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Marketing mastery: A marketing system can work wonders

July 9/16, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 2

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of three parts)

In a previous column I outlined the differences between dealers who are hunters and dealers who are ranchers. Most dealers are hunters, meaning they are transaction oriented. They spend their time, energy and money hunting down the next customer—bagging it, skinning it and then hunting for the next one.

There are three big problems with hunting. First, it is very hard work. Hunters wander in search of game. Sometimes they get it; other times they don’t. Dealers try to get good at hunting, but, in reality, customers are price shopping and beating them up about how some box store down the road is offering free installation.

Second, hunting is unpredictable. One day there’s game everywhere, and dealers have all the customers they need. The next day they disappear. The showroom is empty; the phone is growing cobwebs; dealers wonder where all the game went.

Third, hunting keeps dealers stuck on the hamster wheel of doom. They work more and more hours hunting down customers, only to make the same or less. If they do manage to grow, hunting takes so much time and energy that they’ll most likely wind up working harder than necessary.

Ranching changes all of that. A rancher’s job is to round up a relatively small herd of the right customers and live in style. Ranching is easy and predictable compared to hunting. When a herd of customers is rounded up and fenced in, dealers don’t have to wonder where their next one is coming from. Ranching lets dealers escape the wheel of doom, work fewer hours and increase their income.

To help dealers transition from hunter to rancher, I teach them the ultimate floor marketing system. It’s a simple, three-step approach that enables them to round up a highly profitable herd of customers and sell to them for life.

The first step is “Before.” This is what you do to round up lots of new customers before they’ve done business with you.

“During” is the second step, and it’s what you do during the sales process to wow the customer, position yourself as a trusted advisor and close more sales. A strong “During” gets you out of spending all your time preparing and delivering proposals to customers who don’t buy from you. Instead, you put yourself in front of high-quality prospects and get them to say yes.

“After” is the third step. This is what you do after the sale to dramatically increase your repeat and referral business. It lands their next projects for you in a virtually competition-free zone and produces ongoing referrals to their friends and family. This is done using a strategic outreach and messaging process to stay in front of your past customers week in and week out.

The “After” step supercharges your results because you stay connected with your past customers in a very personal way and build real relationships, so you can generate a consistent stream of sales. The Before, During and After system is like having a 12-foot, razor-wire fence to keep your herd of customers in and poachers out.

In the next installment, I’ll dive deeper into what goes into the “Before” step, so you can more effectively round up a herd of high-quality customers.

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Marketing mastery: Are you a hunter or a rancher?

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

“How many of you communicate with your past customers on a monthly basis?” I asked a group of dealers at the Digital Domination Boot Camp I was conducting during the Chicago Floor Covering Association’s annual Product Showcase. No one raised a hand, but this is not unusual. I poll most of my audiences with this question, and at most I’ll see three people out of 100 raise their hands.

“Most dealers are hunters,” I told the group. “They hunt down a customer, bag it, skin it and then they’re off hunting for the next one. But what if there was a better, easier way?”

There is, and that better way is to shift from being a hunter to a rancher. Hunters are transaction focused, while ranchers concentrate on the lifetime value of a customer (LVC). The LVC is all the business a customer will do with you over her lifetime, plus all the referrals she sends you over that period. Being a rancher means all your sales and marketing efforts—before, during and after someone buys from you—are focused on the LVC. Your job as a rancher is to round up a herd of customers, nurture your herd and protect your herd from rustlers, wolves and coyotes (box stores and other competitors). Your job is to fence in your herd, so it doesn’t wander off or get poached. By doing this, your herd will grow, and you’ll prosper.

If asked, most dealers will tell you they focus on LVC, but usually their marketing efforts don’t reflect this. The majority of dealers have some kind of advertising or marketing in place to attract new customers. But after all the time, energy and money spent getting a customer through their doors, they totally ignore them after the installation is complete and the customer never hears from them again. This makes about as much sense as a rancher spending time, energy and money acquiring a herd of cattle but having no fences, feed or watering troughs. His cattle are going to wander off, get poached or die.

