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Boosting Your Perceived Value

Copyright © 2016 by Davis Multimedia, Int'l. All Rights Reserved.
As Printed in December 2016, Volume 42, No. 6 of The Engravers Journal
If there is a military base close by, patriotic displays work beautifully. This Veterans Day display in the Awards South showroom features laser engraving on a patriotic wreath, a flag case and eagles.

   If you’ve watched any of the new business “fix it” shows, no doubt you have heard them talk about perceived value. A cupcake with 55 cents of ingredients sells for $2.50 or $2.75. A cup of coffee with less than 25 cents in cost of goods retails for $3.00-$5.00 depending on the market. Let’s take this concept a step further. A heavy wooden bar stool that costs less than a comparable metal bar stool can raise the price of drinks in a tavern 20-30 percent. This is achieved by the fact of perceived value.
   Webster’s dictionary defines the word perceived as “to become aware of directly by the senses, especially to hear or see.” Just take a stroll through a mall and notice the displays in the higher end stores. Notice the ambience in the store. Do you hear the soft background music? How about the appearance of the displays? Clothing displays will have lamps, tables and other accessories to create a vignette that stimulates your imagination and encourages you to place yourself in that scenario. Coffee shops and bakeries entice you with aromas not only to stimulate your hunger, but also to remind you of happy times when food or drink was part of a joyous celebration.
   You’re probably not going to see the same marketing strategies in a discount store. Of course, you’re not going to expect to pay as high a price either. But what effect would it have on your bottom line by improving the atmosphere of your showroom? You could charge more per item and sell more items at a higher price. Will this concept transition to the personalization industry, and how do we achieve this?
   Because our industry’s products are invariably comprised of labor intensive services, our focus is typically on completing orders in a timely manner. We often scurry around the work room trying to finish the job before the customer arrives to pick it up. However, the customer doesn’t need to know about or see this image. We are much like ducks swimming on a pond. Our appearance is slow and graceful, yet underneath the water’s surface we are paddling like crazy! It instills confidence in our ability when we project an aura of confidence and of being in control. We need our display area to be an extension of that confidence.
   What types of images are portrayed in your local business community? Are they high-end with a classic appeal or bargain basement with no frills? You will want to check out the competition in your area to have a realistic idea of what others are doing. It is also wise to visit other shops in different areas to see the image they are projecting as well. Any time I travel, I find award stores in the area and stop by to get ideas of how their shops look and what types of displays they are using.
   Likewise, there are plenty of photos on the Internet that you can browse to see showrooms and displays pertaining to the personalization industry. There’s no law against copying the design ideas of others if something really stands out to you. Remember, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Are you projecting an image of perceived value or a reflection of low-end marketing? Here are some tips for revamping your showroom and getting the most out of that invaluable concept known as high perceived value.
   First, step outside and look at your business from a new customer’s perspective. Does the front need to be cleaned or painted? What about sign-age and window displays? Are there stickers on your windows that are out of date or faded? Do the window displays reflect the nature of your business? Is the outside easily accessible and inviting? When was the last time the lawn was cut, the shrubbery trimmed or the windows cleaned? Is the parking area clean and free of debris? A bit of time spent updating and cleaning the exterior can have a noticeable impact on the image your business portrays. Do you want it to say “successful” or “just getting by”?
   Secondly, walk through the front door. What is the first thing a customer sees when they enter your showroom? Is it clear what services you have to offer? Do school administrators and corporate buyers know you have the capability to laser engrave name tags and room signs? During the fall and winter sports season, are your spring sports and academic awards still front and center? Too often, especially during a busy season, a first time visitor may see dirty floors, dusty shelves, outdated components and displays showing engraving mistakes. Make sure this doesn’t happen. What about your displays? Are the trophies a hodge-podge of sports or are they organized for easy shopping? Is there clear pricing on all merchandise? Catalogs piled high on the counter? This shouldn’t be the image we present to the public, but all too often it is. Are you projecting an image of perceived value or a reflection of low-end marketing?
   Finally, this is a time to be particularly critical. Have your spouse, trusted friend or employee help find the areas that need improving. What needs to change? What can be improved upon? Begin with making a list and prioritizing the most critical needs. Some of the major areas might be updating flooring, wall paint and/or lighting. Are you still using the same nicked and scratched fixtures and shelving from 20 years ago? Are your displays segmented by activity or is everything mixed together? Are your displays arranged to pull the customer through the store to see more items? If you don’t like what you’re seeing, then let’s get started making some changes. The changes don’t have to be expensive, they just have to have an impact.
   The first step in this makeover is to clean and refresh the area and the most inexpensive way to do that is with a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Remember to use colors that showcase your products. You don’t want dark plaques set against a dark wall. The use of a color wheel can steer you to contrasting colors that will highlight your products. In the same thought, you don’t want clear acrylics against a white or gray background. They will get lost in the visual field. It is helpful to experiment with different color palettes that will draw attention to the various items. If keeping displays free of dust is an issue with you, try using a lighter shade on shelving that won’t show dust as much as a stained wood might.
   Next, check out your flooring. Does the carpet need either replacing or cleaning, or do the floors need to be refinished? Can you see the old, rusted indentions from the shelving unit you moved six months ago? You never want to have broken tiles in your showroom. It looks bad and it can be a liability issue if someone were to catch their toe or twist an ankle.
   Now that you have an idea of the major areas, let’s begin by rearranging your displays. I have found that it is helpful to the customer if the awards are segmented and grouped in a logical way. We have displays that showcase each of the sports with the seasonal items in the most prominent area of the showroom. Thinking about how your grocery store markets items, you will want to follow the same concept here. Place the lower-end items towards the bottom of displays and the most expensive items towards the top. The items that are placed at eye level will be the ones that most people will gravitate to. This is a good place to display items that you want to move quickly, those you have prebuilt for the season or the newest products you’ve recently stocked.

