DARLINGTON ON SHOWROOMS: The ABC's of Marketing Your Business
A friend of mine just published his first book. I’ve just finished reading it - and I consider it to be a “must” read for anyone in the kitchen and bath showroom business. It’s a quick read (about 2-1/2 hours). It’s an easy read, and it’s a terrific playbook for everyone that does any marketing at all. Most wholesalers do very little marketing of the wholesale side of their business. But, if you operate showrooms you have to be a good marketer. If you don’t have strong expertise in this area, read this book, and if it makes sense, hire an outside professional advertising firm to help you. The title of the book is, “A is for Advertising…B is for Branding…A hands-on guide to improved profits through marketing your Kitchen and Bath business.” It’s written by Philip D. Zaleon. You can buy this 103-page gem by visiting www.kitchenmarketing.com, which is Phil’s Web site, or you can go directly to the publisher at www.lulu.com.
With Phil’s permission I am going to touch on each letter of the alphabet and whet your appetite on the ABC’s of marketing your business.
- A is for Advertising - Successful advertising can be defined as the right message in the right media mix delivered to the right people at the right time. Advertising is relatively new to kitchen and bath businesses. The Home Depot and Lowe’s have elevated consumer awareness to a new level, and smart kitchen and bath firms are taking advantage by advertising beside them. The opportunities to advertise are limitless and come at a wide range of price points. Do your homework and figure out what works best for you.
- B is for Branding - Branding is the process of developing your brand in the eyes and minds of your target market. You don’t have to develop a global brand like Coca-Cola’s red color and wave, or McDonald’s golden arches. You simply want people in your community to recognize your company when they see or hear your name. As in advertising, there are a number of ways to achieve your brand. (Read the book and see what they are.)
- C is for Collaterals - This generic term refers to all the printed material you hand out or mail: brochures, pocket folders, information sheets, catalogues, etc. Each piece should reflect your brand, your message and your business.
- D is for Demographics - Demographics should be central to your marketing plan. Successful showrooms don’t try to be all things to all people. They define their business based on their target market, and they define their target market based on demographics: age, gender, location, income, size and value of homes, etc. You can learn detailed demographic information for your specific market relatively easily from the Internet - some for free and others for a fee.
- E is for Effective - Marketing effectively: sounds like a no-brainer! But there is more to it than making rash judgments because folks aren’t coming through the front door. Find a way to track the effectiveness of your various advertising and promotional activities. How well do you track leads? In other words, are you achieving the desired results from your detailed marketing plan? Do you even have one?
- F is for Financing - The sixty-four-dollar question is: How much should you allocate to your marketing plan? We budgeted 5% of annual gross sales for our total marketing plan. We recouped approximately 2% of this from our vendor partners. Your budgetary figure will be driven by what you want to accomplish. If you have to borrow money to achieve your marketing goals - do it! When business slows down, don’t cut your marketing dollars - add to them!
- G is for Graphic Design - If you want your prospective clients to take you seriously, you must be serious about the quality of your graphic design, as this is the crux of your brand: from the initial logo, colors, icon and typeface that make up your brand to the layout and design of your Web site, your print ads, your letterhead and business cards. Everything has to have the same consistent high quality. In this area, you will most likely have to look for outside professional help.
- H is for Home Shows - Oh my, I had a love/hate feeling for these events. They are so much work: to build-out, to set up, man, tear down, store for the next one, etc. But if you do them well and have a “hook” (a reason for people to stop in your booth and come visit your showroom), they can be a fine marketing tool. Do your “market research” and see if they are right for you.
- I is for Image Advertising - Image advertising is a slow-moving beast. Its purpose is to help brand you in the mind of the public. Consider image ads as those that show off who you are, what you do and why you are better than your competition. They are “soft sell” - but they are always consistent with the high-quality image that you want to project. Image ads will not fill the showroom with people, but they will tell prospective clients why they should visit you when they build new, remodel or simply need a replacement faucet.
- J is for Jingle - A jingle is defined as a “short song, usually mentioning a brand or product benefit, used in a commercial.” We used a jingle to help advertise our annual summer tent sale. It was cute and effective - and people knew we were having a sale when they heard it. Here again, you’ll need professional help. When well done, they help promote your brand.
- K is for Knowledge - Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power,” and Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” An effective marketing plan requires that you take a little from both of these quotes. Develop as much knowledge as possible on what pieces you want to incorporate into your marketing plan and then add Mr. Einstein’s imagination and creativity. You want to be recognized as the kitchen and bath expert in your trading area (that’s knowledge). Teach seminars (in the showroom, at home shows, to trade organizations, etc). Put your knowledge to work for you.
