At a company corporate meeting what seems like a lifetime ago, then VP of Sales Dan Garrett questioned the assembled Ensoniq District Sales Managers. At the time it felt like something of an inquisition, as each of us was asked quite directly “how do you increase sales?” The answers ranged from more training, in-store clinics (big at the time), more sales calls, to other retorts that were immediately shot down. The point that Dan was making, and that has stuck with me to this day, is that you increase sales by increasing awareness. Truer words have never been spoken. It has become apparent to me that “selling in” is only the starting point of a product’s journey to its ultimate destination, a home with a happy consumer. Some items are already widely known, epitomized by the iconic SM58. The ultimate “pull sale,” much credit goes to Shure for making this model a household name. I could argue there are better vocal mics for $99, but none are asked for with nearly the frequency. Suppliers must work harder to explain the key differentiators, and specific reasons why the less well-known contender should be chosen. This is referred as a “push sale” and relying on retailers alone to do the heavy lifting just won’t work.
Old School vs. New School Methods
It always struck me as odd that some manufacturers insisted on the opposite premise, that by simply getting product into a store or ecommerce website, the rest will happen somewhat naturally, perhaps even magically. My personal experience says otherwise, as without a concerted effort to create consumer awareness, inventory eventually ages, as does the interest of the dealer holding the goods. Unlike in years past where expensive print campaigns were the only way to get the word out, today an array of affordable and innovative techniques can close the budget gap. Forward thinking marketers are utilizing sponsored social media posts, and gaining traction on YouTube, having merchandise featured with influencers who in some cases have achieved celebrity status.
Scratch the Niche
If you are selling specialty items, try seeking out your audience with extra targeted focus — take for example Phil Jones Bass. They serve a “niche within a niche” in the bass amplification market and have built up legions of loyal followers by talking directly to their constituents. Regular public events with big-name artists such as Bakithi Kumalo draw large crowds at retail, dispelling the myth that people don’t come out anymore for clinics. Understanding that niche marketing can be extremely successful, this “thin slicing” can bear some real cabbage.
Driving Traffic into the Channel
Dealers of musical instruments and professional audio gear are quite good at the fulfillment side of the equation, and many add distinct value propositions that appeal to the end user. Whether it’s fast, free shipping, 0% interest consumer financing, great customer service or vast selection, retailers do what they can to earn the business. But the thought that the reseller alone will “make the market” for the supplier is somewhat misguided. Therefore, it’s imperative for manufacturers to partner with retailers, preaching to their choir and participating in co-op marketing or other appropriate use of marketing development funds. While for the most part it is the manufacturer who must create awareness and drive the customer into the channel, working side-by-side with supportive accounts has an accretive effect on sales, and doubles-down on creating mass awareness.
35 years later, ultimately Dan was right on the money with his assertion.