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Marketing mastery: The low-hanging fruit is where you find gold

September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Second of two parts.)

In my books, articles, webinars and seminars, I often feature case studies of dealers who have close ratios of 60%-80% (the national average is only 30%-35%), command margins of 50% or more and stay booked out for weeks or months at a time. Occasionally, someone will say these results are impossible. I don’t blame dealers who feel this way because these results are way outside industry averages. Let’s look at how flooring dealers are achieving results that many think are impossible.

To varying degrees, the dealers I feature have all implemented what I call “Tier 1” marketing. This means marketing strategies directed toward their past customers in order to generate repeat and referred business. It also includes having a strong sales system in place that creates differentiation, enables the dealer to command higher-than-normal margins and close more sales. In other words, Tier 1 is all about going after their warm market, i.e., the low-hanging fruit.

In part one of this series, I pointed out that dealers will often spend thousands of dollars in advertising to attract cold prospects, yet not invest any effort to get repeats and referrals. Does it make sense to invest a fortune chasing strangers yet totally ignore the only people on the planet who have proven they will buy flooring from you? Of course not. But that’s what the vast majority of dealers are doing.

When you put Tier 1 marketing in place, over time you will get a higher percentage of your business through repeat and referred customers, which will, in turn, automatically increase your close ratios. Think about it this way: On Monday you have 10 walk-ins who are all repeat/referred customers. On Tuesday you have 10 walk-ins who are strangers who simply found you online. Which day are you going to close more sales, get full margin and not get jerked around as much on price? Monday, of course.

Tier 1 also produces the “marketing multiplier effect,” meaning it will multiply the ROI of any other advertising you’re doing. For example, let’s say you’re investing $3,000 per month on your website, SEO and Google ads. And let’s say this generates 10 walk-ins per month, and you close three of them on average. This will produce $9,000 in revenue. By having a strong sales system in place (Tier 1), you can do better than industry averages and close four or even five out of 10. By having a referral system in place (Tier 1) you should be able to generate at least one referral from your closed sales. If you market to all 10 walk-ins with a monthly newsletter (Tier 1), you can easily generate another one or two sales over the next year. In this example, Tier 1 has more than doubled the ROI from the original $3,000 advertising investment without spending much more money. Tier 1 will create this marketing multiplier effect for any other advertising you’re doing.

To recap, Tier 1 will increase your percentage of referred/repeat business. That, combined with a strong sales system, will automatically increase your closed-sale batting average and help you command higher margins as well as help even out the seasonal ups and downs. It will also increase the ROI from all the other advertising you’re doing. Tier 1 is also simple and inexpensive compared to many other types of advertising.

 

Jim is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with digital and offline marketing services, and coaching to equip dealers to make more money, work fewer hours and get their lives back. For information visit FlooringSuccessSystems.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: How to disagree without being a jerk

September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

We’ve all felt like a pushover at some point in our lives. We let someone talk us into something that wasn’t for our own good. In fact, we knew we shouldn’t have done it, but we did it anyway.

Whether you’re interacting with a customer, negotiating with a vendor, managing an employee or making your case to a business partner, you need to learn how to put your foot down without stepping on someone else’s toes. Here are some useful points to remember when it’s time to say no:

Think about what saying “yes” really means. Have you ever quickly said yes and then realized, “Why did I say that?” If you had taken the time to slow down and think about what saying yes meant, you may not have said it. One of the keys is to take time to reply. Instead of quickly agreeing to something, have a canned phrase that will give you time to think.

Here’s an example: Two years ago, I managed to get a self-inflicted head injury two days in a row. After my second trip to the emergency room the doctor asked if I thought I was a clumsy person. You know this is a terrible thing to say to a gym rat, but I realized how stupid I must have looked. Before answering, I took a deep breath and said, “I’ll take it under consideration.”

Practice saying “no.” You might ask yourself, “Do I feel just as good saying ‘no’ as I do when I say ‘yes?’” You might practice with some small nos. Instead of saying yes, give it a no and see how it feels. Instead of agreeing to go to that same-old restaurant, say no and try something else. When you say no to the things that don’t help you, you are, in effect, saying yes to the things that will.

Prioritize accordingly. I’ve heard people say, “I’ll fix it later; it can wait.” Did you ever think, “It’s not that big a deal; I should not worry about it.” Don’t get me wrong: I’m not implying that everything should be a heartache, but some things are worth paying attention to—especially when it involves your commitment to others.

