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Case Study from Our Files
Sundae Sales Get Sweeter!
by Joe Gracia

Note: The names of the people and businesses in our case studies have been changed to ensure the privacy of the people involved, but the details, recommendations and results are based on actual events from our files.

Frank, the owner of one of the most popular custard stands in our area, came to us with the following question.

"Is there any way to increase my custard sundae sales without spending a lot of money on expensive media advertising?"

Frank explained to us that he had two varieties of sundaes; lower-priced, Basic Sundaes, and higher-priced, Specialty Sundaes.

After looking at Frank's signage above his ordering counter, I asked,
"Frank, which sundaes do you currently sell more of, your Basic Sundaes, or your Specialty Sundaes?"

"Definitely our lower-priced, Basic Sundaes. Our customers prefer to buy the lower-priced sundaes because they are very cost conscious."

I knew from experience that business owners often make assumptions about their customers' buying habits that aren't true, and I was pretty certain that was the case here.

"Frank, if I could show you how to get your customers to start buying a lot more of your higher-priced Specialty Sundaes, instead of your lower-priced, Basic Sundaes, would that make you happy?"

"It sure would," Frank said. "but I don't think that's possible. Like I said, our customers are very price conscious, they don't go for the higher-priced sundaes."

"Well, Frank, you can test our idea very inexpensively. If it turns out as I believe it will, you will begin to make a lot more money on your sundae sales. Are you willing to give it a try?"

"Sure! What's your idea?"

Our idea was actually quite simple. Once we saw the type of menu board Frank was using to promote his products, we knew that he was losing a ton of money.

Frank's signs were of the old-fashioned, mom and pop variety. He was using those black display case boards with the white letters you often see in office building lobbies.

Lots of small businesses use these types of display boards as inexpensive, and easy to maintain menu boards. They are sufficient to a point, but they have serious drawbacks that cost these business owners a lot of money.

PROBLEMS ARE ALWAYS TREMENDOUS OPPORTUNITIES IN DISGUISE

We love discovering problems in our clients' businesses. Why? Because problems always cost a business owner time and money, and by solving those problems we can help our clients save a great deal of time and make them a lot more money.

If you can't find a problem, then you can't create a solution, which means you can't increase your sales.

Every recommendation we offer to our clients is the solution to a problem within their businesses. Quite often, our clients weren't even aware that they had a problem -- in other words, an opportunity to increase their sales.

Immediately, we discovered two major problems that were preventing Frank's customers from buying more of his Specialty Sundaes.

PROBLEM ONE: NO SUNDAE DESCRIPTIONS

The first problem we saw was that he was only listing the names of his sundaes, since there was no room for a description of each sundae.

While this wasn't a problem for his Basic Sundaes, after all, everyone knows what's in a Pineapple Sundae, or a Hot Fudge Sundae, it was a huge problem with his Specialty Sundaes.

Many of his Specialty Sundaes had fun, 'creative' names, like The Lala Palooza, The Zombie and The Razzana.

Maybe Frank and his staff, and a few of his long-time customers, knew what those sundaes were, but we were certain that most of his customers didn't have a clue.

Frank had assumed that his customers knew what those sundaes contained, or if they didn't, they would simply ask.

People don't buy what they don't understand. And few are going to ask. They will take the path of least resistance and just buy what they are familiar with -- Pineapple Sundaes, Hot Fudge Sundaes, etc.

PROBLEM TWO: NO PICTURES

We've all heard that a 'picture is worth a thousand words.' Well, that saying is especially true when it comes to food. When you show pictures of desserts in restaurants, you will sell a lot more desserts.

Some restaurants are even more savvy, and actually display the desserts or bring them right to your table for you to see.

The bottom line -- visuals sell!

Frank had never really thought about his menu system. The plain white letters on the black display boards had been his system since the day his business opened. He never considered adding pictures to his menu.

THE SOLUTION

Our experience in marketing, and our knowledge of how people buy, made it clear to us, that these two problems -- obscure sundae names with no descriptions, and no pictures of the sundaes themselves -- were making it nearly impossible for Frank's customers to order his higher-priced sundaes.

Having pinpointed the problems, the solution was relatively easy.

We suggested that Frank take pictures of each of his Specialty Sundaes, and have them enlarged. Frank then had two large signs made to be placed at both ends of his ordering counter, above his cashiers to make it easy for his customers to see the Specialty Sundaes and what they contained.

The heading at the top of each sign said, 'SPECIALTY SUNDAES,' in big, bold, red letters. Below that he displayed a large photo of each Specialty Sundae with the name and a list of the ingredients of each sundae along with the price, right next to each photo.

Frank left his basic sundae sign as it was, just plain text without pictures.

The signs looked fantastic -- because the sundaes looked irresistible!

Where do you think Frank's customers' eyes were drawn to when they stepped up to the counter to order a sundae -- the plain text Basic Sundaes, or the Specialty Sundaes with the large colorful, mouth-watering photos and complete descriptions of ingredients?

Obvious, isn't it?

There was no missing those Specialty Sundae signs when you walked into Frank's custard stand. His customers' eyes were drawn to them like a magnet.

Here's what Frank had to say a few months later.

"Amazing! Our Specialty Sundaes have now become our best sellers. Oh, sure, we get a few people who stick to their favorite basics, but most of our customers are now ordering our Specialty Sundaes. And you wouldn't believe the compliments we've been getting about our new 'picture signs!'

"The most amazing thing is that many of our customers are complimenting us on the addition of all of our 'NEW' sundaes. We've had these Specialty Sundaes for years, but apparently many customers never noticed them.

"Now that my customers can see pictures of our Specialty Sundaes and a list of the ingredients, they don't seem to mind the higher prices. I never would have believed it."

Never assume that your customers won't buy a higher-priced item. Don't assume that they know what's included, or the features and benefits of your products or services. You have to spell it out for them. And, don't forget the incredible power of pictures.

A picture is not only worth a thousand words, it's also worth thousands of dollars in increased sales.



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