- L is for Leads - Leads should be one of your best marketing tools. The question is: How do you develop and increase good viable leads? The book spends a little time on database marketing, networking, strategic partners, referrals and the Internet.
- M is for Marketing Plan - For 12 years, I have been preaching how very important this is to the success of your showroom business. Most of you don’t do one. You do the hit-and-miss approach. You wait for someone to come to you with a “good deal” as opposed to you taking charge of your own destiny. Please, please - start right now putting together your 2007 showroom marketing plan! If you don’t know how, then call or e-mail me and I’ll send you some information.
- N is for Newsletter - A lot of wholesalers have an internal company newsletter - but how many of you have one for past and potential customers? A newsletter is a great way to help you communicate with potential and past clients. It keeps your name and brand in front of them. It should be educational, informative and should offer something, i.e., “We’re having a sale,” “Come in and see/hear what’s new in kitchen and bath products,” “Come in and see our newly remodeled showroom.” As in everything else you do, stress your brand.
- O is for Objectives - Your objectives should be spelled out in your three-year business plan, in your mission statement and in your annual marketing plan. As it refers to your marketing plan, you should know your objectives when deciding what media and promotional activities to use as you attempt to drive clients in your doors. Know what you want to accomplish with each type of advertising campaign you participate in.
- P is for Portfolio - Do you have a scrapbook that shows photographs of your completed jobs and letters of testimony from happy clients? You should! Do you have articles and awards posted/framed where everyone can see them? You should!
- Q is for Quality - This would be quality of products and services offered. Your brand will conjure up an image of the quality you offer. In your business, you can offer three things: quality, service and price. You cannot offer the best of all three. If someone wants the cheapest price, you will have to give them less quality and/or service. That’s just how it is!
- R is for Referral - Referrals should be the No. 1 way new prospects hear about you. They really are the “lifeblood” of your business. Referrals can come from your vendor partners, happy past clients, plumbers, builders, remodelers, architects, interior designers, friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. Learn to use past happy clients as an important source for new referrals.
- S is for Showroom - Your showroom is your main sales tool. It’s your “home court advantage.” It’s your No. 1 marketing asset. Is your showroom done in keeping with your brand? Does it project the image you want to put out there? Is it easy to find, clean, up-to-date and customer-friendly? Do you have a list of “Showroom Best Practices” that everyone follows to maintain a first-class showroom? If not, e-mail me and I’ll send you a copy of some ideas that should be included.
- T is for Target Market - This is part of demographics. Who is your main target customer? Is it just the plumber? Or do you aggressively market to higher-end custom home builders, remodel contractors, residential architects and interior designers? How about the homeowner? Are you familiar with the Baby Boomer generation and why they are today’s most important buying segment? Know who your target audience is and market your business to them.
- U is for Unique Selling Proposition (USP) - What are your main value points? What makes you different, better, more unique than your competition? If you develop your very own unique sales features and then translate those features for your prospects, you will strongly enhance your chances of success.
- V is for Video - Do you have a “Welcome to our showroom, this is who we are, how we work and why we are better than our competition” video that is right up front in your showroom? How about videos of completed projects or educational videos from your vendor partners? You should! They’re interactive. They tell stories that might not get told otherwise. Do you use any video material on your Web site? How about giving information to your prospects on you, your showroom, your products and services? You should!
- W is for Web site - This is BIG and getting BIGGER. Today’s baby boomers and the up-and-coming generations are very techie. They are getting on the Internet before they go shopping. They pre-judge businesses they will visit based on their Web sites. Is yours the best in your marketplace? It should be!
- X is for the eXtra - Extra is defined as “more than or beyond what is usual, normal, expected or necessary.” Yes, doing a business plan, a marketing plan, writing job descriptions, developing a formal training program, doing sales skills training and all the other important things you should be doing will take some extra time, and may cost some extra money - but what a difference the extra effort will make!
- Y is for Yellow Pages - They used to be the main way to advertise your business. But, in my opinion the Web has taken over. Yes, you need a presence in the Yellow Pages, but it shouldn’t be the bulk of your marketing effort.
- Z is for Zip Codes - Zip codes developed the world of direct mail. After my business had been around for eight or nine years, I cut back on image advertising and started to use direct mail as an advertising tool. We used zip code mailings to invite prospects into the showroom to hear a series of seminars on remodeling, to experience cooking demonstrations or to see the latest in kitchen and bath products. They were very successful. Give it a try!
Well, I’ve just covered the ABC’s (and more) of Mr. Zaleon’s book. The book goes into a lot more depth on each topic. My goal in this article was to make you aware of just how much is involved in a good marketing program for your showrooms. This book offers you a great guideline. No, I get nothing for the plug - except the satisfaction of knowing that some of you will become better in this all-important segment of your business. Good luck!