by Al Kenney
I’m an avid antiques collector, not a dealer, and a professional marketer with a diverse career. I’ve worked for many global corporations marketing many major household brands as well as for small start-up companies. I’ve owned an international strategic marketing firm and marketed to people and businesses in more than ten industries in over 30 countries worldwide.
I’ve set the strategies, developed the core messaging, chosen the vehicles, and evaluated the results of these marketing efforts and learned a lot in the process. I understand the costs and efforts involved in putting together successful marketing efforts and have seen what those efforts have delivered or not delivered for the businesses that deploy them.
I wrote a letter to the editor of M.A.D.a few years back essentially expressing my frustration on the ways some antiques dealers were marketing their businesses (or not marketing them) to me and how I thought that negatively affected me as a collector. What I’ve come to realize through my experiences and observations is that many dealers know part of the antiques business very well (the buying part) but have less experience in one of the most important parts of their businesses, which is marketing and selling.
Marketing is “where the rubber meets the road” for all businesses. You can have a unique inventory available at the best prices, but if you have ineffective marketing (or worse, no marketing at all) your efforts will yield little if any results.
My wife and I have been avid antiques collectors for the past 25 years. My motivation for writing this column is simply to share my thoughts, tips, and professional proven techniques with readers in the hope that you can pull a few interesting tidbits and ideas to become better marketers. My objective is to show how you can attract more customers to your business for as little money as possible.
In the coming months, I plan to use this column to add insights into the types of marketing vehicles available to the industry, to give insights on how best to utilize them and what you might expect in the form of getting a good return on investment (ROI). I’ll also try to answer any questions from you. I plan to write about some of the things I’m seeing out there that I feel are smart, effective marketing, and also potential mistakes or missed opportunities. Through it all you’ll get my “unbiased educated opinion.” You may or may not agree with me, but my aim is to keep you interested and thinking about what you might want to be doing to grow your business in these difficult times.
So what is “effective marketing” and what activities should antiques dealers, auctioneers, show promoters, and even collectors be dabbling in these days? For most, you don’t need to be spending big bucks in all the major decorating magazines, but you do need to set aside a marketing budget and be an active and effective marketer. The fact is, marketing works, but most businesses waste a lot of money one of three ways: a) by picking the wrong marketing vehicle for your business; b) by not being able to put together and deliver a well-thought-out message to your target audience; and c) by spending money in areas before understanding what their potential return can be for their investment.
Here’s an example. About ten years ago I was given the task of evaluating the promotional marketing spending on a very popular baby food. On one promotion a brand spent $75,000 to obtain extra-prominent shelf space and reduced the price for two weeks at a major food retailer. The retail price of the brand was 49¢ per jar, which netted them a profit of 25¢ per jar. On average, they sold 10,000 jars per week when not on sale. When all was said and done, they sold nearly 90,000 jars that week. Net/net they lost about $52,000 on that promotion. They should have known that by committing $75,000 to this promotion they would need to sell 300,000 jars just to break even, and that selling 30 times the number of jars at one retail chain was probably not going to happen. Somehow those calculations were never performed.
Now, I’m certainly not suggesting that this company shouldn’t have spent that money on marketing, rather that they needed to better investigate their spending options/investments and select the ones that had the best probability to yield them the best return for their investment, both short and long term. The probability that this marketing expenditure would produce positive profit results was very low. Many types of marketing can be “an investment in the business,” and you can’t expect to make your money back every time you spend money on promotion, but you can employ a strategy utilizing several different types of activities that when woven together can yield you very profitable short- and long-term results.
Should you engage in social media for your antiques business? Should you do shows? Should you place ads in M.A.D. and/or your local paper? Should you invest in a new or enhanced Web site? What should your expectations for your Web site be? Is your current Web site delivering what you were expecting and, if not, were your expectations for your Web site too high or too low? What can you expect to get out of the various forms of media and activities (including M.A.D.) these days? Should you be selling or buying on eBay or other on-line auction Web sites? Should you communicate more closely with your past customers on a more regular basis? How do you attract new buyers to your business? What are the best contact strategies you can use to retain your existing customers and find new ones? What are the best tools and vehicles to use depending on your particular situation? I’ll be covering all of these topics and more in the coming months.
What you’ll find in my column are comments and suggestions not only from a marketer’s (seller) point of view but from an antiques collector’s viewpoint (buyer) as well. I’m looking at M.A.D. and the industry every month and critiquing what I see from both these perspectives. It should be fun, and I’m looking forward to it!
Feel free to email me if you have potential topics you want me to cover or if you have comments. I may be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and would love to hear from you.
Originally published in the January 2013 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2013 Maine Antique Digest