Selling the Sale is for Retailers Playing the Short Game. Do This Instead.

The following is adapted from Come Back to Bed.

A major part of promoting your business is what you say, how you say it, and where you say it. 

Most retailers get into an advertising groove. They run the same promotions year after year with the same media outlets. When foot traffic doesn’t boom and sales numbers stagnate, they wonder why the business isn’t growing. The simple answer is that these retailers are focusing their advertising on sales, or discounts, when they should be focusing on substance.

Advertising isn’t just about promoting your sales and encouraging customers to give you their business. It should be part of your larger strategy to tell your story and connect with consumers. When you do this, you’re more likely to capture the attention of customers and that’s when you see your business grow. 

Here we’ll explore a prominent example of how choosing substance over sales can pay off for your business and highlight takeaways that you can use to shift the focus of your advertising to better communicate your story and purpose.

It’s About Building Connection 

In 2008, Chick-fil-A was facing tough competition from other fast-food restaurants that were giving away items for free to create spikes in business. Giveaways may generate some traffic, but it’s short-term thinking and brutal on the bottom line.

Chick-fil-A decided not to participate in a price war. Instead, they created Daddy-Daughter Date Night. Jeff Rouse, owner of a Chick-fil-A in Olathe, Kansas, wanted to host an event that would drive people into his store and give dads and daughters a memory that would last a lifetime. 

Little girls put on their best dresses, dads wore suits, and they stepped into a fast food restaurant that had been transformed with soft music, white tablecloths, and fresh flowers on every table. The event was such a smashing success, Chick-fil-A stores all over the country adopted Daddy-Daughter Date Night and added red carpets, carriage rides, and strolling violinists. It has since grown so big that community members now volunteer to help make it a special night for everyone involved. 

Competitors were advertising discounted chicken. Chick-fil-A was advertising the opportunity to deepen the connection between fathers and daughters. 

Prioritize Value, Not Profit

The biggest mistake retailers make when it comes to advertising is getting stuck on product-price-and-promotion messages. If that’s where you focus, where do customers place their attention? Is a transaction the only outcome you are after? 

There is no reason you can’t use advertising to hook your audience while also building value in your products, process, and people. If all you do is scream “SALE” during every major event, you blend in with every other business. You become noise that’s easy to tune out. 

Carve out space to talk about something cool you’re doing in your community. Imagine a television ad with twenty seconds spent building value in something special or telling a story, coupled with a ten-second pitch about the offer. That format still works, and you’ll accomplish way more than your bland competitors will, doing what they have always done. 

Promote Your Purpose

When you focus on substance rather than sale you create an opportunity to promote your business’s purpose. Chick-fil-A advertised Daddy-Daughter Date Night instead of a price-focused promotion. When we see that Chick-fil-A cares about our family enough to create this sort of event, it connects us to them in a special way. 

Consider how you want to connect with your customers. Is there a cause in your community that you care about? Can you give back in some way? Choosing to focus your advertising on your purpose will enable you to better tell your story and build strong connections with your customers that will help your business grow. 

Remember that this doesn’t mean you can never run promotions. Just make sure that’s not all you do. If it is, you’re missing a real opportunity. Get creative, be brave and go beyond your typical advertising messaging. You will be glad you did. 

For more advice on marketing your business, you can find Come Back to Bed on Amazon.

Mark Kinsley is President and CEO of Englander, a top-15 US mattress company founded in 1894. Furniture Today called him one of its “20 People to Watch,” and Home Furnishings Business recognized him as one of its “Forty Under 40.” Mark Quinn is the Co-Founder of Spink & Co, Farm-Grown Beds, and the VP of Key Accounts and Marketing for Sherwood Bedding. He’s a top industry blogger at Q’s Views and holds pioneering patents in biometric sleep-space technology. Together, they co-host Dos Marcos, The Galaxy’s Greatest Mattress Podcast (, with more than 190 episodes and hundreds of thousands of listens. 

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