Posted on

Marketing mastery: Differentiate yourself by being unconventional

July 8/15, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 2

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

Earl Nightingale, the late author, speaker and radio host, wrote: “Watch what everyone else does. Then do the opposite. The majority is always wrong.”

Most of the sales, marketing and differentiation strategies I teach flooring dealers break convention. I do this because unconventional strategies offer the biggest return on investment for dealers who have the courage to implement them. Some of these benefits include: creating differentiation from competitors; commanding high margins; long-term customer loyalty; increased referrals and market share; and a business that stands the test of time.

The only way to achieve extraordinary results is to do the extraordinary. After all, how are you going to create differentiation, command higher margins than your competitors and create long-term customer loyalty if you follow industry norms or simply copy what’s going on around you?

Almost everyone says they want to be different. But when presented with strategies that are truly different than anything inside our industry, some flooring dealers recoil out of fear or discomfort. Case in point: I recently spoke at an industry event on three proven, but unconventional, strategies flooring dealers I work with have used to create differentiation, attract customers and sell at high margins.

To demonstrate the power of embracing these strategies, I presented case studies, including:

•A dealer from Florida who increased his revenue by 50% multiple years in a row.

•Two different dealers from Illinois who brought their businesses back from the brink of bankruptcy and are now thriving.

•A dealer from Texas who stays booked out for six to 12 weeks, with customers happy to wait one or two months because they only want to work with him.

Most of the attendees seemed open-minded and excited about the impact these unconventional approaches could have on their businesses. But there were a couple of store owners who weren’t convinced. During the Q&A one asked, “How does the dealer from Texas get customers to wait that long for their flooring? I don’t see customers waiting for weeks to have flooring installed.”

This attendee had just sat through a 90-minute session where I outlined exactly how the dealer created differentiation from competitors by using unconventional sales and marketing techniques. I reminded him that the Texas dealer cultivated differentiation in his business, and as a result his clients were willing to wait because they saw him as being totally different.

Two of my coaching clients also happened to be in the audience. They told the audience, because of these unconventional strategies, their customers were also willing to wait six weeks.

The same dealer shook his head, stating: “Customers just aren’t going to wait that long.” Even with all this evidence, he refused to believe it was possible. After all, conventional thinking says you have to install the customer’s floors right now or she’ll run off to Home Depot.

Some dealers left the event determined to implement the unconventional strategies they had learned. The first dealer left firmly ensconced in his conventional thinking. Who do you think is more likely to make real improvements in their business over the next 12 months?

 

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.

Posted on

Marketing mastery: Customer service is still king in retail

June 10/17, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 26

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

“Flooring World,” the employee answering the phone said in a bored tone when I called for an appointment with the store owner. (Note: Company names in this article have been changed to avoid libel suits.) This fellow had no enthusiasm in his voice, and his tone suggested I had interrupted his day.

Compare that to how the phone was answered by the employee of a long-time coaching client of mine: “Thank you for calling Ridgway Flooring and Interiors, home of the iron-clad triple guarantee,” she said in a bright, cheerful voice. “How may I help you?” Imagine if you were in the market for flooring and you called both of these stores. With which would you choose to do business?

Customer service is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot. Ask a dealer why a prospect should buy from him or her instead of a competitor and you’ll likely hear, “Because we provide really good customer service.” Ask the competitor the same question and you’ll likely get the same answer. Saying you have great customer service isn’t enough. You have to put actionable, concrete customer service strategies in place and train your team to follow them.

Let’s analyze some statistics from studies done by American Express to see how they apply to your business.

1. Consumers will pay 17% more to buy from companies with great customer service reputations. I’ve worked with flooring dealers whose margins were in the 25%-30% range and helped them quickly leap to 40%-50% margins by implementing strategies to wow their customers. This is one of the fastest, most cost-effective ways to increase your profits.

2. One-third of consumers say one instance of poor customer service would cause them to consider switching companies. Every time you pre- vent a customer loss to a competitor, it’s money in your pocket. Taking the time to root out poor or mediocre customer service habits in your employees will prevent those losses.

