Nothing ventured, nothing gained

Don’t just wait for manufacturers to come up with promotions, Michael R Peters managing director Paul Mead says there are plenty of ways you can raise your profile and boost sales without spending a fortune

Step back and look at your business and how you promote it. Make a list of all the things you have done in the past four weeks to promote your business. How many did you end up with?

It is too easy to do little or nothing. And if you do nothing – that is exactly what you will get back. My mentor, Mike Peters, always used to say to me “treat every day of trading like a football match and make sure you’re a winner at the end of the day”.

Mike came up with some great promotional ideas in his time and one of the most memorable was stacking up a pyramid of Tesco value baked beans in the window with the slogan, “If that lot are going to start selling tellies, I’m selling beans!” You may think that’s daft, but an amazing number of customers that came in to ask what was going on, looked around the shop and chatted to us, which resulted in numerous sales.

Over the intervening years, I have tried to recreate some of those wacky ideas, but I am the first to admit that it isn’t easy to find the time. We all get wrapped up in the day-to-day business and then through lack of time fail to work on its development.

A huge proportion of our business comes from the local community and we try to respond to this as best we can. I regularly receive letters requesting raffle or auction prizes and always try to respond positively and offer them a voucher to spend in-store. You never know what you may get from this. One local school has just placed a £6,000 order with us. For the past three years, I have given them a shop voucher as a prize at their school summer fair. I am pretty sure that the two things are related.

Budgets are tight with many manufacturers, but it wasn’t long ago that Sony gave away the complete James Bond DVD collection with the purchase of a selected TV. We all made the effort to dress appropriately in the spirit of the promotion and used many of the photographs in local advertising.

But there is no need to wait for a manufacturer. In the past few weeks, we filled up the drum of a Blomberg washing machine with Easter eggs and asked customers (with a free promotion via Facebook) to guess how many were inside. The prize was not only to win the Easter eggs, but also the washing machine. Speak to your reps. You’ll never know what deal you can put together until you ask them. There is a business development operation in Bedford and we recently teamed up with our local BID (Business Improvement District) and gained some great coverage on their website, as they were running an Easter trail around town.

Last year, we had a cookery demonstration day to celebrate the opening of our built-in cooking area. Zanussi supplied the staff and food and the day started at 10am and went through ’til 4pm. Without doubt, both footfall and sales were up that day and a number of customers came back during the following weeks to make a purchase.

Every now and then you need to pull out all the stops and stick your head above the
parapet. Our local BID arranged for the Bedford High Street to be closed for an event promoting local business and, in order to take part, I managed to persuade a couple of members of staff to dress up as a curved TV and a cooker.
We all then spent six hours parading up and down our local high street, promoting the business with a selfie competition – and very successful it was, too.

One of our biggest and most successful promotions was to team up with our local Olympic torch bearer during Bedford’s biennial river festival. With a sporting theme, staff, family and friends joined in the parade. We improved the profile of the business and raised more than £600 for local charities by inviting the public to have their picture taken holding the Olympic Torch – in front of one of our vans.

Another huge success was when we dressed up as doctors – digital doctors – during the digital switchover. We offered our services, free of charge, to explain to local groups and organisations about the effects of the digital changeover. After making a presentation in a local church, we recorded a £12k spend in-store as a result. Not bad for an evening’s work.

So what’s next?

This year we are celebrating our 50th year in business. In order to raise public awareness still further, we have joined forces with our local Friends of Bedford Hospital charity to raise funds and make the public aware of the extremely important services they provide. We are promoting a raffle over the year and offering the chance to win a 50in television at 50 pence a ticket – available both in-store and from the hospital. The prize draw will take place in November and 10 runners-up will win a Roberts DAB radio. All the money raised will go to The Friends of Bedford Hospital.

With the Euros and Olympics coming up, look out for another sporting theme to our window display…