Las Vegas seminar: Gefen panel looks at influencers

If you sell children’s furniture, would you like a respected member of a local mothers’ group to recommend your products? Of course. She could influence the buying decisions of many other parents. Or, maybe the high school football coach would talk up the comfort and therapeutic value of the massage chairs and sleep products you carry in your store. Could that boost sales?

Furniture store owners work hard to build relationships with their customers. They know that it requires a personal touch. But to reach beyond their base of support, they need help. Why not use people who also have a knack for making personal connections?

That’s a question you may answer in the affirmative after attending a seminar led by Ellen Gefen at Las Vegas Market Jan. 25. The title is “Micro, macro and mega influencers: Paid word-of-mouth publicity boosts sales.” Gefen, “head honcho” at Gefen Marketing in High Point, N.C., and a widely respected furniture industry veteran, will be joined by Jeanne Chung, a designer, and owner of Cozy Stylish Chic in Pasadena, Calif., and Lisa Cody, vice president for marketing of Twin Star Home in Delray Beach, Fla.

The idea of paying celebrities to promote a business is as old as advertising. What’s new is taking the concept to social media and down to the community level. For independent furniture retailers, modest expenditures for micro-influencers can produce an impressive return on investment. Gefen and her co-presenters will offer examples.

“It can be someone who works in your store,” Gefen said. “It can be someone in your community whom people would want to know.” Or it can be a florist who comes in to help decorate your showroom and will spread the word about your beautiful furniture lines.

Designers can be especially effective influencers. Twin Star Home has used several well-known professionals to design its showrooms at furniture markets. It’s more than decoration; it’s crafting stories – which the company then shares with its retailers to re-create in their showrooms. Cody can describe how those stories help make personal connections with consumers.”Authenticity is really, really important,” she said.

Consumers want ideas and inspiration

Consumers are looking for ideas and inspiration, Cody said. They may want a product for a specific function, while someone with a more creative outlook can help them see how it could enhance family experiences in their home.

Chung, a “Style Spotter” for the High Point Market, writes a blog called Cozy Stylish Chic. As a frequent speaker on design panels and a mentor to younger designers, she is recognized as an industry influencer.

But a micro-influencer doesn’t need to be a professional. It should be someone with an engaging personality, a strong interest in home furnishings, good communication skills and an understanding of the customers you want to reach. While it’s necessary to disclose when an influencer is paid, the right person will come across as sincere in his or her recommendations.

Retailers also must have the right communication channels and an effective social media strategy, Gefen said. Don’t think that’s unimportant. “I don’t love social media,” Gefen said, “but I get it. From a business perspective, I know I have to do it.”

Understand your digital channels

Many retailers now are hiring social media specialists and deciding how and how much to spend on new technologies and digital marketing. “It’s hard to invest in what you don’t understand,” Gefen said. So, the answer is to learn.

“Everything we do begins with the consumer,” Cody said of Twin Star Home. Getting to know consumers requires furniture companies to know the social media channels where those consumers spent time and who influences them, who matters to them. Those are the people you want to endorse your products.

The most important step for retailers is to make sure their website is strong because that’s where social media will lead customers. It makes no sense to be great at social media but have a terrible website, Gefen said.

And having all the right digital channels still won’t be effective without the right marketing messages. So, find the people who can deliver them in ways that influence others.

The seminar will be 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Home Furnishings Association’s Resource Center, B1050.

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