The average consumer replaces her flooring about every five to seven years. What do you think happens to those customers during that time? They are bombarded with advertisements from Home Depot, Lowe’s, Menards, Lumber Liquidators, Empire and every other big company promising to sell them flooring at the lowest price. There’s also an excellent chance they’ll forget your store’s name, especially if they got quotes from multiple stores at the time.

But what if you had made the shift from hunter to rancher? What if, after acquiring that customer, you put her inside your fence with all your other customers so they wouldn’t wander off or get rustled?

In my sessions, I teach dealers how to make the shift from hunter to rancher by using a strategic, three-part process. Some of the benefits they enjoy include:

  • It delivers an ongoing stream of new customers to add to their existing herd.
  • Their repeat and referral business increases.
  • It recession-proofs their business.
  • It evens out the ups and downs in revenue.
  • It keeps their herd fenced in, so they stop losing customers to competitors.
  • They are able to increase their revenue while working a lot less.

Over the next several installments, I will lay out this three-step process to help you begin transforming from a hunter to a rancher.

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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Marketing mastery: How to convert more door swings into sales

April 16/23, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 22

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(Second of two parts)

In part one of this series, I discussed how you can increase your closed sales ratio simply by maximizing your repeat and referred customers. In this installment, I’m going to discuss why having a selling system will also help you increase your closed sales.

“We now have a 70% close rate,” Rob, a dealer from Utah, told me. “And our margins are over 40%.”

Rob had recently implemented a selling system, and he was excited not only because of the increased close rates, but because his margins were so much higher. It also gave him a quicker way to train new salespeople.

Here’s what Rob’s salesperson told me: “I started only six months ago in the flooring business, so I’m pretty green. For months, my residential margins were 30% to 35%. I’d end the day totally exhausted and realize I hadn’t closed any sales. It was discouraging. We’re right down the street from two home stores. People would come in and say, ‘Lowe’s quoted me this price,’ or ‘Home Depot quoted me such and such.’ I was always having to compete on price. A few months ago, Rob implemented a sales system and training program. “Since then, my overall close ratio has been over 70%.”

Admittedly, not every dealer will get results this quickly and dramatically, but that’s not the point. The point is, going from no selling system to actually having one will oftentimes dramatically improve your results.

Here are some tips for developing a selling system.

If it’s not written down, it’s not a system. Every step of Rob’s selling system is in writing. For example, he has scripts for greeting walk-ins, for taking control of the sales process and for getting prospects to sit down for a consultation. His sales team is trained on using a printed questionnaire during consultations.  Having a written system makes it much easier for Rob to train his team and troubleshoot problems that come up with individual team members.

Scripts are important at the beginning and end of the sales process. This is because greeting prospects and closing are the two most critical times of the sale. It’s also where most salespeople mess things up.

Rob’s script for greeting walk-ins does several things: it makes the prospect feel welcome; differentiates him from competitors; takes control of the sales process; and sells prospects on the benefits of having a consultation.

Your closing script should include a reminder of your unique selling propositions, a discussion of your guarantee/warranty information and how prospects could benefit. Instead of giving one quote, give prospects quotes for three different flooring packages: low, medium and high. This way, instead of choosing between you and a competitor, they can choose between you, you and you.

Your selling system should feel like a visit to a trusted physician. When a physician meets with a patient, he doesn’t burst into the exam room and say, “What kind of pills did you have in mind?” Instead, he sits down, asks questions, writes down the answers, diagnoses the problem, then prescribes. Your selling system should do the same thing. Sit down with your prospects, ask questions and write down the answers using a printed questionnaire. Then, and only then, prescribe the flooring options which best fit their taste and lifestyle.

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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Marketing mastery: How to convert more door swings into sales

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of two parts)

“We’ve been advertising with Angie’s List and Home Advisor, and running Google AdWords,” a dealer from Colorado said during a meeting about additional ways to market his business.

I asked him what his monthly ad spend was and he said about $6,000. I followed up by asking how many walk-ins out of 10 wind up purchasing, and he said three.

“Before you spend additional money trying to attract more traffic, you need to do a better job converting the traffic you already have,” I said. “If you simply increased your close rate from three out of 10 to four, that’s a 30% increase in revenue with zero additional marketing.”

I’ve had similar conversations with other flooring retailers. Many dealers who want to increase their revenue jump immediately to increasing their advertising spend and too often this is premature.

