The way forward – increasing sales revenue

John Hinde offers effective methods to increase sales revenue within your business.

Every brand you sell has 10 seconds to get your customer’s attention. Once its 10 seconds of fame – even shorter than Andy Warhol’s – are gone, it doesn’t get a second chance.

Point of sale promotion exists to get that inferior little product a little more of your customer’s attention, and, of course, to get some more of that customer’s purchasing power for you. With almost half of any consumer’s buying decisions made spontaneously - including quite expensive items, such as fish tanks retailing at £2,000 or more - the store has to be the right place to advertise if you want to influence that decision.

The point of sale promotion has a bad reputation, however. Who hasn’t been in a store piled high with bottles of cleaner or seen a cardboard dump bin that’s already falling to bits? To succeed, promotional material has to look fresh and new - even if it isn’t.

Consider how the material will take wear and tear. Cardboard, for instance, should be laminated for easy cleaning. Promotional materials intended for long-term use should also be able to receive updates – for example, new slot-in pictures to run with TV advertising.

As well as making sure the promotional material you’re using is well designed, ask yourself whether you’ve got the space. A cluttered shop with too many point of sale promotions is a shop where customers will find it challenging to make their minds up about a purchase. It also looks unprofessional.

Don’t forget to ask your suppliers what support you’ll get. A dump bin on its own can do wonders for sales. Together with a prominent television advertising campaign, press comment or posters, or an on-pack offer, it should do well. Intriguingly, research shows on-pack promotions need point of sale materials – otherwise customers miss them.

Don’t forget to also check your deliveries are secure. Nothing looks as sad as a promotional unit that’s half empty. If your supplier can’t guarantee supplies, then don’t take the promotional material.

Finally, don’t let your promotional material get tatty. Once it starts looking a bit sorry for itself - out it goes. Don’t try to repair it with sticky tape or staples - it will not look professional.

Most promotions have a limited life. Customers get used to them or the advertising campaign they supported stops. It’s not at all a bad idea to set yourself a schedule for churning out the older promotions and replacing them with new ones.

Use point of sale materials to make your retail environment more exciting. If that means changing them frequently, or promoting only one product at a time, it may still be worth the effort. After all, many stores now treat their window displays like a piece of theatre - why not do the same inside the shop?

“Most promotions have a limited life. Customers get used to them or the advertising campaign they supported stops.”

Avoid clashing promotions. For instance, don’t have one price promotion and another promotion on a high-quality product – the message that reaches your customers may get confused. Also, don’t put promotions so close to each other that they overlap - again, customers will be confused and that makes it more difficult for them to make a buying decision.

On the other hand, if you have two promotions for similar or complementary products, they may well be more powerful together than apart - particularly if the themes of the promotions are similar. For instance, a single promotion for both cat collars and flea treatment will sell far more than separate promotions. If you can, try to fit different promotions under an ‘umbrella’ theme. Of course, the examples change according to whatever you sell.

Touch screens are particularly valuable since they don’t require any computer literacy on the customer’s part. However, while they’re expensive, they can give direct access to a manufacturer’s website for detailed product information.

Make sure you keep up with developments. Ask your suppliers what they’re doing and make a point of looking at other retailers. Learn from what they’re doing right - and wrong.

You now know how to manage your point of sale promotions to get the most out of them. But that hasn’t answered the big question - whether it increases your profits. While it certainly makes products move, are the sales you’re making genuine new sales, or are customers just shifting from one brand to another?

With big-ticket items, promotion is part of the process of reassuring your customers that it’s all right to spend the money. It needs to back up the public image of the product - the message consumers get in press and TV advertising. Without that reassurance, you might not get the sale.

So, there’s a need for good promotional material, whatever products you’re selling.

Building an image

Many were shocked when, in 1997, BA spent tens of millions of pounds changing its logo and corporate identity from the much-loved union flag to a series of world image tailfins only to change it back again four years later. It seemed such a waste of money.

But, in fact, a clear image has many advantages. It can increase customer loyalty. It can help you to avoid having to cut your prices to compete and it can get new customers in.

Besides, a clear identity has an impact on the people who work for you. Staff who work for a firm with a good image are more likely to feel pride in their employer and their work.

If you want a change, start by thinking about the core value. What is the most critical thing for you? One firm might choose premium service; another, value for money, or you might prefer friendliness or style.

Can you choose more than one core value? Probably not - trying to say more than one thing at the same time will confuse your customers and staff.

It must be realistic for you to maintain that image with the resources you have. If you have poorly trained people, don’t try to claim high service standards. If you have a tiny shop, don’t try to offer a wide range of products - it will fail.

Once you’ve found your core value, it’s time to plan how you’re going to build that image. It’s not a simple matter of redesigning your shop and hoping for the best; everything has to fit.

Print is the most obvious place to start. This covers your signage, the colours you use and your stationery - everything that clients see.

Colours are particularly important as the message they give is powerful, but almost subliminal; red stands for energy and friendliness, as well as for danger; dark green communicates respectability and dependability.

Premises is the next item on the checklist. You must be well aware of the importance of laying out your shop. For instance, you want your customers to see your shop as an efficient operation, not just a set of shelves and gondoliers. Replace the dingy lighting, operate a clean till policy, redecorate and make the place look more attractive, too. On the other hand, if you’re competing on the basis of price, a spartan set-up helps; it says, “we’re cheap because we don’t spend money on fancy décor”.

The next item on the checklist is one of the most important - people. It’s interesting that most firms thinking about corporate image miss this out. You may have thought about the core value on your own - now make sure the rest of your staff are equally convinced. Unless the team believe in your core value, your image-building exercise is just not going to work.

This doesn’t mean a uniform, but it does mean smart, to a standard set down in a policy, especially when it’s warm and people may be tempted to dress down (have good air-conditioning; it’ll improve productivity when it’s hot).

Finally, consider publicity. As already noted, everything you do should reflect your core value, so should your publicity. Consider sponsorship, for example; a “friendly” pet shop might get involved in animal charities (perhaps by putting a collection box on the till). A “community-minded” firm could sponsor a series of help and advice features in the local paper.

Above all, make sure your core value comes through loud and clear. Don’t just pay lip service to your image - live it.