We created a specific area in our showroom at Awards South just for premium awards.

   If your showroom space allows you to stock your shelves with multiple pieces of the same item, keep them neat and orderly with the prices clearly marked. For years, I wouldn’t put retail prices on individual items. We typically give a quantity discount for larger orders and I didn’t want to risk losing a sale because an item was priced too high and the customer thought it might be out of their budget. I have found that if items are priced with individual or low volume pricing, the customer is thrilled when they receive their quantity discount. Notice that chain stores do this frequently. They are always having a 30 or 50 percent off sale. The prices are set higher to give the consumer the impression of getting a bargain…and who doesn’t like a bargain?
   Another important concept is to set vignettes with your awards. For instance, utilize a nice desk and chair to showcase office accessories. A setting with an engraved desk block, paperweights, letter openers, pens and pencils is a great way to advertise these items and portray their functionality. But don’t stop there. Add an engraved picture frame, a lamp and possibly a green plant to complete the scene. You can also incorporate sales awards in the display. It stimulates the imagination and allows the customer to visualize possibilities that otherwise might have escaped their thoughts.
   Just as in most jewelry and department stores, display expensive items in glass enclosures if you can. Using a glass-front showcase or counter is a great way to elevate the perceived value of many items. Create a beautiful display of crystal and silver items interspersed with engravable jewelry and high-quality pens. Tiaras, crowns and scepters will add glitz and glam, too.
   One of the most successful display plans we have used involves creating an area in the showroom just for premium awards. High-end plaques displayed with more expensive awards always draw the customer’s attention. Try using a display easel, available from craft stores, to display a plaque with a complementary clock beside it. Utilizing acrylic stands from a display supplier allows you to place another award in the same small area. Be sure these areas are well lit with either a lamp or direct lighting to highlight these items. We use floral arrangements on our shelves to add a more upscale look.
   If there is a college, school or professional sports team in your area, this provides a great opportunity to create a vignette that features awards with their colors and mascots. Our local college’s mascot is an eagle. We keep a large display of various eagles interspersed with awards that feature the school logo and colors. We also will duplicate a particularly special award and display it after the presentation.
If you have the opportunity to create an award for a celebrity or noted sports figure, create a duplicate award to display later after the presentation. These are great conversation pieces and give some notoriety to your shop. Over the years, we’ve made awards for General Norman Schwarzkopf, a Miss Universe, senators and former presidents which are proudly displayed in our showroom. I love to add a newspaper picture of them receiving the award, too!
   Is there a military base close by? If so, you should definitely have a patriotic display. It is easy to showcase the red, white and blue with resins from the various branches of the military, memorial flag cases, sublimated plaques and other custom awards. You can also include law enforcement and firefighters in these displays. The possibilities are endless and the suggestive selling is immense.
   Since many of us deal with recreation departments and schools, we need to focus an area specifically on reaching this market. Small trophies for the individual participants along with medals on neck ribbons are a staple. Why not highlight a higher-end medal with engraving at an additional cost? Ribbons, rosettes, pins and certificates can be added to the display. Don’t forget awards for the coaches and team moms as well as recognizing the team sponsor. At the end of the school year, have displays with gifts for the teachers. A sublimated mug, an engraved pen or paperweight make great teachers’ gifts.
   Be creative when building your displays. The holidays are a great time to showcase sublimated gifts and ornaments. Christmas is a major selling season for gift shops and it can be for award suppliers as well. There are a lot of items that can be personalized for individual or corporate gifts. Use small Christmas trees to display ornaments that can either be engraved or sublimated. Incorporate color-coordinated gift boxes to add height and variety to your display of laser engraved beer mugs, bottle openers and flasks.
   Remember that just because you know you offer these items doesn’t mean your customers know. You can’t sell what is in the back room if they don’t see it. Brisk holiday sales can give you additional revenue at a time that might typically be a slow season for you. Once you get people thinking of you as a personalized gift supplier, you can stretch the holiday season through to Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day as well as through the spring and summer wedding season.
   The bottom line is that utilizing the concept of perceived value in your marketing efforts can benefit your business in countless ways. Get busy transforming your showroom and see how creative and inspiring you can be to elevate your business and your sales!