From Home Furnishing Business
By Home Furnishings Business in on July 2007
DO NOT MAIL REGISTRIES
As mentioned in our March 2008 issue, some states are looking to curb direct mail by creating Do Not Mail registries similar to the Do Not Call registries for telemarketing. Visit the Web site of the Direct Marketing Association
for more information.
La-Z-Boys COMFORT SPOTS
As we said, La-Z-Boys creative, new television commercials are getting a lot of attention these days. In case you havent seen them, we found them posted online for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy. See La-Z-Boys Commercials
Were quite sure you read it, but just in case, heres Amys column from our Oct. 22 issue.
A Totally Unexpected Happening
Ive openly admitted several times in this column that Im just not a person who goes out and shops for furniture. Its just not my thing. I am totally curious and in love with the business of running a retail store that happens to sell furniture and all the special circumstances that go along with that. I call the people in this business my best friends, but my dollars dont hold this place together. Ive still got furniture in my house that I hauled out of my parents basement 20 years ago.
Ive always thought that made me a beautifully useful member of this community: the demographic and psycho-graphically ideal consumer everyone is striving to reach, but cant. If we can figure out how to crack me and my other non-purchasing sisters, then times will be good for all.
Ladies and gentlemen, weve had a small breakthrough. Let me tell the tale.
Its Saturday night, 6:23 p.m. on my 11th and last day of working the High Point Market. Im walking to my car with my colleague Tracy Johnson. We are headed over to her house to drink some Bloody Marys by the pool and decompress.
My mood was a mixture of exhausted, happy and sad. I always have mixed feelings after Market. I totally love the scene. I could live in Market world for much longer than I do. If only we could establish some breaks for sleep and dry cleaning and then reconvene, Id be fine with that. Theres something deliciously peaceful, however, about finally walking away from the grueling pace of it all. I was sad it was over, but ready to go. (You know the feeling Im sure.)
On my three-block walk to my car, I walked by a place that had its garage-style doors wide open. I glanced in, and my eye caught an antique silver cash register. I stopped. With the doors open, I didnt have to make a commitment to the programit was very, very easy to just walk a few steps and I was in. I looked at the cash register and then looked about a bit more. I became entranced. I saw a desk I loved, and farther back in the store there was an amazing chest made of leather and steel. Everything was clearly tagged with prices. It was like a clean, hip, cool flea market where reproductions were mixed with genuine antiques. Good tunes were playing on the stereo. The tone was perfect.
No one appeared to be in the store with us. We were free to play and explore and discover. Everything seemed to be an interesting mix of old and new. We sat in chairs, opened drawers and called each other over to look at different pieces. I fell in love with about three different things and was doing the mental math that tells me that Im serious about a purchase. I also knew that if I explored more, Id want more. What an amazing feeling.
Eventually someone came in, greeted us nicely and left us alone. I guess they could tell we were having fun and didnt need to say a single word. The environment and product were selling themselves. There was an upper level to the store that we didnt venture into, but we both admitted later wed wanted to, we just thought the other person would kill us for the suggestion.
We approached the owner and asked about the hours and made a plan to come back. He was totally laid back about it and didnt push a bit. I totally intend to be a be back who fulfills her promise.
There I was on the last day of Market, after seeing furniture for 11 days straight, shopping for furniture with glee when I was supposed to be drinking a Bloody Mary by the pool.
Above, you have the total description of how the whole process happened. How someone who doesnt even like shopping for furniture went shopping for furniture on the last day youd expect. I remain stunned by it. It was magical, really. I tell the tale to spread the good word that when the ingredients are right, even a crusty old broad like me can be seduced into being interested in furniture, even ... when Im sick of furniture.
AMYS RANDOM COLUMN MUSINGS
Note from Amy: Here, to prove that I really was trying. There is no attempt at grammar, punctuation or even complete, rational thoughts here.
A few months ago I purchased a new blazer. It was made from cream-colored linen and was heavily embroidered with flowers and butterflies and the sort. Very colorful. I thought it looked like a groovy psychedelic poster from the 60s.
One day, I was getting to meet someone somewhere for cocktails sporting my new cool blazer for the very first time. I was in my bathroom applying my make-up when my daughter walked in. She took one look at me, and in a voice and attitude that can only be articulated from a 17-year-old girl said ... Youre wearing that?
