What Does It Take?

Thumbing through the September/October 2010 issue of Blooming News, published by the Los Angeles Flower market, I noticed an article about a floral seminar held last June in Dallas. Discussing branding to a group of 100 florists, Al Meyers, of Retail Forward, said, “We segment our markets by the occasion or event which is inspiring the consumer to shop.” According to Meyers, offers must include a specific ending time and an “act now/buy now” call to action to stimulate sales.

Does your signage include a specific end time and call to action? “Available Today Only!” or “Limit Two” come to mind as simple examples that nudge consumers with an act now/buy now hook. Aesthetics are important, but clever signage can stop a potential buyer mid-stride. I recall a sign in front of a flower shop which significantly improved walk-in traffic and repeat sales. The message: Stop in for a Free Flower if Today is Your Birthday. Someone else used a variation on this idea: Stop for a Free Flower if Your Name is ________.

Traditionally, two of the most important words in marketing have been “free” and “new”, but what other words win sales? How about “Limited!”, to stimulate a visceral “Gotta-get-it-before-it’s-gone” response?  Sign language is a cheap and clever way to spark interest. Humor and wackiness are important too. How thrilling is a bouquet named “Pretty in Pink”? Change it to “Gobsmacked Pink” and you’ll likely get reactions. (Gobsmacked, from Irish origins, means to be dumbfounded or shocked.)

There’s no denying the power of clever wording. For example, web marketers selling magazine subscriptions found that consumers responded negatively to the word “subscription”, presumably because people feel all downloads should be free. The problem was hurdled once “application” was substituted for “subscription” and sales took off. Apparently “application” doesn’t have the same bruising effect on purchasing sensibilities of buyers.

Elmer Wheeler, sales genius of the 1940s, developed a system of increasing sales by simplifying questions asked to customers. He proved that customers will agree to order a large drink 7 of 10 times if the waitress says “large one” rather than “Do you want a small or large drink?” when taking the order. The idea is simple: ask while limiting the options.

Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, Why More is Less, echoes the idea, saying that the plethora of options paralyzes our decision-making process. Sales expert Leanne Hoagland-Smith, writes in EzineArticles that Wheeler’s system works because our brains take more time to process a question when two options are given rather than one. Try it! Find your stride with Wheeler’s method by polishing sales questions so they are benefit-oriented to the customer, and with few options. You’re not asking “Do you want a large bouquet?”, you’re  just saying “Large one?” when a buyer is in front of your flowers.

I realized that Elmer Wheeler is the originator of many advertising slogans, including an aphorism I heard often from my mother: “Don’t sell the steak, sell the sizzle.” Wheeler is also famously credited for “Say it With Flowers” and with “Your first ten words are more important than your next 10,000.” How true! Marketing experts have determined we have 3-7 seconds to capture the attention of shoppers as they breeze by a floral or market display. Add Wheeler’s 10 words to this equation to realize that your chance to turn a potential customer from a competitor’s product to yours happens within a one-minute window.  

Since January is the month of resolutions and new starts, think about spicing up your sales introduction. Infuse those first ten words with panache and make signage speak volumes. Happy 2011!

Gay Smith

Technical Consulting Manager

Gay Smith is the Technical Consulting Manager for Chrysal USA. Contact her at [email protected]