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by Marcus Grimm
Good POP is one of the retailer’s best friends.
It helps sales associates demonstrate features and benefits, and it gives customers something to look at and read while they shop. This section is a catalog of POP from some of the futon industry’s best suppliers.
“Simply Say Simmons” Program Fortifies Sales Training Video “Sell a futon for a dealer, you give him a small profit. Teach a dealer to sell your futon, and you give him a career.” So goes the philosophy behind the Simmons Futon Company’s latest marketing campaign, “Simply Say Simmons.”
“While the message we’re sending is very important, probably the most vital aspect of “Simply Say Simmons” is that we’re focusing our energies on training the dealer salesperson on what to say, rather than placing all of our focus on a brochure or similar piece intended for the futon buyers,” says Paul Sullivan, General Manager and Executive Vice President for United Sleep Products, the Denver based company which has been the exclusive futon licensee for the Simmons Company since 1995.
“Simply Say Simmons” is the culmination of almost a year of research and development. Rather than simply producing a set of new sales brochures, “Simply Say Simmons” is a program which centers on futon dealer sales training, while offering POP as materials which support the training.
The cornerstone piece to “Simply Say Simmons” is an interactive video, available on CD Rom, and video cassette. Says Mitch Gelbard, VP of Futon Sales, “Last year, United Sleep’s bedding division released a brand new dealer video. We learned that they’ve been sending out roughly 85% CDs and 15% video cassettes. So, we took that experience, and decided to focus this package as a CD piece. We do have a video cassette version, but the real “wow” factor occurs when someone throws the CD into their computer.”
What exactly occurs is the futon industry’s first interactive sales training program, designed to walk the dealer salesperson through each step of the often complex sales process. This seemed to Sullivan and crew to be a unique point of attack for the Simmons Futon camp.
“Research has told us that when facing the consumer, there are two areas where we have clear dominance over our competition,” explains Sullivan. “First and foremost, the name recognition of Simmons is tremendous, particularly given the fact that we’re competing in an industry where consumers don’t recognize most of the players. Secondly, we learned that the average consumer going to buy a futon is often intimidated by having to choose separate futon mattresses, frames and futon covers from three different suppliers. As the largest single source provider of futon mattresses, frames and covers, we felt that we could ease the customer’s concerns – giving them the ability to buy a futon mattress, futon frame and futon cover, from not only one source, but a source that has everyday brand recognition.”
Midwest Sales Manager Larry Moore further explains the Simmons philosophy: “During the brainstorming part of this process, I needed to buy a new computer. On one hand, I had a local dealer, trying to “customize” a machine from me, using parts and sources from companies whom I had never heard of or had maybe heard of once or twice. The process both confused and frustrated me. In the end, I called Dell, told them what I wanted the computer to do, and placed my order. That’s exactly the message we wanted to convey to the consumer: Don’t get frazzled or confused, “Simply Say Simmons.”
Simply Say Simmons
Still, United Sleep could’ve told their story with the use of brochures, right? Wrong. Sullivan wouldn’t hear of it.
“I’ve always had a problem with any type of material that helps the customer to say, “Let me take this (brochure) home and think about it.” I really like to provide material that helps the customer to make their decision while they’re at the store, and obviously the dealer salesperson is the best person to provide that information to the consumer.
Once Sullivan knew that he wanted to go directly to the dealer salesperson, he pulled from his most recent experience doing the bedding video for United Sleep Products.
After the Simmons Futon team had formulated their message into a script, they turned to Final Focus Productions, the Mechanicsburg PA based video production firm who had done the bedding project for United Sleep Products.
“The Simmons Futon project took all of the core success of the United Sleep’s bedding video, and jumped about five levels technically,” says Final Focus President Steve Kownacki. “By itself, it’s a great video – add all of the multi-media magic to it, and it’s truly a powerful sales training piece.”
Upon putting the CD into their computer, the video launches itself; something United Sleep had demanded. Says Kownacki, “The first video we did could run from virtually any computer, but required the user to start it. We eliminated that requirement immediately.”
The video’s host then comes on the screen, welcoming the viewer to the program. He explains that viewers can view one of three videos, instructing them how to sell Simmons futons, frames or covers. Additional options will enable the viewer to visit the company’s website, or send email directly to the company.
