Colette Weil: Study the retail experts

Thursday, January 31, 2008

As the HME retail segment continues to expand, providers should be looking for ways to become more sophisticated marketers. To do that requires learning from established experts, says Colette Weil, managing director of Mill Valley, Calif.-based Summit Marketing.
HME News: What should providers look for when visiting top non-HME retailers?
Colette Weil: Pay special attention to in-store personal sales, advertising techniques, outside and inside merchandising. Shop new retailers who have invested in new stores. They will feature the latest in merchandising trends, software developments and advertising techniques. Remember, they all started small. I encourage HME providers to shop at other stores with an open attitude about how it may be incorporated in their business. The Men's Wearhouse is an excellent example of delivering on a brand promise, providing solution selling and professional assistance. They do an excellent job of sales training employees, database follow-up, store window and large in-store signage, feature selling, demonstration areas and point-of-sales software support.
HME: What kind of payoff do these tactics offer providers?
Weil: The payoff to providers is to see these tactics being executed and to ask questions of the retailers regarding their success and challenges. Learn from what they have done and their investment. You are a non-competing retailer in a different product line, but take advantage of their experience. Learn who they work with on advertising, direct mail, search engine marketing and promotions. Then define your specific tactics taking advantage of their experience.
HME: When it comes to marketing, where do HME providers fall short?
Weil: Many HME providers are new or less familiar to retailing or are gradually building and enhancing their skills in marketing. It is hard for many on a very tight budget to outline a plan, set objectives with specific tactics and follow-through, while analytically monitoring the success of the investment. By writing down a short plan, brainstorming with employees and scheduling specific activities, providers increase their sophistication in marketing.
HME: Does this mean, dropping a box of doughnuts off at a doctor's office no longer cuts it?
Weil: In the hundreds of providers I have visited and worked with, the use of food continues to be one of the many ways, but certainly not the only way, that providers enjoy sharing at an in-service. Sharing a bit of food that might be related to your retailing effort or promotion is always an attention-getter, such as a candy bar with a ribbon and note, 'We're sweet on Mother's Day with our celebration sale.'