Stop being a people pleaser. It’s all about figuring out the right way to say no for the right situations. Another way is to change the words you use to say no. For instance, you can say “I cannot allow that...” or “I cannot agree to those terms.”

Be firm but compassionate. Self-compassion, a construct drawn from Buddhist psychology, refers to a way of relating to the self—with kindness. It is not to be confused with arrogance or conceit, which usually indicates a lack of self-love. We often confuse our bad acts with being a bad person. Research has consistently shown a positive correlation between self- compassion and psychological well-being. The minute we lose our self-compassion and love for ourselves, the more we begin to question our own worth. Once we do this, we find ourselves in a state of depression and a place that is hard to rebound from.

Scott Fetters, a marketing consultant who works with startups and Fortune 500 companies alike, writes: “People will eventually respect you for disagreeing with them. Saying no is not the equivalent of flipping a giant middle finger. It’s quite the opposite—it shows you have a vision, a plan and an opinion. By clearly articulating your needs, challenges or deadlines (in advance, if possible) you begin to eliminate distractions. In turn, you stop feeling inclined to people please because you have defined a game plan.”

Words of wisdom.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lessons learned: Don’t let installation become a shortcoming

September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6

By Tom Jennings

 

It has often been said that the more things change, the more they remain the same. That hackneyed phrase certainly pertains to professional flooring installation in 2019.

When I ran a retail operation in Kansas City more than 20 years ago, I was among several dealers asked to monitor all installation-related interactions with customers. We not only tracked installations but all correspondence that we had with customers that may have led to disappointment with the service experience they received. There were single and multiple store operations included. This group represented dealers with both employee and contract installers. These surveys were gathered over a period of several months.

As a company, we all felt the primary cause of complaints was typically an installation team lacking the proper skills or using incorrect methods. We found this perception to be true less than 20% of the time. Nearly five of six customer calls were triggered by some form of poor communication, unrealistic expectations, etc. While surprised, we were also somewhat pleased. We thought this would be an easier fix than the physical installation process. Wrong again.

Fast forward more than 20 years to today. It’s debatable that much has occurred to improve the actual installation skills we can expect to find among flooring installation as a whole. While some specialty retailers have made strides to improve their staffs at the local level, the skilled craftsmen have inevitably gotten older as their replacements continue to not be fully trained. In our customers’ eyes, it’s not the problem.

Without question, our abilities to communicate with the customer have improved in ways no one imagined a generation ago. Virtually all of our installers have a smartphone in their pockets. Most have navigation systems to easily find the customer’s home. Despite these advancements, few of our problems have been solved over the course of the last 25 years.

Studies conducted in flooring and related fields seem to indicate the customer is still putting up with the same incompetence she had to deal with in the past If anything, what we have grown to accept as service has further deteriorated. Instead of conversing with an indifferent receptionist, we take orders from an automated digital voice. What’s more, there is now a new generation in the marketplace that has yet to experience care from a concerned retailer, as most of their shopping experiences have been with mass merchants or online.

While both the problems and solutions are frustratingly similar to the 1990s, one thing has clearly changed, and that’s our ability to shine when we satisfy our customers. Practice these simple steps to ensure consistent, quality installation services: 1.) Create accurate work orders for your staff; 2.) Use pre-installation checklist forms religiously; and 3.) Generate seam and layout diagrams.

It was considered easier and faster to improve communications and attitudes 25 years ago. Well, the same is true today. The goal hasn’t changed—only the stakes. With the proliferation of both big-box and Internet sources now available, great customer service will stand out more. Make the effort to widen the gap between businesses that proclaim to provide outstanding service and those that actually do it.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a former retailer and sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Al’s column: Make sure your vendors are true partners

September 2/9, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 6

By Lou Morano

 

(Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a multi-part series.)

For many years most flooring retailers shopped vendors according to the best value—just like many of our customers—and we often purchased from those vendors. Over time, however, we noticed that some of those vendors were not up to our standards as it pertained to the level of customer service they provided. We also experienced a much higher rate of claims from some of those vendors.

It is of the utmost importance that we set proper standards for the vendors we deal with. Some of our standards include quality with minimal claims, even on commodity items. The vendor must have competitive pricing, and their claims department must deal with any issues in a reasonable and timely manner. In addition, the culture of the vendor and their representatives, from the top down, must match ours. We chose to eliminate vendors that were good partners, but unfortunately their quality control was terrible and caused too many problems. We also severed ties with vendors that made quality products and were priced competitively, but their culture was all about them and not about us nor the consumer.

