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Retail Education: Best practices

May 23/30, 2016; Volume 30, Number 24

This special FCNews Retail Education series, sponsored by 3M, is designed to help specialty retailers build their business through proven merchandising and marketing strategies as well as general best practices. Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 4.11.49 PM

Pam Kulick, owner of JK Carpets, Locust Grove, Va., had these words of wisdom for floor covering dealers looking to attract new customers while retaining existing clients: “Build your business on integrity, honesty and superior customer service. Always be sure to follow through on promises. And learn how to say ‘no’ to jobs that you’re not comfortable with or if you’re not confident you’ll completely fulfill the clients’ needs.”

Sam Chesher, president of Carpet Wise Flooring America, Longmont, Colo., recommends dealers focus on the service component. “You have to out-service everybody and differentiate yourself by being heads and shoulders above your competition. It is not the product; it is how you service it.”

For Paul Johnson, Carpet One, Tulsa, Okla., training is the key to success. “I often hear retailers bemoaning the fact they have to spend so much time training their employees. ‘What happens if I train them and then they leave?’ they say. “I tell them, ‘What happens if you don’t train them and they stay?’ The importance of having a well-trained staff cannot be overstated.”

These are just a handful of examples successful retailers cite when speaking on the subject of “best practices.” While the scenarios provided address different subjects—integrity, service, ongoing installation and sales training—theScreen Shot 2016-05-31 at 4.11.56 PM common denominator is the focus on building relationships with both the customer and employees while always aiming to maintain a high standard of doing business.

“Statistics show that approximately 85% to 90% of a flooring dealer’s business is going to come from referrals,” said Lisbeth Calandrino, a retail industry expert for 20 years and a regular columnist for FCNews (see pages 6 and 30 in this issue for more insight). “This has become even more critical because of social media, research shows approximately 70% of consumers won’t buy anything until they consult one of their Facebook friends.”

While retailers have the best intentions in mind, many fall short when it comes to after-sale marketing, Calandrino notes. “If you sold a customer and you don’t stay in touch with them you are discounting all of the hard work you put in to bring that customer in the first place,” she explained. “Most people just send out a thank-you card, thinking that it means a lot to the customer. While they need to send out a card—it’s just common courtesy—some dealers don’t call the customer periodically to follow-up and see if they need flooring for other projects. Dealers need to realize how much repeat business might come from that one customer.”

In many cases, it’s not that retailers don’t realize the important role after-sale marketing plays. Rather, Calandrino says, many store owners and managers just don’t have the time. “They’re too busy focusing on things that don’t matter—like chasing the installer all day to find out why he forgot the right cove base for the job, or something like that. If you are oriented that way, and you have bad systems, you’re always trying to pick up after somebody. Things that are really important and require some thought get tossed by the wayside.”

Calandrino offers this advice for retailers looking to develop a more effective way to generate repeat business using e-mail marketing: “Sending out an e-mail is not e-mail marketing—that’s just trying to get a message out. What’s required is an e-mail marketing campaign—or an after-sale marketing campaign—a well-thought out directive that has trackable hyperlinks. For example, if you want to drive someone to your Facebook page to take advantage of a promotion or an offer, you must have a mechanism in place that provides some statistics, such as open rates or click-throughs.”

For those businesses that might be short-staffed or otherwise too preoccupied to develop such an e-mail marketing initiative, Calandrino offers this suggestion: “If you’re not good at doing these kinds of things, then you need to hire somebody who is.”