Me: Yes, dont you like it.
Her: Its kind of bright.
Me: I know, I thought I could carry it.
Her: No, it just doesnt look like you.
As soon as those words came out of her mouth, the jacket was sunk.
Over Labor Day weekend I actually took two days off. I didnt e-mail, I didnt read a business magazine, I didnt do paperwork, I didnt dream up new strategies for the magazine and marketblackbook.com. I focused on my bedroom. I moved fairly soon after the launch of this magazine (18 months ago!) and there were boxes I still had not unpacked. (Thats a sign I probably should have thrown the crap straight away, but ANYWAY.) I reorganized a bit. Hung some pictures, I had bought new bedding (top of bed) a couple of months ago and had never bothered to switch everything over yet. Dust ruffles can be more work than Im interested in most days. Anyway, I got everything set.
Same daughter, walks in room.
Says, this doesnt look like you. Its too cheerful.
Once again, she was right. My new room actually scared me a bit. My heart was actually pounding that I was going to be living in a room that didnt fit. I felt very uncomfortable in my own bedroom.
I added more black including taking a brand new halfway expensive canvas painting I had purchased for my out of character room, took it on the back porch, pulled out black spray paint, and graffittied a big old peace sign over the top of my brand new artwork and hung it back on the wall. Frankly, it made it perfect. It edged up the room and the rawness of it took the room back down to more my style.
This time, both me and the kid loved it.
What does any of this mean? I think it means I have a brand. At least one both my daughter and I recognize.
Do you know yours?
I grew up in High Point back in the days before Target and Wal-Mart.
I hated Kmart. I had an unnatural hatred for the place. Kmarts image didnt match what I wanted to be. Goodness knows where I was assimilating my information from, but neverthelesswhen mom and dad made me go to Kmart I was mortified.
The family tried to reason with me.
Amy, if anyone sees you there, guess what they are there too. No harm no foul.
Amy, where you buy your stuff doesnt matteras a matter of fact if you buy your stuff smart instead of overpaying, you wont be poor.
Amy, were not asking you to buy your prom dress there, a Mead composition book at Kmart is the very same composition book youd buy at another store, it just costs less there.
I couldnt get out of going to Kmart; the rents wouldnt let me sit in the car, so I developed a plan to save face. Upon entering the store I would report directly to the lawn care section. I was clear that if anyone was spotted in the store that we knew, the family was sworn to say we were there to buy fertilizer. I had decided that fertilizer was the only possible acceptable reason to be in a Kmart.
Fast forward 20 years.
I have a daughter that feels exactly the same way about Wal-Mart and has since she was a young.
I eventually grew up, realized money didnt grow on trees, and realized that Kmart was a perfectly fine place to shopit just bothered me that theyd have one checkout line open for 20 people. But imagereally does matter.
You really should try playing Switzerland and crafting something that sideswipes all the political BS in this industry while still being controversial enough to be impactful and sounding brilliant and funny and charming with just the right note of sarcastic to not sound crass to a highly fragmented industry, and its a barn burner of a task.
In the age of the Google it is becoming more and more important to pay attention to your personal brand. Can someone find out about you if they are trying? Which is worseif they can or if they cant? And when they pull up your life history as reflected on the Internet, what will they find out? And keep in mind that youre managing two brands out thereyour companys and your own personal brandhow do you make sure they are in sync? It makes work a brutal slog instead of a big game that is tons of fun to play.
Tom Petersa brand called you.
Just like a creepy pedophile can become a 15-year-old kid on the Internetyou can create your own persona as well. Are you being smart about it?
When I became a publisher, quite a few people began to tell me what a publisher should be like. That kind of cracks me up because a lot of people dont even know what it is a publisher does. Hilarious that they think they know what I should be like. I suppose its mostly being based on Joe Carroll. After all as the longstanding publisher of Furniture/Today, hes the image for many people in this industry for the title of publisher.
I was told to quit wearing cowboy boots, It didnt look publisher like. I was told I should reconsider my fetish with peace signsit may be too political. I was told I should get a backdrop in my office so that when I vlog on hfbusiness.com, the background would look pristine and organized. At minimum I could ditch the Mr. Potato Head on my bookcase.