In reality, many dealers can increase their revenue significantly by simply closing more of the people who are already walking through their front door. I work with dealers who have increased their closed sales to seven out of 10 walk-ins, and who get a 90% close rate on jobs they quote. These kinds of close ratios require the implementation of strategies specifically designed to increase closed sales.

Here are some key strategies for making this happen.

Repeat and referred customers

“Can you tell the difference between a referred customer and a stranger who visited your store because they saw an ad?” I asked a dealer at one of my training seminars.

“Definitely,” she replied. “A referral already trusts us. We really don’t have to ‘sell’ them like we would a stranger.” Other dealers in the audience agreed.

When someone has purchased from you before or they were referred, they come in your store with pre-built trust. In general, they are less price-sensitive, the buying cycle is shorter and the closed sale ratio tends to be higher than with strangers.

Dealers I work with who get 70% to 80% close ratios do so in part by increasing their number of repeat and referred customers. By increasing the amount of repeat and referred customers visiting your store, you’ll automatically increase your closed sales—even if you don’t do any additional sales training.

The most powerful way to increase the number of repeat and referred customers walking through your door is by marketing to your database with a monthly newsletter and a weekly e-newsletter. I’ve seen dealers come back from the brink of bankruptcy, triple their revenue in a couple of years and even open additional stores. They did other things as well, but marketing to their database was the key driver.

You should also train your RSAs on how to generate referrals from your already-scheduled installations. When you’ve done a great job for a customer and they are thrilled with your service, it’s very easy to get referrals. However, most dealers don’t train their team on how to do this, and as a result they’re leaving a fortune on the table.

In part two, I’ll reveal additional key strategies for converting more door swings into sales.

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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Marketing mastery: How changes to Facebook affect your marketing

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

Facebook recently made major changes to its newsfeed and the types of posts that will be favored moving forward.

“As we roll this out you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook CEO, announced recently. “And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard—it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.” He goes on to say that Facebook has “a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being.”

These changes will have a major impact on your Facebook marketing. Let’s dig into the specifics of what this means for your flooring business, and how you can use these changes to your benefit.

Meaningful interactions. Facebook wants to foster real interaction between human beings in its newsfeed. This means we’re going to see a reduction in product pitches in favor of content that has real value and encourages meaningful “back-and-forth” discussions.

Facebook’s algorithms now put less emphasis on likes and shares in favor of posts that spark conversations. This doesn’t mean likes and shares are no longer important—they still are. What it does mean is Facebook is giving the biggest reach to posts with dialogue.

Effective posts. So what kinds of organic posts generate the kind of engagement Facebook is looking for? The same things that have been working all along.

  • Photos of real customers. I see dealers posting professionally shot product photos and getting very little engagement. No matter how great these posts look, a smartphone picture of a happy client—either in their home or the showroom—outperforms them in overall engagement. This is why you should train your salespeople on how to ask for and get photos of clients.
  • Home improvement tips. This is something any dealer can do, and it ties in directly with what you are selling. It is the kind of “valuable content” Facebook is looking for. These can either be links to articles you have written, your blog or—best of all—a video of you demonstrating how to spot-clean a carpet, do a home repair or other tip.
  • Community events. This can include food drives, holiday events, farmers markets, high school sporting events, etc. Think of your business as a community hub and create posts that will make people want to pay attention to your page and content.

The death of engagement bait. We’ve all seen posts that ask people to “like, share and comment.” This can be in the form of a contest or a request to become a follower of a business page. This is called engagement bait. Facebook now wants your posts to be interesting enough for people to interact without engagement bait. Any post that directly asks people to like, share or comment will be penalized.

Boosted content. Now that Facebook is deemphasizing organic posts from business pages, you should consider boosting your posts. This will give you more reach, and it can be done cost-effectively. We began using this strategy for all the dealers whose Facebook accounts we manage, and we have seen a measurable increase in results compared to non-boosted posts.

If you’d like me to evaluate your Facebook marketing, email support@flooringsuccesssystems.com.

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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Marketing mastery: How to fix bad reviews

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Second of three parts)

“I remember this guy,” a dealer from Minnesota told me. I had just pointed out to him that he had a negative review on Google. “He was rude to my staff and made unreasonable demands. When we told him we couldn’t give him what he wanted he left this lousy review.”

