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6 Smart Sales Strategies

OUR INDUSTRY IS a remarkable blend of creative professionals. We have different talents and different areas of expertise. So when I was curious about what new sales and marketing strategies some of the top rental companies would be using to boost revenues in 1999, I knew I would find a rich, inspiring mix.

If you need a little inspiration for your own sales and marketing plans, read on. Some of these strategies rely on a sizable financial outlay; others, far less. But all show initiative and flair. One might just be the jump-start you need to make this year one of your best ever.

1. Make a splash. The Stuart Rental Company (Sunnyvale, California) has invested in a striking, full-color, 32-page brochure showcasing its best work. According to client services manager Susan Kidwell, the first-tier mailing was targeted to the trade industry, which includes planners, caterers and venues. The second-tier mailing will reach businesses in the local Silicon Valley, including past clients and potential buyers of event services.

Kidwell has also refined her marketing efforts by coding clients in her customer database by business type. Thus, customers will receive targeted promotional mailings specific to their business.

2. Go high-tech. Next month, Absolute Amusements Rental Company (Orlando, Florida) will debut a site on the Internet's World Wide Web-one that doesn't mention the Absolute name-for clients to use in their own customer presentations. Director of marketing Dave Peters plans to broadcast the Web address to his customers via e-mail. They will have a special code to gain access to the Web site.

And taking its photo book into the computer age, Absolute will soon make available a 500-photo CD to the 5,800 customers in its database.

3. Think synergy. The right partnership shows that two heads really are better than one. Peter Grazzini, managing member of Perfect Settings (Washington, D.C.), and Lonny Eggleston, president of Unique Tabletop, a Bellflower, California-based tabletop and specialty rental company, have formed a joint marketing venture to supply tabletop equipment to high-end customers on the East Coast.

4. Keep an eye on the details. Kathy Ruff, president of Tablescapes Party Rental (Chicago), will be buying more stacking chairs to stack up profits. Stacking chairs reduce labor cost and create a new price point for chair rentals, she says.

She's also updating her photo book to show exciting new applications of products for the highest visual impact.

5. Get out and schmooze. Pat Mobley, director of linen rentals for Kirby Rental Service & Sales (Orlando), is active in trade associations such as MPI, ISES, NACE and the Central Florida Hotel/Motel Association. All this comes on top of her participation in community activities and organizations.

But she plans even more outreach this year. She is expanding her participation in specialized trade shows, such as the Club Managers Show. She is also staging an advertising campaign in hospitality trade magazines to reach out to potential new clients.

6. Listen. Dick Freeman, marketing manager for Broadway Famous Party Rental (Brooklyn, New York), has a simple strategy that doesn't cost a dime: Listen.

"You need to listen to your clients and make sure you carry what they need," he explains. "This shows you care about them and their business. You can react to their problems and create solutions."

Freeman runs a tight ship; he doesn't stock products that don't make financial sense for Broadway. But if he doesn't carry an item a client wants, he makes sure to provide resource information so the client can track it down elsewhere.

"Any type of client contact is always a plus for us," he explains, "because it will continue to keep them calling back."

Now you have the inside scoop from six top industry professionals. But you are probably making news yourself. I'd welcome the chance to hear your new strategy for 1999. Please contact me at 800/543-4116, ext. 227, or via e-mail ([email protected]).

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