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10 Top Tips

July 8, 2010: The Marketing Ideas Exchanges convened by Bill McCurry over the past few PMA conventions have been a highlight for retailers looking for profitable innovation in their businesses.

The ideas emerging from these sessions are arguably more valuable than the predictions of futurologists, prognostications of marketing consultants and even the helpful advice on retail technique from senior executives from supplier companies, as they have been tested and proven in real world, Australasian retail environments by real retailers.

Photo Counter has delved into the raw transcript of the Marketing Ideas Exchange session from June in Melbourne and distilled what we think are the 10 top tips coming from participating retailers and their staff.

Transcript and podcast of the full session is available on the DIMAcast website.

1. Take one hit, not a series of whacks

Greg Tolhurst (Tom Saade Camera House, NSW) advised retailers to factor an end-of-life discount into the product ‘exit strategy’ – even if it means selling a few units under cost.

‘We’ve implemented a strategy where we look at the money we made – the gross margin over the whole life of the product.

‘The idea being the first markdown we take on the product when we find it’s going “end of life” will be the most substantial…The first markdown is always the cheapest in your business.’

2. Passport to success

Chris Morgan, (Garricks Camera House, Qld) showed why he was chosen as 2010 Young Achiever of the Year with the simple but effective initiative of supplying local travel agents with discount vouchers (20 percent discount on passport photographs) to present to their customers.

‘It’s something that costs you absolutely nothing…we give out [the vouchers] to all travel agents within our immediate area. In our shopping centre alone we have three of them

‘I’m printing 350 every month…and we’re getting probably about 30 or 40 of those back in that month.

‘As far as cost or return on investment goes, it’s well, well worth it.’

3. Green is good

Fellow Queenslander Andrew Mason (Photo Continental) contributed an idea which while not an immediate money spinner, will appeal to the environmentally conscious consumer.

‘We – labs – generate waste,’ he said. ‘There’s a company in Brisbane called Reverse Garbage [also in Sydney and Melbourne]. They come, they put a wheelie bin in our darkroom. Every 10 or 14 days they take the whole thing away and it’s recycled, resold for other people to do things with and it just saves space in our big bin.’

(Reverse Garbage focusses on turning industrial waste into art and craft supplies, among other things)

4. Waste not!

Another recycling idea with a several benefits came from Penny Valentine (Valentines Camera House, WA):

‘A lot of us are doing wide format printing these days and we have a lot of waste that is trimmed off big pictures,’ she said.

‘We send a junior off to cut that paper into A4 sized sheets…and we have a template for hanging labels – six labels to A4. They then guillotine those up into six little labels which fold over and staple onto the top of a bag – say for a cable that comes with no proper packaging.

‘Print off your barcode from your system and you’ve got uniform packaging in your store that’s got your store’s name on it…everything looks nice, the junior’s l;earned about the packaging and the product and all that sort of thing, and also you’re saving on paper’.

5. Going off in the shopping centre

Not content to rest on his laurels after one great idea, Chris Morgan contributed another when the attendees broke up into smaller groups (pictured right, courtesy Alan Logue) – using a dedicated software application to market directly to people with Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones.

‘Bluetooth Marketing,’ he explained. ‘It’s about $700 to start it off. You can target people [in a shopping centre] at different times of the day. So we do a Happy Hour.

‘You can actually see how many times the message is sent out, how many people are accepting it, how many are rejecting it, and you can see who gets it.’

Chris volunteered to forward details to anyone who contacts him at

6. Online on target

Ian Peel (Prolab, Qld) shared his recent experiences using online media, in the process conceding that he has been forced to come to terms with new media through the urgings of younger members of staff.

‘The landscape is changing so violently that you could be throwing a lot of money into ads. Big ads in the Yellow Pages and things are not working.

‘We are getting better hit results using the electronic media…

‘We are going through that learning curve at the moment and finding that it [online media] is working well, so we are pulling our dollars back on the traditional media and putting bigger dollars into the other area.’