Many dealers can relate to this situation. You pride yourself on providing great service, and you’ve built a strong reputation in your community through years of hard work. Then some yahoo gets his knickers in a twist and trashes you online. I’ve done online marketing assessments for a lot of dealers, and unfortunately this situation is not uncommon.

Fake reviews left by competitors or dishonest customers can also be a problem. It is not fair and can make you want to pull your hair out. But this is the world we live in. So rather than complain, let’s look at steps you can take to handle negative reviews, protect your online reputation and gain an advantage over competitors.

Fix the problem in your business. When someone leaves a negative review it’s easy to get angry and defensive, but what if the negative comment is legitimate? If so, this person has done you a favor. Here’s why: According to Lee Resource, for every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers who have remained silent. In this case the reviewer has taken the time to point out a problem that is causing you to lose customers and money. The solution here is to swallow your pride and fix the problem in your business.

Use Disney’s proven customer service recovery strategy. The Walt Disney Co. hosts 135 million people per year and they are masters at customer service recovery. Their employees are trained using the acronym HEARD. This technique can be used in person as well as with online reviews.

  • Hear. Let the customer tell the story without any interruptions.
  • Empathize. Let the customers know you care deeply about their concerns.
  • Apologize. Sometimes all someone wants is a sincere apology. Even if you didn’t do anything wrong, you can still apologize by saying things like, “I’m sorry you’re frustrated. I get it.”
  • Resolve. Resolve the issue right away. For example, ask the customer, “What can I do to make this right?”
  • Diagnose. Without blaming anyone, find out why the mistake occurred. Does your system need fixing? Was it human error? Take steps to make sure the mistake won’t happen again.

In addition, you should respond publicly to negative reviews. Resist the urge to blame the reviewer or make excuses. Instead, be empathetic, apologize and list the steps you have taken to correct the problem.

Lastly, learn to drown out negative reviews. There is no mechanism to remove authentic negative comments left by real customers from Google and the other major review sites. Note: If a review is fake or slanderous there are steps you can take with the review companies to have them removed, but it’s a hassle. I don’t recommend it. Instead, drown out negative reviews with positive ones. This is the single- most powerful strategy for building and maintaining a great online reputation.

If you have any questions, or if you’d like me to evaluate your online reputation, email me at support@flooringsuccesssystems.com.

 

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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Marketing mastery: Giving Mrs. Consumer reasons to choose you

January 8/15, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 15

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

“You’ve got to remember that every prospect searching online for a flooring store has an unspoken question on her mind: ‘Why should I choose you instead of your competitors?’” I told Brad, a dealer from Connecticut for whom I was doing an online marketing assessment.

“Wow, I’d never thought of it that way,” he replied.

“Most dealers haven’t,” I said. “So, if you’re the one in your market who does the best job providing a powerful answer to this question, you’ll gain an enormous competitive advantage over every other dealer. Let’s walk a mile in Cathy Consumer’s shoes and see how well you and your competitors answer this question.”

I then Googled Brad’s city and the word “flooring” and pulled up the top five flooring sites appearing in the organic search, including Brad’s. “Assume Cathy knows nothing about flooring,” I said. “She doesn’t know which dealer to choose, so she’s looking for an answer to her unspoken question. Put yourself in her shoes as we look at your and your competitors’ websites.”

The first site had the name of the dealer at the top, links to products along with photos and contact information. I call this a “name, rank and serial number” site. The next several sites followed the exact same formula. Yes, there were cosmetic differences among them—different colors, slightly different layout, some looked a little more professional than others, and one had some teaser prices. But they were all essentially saying the same thing: Here’s our business name, here’s what we sell, here’s how to find us. I pointed all this out to Brad.

I then pulled up his site, which also followed the name, rank and serial number formula.

“Brad, based solely on the strength of these sites, why should Cathy Consumer choose your store vs. any of the others we’ve looked at?”

He was silent for a moment, thinking. “No reason at all.”

“That’s right,” I said. “They all have good color schemes, smooth layout and look like they were professionally designed. But none of them do a good job answering the unspoken question.”