Each video involves a complex set of programming as well. While the host generally remains on the screen, bullet points of Simmons features and benefits roll to one side of him, while actors and actresses act out the sales scenario to his other side.
“Essentially, for this, we used “blue screen magic” which has been around for years,” explains Kownacki. “We simply taped the host reading his dialogue in front of a blank blue screen. The editing equipment allows us to later superimpose any information over the blue screen. In this case, we showed people selling futons in a mock store.”
Each of the three smaller videos is approximately 4 minutes long, and is designed to plant some strong selling statements in the mind of the viewer. Says Sullivan, “The goal here was to simplify the selling process, so we really wanted these videos to contain the most relevant information that people would use to determine which product to buy.”
At the conclusion of each video, there is a short series of “test” questions that the viewer can answer along with the program. The uses for these, are varied, according to Sales Manager Moore.
“In the perfect setting, our sales reps will be taking this program into futon showrooms, and conducting sales meetings – walking the dealer reps through the process. However, the question and answer phase of our program allows the training to take place with or without supervision, so the uses are numerous. And, as importantly, we’re reinforcing what we’ve just went over, which greatly increases the retention of the information.”
Simmons hasn’t backed completely away from traditional POP, however. Sullivan explains, “When we looked at the “Simply Say Simmons” campaign, we wanted point of purchase materials which would compliment that message by helping the futon buyer to feel good about buying a brand name without weighing them down with an excess of technical information.”
In the end, the Simmons POP revolves around three separate pieces – a poster, and two stickers, designed to be placed directly on the front of the futon.
“We’ve done a lot of work with hang tags over the years, but we found the futon store owners did not use them as we had intended, and it didn’t take long at all until they looked war torn,” says Sullivan.
Both of the eight-inch round stickers are printed on teslin, a material specifically chosen for its durability in use, and long life. The stickers adhere firmly to the futon cover, and yet can easily be moved from one futon to another, without damaging the cover.
One of the stickers reinforces the marketing message of “Simply Say Simmons,” by reading, “You’re Sitting on a Genuine Simmons Futon.”
The second sticker borrows the four step process outlined in the poster, but instead teaches the futon buyer how to operate the new patent-pending four step Comfort Options Hinge, the most revolutionary product Simmons Futons has brought to market in years.
“Previously, we’ve been using a very traditional futon hinge,” says Gelbard, “But the Comfort Options Hinge will immediately thrust us to the front of the pack for mechanisms.”
A unique 4 step futon conversion mechanism
The Comfort Options Hinge is a klik klak. A unique 4 step futon hinge, which enables the user to put the futon in either of two stages of recline, in addition to the upright sofa position, and the flat sleeping position. This four step hinge is the first of its kind by a major futon manufacturer in the futon business. But Gelbard claims that in addition to giving Simmons Futons a major strength, they have eliminated one of their weaknesses as well.
“All of our top-end futon mattresses have always been built around the Simmons Beautyrest coil system, which means that our most premium futon mattresses have very thick components. The special mechanism on the Comfort Options klik klak allows for easier opening and closing than ever, regardless of who is operating the product.”
The “Simply Say Simmons” training program seems to emphasize this point, by including various footage of actresses and actors who were not “weight lifters” and “bodybuilders” operating the klik klak mechanism. “Even they were astounded by the ease of use,” says Gelbard.
The Simmons Futon team firmly believes this will further drive chair sales. As Gelbard says, “Before we had a chair that matched a futon. Now, it’s liking having a recliner that matches a futon.”
The final piece of the “Simply Say Simmons” campaign is a twenty four by thirty six inch poster, detailing the four decisions a customer needs to make to purchase a Simmons Futon: regular or Comfort Options Hinge, which arm style, which futon mattress, and which futon cover. The poster is made to give the customer some education if they are waiting to be serviced, says Sullivan.
“Simply Say Simmons” is all about teaching the customer that buying a futon is a more complex sale than they may have thought, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. If they are willing to take each piece of the sale separately, and the dealer rep has been trained to walk them through the process the same way, we think both the customer and rep will enjoy the entire exchange much more. And when that happens, everyone wins.”