strategies while combining them with the latest consumer technologies available. The approach has proven to be quite successful, especially in the furniture industry. The company has seen incredible growth, which recently earned Esquire Advertising several listings in the 2020 Inc. 500 list of Fastest Growing Private Companies, including number three in the state of North Carolina, number six in advertising/marketing, and number 56 throughout the entire country. Esquire has also become the preferred agency for many Top 100 Furniture and Mattress retailers.
Grindley recently sat down with Home Furnishings Business to discuss his company, the reason behind its explosive growth, the many changes taking place in the furniture industry, and how retailers can make the best of their particular markets.
HOME FURNISHINGS BUSINESS: Your background stems from law, and later, digital marketing. How did you find yourself so heavily involved with the furniture industry?
ERIC GRINDLEY: I was first introduced to digital marketing when I served as General Counsel for an Internet marketing company several years ago. I became very familiar with the marketing industry and how it operated, and in 2012, I decided to make the switch and founded Esquire Advertising. After a number of years, we became quite good at tackling key challenges that all retailers face, such as tracking and quantifying lead sales, targeting the right consumers, and more. This allowed us to grow and carve a unique niche for ourselves in the marketing technology space. We’ve created a proprietary system that allows us to solve these problems and we’ve developed marketing strategies that worked extremely well for retailers, especially furniture stores. Since then, we have followed that path and have been helping furniture retailers get better results with their marketing.
HFB: Esquire Advertising has grown by more than 5400% in the last three years by servicing furniture retailers - what is the firm doing to generate this type of growth?
GRINDLEY: We have had the pleasure of working with some amazing clients in the furniture industry, and we realized that the industry as a whole was overdue for an update – especially in how retailers were approaching their marketing strategies. Many retailers still haven’t really developed their overall digital strategy, and others may not know how to home in on key audiences or in-market customers.
So, once we started to focus on furniture retailers, word of mouth began to spread and we found ourselves closing exclusive deals for companies like Ashley HomeStore and Tempur-Sealy International, among others. As we continued to pick up steam in the furniture space, we have developed new ways, in terms of both technologies and strategies, to deliver higher returns on advertising spend and communicate key insights for our clients. This provided an enormous boost to our overall growth.
HFB: What makes IP-targeting such an effective and unique approach for marketing in the furniture industry today?
GRINDLEY: Having experience with every form of digital marketing, we have found that IP-targeting is one of the most effective ways to target in-market shoppers. Unlike more traditional marketing methods, device-matching and IP-targeting allows retailers to focus in on customers down to the individual level. They also have the chance to glean deep insights into their customers and service them directly with ads for products that they are actively looking for.
This approach also opens the door to some very creative techniques that can greatly expand a retailer’s customer base in meaningful ways. For example, targeting specific IP-addresses of customers lets retailers reach neighbors who share similar demographic and income profiles. This method of marketing is relatively new in the industry and takes a much more calculated approach to connecting with customers than the traditional “spray and pray” method of the past.
HFB: Advertising and marketing are essential for retailers to maintain and grow their businesses, but you say that many are drastically overspending in this area. Why is that?
GRINDLEY: Across the board, we have found that most retailers overpay for their marketing operations. The conventional wisdom is that the more money you pour into marketing, the more people will see your ads and the greater results you will receive. But in reality – this simply translates into your ads going to people who are not interested in purchasing your products, which can be extremely costly.
Adjusting the marketing approach alone can be a real game changer in this area. We have found that retailers can typically reduce their marketing budget by a significant margin and expect to see an even higher level of sales if they apply a more targeted strategy.
HFB: What are the most important elements furniture retailers should incorporate into their marketing strategy to see greater ROAS results?
GRINDLEY: Improving ROAS starts with having a complete understanding of your marketing operations, and then calibrating for greater returns. Whether it’s a local mom-and-pop store, or even a large retail chain with co-op campaigns – many retailers remain in the dark as to specifics of how their budget is being spent, who they are targeting, and the efficacy of their campaigns. Naturally, this leads to overspending and less informed campaigns.
With that in mind, retailers should seek to obtain a crystal-clear picture of their operations from start to finish. Improving capabilities to identify and target customers allows retailers to get their ads directly in front of the people that count. Tracking marketing campaigns and matching them directly with in-store sales gives retailers a foundation for understanding their customers, how their ads are performing, and allows them to fine-tune for better results. Using techniques to improve these aspects of a retailer’s marketing strategy yields substantial increases in ROAS.
HFB: Why would you argue that a digital-first approach to marketing is better than traditional advertising?
GRINDLEY: In the 21st century – digital platforms are king. Customers increasingly spend more time online, they use more online platforms, and they provide a wealth of valuable data for marketers to use. More traditional advertising methods like TV/radio, newspapers, flyers, etc. can be successful, but a well-executed digital marketing strategy will likely provide higher traffic and higher rates of conversion. This is because with a digital marketing approach, your ads are served directly to customers who are interested and likely to make a purchase.
HFB: COVID-19 has forced many retailers to temporarily close, or significantly reduce their operations. What should retailers consider when reopening to ensure that they will be successful?
GRINDLEY: Depending on individual factors like location, local restrictions, and the severity of the virus’ impact in their area –reopening stores can definitely be a financially sound move for some retailers. After almost six months of restrictions and quarantine measures, there is a lot of pent up demand from the general public, and our analysis shows that consumer foot traffic is much higher than most retailers would expect.
HFB: Do you have any insight for how retailers on how they can tap into new audiences or reach new customers?
GRINDLEY: Even with COVID-19 continuing to affect retail stores in many areas of the country, there are a couple of new streams for furniture retailers to tap into. For instance, home interest rates are at historically low levels, and there are massive interstate relocations taking place across the country as residents of big cities are trying to escape the ongoing pandemic. Depending on the area, there may be large influxes of new homeowners and movers that can be fantastic demographics to target for furniture needs.
Additionally, as people are staying home more often, internet usage has skyrocketed over the past several months, which can be fruitful for retailers targeting online shoppers who are in-market.