When we deal with vendors that are aligned with our values, not only is it a pleasure to do business with them but it is also a mutually beneficial relationship. When you must jump through hoops or have to constantly contest and argue about scenarios that are obvious or are “just the right thing to do” to properly service the end user, then that vendor needs to be eliminated. On the flip side, the vendors sometimes have to contend with unscrupulous retailers who try to take advantage of them in claims situations and make it difficult for the vendor to determine the real truth. Therefore, it is paramount to create long-standing relationship with your vendors, building trust along the way so on those occasions when you are in a “gray area” the vendor can make the right decision based on the trust in your relationship.

We carry this thought process vertically with the vendors we choose to deal with, the people we hire all the way to the installers we employ. We strive to only work with people who have a similar value system, ethics and standards as our own. What that looks like after many years of weeding out the “undesirables,” for lack of a better word, are mutually beneficial relationships with our vendors, installers and employees—something our customers notice through our high service levels. Before we hire anyone or deal with any new vendor, we ask ourselves: “Do they hold up to these standards?” If not, we move on. If they do, we move forward. If they prove to not live up to those standards, then they will be replaced.

We also hold ourselves to those same standards. In many instances we make decisions that cost our company money because we defer to our customer in all gray areas. This means that unless we can know with absolute certainty that a situation is not our fault or the manufacturer’s fault, we usually defer to our customer. There have been many times where we have replaced floors we believed were the consumer’s responsibility. But we replaced it anyway, because when we are not 100% sure—and when we do not have irrefutable evidence—then we do the right thing and take care of the customer.

 

Lou Morano started selling carpet for a major retailer at the age of 19 in 1981. In 1985 he and his father incorporated Capitol Carpet and opened their first full-service retail store in 1986. Today Morano operates five retail stores, including a commercial division, under the name Capitol Carpet & Tile and Window Fashions.

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Installments: Placing floors on walls takes the right touch

August 19/26, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 5

By Arthur Mintie

 

Chip and Joanna Gaines from the syndicated HGTV series “Fixer Upper” may be responsible for most of the world’s recent obsession with shiplap. While not everyone is building a home where shiplap can be found hiding beneath the surface, style-minded homeowners can create a similar look by installing flooring on walls.

In fact, many homeowners today are approaching flooring from a new angle—using it to create accent walls and artistic focal points that reflect their unique style and bring distinctive character.

While installing flooring on walls is not much different than laying flooring materials in the traditional sense, it does take proper knowledge to ensure the results will hold up. Following are some considerations:

Selection of materials. As a general rule, any type of hardwood plank can be glued directly onto drywall. However, luxury vinyl tile or laminates must not be installed directly over wallpaper or existing paneling, as this will result in installation failure. For best results, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions.

Tiles that would normally be used on floors can also be turned up the wall to continue an aesthetic theme or create a different type of look or feel. As far as the weight of a tile used on interior vertical surfaces, applicable building codes typically have jurisdiction.

Surface prep. Installation considerations when selecting adhesives and mortars are dependent on the type and size of the surface material chosen. If using gauged porcelain tile panels as the finish, it is important for installers to prepare the substrate to a surface tolerance plane of 1⁄8 inch in 10 feet and to clean out any leftover adhesive mortar in the joints to ensure enough grout fills the grout joint. An even adhesive bond coat is also required to achieve proper coverage and eliminate voids under the tile while minimizing slumping of the tile.

Lay out. Installers should begin by marking the center points of all four walls and then snap chalk lines between the center points of the opposite walls in a pattern that will intersect in the center of the room. When tiling walls, installers need to find the center point of the wall and then use a level to draw a line indicating this point and then ensure the cut tiles in the corners are ideally no less than a half tile. Using trim pieces for outside corners is typically the better aesthetic option to trim out a project. If they are not available, on-site mitering, the creation of bullnose trim pieces or using trim strips might be in play.

Secure panels safely. Laminate should be adhered to the wall starting at the bottom of the wall using silicone applied in an S-shaped pattern. Once pressed down, the installer must drive a brad nail through the extended groove at each wall stud. Next, drywall screws should be placed at each wall stud at the bottom edge of the first row of planks. For all following rows, a brad nail should continue to be used for durability.

For other finishes that cannot be nailed—such as tile—a high-performance adhesive with outstanding non-sag properties is required to ensure the materials stay adhered for the life of the installation.

 

Arthur Mintie is senior director of technical services at Laticrete International. He provides technical assistance to specifiers and designers, and he is actively involved in global education and training for tile and construction industry materials and methods.

