The premium market is beginning to cool, enabling design and building professionals to return to their customary practices of dedicating time to select new products, seek the best support and service, and evaluate pricing. As these practices resurface, supply showrooms are once again pondering whom to support: the interior designer or the plumber. Who holds the key to a larger share of the decorative market?

When this debate emerges, I prefer to start from the beginning. Most significant projects commence with a homeowner who aspires to craft a fresh living space by establishing a relationship with an interior designer. This endeavor might revolve around a new build or a remodeling project – both represent significant opportunities for our showrooms and ones they are tailored to seize. In fact the plumber on a particular job might not learn of the project until the designer and homeowner have visited a showroom, made selections and the builder has put the job out for build.

At this particular point in this job time-line, the interior designer has complete control of what products will used to create their ideal living space. They are shopping for and selecting the lighting, paint, flooring and the plumbing fixtures on this job with little to no input from any member of the building trades. In this scenario, the interior designer certainly looks to be place to focus your showroom’s time and marketing.

But there is another timeline that alters the above scenario just a bit.

Again the design conscious homeowner searches for and employs a talented interior designer and they embark on the journey to select al of the product to create their new home. And this time, the well-heeled designer has a solid working relationship with a talented trim-out plumber. In these business romances, the plumber will likely direct the designer and homeowner to their plumbing showroom of choice and viola, that showroom likely has the job locked up with both the designer and plumber looking to them for both product selection and supply.

In this situation, the designer is again the primary guide for the homeowner but, the plumber is the designers primary guide for the designer for their decorative plumbing product selections. In this script the plumber is control of what showroom supplies the plumbing fixtures and looks to be place to focus your showroom’s time and marketing.

And yet is there is one more well-travelled avenue for a showroom to earn the rights to a job.

This plot is oh so very simple. A showroom consultant opens their email to find a detailed Request For Quote, also called an RFQ. This request might have come from a good account, a sometime account, or someone you have never heard of. All they have to have is viable credit. They do not have to be a plumber, a builder, a designer or a homeowner. They just have to want to supply a RFQ that they want to fulfill. In my mind these are the trickiest of all and they offer the most upside for an inventive and talented showroom.

Cultivating a robust relationship with the most prominent and skilled professionals in your market serves as an excellent foundation for building and expanding any business.

In these instances, many plumbing supply houses, with our without a showroom, will simply run the numbers and send a quote. And that very well might be what the requester seeks. The forward-thinking showroom will shift into research mode with a long-term perspective. They will work diligently to identify every significant player in the plumbing responsibility and establish communication. They will ask the builder about their concerns for this job. Then discuss the project with the plumber to gain a deeper understanding of their perspective on the task. After engaging in conversations with the involved building professionals, they will reach out to the designer with two key questions. Firstly, they will inquire about the designer's concerns regarding the project. Secondly, they will verify whether the products being quoted match the selections made by the designer-homeowner team. Have the builder or plumber introduced any changes to the original specifications? If so, why?

Yes, this process demands time and effort, but is building a strong showroom brand simply about putting numbers on paper and hoping to secure the project? No, it's about establishing connections with design and building professionals and assuring them of your support. It's about conveying that you're there not only to supply product. You complete job is to ensure the project proceeds seamlessly and culminates in an outstanding product. By discussing concerns with the plumber, builder and designer, you gain an insight into their perspectives and gain their respect. Equipped with this knowledge, you and your team knows the job and how you can best delivery what each person needs. This is far more valuable for each professional player than a simply low price.

From these three scenarios it is obvious, there is no single focus. Designers pick products aligned with their clients' visions, and plumbers carry out these choices. At a glance, it's straightforward.

Homeowner with resources and ideas —> Designer —> Selections —> AND THEN…

However, there's a core story that design and building trades seek – a narrative they wish to hear, experience, and finally, reap rewards from. A story that once understood and acetate, will continually place your showroom in the midst of the simple process illustrated above. And once you are consistently playing there, you will win oh so more many jobs.

Your aim is to establish and promote the notion that your refined, decorative showroom offers the pinnacle in plumbing fixtures, accompanied by the expertise to guide design-conscious homeowners and designers in selecting not just the best, but the right fixtures for their distinct space, style, and purpose. Once your market acknowledges and embraces this identity, it becomes easier to pursue and win over designers and plumbers who hold sway as leaders and influencers in your target market. Note that I deliberately avoided using "the best," "the most talented," or "the most successful." I emphasized "the most influential." Simply because someone is well-known doesn't necessarily make them the best. However, they are the most effective route to capturing the attention of the best.

Cultivating a robust relationship with the most prominent and skilled professionals in your market serves as an excellent foundation for building and expanding any business. Yet, these individuals remain isolated entities, and this lack of interconnectedness weakens the foundation. To reinforce this crowd of trusted professionals, you have the opportunity to construct a strong foundational network – a network that encompasses the most renowned and skilled individuals while providing your showroom with an exceptionally solid base. A network we discussed in our July article, “Strengthen your network to thrive during downturns”.

“Plumbers answer to builders, builders are interacting with designers, plumbers review designer’s creative solutions and designers are always talking amongst each other while continually shopping the market. No matter which cog in this wheel is your key customer, not actively interacting with each team network you will likely miss and lose opportunities.”

We have now discussed the 30,000 foot view of the reasons to build a solid plumbing showroom network. Our next step is to delve deeper into our target markets, listen, and learn about the ongoing developments within each profession. We will outline ways to create opportunities for listening to your key clients and understanding how they define their deliverables and perceive the market's immediate challenges and opportunities. All of this is aimed at helping you confidently fine-tune your business to distinctively set your showroom apart from competitors and reinforce your relationships with your core clients and the market.

If you would like to read more on this, please look into David Snowden’s work starting here, Jim Rutt podcast EP184.

Best of luck out there and I hope to see you at the annual DPHA conference or on LInkedIn.