I listened to it all. I considered it all, but heres why I do what I do. I hope my thought process will help you consider why you do what you do. Because it matters, its the essence of your brand. Your brand is a compilation of everything you do. Its worth examining your actions. Pretend you had to write this column. What would you write?
If you have to become something youre fundamentally not in order to have a seat at the table, you will fail. You must be able to inspire yourself before you can think about inspiring others. Example: Me giving a highly formal, humorless presentation in a black business suit and pearls.
An image based on someone elses preconceived notions of what you should be, means that spot is probably already taken. The traditional niche was more than taken by the time I arrived on the scene. Thank goodness. Id have sucked at that one anyway.
Its OK for everybody not to like you. I go with the theory of love/hate/indifference. Love me great, Hate mesometimes even better. Dont care about me at all? Thats a problem.
Most people are bored to tears. Passionate and hardworking yes, but the sea of sameness is a problem that exists on many levels in this industry. Under that theory a Mr. Potato Head doesnt seem all that crazy now does it?
Is everyone just dying to see one of those motivation posters with eagles soaring? Come on, you cant be serious. And if you are, there are plenty of other avenues out there for you to slather with your attention.
(Talking Point: What do people think a furniture store SHOULD be?)
So, theres the defense of my personality. Why do you care? Because a personality is an image is a brand. Whats yours? Do you have one? The answer is yes. Is it helping you or hurting you? Well people vote with their dollarshows that bottomline doing?
Thoughtful, retail focused and strategic did happen to be available. I like our spot, and at least in my opinion, when you mix up some smart along with some cowboy boots youve got something of interest. If youre interested, weve scored.
My personal brand is inextricably connected to this magazines brand, as is each member of our team. I believe we have established a personality, and I dont believe theres a member of this team that doesnt have a strong one. You may choose to like it or not, but you should have a clear feeling for what it is. Our hope is that as we remain true to it, that this industry will find our voice of interest
Its scary sometimes; I wont lie. The ability to not be afraid of your own personality/image/brand requires nerves of steel sometimes. But it also comes with knowing what you can and cannot do. Look fellas, theres just no way I can make a killer presentation in a black business suit and pearls.
A magazine is exceptionally perishable. It is our thought process and interests on paper. It is my fondest wish that every now and then our brand makes you challenge your preconceived notions.
The problem with all that is, that then Im not me anymore. It would seriously effect my behavior because of the disconnect between who I am, and the image I was portraying.
My day goes better when my hair looks good. It may sound shallow, but its a statement of fact. Im quite sure it has something to with the whole topic of image. I like my image when my hair looks good. When it doesntIm probably better off to stay home (or at least go get a blowout).
Why dont consumers want to buy our stuff. How can the stuff you surround yourself inside your home, which is meant to be a sacred place where you go for comfort be so damned unimportant. How did we begin to go the route of a lightbulbif it aint broke dont fix it. ?
Am I exceptionally traditional? No, but hey guys, all those slots were taken in the industry by the time we came along. We decided to be who we are, put out a smart, thoughtful magazine, and if every now and then youre slightly disarmed by us, I think thats a very good thing.
Im being what some people THINK a publisher should be. Tis part of the wisdom that comes with age ... that being me is really the only job I can excel at. With a little bit of luck, that being me part is good enough for you folks. Cowboy boots do not mean Im not intelligent. They dont mean I dont have skills to put a great team together that can put out a rocking magazine. And the person no matter their political affiliation that takes a peace sign as offensive? Well, that person and I were never going to get along anyway.
This issue is all about image and branding, which I translate very simply to personality. As a magazine, weve chosen to have one. We think it matters. Whats yours?
Are you trying to be the furniture store you are? The one you wish you could be? Do you even know or are you running around like a chicken with your head cut off changing strategy and style each day in a constant search for that elusive consumer we love so much.
I have great mentors and their advice is fabulous. Dont ever quit asking for advice, just about the time you think what other people say doesnt matter, you get in big big trouble. The worst thing in the world is if people quit giving you some that means they just dont care. As wonderful as advice is, I think you should listen to it, think about it, and then still do what you think is the absolute best option with the information you have at hand.
If you have the guts to be what you really are, then you can be pretty damn good at it. Once you try to fit an image thats just no you, it all begins to fall apart. The trick is being who you are, just make sure what you are is something people want.