3. More than half of consumers say they have made an additional purchase after a company provided a positive experience. It’s common for a customer buy one or two rooms of flooring, only to return later and purchase floors for her entire house, business, rentals, etc. If you really impress your customers, you can increase the frequency of this happening.

4. Nine in 10 consumers factor in customer service when deciding whether to purchase from a company. Your customer’s first point of contact with a member of your team is when she calls or visits. These are your two most important opportunities to make a positive impression so she chooses to buy from you instead of the big box down the street.

5. Happy consumers tell 11 people about their experience with your company; angry consumers tell 15 people. Want more referrals? Start amazing your customers with phenomenal customer service. You’ll not only get more referrals, but you’ll also reduce the number of people complaining about your business to friends and relatives.

Customer service is everything. From the way your phones are answered and how customers are greeted in-store to how you arrive for the in-home measure, every touchpoint with each customer is an opportunity to wow them and dramatically increase your profits.

 

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.

Posted on

Marketing mastery: Direct mail still viable in today’s Internet Age

May 27/June 3, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 25

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

I received a postcard the other day from a company offering their advertising services to help me grow my business. Nothing unusual about that, except that it came from Google.

Here is one of the largest digital advertising companies on the planet pitching their services via paper, ink and the U.S. Postal Service. Why would they do that? Because it works.

Here are some eye-opening statistics: Direct mail response rates for 2018 were 4.9% for prospect lists and 9% for house lists (a company’s own database of contacts). The house list response rate is nearly double from the year before.

Direct mail still has a higher response rate than any other digital, direct-marketing medium. Email, paid search and social media are all at 1% a piece, while online display ads have a response rate of 0.3%.

What’s more, 76% of consumers trust direct mail in helping them make purchase decisions. Compare that with popular digital medias: search engine ads (61%), sponsored posts on blogs (43%) and embedded ads on social media (43%).

Direct mail also has a deeper psychological impact than digital media, research shows. According to Canada Post, direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media and enables higher recall of specific brands. Put simply, direct mail is easier to understand and remember.

None of this means you should abandon digital medias. Done properly they play an important role in promoting your business. However, the idea that direct mail is dead is a myth.

Let’s look at some best direct-mail practices:

Market to your house list. Response rates for house lists are nearly double that of prospect lists, which means you should be marketing to your past customers. One of the most effective methods I’ve found is to send them a monthly newsletter using the 90/10 formula: content should be 90% fun, informative, entertaining content; 10% should be flooring content.

Since the vast majority of dealers don’t market consistently to their house lists, you can give yourself a significant market advantage by doing so.

Determine your target market. If you expand beyond your house list, make sure you’re targeting prospects who fit the profile of your ideal customer. Some things to consider include gender, income, home ownership status and where they live.

Use the right message. Every prospective flooring customer has an unspoken question on their mind: Why should I choose you instead of your competitor? All of your marketing— including direct mail—should be designed to answer that question. Here are some elements to include in your direct mail to help make that happen:

1. An attention-grabbing headline

2. Benefits of buying from you

3. Testimonials from happy customers

4. Summary of what makes you different

5. A strong call to action, along with an offer and a deadline.

Done correctly, direct mail can have a massive impact on the growth of your business. If you have a direct mail marketing piece you’d like me to evaluate, email support@flooringsuccesssystems.com.

 

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

Posted on

Marketing mastery: How to ‘wow’ your walk-in customers

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of two parts)

“The No. 1 reason customers don’t buy is lack of ‘wow.’ We’re not losing customers to competitors, we’re losing them to other industries.” That’s according to Terry Wheat, founder of RFMS, in a recent presentation on selling. I tend to agree with his assessment. When a customer walks out without buying and disappears into the ether, most dealers think they lost her to a competitor. While this is some- times true, oftentimes the customer decided to buy a TV instead. Why does this happen?