(NOTE TO SUPPLIERS: Photo Counter would be delighted to speak with you about advertising online!)

7. No lame offers!

But back to one of the most traditional mediums – the trusty letter box drop – Richard Robertson (Ted’s Camera) had a typically astute observation:

‘If a lame man won’t get out of bed and limp into your store to redeem the offer, don’t put the offer in his letter box. It’s as simple as that.’

He elaborated: ‘It’s no good saying “Hi, I’m Robbo from Robbo’s Camera Store and I’m really nice and I’ve got a really big range of cameras. Please come down and see me.”

‘What you do is put in there..”Please bring this coupon in for five free 6x8s, and I’ll also give you 50 percent off the frame to go with them.” That’s an offer Mum or Dad is going to put in their wallet and redeem, right? If it works, what’s it cost you?

‘Just find the point of interest where the customer will say “I’ve got to go down to the shopping centre”…’

Will Street (Street’s Imaging, Qld) then reminded Robbo and the group that he had omitted one vital factor in the successful letter box drop equation; an expiry date.

‘You have to have that call to action; otherwise it will go into the wallet and come out when the wife buys a new wallet at Christmas.

And what if the customer brings in the coupon after expiry date?

‘You say “I’m sorry, that has expired. We can only give you 25 percent off”.’

‘Of course you honour it – it’s like pizza coupons, anybody will honour anybody else’s pizza coupon.’

‘If a lame man won’t get out of bed and limp into your store to redeem the offer, don’t put the offer in his letter box. It’s as simple as that.’

8. I want what she’s got

Continuing the flowering of ideas from the Sunshine State. Vicki Abraham (Chinchilla 1 Hour Photos) made a contribution for retailers who just don’t like selling 100 prints for $10.

She leaves her own personal albums on display on the the counter. This prompts customers to express regret they don’t have their own pictures gathered together in album form.

The deal?

‘I’m going to sell my $8, 300-print albums at $79.95, with a voucher to fill it with 300 photos.

For the price, Chinchilla will print the 300 photos, and even arrange them in the album.

9. A life in pictures

Graham Hall (Don Buckley Photographics, NZ) presented an idea focussed at the funeral industry called ‘Celebration of Life’.

‘We basically canvas the undertakers and they give us all the family images – photographs of the person’s history from childhood right through to when they’ve died.

‘There’s a lot of scanning involved and often the images are compiled into a PowerPoint presentation on the day of the funeral.

‘It also leads to families coming back and getting a lot of prints that maybe their mother or father had the only copies of and sending out duplicate CDs and DVDs and lot of printing.

‘It also leads to dragging out old slides and getting them scanned onto CDs and a lot of prints, so a $150 job, which is like a basic one, can quite easily turn into a $1000 job and I have to say it’s a very, very good margin, because most of it is the time that we’ve got to do it in.’

10 Photo book school

Nathan Muller (Ted’s Camera, Victoria) presented a solution from another retailer in his group to the challenge of teaching consumers how to make photo books:

‘…Photo book classes.

‘One day a week, in the morning…he invites people, gives them little coupons, sits them down and you can hit a bunch of customers at once and teach them how to create photo books.

‘So next time they come in, they’re not scared any more, they know how to do it and the staff have used their time efficiently to teach a bunch of people at one time, instead of doing it individually all throughout the week.’

Retailers were also encouraged to share experiences of what hasn’t worked in their businesses, to help others avoid pitfalls.

Nev Anderson (Anderson Camera Repair, Qld) told the group how he generally made mistakes when he makes decisions too quickly. One celebrated example was when he decided to book some magazine advertising.

‘It’s advertising, we’re all for it, get more business.

‘So I sign up and I pay the money – and afterwards I realized I’d signed up for a Braille magazine for blind people!’

Retailers can subscribe to Bill McCurry’s Marketing Ideas Newsletter here. The emailed newsletter is free, other than a requirement to make an occasional idea contribution.

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