This was a real eye-opener for Brad. When you’re designing your website—or creating any other marketing—it’s easy to focus on colors, products, logos, etc., but never give a compelling reason for Cathy Consumer to choose your business over your competition. I suggest you walk a mile in your prospect’s shoes and follow the same exercise I took Brad through. Pull up your site and several of your competitors’ sites and ask: Based on the strength of my website alone, why should Cathy Consumer choose me instead of my competitors? If your site doesn’t provide an overwhelming, powerful, compelling answer to this, you’re depending on the luck of the draw that Cathy Consumer will visit you.

There are many ways to answer the unspoken question on your website. One simple, proven strategy to accomplish this is by offering information your prospects are desperately seeking.

If you’d like me to evaluate your site, email me at support@flooringsuccesssystems.com. Include your business name, city and state.

 

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Marketing mastery: How to manage your online reputation

November 27-December 11, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 13

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

I was doing an online marketing assessment for Susan, a dealer from California, when she said, “Jim, I can’t believe this dealer has a higher star rating than us. He operates out of a storage container, and he once pulled a gun on a customer.”

I said to Susan, “Let’s walk a mile in Cathy Consumer’s shoes so you can see what your prospects are seeing.”

I then Googled flooring and the name of her town. Susan’s store came up No. 1 on the organic search, but Mr. Storage Container came in No. 2, right below her listing. I pointed out that Mr. Storage Container had five positive reviews on Google, but she had none.

“In other words, while you have worked hard for more than two decades to build a phenomenal offline reputation, this joker who operates out of a metal box and once pulled a gun on a customer has a better online reputation,” I explained.

To which Susan replied: “But this guy is absolutely the worst. I’ll bet those reviews were posted by his friends.”

I replied, “Probably so, but the only thing that matters is what Cathy Consumer sees when she’s looking online for a floor dealer. You have to assume she doesn’t know any flooring dealers or anything about flooring. That’s a big part of why she is researching online. She’s going to choose which store to visit based on who has the best online reputation.”

This kind of situation is very common. I was recently meeting via video conference with a dealer from Nevada to assess her online marketing position. She, too, has been in business for more than 20 years. When I Googled flooring and the name of her town, she and a competitor came up near the top of the search. However, she had only one review and her competitor had more than a dozen.

“I can’t believe this,” she said. “This guy has only been in business for a year and he doesn’t do great work. How does he have all these reviews and we only have one?”

I said: “He’s probably doing a better job of asking for, and getting, reviews than you. Based on the strength of your online reputation alone, which dealer is Cathy Consumer more likely to visit?”

I explained to the retailer that very few people will review a dealership on their own. You have to have a system in place to request reviews and make it easier for your customers to leave one. The dealer with this system will win the online reputation game.

Some dealers think, “Well, I’ve been in business for three decades and get a lot of repeat and referred customers, our reputation is great. Why do we need to worry about online reviews?” If this is your thinking you need to consider these statistics:

  • According to Business 2 Community, 92% of consumers now read online reviews.
  • Business 2 Community also found 94% of consumers would use a business with a four-star rating.
  • According to BrightLocal, 88% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • According to Synchrony Financial, 85% of consumers begin their path-to-purchase online for big-ticket products.

In other words, the rules have changed. Just because you have a great offline reputation doesn’t mean it will be automatically reflected online. With 85% of consumers beginning their flooring path-to-purchase online, it’s critical to have a plan to generate more positive reviews.

 

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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Marketing mastery: Creating profitable Facebook posts

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AM“We paid a company to do Facebook posts for us and the results have been terrible,” the owner of four flooring stores recently told me. “We’ve pretty much given up on Facebook marketing.”

I’ve heard similar comments from a number of dealers frustrated with their results from Facebook marketing. This isn’t because Facebook can’t be very profitable for your business. It’s because many dealers are making common mistakes that hurt their results. One of the biggest is doing the wrong kinds of posts. Most dealers simply post photos of products, display racks or special offers with no thought-out plan for systematically generating business from this platform. Your posts must fit into an overall plan for generating customers, and each post should do one of three very specific tasks to make that happen. Let’s take a closer look.

Attract followers. Followers are the “herd” of people who have liked your page. If you don’t have many followers then your first task is to attract them. However, you must grow the right herd. If you attract followers who aren’t interested in your product, then you are wasting your time and money.

