Interviews | April 20, 2020
PEAK Award Winner: DFS
In the Nov/Dec 2019 issue of PS Magazine, we highlighted the 11 winners of PSDA’s annual PEAK Awards. Today we take a look at one of those companies — DFS —and catch up with them post-win.
In 2018, the sales, marketing and creative teams at manufacturer DFS took a road trip to visit resellers to learn about their successes, challenges and motivations. DFS created a documentary video series called “The Road Less Traveled” and shared it with other entrepreneurs so they could learn from fellow industry pros and further their own success.
Based on the success of the first season of the documentary series, with the urging of resellers, DFS went back on the road in 2019 to create “Season 2: Coast to Coast.” The theme was selected for two important reasons: 1) demonstrate that DFS has a national footprint with resellers across the country, and 2) use the coasts as a metaphor for DFS’ ability to relate to a diversity of lifestyles, interests, situations and viewpoints.
The distributors featured in “Season 2: Coast to Coast” discussed their triumphs and challenges faced by fellow resellers. DFS didn’t direct the sources to talk about anything in particular, so conversations flowed genuinely and credibly to viewers.
DFS chose to feature a Nantucket business because of the innovative reseller’s ability to succeed in a challenging environment (an island-based, seasonal economy) with the help of DFS. The manufacturer also chose a West Coast business because the ownership group represented a younger demographic and a lifestyle less represented by the company’s typical dealer base.
An energetic trailer promoted the videos, which DFS hosted on a dedicated landing page so viewers could watch all episodes from both seasons. DFS also directed people to the video documentary through print ads, direct mail, emails, online banner ads, social media posts and public relations efforts. Some targeted media included an incentive for resellers to purchase products through DFS.
To generate additional excitement, DFS hosted a preview party for its customer service and sales representatives, complete with “The Road Less Traveled: Season 2” branded promotional gifts.
“This was an important component of the program, since success is dependent on the reps’ skill and consultative approach in helping customers succeed,” the company says.
DFS continues to gain brand recognition and positive reviews for this documentary series. “Our resellers are connecting with the creative pieces, resulting in increased viewership and stronger sales volume,” the company says, along with encouragement for shooting a third season.
We recently talked with Wendy Flaherty, senior channel marketing specialist for DFS, to get a behind-the-scenes look on the second season and see what the future holds for the company.
For Season 2, what was the most interesting thing DFS found about the diversity of the cultures from coast to coast?
Our journey started on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, about 30 miles off the Atlantic coast, where we experienced a more rigid adherence to time and detail, at least with daily business functions. We found an island environment where everyone’s life is dependent on the timing of ferry boats and shuttling people, cars, trucks and goods from the mainland to the island and back.
It was a stark contrast to our West Coast journey, where we met business owners whose operation was only steps away from the Pacific Ocean. Although a group very serious about deadlines and the details to meet their customers’ needs, they were more laid-back and casual than any of our dealers we’ve met in the two years being on the road with this campaign. However different these two businesses were due to logistics, they had more in common as individuals and business leaders. Their needs, wants, challenges and pain points were very similar. At the top of their lists were a deep passion for what they do and burning desire to help their customers succeed.
What was DFS’ metric for success for Season 2? Number of viewers? Customer reactions? Something else?
We didn’t hold ourselves to a typical transactional ROI on these specific elements but intended it to be a relationship-building component that complemented other efforts where metrics were more meaningful. Our main goal was to take customers on a discovery journey to learn and share more information with peers. Things like what makes them successful, what keeps them up at night (or helps them sleep through the night), how DFS helps them grow their business and use their time efficiently. Basically, we bring everything these entrepreneurs have to the surface and share these learnings to create a spark with other dealers. Our customer reaction exceeded expectations and created an unmistakable buzz among them by giving them “aha” moments to ponder. They certainly recognized a lot of familiarity in this campaign.
How did DFS decide on what kinds of promotional gifts to give out during the viewing party?
Our customer service and sales team were already pretty excited about having another season of “The Road Less Traveled.” We put a fun “TRLT” logo on a tumbler, mousepad and tote bag to have some longevity with these items while also bringing a daily reminder about what this series meant to all of us. We had a big reveal party — like a mini Oprah show studio audience after a preview. That’s where we revealed the swag they were getting.
Is there going to be a Season 3? If so, what’s the theme, and when is it occurring? What are you excited about for this next season?
While we aren’t doing a traditional Season 3, we decided upon a hybrid of the series called “Because of DFS.” We’ve taken unedited, unseen footage from the past two seasons and made highlight videos. Short, snappy clips relating to a single topic such as time savings, branding, etc. We just released them, and we’re finding they have the same qualities as the longer features but with more snap and focus. It’s exciting! Of course, if it leads viewers back to “The Road Less Traveled” page to see the longer features; that’s a double win.
You can view both seasons on DFS' website.
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