19 June 2024, 10:25
By Simon Williams Aug 09, 2023

Who turned off the tap?

Yes, times are tough – which makes proactive marketing all the more important, writes the National Bed Federation’s head of marketing and membership, Simon Williams …

We were contacted recently at the NBF by a bed retailer who had been in the trade for 38 years, reporting that he had never experienced such a desperately quiet period, and asking whether it was just him, or were others feeling the pinch?

We reassured him that he wasn’t on his own, and that the pain was being felt up and down the country by many bed retailers, bed manufacturers, component suppliers and consumers. In fact, the day after he contacted us, in an effort to curb inflation, the Bank of England raised interest rates by one half of a percent to 5% – the highest level since 2008. I could picture the bed retailer wondering whether it was actually worth him opening his shop doors the next day!

In his initial contact with the NBF, he asked why we were promoting our Bed Show, gala dinner and awards in September, instead of focusing on the here and now issues affecting our sector. Why weren’t we targeting consumers with the benefits a new bed would have on their sleep and overall health, thereby benefitting the whole industry?  

Cue an opportunity for me to share with him exactly what the NBF does to benefit the whole sector. 

Unfortunately, we no longer have the industry levy on each mattress and base sold to provide the funds for national advertising campaigns like we did back in the 1980s and 1990s (even if we did, I doubt it would be sufficient to make any impact in today’s fragmented media).

I pointed out that we used a mix of social media and public relations to engage with our audiences, and that we’d invested in new websites, podcasts and video content.  We are also extremely active on social media through our consumer-facing Bed Advice UK website, as well as via our Bedfed channel, using a mix of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.

We also provide free marketing materials available to download from the Bedfed website in the marketing support pages, including digital toolkits covering subjects such as why consumers should buy beds made by approved NBF members, tips on buying a bed, a nine-step guide on how to test a mattress before buying, how to care for your new bed, and mattress settlement explained. We also have numerous short videos that can be embedded into retailers’ websites or simply shared on social media.

Bed retailers can also apply to join our Retail Champions Scheme, as long as at least 50% of their UK-sourced beds and mattresses are from NBF member companies. In return, they receive window vinyls, swing tickets and a digital marketing pack to help them promote their business to consumers. We also add their company details to our consumer-facing website (www.bedadvice.co.uk), which includes a Find a Retailer search facility, enabling consumers to find their nearest NBF Retail Champion. 

All our Retail Champions receive regular communications via our dedicated Champions’ Chat newsletter, which includes the latest trade news and exclusive support and insights. They also have the opportunity to enter the annual NBF Bed Industry Awards and advertise their company on the Bed Advice UK website.

So, there’s plenty of resources, help and advice available from the NBF for bed retailers – but we can’t do their marketing and promotion for them. 

If you have a website, make sure it’s kept up to date with new products and your latest promotions and special offers. Similarly, if you have a presence on social media channels, it’s absolutely vital that you maintain them and update them regularly. My advice would be that it’s better not to use social media to promote your business if you can’t commit to keeping it up to date. It really doesn’t portray your business in a good light if the most recent activity was from six months ago.

Yes, we are in difficult trading times. But it’s not as though we haven’t been here before. It’s during such times that businesses need to take a proactive approach and regularly review customer interaction levels and what has worked or not.

Those businesses that think differently and act quickly, instead of just hoping and waiting for things to pick up, will be the ones that will benefit most when the tap is turned back on.

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