System, March, 1909, pages 279-280:
Retailing By Wire
BY LYNN SUMNER
Of the Editorial Staff of SYSTEM
How up-to-date merchants are using the telephone in advertising
sales, bringing in customers and taking orders: actual cases of
successful schemes and service plans that have built trade
NOVELTY of appeal is a high card in the game of attracting trade. If at the same time the medium is peculiarly practical and offers a new convenience to customers it is of double value. Such is the telephone to the retailer Apt afterthought of the follow-up letter, it marks another step forward in merchandizing methods, scoring a stronger appeal because it insures attention and permits of a personal touch that no mail solicitation can effect.
The telephone as a trade winner is a comparatively new tool to the retailer's hand, and the uses to which it has been put thus far have been in a large degree experimental. Some dealers, however, have already employed it systematically as an advertising medium, and others have actually conducted sales, using it exclusively.
PROBABLY no concern has tried out direct wire communication with prospective customers on a more systematic basis than Gus M. Greenebaum and Company of Danville, Illinois. This store is particularly fortunate in its facilities for reaching patrons in this way, as the local telephone company in Danville controls practically all the connecting lines in the county, making it possible to cover a large zone of trade.
Greenebaum and Company have made their principal use of the phone on the occasion of special sales, and no better explanation of their method can be given than to describe the way in which the first general solicitation was made.
A big sixteen day sale was scheduled to begin on Monday, so it was planned to do the telephone advertising on Friday of the previous week. Through arrangement with the local telephone company a low rate per person was secured for a large number of calls. Early in the forenoon, before many of the lines were busy, salespeople in the Greenebaum store got in connection with the telephone girls at the various local exchanges throughout the county. In each case the plan was explained briefly to the operator and she was asked to connect the store in turn with twenty-five of the best women patrons on her line. Before the connection was made each time the operator gave the name of the party she was about to call, so that the clerk might speak more intimately during the conversation.
After a few calls had been made, the invitation assumed a form something as follows: "Hello, Mrs. Smith! This is Gus M. Greenebaum and Company of Danville. We are calling you up to tell you, Mrs. Smith, that beginning next Monday, there will be a carnival of values at our store that you are sure to be interested in. Not an ordinary sale, understand, but an offering of exceptional qualities at prices we have never before been able to make. This event is going to last sixteen days. If you can't come Monday, come during one of the other fifteen days. Thank you, Mrs. Smith; tell your friends about it, too. Good bye."
There are a number of phones in the Greenbaum store, and by keeping several of them busy clerks talked with approximately eight hundred people in the county during the forenoon. In the afternoon sales ladies took up the work in the city and communicated with two hundred Danville women, making a total of over a thousand persons reached by wire and given a word of mouth invitation to the sale in the single day.
That the venture brought results was proved by the large number of customers who referred on attending the sale to the novel appeal that brought them in. Nor was the immediate response the only benefit. The name, address and exchange and phone number of every lady talked with was recorded on a card for future use. In this way the store's general mailing list for advertising matter was largely increased, and a valuable directory was compiled of people it would pay to inform of other special sales.