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COUNTERINTUITIVE SELLING STRATEGIES FOR MUSICAL INSTRUMENT RETAIL


When markets become turbulent and unit sales dry up for any number of reasons, a somewhat natural reaction is to hunker down and be extra cautious about expenditures. While this sounds logical at first glance, it may not be the best course of action. Often when writing these blog posts, I am transported back in time to moments in my career where similar dynamics have occurred, and this pattern of behavior is observed. I distinctly recall visiting a retailer “back in the day;” it was just me and the owner in an empty store, during a particularly slow summer period. I asked the proprietor what he was doing about it, and he replied, “I am completely cutting out any advertising spend.” While this decision might appear prudent to save money in the near term, what does this say about how to effectively manage business through a downturn?


Time to Hit the Road as a Field Representative


The answer to the question above is not to go wild with marketing, but certainly not to stop. It also recalls the psychological phenomenon of “misery loves company,” where two or more people talk themselves into believing that the sky is falling. I’ve found myself drifting into that mindset occasionally, and then am awakened by the reality that someone is selling something, somewhere… and it wasn’t me. Even during the toughest of times, consumers are purchasing, albeit at a slower pace. For my rep firm Reflex Marketing, this means funding more travel, not less, as this is one of the best advertising tools for our brands – showing up at a retail store or buying office for a personal visit, introducing a new supplier or potential hit product. In general, just being there with something positive to discuss, and not falling into the trap of “down talking” your way out of a sale.


Engaging Customers at Every Level


Suppliers, distributors, and dealers must engage end users at every level possible, especially during an economic slump. Not doing so invites a downward spiral, so let’s sharpen our collective sales and marketing minds, and find ways to draw attention to our personal, professional and manufacturer brands. It’s always best to come prepared ready to articulate the differentiating features, showing the “why” and “how” a certain product or brand can cut through the clutter of the marketplace. The efforts to connect with customers will inevitably bear fruit, whether it be an awareness campaign, rebate offer, or a screaming deal that incites an immediate call to action.


All Things Music Pass


Time will tell whether this will be a mild decline, or one that will linger on longer than any of us would like. Regardless, we must realize that we’ve been here before, and this period like all others will eventually run its course. I met a retailer at a trade show during the depths of a recession (2008-2009), who was clearly in panic mode. I worked at Korg USA then, and our booth was bursting with great products to talk about. Still, this dealer just wanted to bemoan the current financial debacle and didn’t want to even consider the view that business was still going on around him. I finally found a moment to break into the conversation, asking this gentleman if he planned on being at NAMM the following year. Without hesitation, he said “yes,” and I think at that instant realized that we would all be here, despite the current obstacles. The lesson learned for me over the years is that our best path forward is just that – move ahead with your plan, modify it as required, but do not shy away from advertising your wares or engaging with your customers. It may sound a bit counterintuitive but is just what the doctor ordered. How about we reset our focus and selling strategies, and I’ll see you on the other side…

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