One effective way to attract new followers is with a contest. Facebook users love contests, quizzes and other forms of entertainment on the social media site. Pick the right prize and format and your contest can get good engagement. Make sure your prize is related to what you sell, like an area rug or floor cleaning kit. If you give away iPads or televisions you’ll attract followers, but they might not be interested in flooring. Running contests on a regular basis as part of your overall Facebook marketing system ensures you have an ever-growing, engaged base of followers.

Create engagement. Interaction on Facebook means likes, shares or comments. If your posts aren’t getting much engagement Facebook’s algorithms will penalize your posts, making them visible to fewer people. Text-heavy posts tend to get the least engagement. Product photos or display racks don’t get great engagement either. Photos of happy customers standing on their new floors with the caption, “Let’s congratulate Suzy Smith on her new floors by liking this post” can get great engagement, especially if you tag your customer so the post shows up on her timeline. Now her friends will see it and want to congratulate her, thus creating engagement and even attracting new followers to your page.

Get people off Facebook and into your store and/or database. You’ll hear a lot about attracting followers and creating engagement in social media seminars, but often you won’t hear much on getting Facebook users to come into your store and buy. This is unfortunate because unless Facebook generates customers you’re wasting your time, energy and money.

People don’t generally buy big-ticket items on Facebook, so you must get them off Facebook and into your store or database so you can market directly to them via email.

If you have any questions or if you’d like me to evaluate your Facebook page and give you tips on how to improve your results, email me at support@flooringsuccesssystems.com.

 

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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Marketing mastery: How to leverage your online reviews

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMStatistics show nearly 90% of consumers consider ratings and reviews before making purchase decisions. This should come as no surprise in this era of Amazon, Google, Yelp, Facebook, Yahoo, Angie’s List and Home Advisor, to name a few. Let’s face it: These days, everybody is online—especially consumers in the market for floor coverings. This presents a valuable opportunity to be proactive and get out in front of the customer by not only boosting your web presence, but also interacting with potential—and existing—customers in a meaningful and timely manner.

First, it’s important to understand the customer’s mentality when it comes to researching and buying products online. Not too long ago I was on Amazon to purchase individually wrapped computer screen cleaners; I was trying to decide between a dozen options. I read several reviews to help me make a decision on what turned out to be a $19 purchase. How many times have you done the same thing for minor purchases? For that matter, how many times have you checked reviews for larger purchases such as choosing a restaurant, booking a hotel or hiring a service business? Most of us do it on a regular basis. More importantly, your prospects are increasingly checking reviews prior to purchasing flooring.

Here are some statistics to consider:

  • 92% of consumers today read online reviews vs. 88% in 2014.
  • 94% of consumers would rather use a business with a four-star rating.
  • 88% trust reviews as much as personal recommendations vs. 83% in 2014.

These stats highlight the importance of getting positive reviews for your business. However, it’s also important that you have lots of reviews, and that new reviews are being posted regularly.

So, how can a dealer generate a steady stream of positive reviews and get the most marketing leverage out of them? There are three things to consider when it comes to reviews. The first is review acquisition, which means actively seeking reviews from your happy customers. Most review sites allow you to solicit reviews, so it’s generally OK to ask. However, be careful about offering incentives for positive reviews, as this is against the guidelines for many review sites.

Conventional wisdom states the best time to ask for a review is after a successful installation—providing the customer is pleased with the products and services you have provided. Get into the habit of sending each of your customers an email asking for a review, and include links to several popular review sites.

Here’s a word of caution: Don’t have your customer use your store’s computer or tablet to write reviews. It’s easy for review companies to detect these kinds of “kiosk” tactics using incoming IP addresses and browser cookies. It’s best to email the request and let the customer give the review from her home.

Next, make sure you are monitoring them properly. If you get a bad review, reach out to the customer and try to correct the issue quickly.  Depending on the site, you may be able to comment on the review and explain what steps you have taken to make things right. Don’t panic if you get the occasional bad review. Studies show consumers are skeptical when they only see 5-star reviews, so a couple of less-than-perfect reviews can actually make you seem more real.

In future columns I will provide more tips on how to get mileage from your positive reviews.

 

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.