Yes - and that's just the beginning - that's not all they sell. This company is also the worlds largest seller if VS1 Diamonds in the world. They fill 33 million prescriptions a year and sell everything you can think of. Business products. Produce. All of it In bulk. And when I say in bulk - I mean it. I am just using the last roll of paper towels I bought there 12 years ago. (I cannot believe I packed and moved them 3 times!)
The amazing fact is that they achieve all these sales without any advertising. None. ZIP . NADA. No TV commercials. No costly newspaper advertising. No radio ads. And yet - I do not know ANYONE who does not know about their store.
How, How, HOW?
This company, now the 7th largest retailer in the world relies on word of mouth advertising. They consider their employees and happy customers among other marketing strategies to be the best advertising they can buy.
The company pays employees well and has a great benefit program and corporate structure. They are their ambassadors. For the consumer they provide good products at great price - which also helps. Their return policy is second only to Sears
Founded in 1983 by Jeffrey Broughtman and Jim Sinnegal using their charge cards and personal credit to launch the first location - they invested in their idea with great personal risk. With it came the understandable corresponding commitment to make the store 'go'.
And they realized that in order to make their venture a success in a highly competitive retail market that they would have to do things differently to gain the competitive edge. And they did it all without one ad.
Can a business do this? Isn't it rule #1 that you must advertise?
No. Paid advertising is not a marketing strategy. This is where many people get confused. Marketing and advertising are two different things. Advertising may support marketing - and often carries a marketing and brand message but does not stand independently from marketing.
Marketing on the other hand, is a process of getting a product to market - hopefully using cost effective strategies.
Guerrilla marketing techniques, a marketing process identified and coined by Jay Conrad Levinson, is a series of marketing activities that can be extremely cost effective for small business - and also uses no advertising in its marketing strategies. (look for the Guerrilla Marketing workshop in your members area)
Advertising is actually more a product for a company than a tool for marketing. Newspapers, magazines and other print media fund their product with ads they sell. Television stations fund their programs using advertising. (Except for Publicly funded TV which operates differently) In each of these cases - the company that sells the ads has a vested interest in selling the ads - not ensuring that they work -to enable to them to produce and subsidize their product. If a newspaper did not carry ads, the cost of the daily paper would be such that no one would purchase them daily. Advertising is stream of income for them.
Advertising agencies would argue that advertising is key to success. The two founders of Costco disagree. They believe that advertising is an addiction and that once you start - you cannot stop. That's right - Costco is the giant you know - that does not advertise.
And the 'non- advertising - invest in your employee and customer' marketing strategy must still be effective, because now, 29 year later, they still do not advertise. Other companies of a similar size would budget 100 million dollars and more for advertising. But not these guys. And their strategy is a strategy you too can use.
Instead of setting up an advertising department - why not invest in alternative marketing strategies. Costco creates buzz with a corporate magazine that is read by more than 20 million people every month. You can create a newsletter to do the same for your customers. Like Costco you too can form close relationships with your customers offering them more than just the sale. Referrals, information, special offers and discounts are only a few of the things you can give your customer.
Business is changing - we have heard that. What many of us fail to realize is that when BIG business continue to use the strategies that made them BIG - they continue to succeed! Many of these strategies are ones you can afford to implement because they revolve around CARING about your customers, employees and the products and services you offer.
Want to learn more about how you can market effectively? Check out our DIY Marketing section.
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