I think most people are bored to tears.
If youre low-cost provider, be proud of it. If youre the style leaders, go there. If youre bare bones, dont be ashamed of it. If you dont represent who you are, why would anyone else want to experience it.
Authenticitythe most valued quality in todays environment. Its why we almost maybe could have actually elected Jesse Ventura to the seat of president. Werent we all just thrilled to bits that there was someone who was willing to have an opinionno matter the opinionit was at least an opinion. WHY IS THAT SO HARD?
I buy Crest toothpaste. It costs $3.29 for a 10-ounce tube. The store brand costs $1.99. I buy Dasani water. $5.99 on sale for 12 bottles. (dont tell the green people) I could get it free out of my tap.
While I was writing this column my daughter had a flat tire. She had driven over a 3-inch nail. She called me from the tire shop and gave me two options. A no name brand and BF Goodrich. There was a $15 dollar per tire difference in the two prices per tire; $60 total. I told her to go with the BF Goodrich. Dont tell me branding doesnt matterit just cost me $60 just today.
You may have seen my vlogs on hfbusiness.com. These are real life from the dining room musings about things I find interesting. I try very hard to stay true to brand in those vlogs. I could put on a suit, and do it 8 million times until I dont say any ummmmms. I could script it out better, I could rearrange my background better. I could take down the Mr. Potato Head in the background. But that wouldnt be me.
What does any of this mean? It means, at the ripe old age of 40, I do have a brand. My daughter can sometimes recognize it better than I can. But I do know when its right and when its not. Sometimes, I try and step out of it (see: blazer and bedroom) every now and then, but it represents.
Now, to recognize this is to say that my brand is a bit dark. Id agree with that. Im fairly sarcastic, blunt, and to the point. Hearts and flowers make me nervous. I think Im practical which is not a trait I connect with the color pink. I like my style. It makes me nervous sometimes, but I like it. Its my brand.
What are you banking on? What is your personality? Does it have a place in the world? Does your personality fit a need in the community?
Signage on your trucks, billboards, direct mail, and newsletters the opportunities are endless for you to educate your community as to who you are. The question you must ask yourself, is does it represent who my store is and who my store must be in order to be successful in this marketplace?
Forty-five years ago, the advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather launched the Dove soap campaign. They posititioned it for women who are concerned about dry skin, not men who have dirty hands. Big difference, same product.
If you advertise on price, thats what people will expect is most important when they shop your store. Is that what you want? If so, go for it, if not, tone it down a bit. If you have a really hip and cool ad, and your store and your employees scream drab, thats a problem. If you advertise in a hot new magazine it is foolish to have boring creative. Sure youll stand out, but in a bad way.
How do you create a brand that is viewed as a peer with your consumer? How should your brand interact with consumers?
Should you have a video on YouTube? It totally depends.
WEB SITE ANALYTICS (July 2007)Google Analytics
Analyzes Web site traffic in basic terms.Omniture SearchCenter
Analyzes the way visitors behave on a Web site.CFAnalytics
Uncovers click fraud.BetterPPC AdTest
Helps develop better Web advertising campaigns.WebPosition 4 from WebTrends
Helps you get better placement in search engine list results.Coremetrics Online Analytics
Works to measure and manage marketing efforts, including search engines, banners and e-mail blasts.
FAMILY BUSINESS LINKS (May 2007)Family Owned Business Institute
The Grand Valley State Universitys Family Owned Business Institutes mission is to promote, preserve, influence, and impact family businesses through quality academic research, curriculum, and information services.University of CincinnatiGoering Center for Family & Private Business
Goering Center for Family & Private Business, at The University of Cincinnati, is a leading educational and informational resource center for family and closely held businesses.University of Wisconsin-Madison School of BusinessFamily Business Center
Helping family business owners, their families and their employees maintain profitable businesses and successfully transfer control of the business.Startup Journal
Articles from the Wall Street Journal Center for Entrepreneurs.Family Business Magazine
A magazine written for the owner and managers of family companies.Family Forum
The purpose of the Family Business Forum of the University of North Carolina at Asheville is to enhance the viability of closely held businesses in Western North Carolina.Fambiz.com
Online resource for family business executives and owners.U.S. Small Business Administration
Links to business start-up, financing, government business resources for small business owners and more.