Last month I introduced the subject of showroom marketing and how very important it is to the success of your business.

I suggested that I don’t believe wholesalers as a general rule are very good in this area. In the article I recited Darlington’s definition of marketing and underlined the importance of developing and following a well-thought-out, detailed marketing plan. I also told you why establishing a strong, recognizable brand for your showroom is important.

This time, I’ll get more specific and share what I believe you should do on an ongoing basis to attract potential clients to your showroom. Let’s face it, no prospects equals no sales opportunities. That’s not a good thing!

Several years ago I broke out all the marketing components into what I call the “Marketing Wheel of Fortune.” These are the marketing areas where you must make some very important decisions. Here are the Wheel of Fortune components:

  • Who is your target audience? You have to decide who you want to sell to. Certainly plumbing contractors is one segment; the home owner should be another; building contractors and remodelers are two more; and it helps if you can get designers and architects pointing the way to your showroom. All these folks would be included in your target audience.
  • Next, you must decide what product package you will be offering. It should include all the traditional wholesale products. But will you expand it to include other decorative plumbing product lines? Will you offer door and cabinet hardware? To be really attractive to your target audience you may even venture into the kitchen business with cabinets, appliances, countertops, etc. Or, you could really become a “one-stop shopping” resource for the whole kitchen and bath package by adding tile, granite and lighting.

Part of this segment includes deciding what price point you will feature: high-end, medium, lower-priced or some combination of the three. I maintain that it’s very difficult to be all things to all people. I believe you should select the niche that will work best in your marketplace and really do a great job in that area.

  • A very important piece of my “Wheel of Fortune” is how you will communicate your message to your target audience. Oh my, there are so many opportunities. I’ll touch on these in a moment. 
  • Once you’ve made the decisions of each of the above areas, you will have folks coming through your doors. The next step is making the sale. This is where selling skills enter into the equation. Yes, selling is a very important part of the “Wheel of Fortune.” Heck, that’s where the fortune comes from!
  • The next segment is the important piece of customer service. You’ve made the sale. Now you have to deliver not only the product, but everything else you may have promised! If you’re really good, you will deliver even more than you promised! This whole service segment takes your entire team: purchasing, receiving, shipping, accounting, etc. Your team makes great service happen!
  • The final segment of the wheel is after the sale follow-through. Do you just sell them and forget them or do you have a formal plan and system to express your thanks, ask for referrals and keep your name in front of them? Most folks fall flat in this area. More on this in a few seconds here.

I’ll bet you’ve never given thought to how many important pieces there are to this marketing puzzle! There are so many things that require important decision-making on your part. If you – as a team –
don’t take time to study every facet of your business and make decisions on how you want to take your showroom to market, you will never be as successful as you could be. All of the above items in my “Wheel of Fortune” should be spelled out in detail in your overall marketing plan (see Part 1 here).


The marketing wallet

So, how much money do you budget each year to drive your showroom marketing? I can tell you from personal experience in working with many of you that it’s not enough. The showroom surveys Supply House Times periodically conduct have shown this:

  • Spend $0 on marketing the showroom   11%
  • Spend 1% or less                                        35%
  • Spend 1.1%-2%                                           22%
  • Spend 2.1% - 3%                                         12%
  • Spend 3.1% or more                                   19%

In my last article I strongly suggested you should budget between 3%-5% of total annual showroom sales for marketing your showroom. If the survey information is accurate, only 19% of you meet my target of 3%-5%. If done correctly you should recoup about 1.5% in coop dollars from your vendor partners. If you are new to the showroom business or have totally redone the showroom or have just opened a new showroom, you should budget even more than this for the first year or two. The goal is to attract more of the right kind of prospects to your showroom.

Where should you spend that money? Oh my, there are so many opportunities. And the areas that were successful in years past have been replaced by new opportunities. Yellow Pages used to be a “must.” Today, I would simply have a bold listing of the business with an address and telephone number.

Print advertising still can be effective, but it also can be very expensive. Radio and television works, but once again the number of stations makes it difficult to select which would work best for you.

If I still owned my business, here’s where I’d be spending my money (and it would be in the 5% of total sales range).

  • Website. I would have the best website in my marketplace. This is where people are going to discover who’s out there. My website would give a short virtual tour of my showroom. It would introduce members of the showroom team. It would list 5-7 value points about the company and showroom that make it different, better and more unique than anyone else in my marketplace. It would show pictures of completed jobs and there would be a number of testimonials from happy clients. I would keep it current and there would be more pictures and graphics than there were words. I would spend the money necessary to help develop and keep the website current and relevant.
  • Social media. This relatively new phenomenon is all about networking. Once again there are several different sites you can use with Facebook, Twitter and Houze being three of the most popular. This could be an article all by itself. You should be spending time and money trying to build and grow your community.
  • Events. I would be doing at least one event a month in the showroom. These would include inviting related trade professionals (designers, builders, remodelers, architects, etc.) to hold their monthly meetings at my showroom. I would offer to do a tour and give a short talk on what the newest, greatest and latest styles, colors and finishes were.  I’d host charitable events in the showroom. I’d do a once a quarter “sale” either on a featured product or everything in the showroom. I would do celebrity chef book signings and offer “limo lunches” (lunch and learn) for various trade professional businesses. In other words, I’d do everything possible to attract people to my showroom, especially those folks that could refer their clients to our showroom so we could help them in the selection of decorative plumbing products and more.
  • Print ads. If there was a really well-done “home” magazine in my marketplace I’d be doing some coop ads with some of my vendor partners.
  • Television. I would entertain this if I could negotiate good time slots with home and garden channels.
  • Public relations. I would either make this happen myself (and I was pretty good at it) or I would hire someone to keep my business name out in front of my target audience. I would try to get stories published in magazines, newspapers, etc., about unique jobs where I had furnished the product, or about some new, unique appealing product.
  • Direct mail. I would make monthly mailings (1,000-1,500 pieces) to specific higher-end home zip codes. The mailing piece would “brag” about my business, but also would offer something tangible (an event, sale, unique product, educational seminar, etc.).
  • Home shows. I had a love-hate feeling for these. They were a pain to do, but if done well they can produce lots of good leads.
  • Billboards. This is one thing I never tried, but I continue to be intrigued by the idea. Of course, location, location, location is the key.


Finally, I would devise a system to try and track what was working and what wasn’t. First and foremost, the best way is to ask the folks coming through your front door, “How did you hear about us?” Then you need to document the answers you get. It is very difficult to track the results of what works and what doesn’t. The No. 1 is pretty obvious: more folks coming through your front door means sales should be increasing.

I hope this helped. Please don’t run your marketing program by the seat of your pants. Get professional, get organized, have a formal written plan, spend some money and watch your sales take off.

 Good selling!