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Marketing mastery: Are you ignoring the low-hanging fruit?

August 19/26, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 5

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts.)

A friend of mine needed flooring for his home, but he didn’t know any flooring dealers. So, he went online and Googled flooring stores in his area. He looked at the web- sites and read the reviews of the dealers appearing in the top three search results. All the websites and reviews looked similar, so his plan was to get quotes from all three, then buy from whomever had the lowest price. Then, he found out his brother just had flooring installed and was happy with the results. He got a referral to the dealer his brother used and is not planning to get quotes from anyone else.

Let’s look at what just happened.

My friend lives in a major metro area, so there’s a lot of competition to get those top spots on Google. Those top three dealers are spending thousands of dollars per month for pay-per-click and/or SEO in order to maintain those top positions. But a zero-cost referral outperformed all of it.

Further, my friend’s original plan was to get quotes from the top three dealers and buy from whomever was cheapest—meaning that these dealers spent thousands of dollars to attract someone who was, at best, a price- shopper. Now, my friend is planning to just buy from the referred dealer. So, the referral had the added benefit of transforming my friend from a price-shopper to a ready-to-buy customer.

This is no surprise. Everyone knows word-of-mouth is the most effective form of advertising. Every dealer knows when a past customer or a referral walks in it’s a very different experience compared to when a stranger walks in because she found them online. The repeat/referred customer trusts you; it’s easier to get full margin; the sales cycle is shorter and she most likely isn’t going to shop around. The stranger is more skeptical and more likely to price shop and waste your time.

I’m not saying you should stop doing those other forms of advertising. My point is dealers are spending tens of thousands of dollars a year in online advertising, radio, billboards, etc., to attract strangers. However, the vast majority of dealers don’t market to their past customers, nor do they have a structured referral marketing plan or system for realtors, remodeling contractors, interior designers, carpet cleaning companies and other businesses.

“Omni-channel marketing” is a buzzword right now. This means being visible in many different locations, both online and offline. It means making it possible for your prospect to communicate with you via multiple online and offline channels and having systems in place to monitor and respond quickly to communication from any of these channels. It means having a sales process in place that creates a seamless shopping experience between multiple devices and platforms and between online and offline.

Will putting all of this in place generate sales? Yes. If you throw enough money at any kind of advertising it will likely produce some sales. Here’s a better question: Should you spend thousands of dollars to maintain a system like this in order to attract strangers while failing to put systems in place to generate repeat and referral business?

In my next column I’ll explore this question in depth and give guidelines for simplifying your marketing while maximizing the ROI from all your other advertising.

 

Jim Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring retailers. For a free copy of his latest book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes Online,” visit BeatTheBoxesOnline.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: Overcoming objections by using creativity

August 19/26, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 5

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Even seasoned professionals get dismissed by customers who use certain statements to put them off. Rather than challenge the customer, many often give up. This is the point where true salespeople shine. Rather than being thrown off by common consumer objections, creative RSAs seize the opportunity.

To be successful, however, you need to be prepared. You must also believe in yourself, your products and your brand. Following are frequent consumer objections, along with suggestions on how to overcome them:

1. “I can’t afford it.” This is my personal favorite. We all have had times when we couldn’t afford something, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t ultimately buy it. You’re not doing your customer a disservice by ignoring this statement. Persist by building value. Show the customer how she can’t live without the product. Review the customer’s “conditions of satisfaction.” Why did she decide the product was for her in the first place? Review the features and benefits that fit the customer’s key concerns. You can also suggest a product that is less expensive and help her compare the two. Don’t let the customer dissuade you. Your job is to make her feel you have her best interests at heart and show her your product is what she needs.

2. “We’re just looking.” You’ve heard this a million times and you might be tempted to leave her alone. Don’t do it. Yes, people just look, but if you leave them alone while they’re looking you run the risk of looking like you don’t care. Statements like: “We have some new products, can I point them out to you?” “We have a huge selection, can I help you find the right product?” “May I look with you?” These should be followed up with rapport-building statements—anything other than trying to sell them. Talk about their kids, the weather, whatever, etc.

3. “I have to ask my husband or my wife.” One reason the customer might say this is because she/he doesn’t trust your judgment. If they don’t believe what you’re saying, they certainly don’t want to make the decision alone. Ask them what their spouse likes. I bet they know.

