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Are You Crazy Enough?

One retailer boosted his sales, customer base and local visibility by stepping outside the comfort zone

At Summer NAMM, I embarked on a quest to find dealers who’d done something crazy to stimulate business in this economy. Unfortunately, just about every independent dealer I came in contact with said he or she hadn’t done anything lately. Sadly, the small and medium-sized dealers who’ve been hurt the most have done the least to change their situation.

During the “State of the Industry Address” on the first morning of the show, NAMM President and CEO Joe Lamond asked a ballroom of dealers how many were selling online. About 25 hands went up. I realize only half a crowd usually responds to hand-raising questions, but a lot more should have gone up. On the show floor, I asked dealers if they were using Facebook or had a blog. The most common response was, “No, I don’t have the time.” Even NAMM University itself got a “Best in Show” pick, but these educational sessions could’ve drawn a stronger attendance.

It breaks my heart to see dealers suffer when they have so many other options. These days, the world is full of free help, and that brings promise to those who’ll participate. There are plenty of new online groups you can get involved with now. If you’re not in one, find one and join it. The music business has some of the most amazing minds you’ll ever find in a single industry. Not taking advantage of this perfect moment is crazy.

The Flea Market Promotion Model
Gordy Wilcher, owner of Owensboro Music in Owensboro, Ky., was kind enough to share something crazy he did that turned into a success story. His company hosted a flea market sale — with a twist. One Saturday, Gordy let locals come out and sell their own musical gear in booths he provided in his store’s parking lot. It was promoted via Facebook. He wanted a traffic-builder that would attract new, local customers to the store and, at the same time, grow his Facebook following. Still, he knew it was risky.

“I definitely got some push-back from employees about doing this, but it just felt right, and I was determined to do it,” he said. “I actually got this idea from attending one of the NAMM U sessions, and I knew we had to try something different. As the possible negatives came up, I told everyone that we were going to follow through with this, hope for the best, and that’s what we did.

“The event drew customers from farther than I expected — areas we don’t get much business from. The people just showed up. Some sellers who sold their items came into the store and spent the money they made. We also had flea market shoppers who’d never been to the store come in and buy.

“On our Facebook page, we had many positive comments about what we did, and this has continued to grow our amount of friends and followers significantly. For the first time ever, I was able to get some free press from the local newspaper and radio station all because of this, so it’s paying off in a number of ways. The store has seen an increase in traffic and business due to the flea market, and even though it was kind of a crazy thing to do, it’s turned out to be one of the best things we’ve done in years.”

If your store is running in business-as-usual mode, it’s time to break the mold and do something crazy. There are a multitude of great ideas being shared on a daily basis, and at least one of them is right for you. Get involved, find something that’s doable and don’t just think about it — do it! MI

Kenny Smith is an industry veteran and consults both retailers and suppliers. Find him at