4. “We’re not prepared to buy today; we have to look around.” That’s fine, don’t be afraid to tell them you understand. Respond by explaining you don’t want them to miss out on special products and pricing. As they’re looking around, ask what they’ve been thinking about.

5. “I’ll know it when I see it.” This is really a funny statement. Try this: “What will it look like when you see it?” Or, “Tell me what the ‘perfect’ product means to you.”

6. “It’s too expensive.” This is similar to “I can’t afford it.” Surprisingly, this response gives you lots to work with. Review the customer’s budget and explain why the product she likes will be less expensive in the long run. Products that hold up are never expensive, no matter how much it costs.

7. “Your competition is cheaper.”Customers like to scare you with this statement—don’t let them. You can acknowledge their statement, but this doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Your competition might be cheaper, but you might exceed them in other areas. Explain what makes you different and what you’re willing to do for them. Cheaper doesn’t always mean better even if it’s the same product.

If the customer leaves your store too soon, chances are you won’t get the business. The longer you can keep them in your store, the more likely you are to sell them.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lisbiz strategies: How to avoid common social media missteps

August 5/12, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 4

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Social media is like any other advertising medium—it requires thought and may seem overwhelming at first. It really isn’t difficult but starts with a basic understanding of your business and what you’re trying to achieve. If getting more customers and making more money is what you’re after, social media is the medium. It’s today’s marketing tool and can help you achieve what you’re after.

But like anything else, you need a good plan to execute it properly. Here are some simple steps and pitfalls to look out for:

Know your customers. You’ve heard this before—not all customers are the “right” customers. You want the ones that will increase your profit, not put you out of business. Decide which customers you’re after and determine where they hang out. How do you know? Ask your customers what types of social media they use. I don’t know any businesses that actually talk with their customers about their social media preferences. Only your customers can tell you which social media will work best for you.

Hire a professional. Sure, any 14-year-old can set up your social media sites and teach you how to use them. But please don’t put them in charge of posting, etc., unless they have a marketing degree and understand the flooring customer.

Review Google’s article on “The Zero Moment of Truth.” This article is from 2011 and explains the customer and the customer’s journey to your store. There are several updates on the article, but it will explain the customer’s route and how you can interrupt her journey. The key is to steer them to your store before someone else gets them.

Understand the value of blogging. I’m tired of hearing owners say, ‘I don’t want to blog,’ or ‘I don’t know how to do it.’ Here is why blogs work: they keep you and your customer connected, build deeper relationships and allow you to talk with them without being intrusive. Write about things that interest you. If you have a good barbecue recipe, post it on your blog. You will be surprised how many people will send you their recipes. After reviewing “The Zero Moment of Truth,” you will understand why you have to blog. If you don’t understand how and why it works, give me a call.

Be consistent. You can’t post one week and then post three months later. Social media is a way to develop friendships and takes time and consistency to continue to build the relationships.

Get inspiration from other businesses. Once you’ve looked at all your competitors, venture out to other businesses you admire. Who in your city does great business? More importantly, where do they post? What specifically do they post? Choose one and look at what posts get them the most comments. Do they hold contests or do “live” broadcasting? What about videos? What do they post that inspires you? Find a business you think does a good job, follow them and sign up for their blogs.

Create a calendar and stick to it. This way you won’t forget the holidays as well as important events such as “The Red Dress Month,” or Mother’s Day. You can add to it but start with the basics.

Expand your audience. Try using Facebook targeting options and other related campaigns.

Use great images. We all love videos and photos. Don’t forget to include your pets.

 

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Lessons learned: How to leverage your proprietary offerings

August 5/12, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 4

By Tom Jennings

 

One of the largest hurdles many independent flooring retailers face is how to stand apart from the crowd. Promotional budgets are often insufficient to make a significant impact in our local media. The products we sell are perceived to be largely the same. No matter the size of the showroom, consumers are likely to see the same handful of brand names represented in each of them. That begs the question: How can your firm stand out in the customer’s mind when she is ready to make a purchase decision?

The short answer is to be proactive in your approach. Determine where your real strengths lie. Focus heavily on proprietary offerings that other firms may have difficulty competing with. Every flooring business should be doing something outstanding. (If yours is not, stop reading and begin your going-out-of-business sale immediately. Mediocrity in all areas of your business will not lead to a happy ending.)

So, what are your firm’s unique attributes? Let’s examine a few possibilities:

Facility. Is there something about your location that is outstanding? Is it in a historic area? Is parking plentiful? Is it easy to shop for those who are physically challenged? Does it have unique color or design characteristics? Is it adjacent to any landmarks?

Offerings. Do you feature any distinctive brands that aren’t available elsewhere in your market? Do you have a group affiliation? Do you have unique product warranties? Are you open convenient hours? Are you locally owned? Is an owner or manager available at all times? Do you sponsor or participate in local charities or initiatives? Is your showroom well accessorized?

In-store staff. Does your staff dress fashionably? (No aprons, please.) Do they offer any particular areas of expertise or any specific training? Do they have design degrees or any particular amount of experience or tenure with your company?

Estimating. Do you use employed estimators? (Many large firms use a third-party service. The results are often impersonal.) Do your estimators have an installation background? Almost anyone can measure a room. Do not confuse measuring with being able to analyze situations unique to each job. Examples could be: sub-floor conditions, moisture testing, transitions to adjoining surfaces, etc. This can be a very effective differentiator from the competition.

Installation. Do you offer installation warranties? Are your installers background checked and drug screened? (Security is an important issue. Customers want to know you are aware of who is in their homes.) Are you able to perform large installations in a timely manner? Are you willing to perform “odd-hour” installations? Do your installers possess any special industry certifications or documentable special training?

There are many factors that enter into a customer’s decision of where to purchase other than price alone. To succeed in today’s retail climate, independent dealers must perform well in those areas where the chain stores have difficulty executing. Place your focus on segments where you can excel. Simply having the lowest price is not always the answer. Now, more than ever, customers are looking for a business they can trust. While a competitive price is important, we will all pay a little more—if deemed necessary—for uniqueness and peace of mind.

 

Tom Jennings is vice president of professional development for the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA). Jennings, a retail sales training guru, has served in various capacities within the WFCA.

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Retailer2retailer: What keeps you awake on Sunday nights?

August 5/12, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 4

By Scott Perron

 

With the exception of a four-year stint in corporate America, I have owned my own flooring businesses since 1993. During that time there have been hundreds of occasions where I have spent my Sunday nights contemplating what’s ahead and how to make positive changes in our business over the coming week.

One of the benefits of being a small business is—unlike a corporate ship that takes a long time to turn—most smaller businesses are nimble and able to move like a speed boat to stay ahead of the curve as the industry transitions. The present time is no exception with all of the movement in sourcing of new products, newly imposed tariffs and volatility in the supply chain.

We have spent the last several weeks explaining to all our clients, particularly the pros we serve, what effect these corrections mean to their product offering and the costs associated with them. Each day we get multiple inquiries to explain price hikes and product availability as countless orders are now being met with a back-order status. Many of our contractors are in a pickle as costs have risen sharply with minimal notice. And although most of their contracts allow for unforeseen price increases, it is still a difficult conversation with the end-line consumer. It forces them to spend more time redoing the project selections as people scramble to offset higher prices by changing their first choices.

Make no mistake—I really do not care what side of the political aisle we talk about as these changes are a reality and their effects must be dealt with. It’s a simple fact that when things cost more people can afford less, so we need to adjust our operations to accept these modifications. Remember, these cost variances do not apply only to flooring but everything that is imported from regions bearing the tariff. Price increases have extended to most building products, and freight is a moving target as well.

In the wake of these revisions, luxury vinyl plank has morphed with most suppliers moving toward manufacturing SPC vs. WPC. This approach allows the cost of material to be reduced while maintaining structural integrity, waterproof features and styling that is acceptable to the consumer.

We make it a point to physically shop our competitors on a quarterly basis and make notes of the differences we observe. Recently, while cruising one of our most formidable foes, I noticed it had moved the vast majority of its LVP line-up to SPC technology and in fact had effectively increased its profit margins while appearing to have lowered its costs at the consumer level. Although this company is a “big ship,” it had adjusted its offering in less than six months to stay ahead. Immediately following this visit I shopped two larger retailers within earshot of this big box and found they had not changed anything about their showroom, marketing or product focus in years.

Over the course of my career, a man much smarter than I am taught me the value of continuing to model ourselves after the most successful operators. Most business owners don’t anticipate changes fast enough and often bury their head in the sand, while progressive companies take advantage of their shortcomings.

Take a moment on Sunday night to contemplate your business, review feedback, anticipate change, measure, manage and then make a move to keep your business on the right track.

 

Scott Perron is the president of 24-7 Floors and Floor4Pros based in Sarasota, Fla. He is also an industry trainer and motivational speaker. He can be reached at scott@24-7floors.com or 860.250.1733.