Since I founded Flooring Success Systems in 2007, I’ve been preaching to dealers that it’s essential to impress your customers. But when I walk into most showrooms, I often get the opposite effect. In fact, it’s oftentimes downright depressing. Following are some examples from showrooms I’ve visited in the last year.

One dealer had a massive showroom stacked floor to ceiling with racks holding thousands of samples, with narrow aisles in between. The windows were blocked, and you couldn’t see more than about 20 feet.

Another showroom was so cold I had to put my jacket on. It also was stacked nearly floor to ceiling with display racks. If I was actually shopping for flooring that day I, might have gone to Best Buy where the showroom is bright, exciting and fun, and blown my flooring budget on a flat screen TV just to cheer myself up.

Following are some of the main commonalities I found in many of the stores I’ve visited:

Way too many display racks. Sometimes stacked floor-to-ceiling, oftentimes blocking windows and generally creating a claustrophobic effect. Why does anyone think that this is a good idea? You don’t need 107 samples of light beige carpet. You need to curate and create open space.

They smelled like chemicals—or worse. At best, new flooring products have a chemical odor—and if they sat in a warehouse, you can add dust to the mix. This is not a smell that inspires people to open their wallets. Bake some cookies or bread and make your showroom smell like home instead of a dusty warehouse. Keep your store cleaned and vacuumed, including your carpet samples.

No music on the PA system. This was one of the most depressing aspects of so many of the stores I visited. Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve got to start putting yourself into Cathy Consumer’s shoes. She’s spent hours online looking at flooring. She’s excited about finally getting new floors. Finally, she decides to visit some stores. On the way she stops at Starbucks where the interior is clean, open, cheerful and happy. She walks inside, smiling a little as she inhales the delicious aroma of fresh ground coffee. There’s a hum of pleasant sounds: drinks being made, customers chatting and pleasant background music. She gets her caramel latte to go, climbs into her SUV and heads to the first flooring store on her list. (Maybe yours?) She walks inside, smiling a little in anticipation of finding the floor of her dreams.

Subconsciously she’s expecting an experience on par with her visit to Starbucks. Instead, she experiences the polar opposite. Why not put her at ease by playing some cheerful background music?

Remember: You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make sure it’s a favorable one.

Jim Augustus Armstrong 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 hour, and get their lives back. For information visit FlooringSuccessSystems.com.

Posted on

Marketing mastery: How to prioritize your marketing

April 1/8, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 22

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

During a coaching call, a dealer from Arizona told me he wanted to market his business. The only issue was he didn’t know where to start.

“What are you currently doing?” I asked.

“Besides our website, we post pretty regularly on social media, we buy leads from Home Advisor and we spend about $15,000 a year on radio,” he replied.

I asked how many sales his radio ads generated last month, but he had no concrete answer. I also discovered the dealer doesn’t routinely ask all of his prospects how they heard about his business.

I’ve had many conversations very similar to this one with hundreds of dealers from all over the U.S. and Canada, and there’s a lot you can learn from them. First, this dealer isn’t tracking his marketing, so he has no idea what’s working and what isn’t. Marketing without tracking is even more wasteful than heaping your money into a big pile, pouring gasoline on it and setting it ablaze. Why more wasteful? Because you can roast marshmallows over bonfires made of money, but you can’t with money wasted on lousy advertising.

Tracking visitors to your website, your AdWords campaign and how many people are engaging with your social media is all important and useful. However, you need to know what’s driving people to actually visit or call you. Every person who phones or walks through your door should be asked, “How did you hear about us?” Record the answers. After 90 days you’ll get a fairly clear picture of what’s driving people to your business and where you should continue to invest your marketing dollars.

The second thing to notice is this dealer has no real plan for his marketing. He heard he should be doing social media, so he does social media. A radio ad salesman offered him special pricing for a 12-month contract, so he bought radio ads. He’d get far more bang for his buck if he prioritized using the “Three Tiers of Marketing.”

Tier one: Warm market

  • Past customer marketing (monthly newsletter, etc.)
  • Referral program to encourage and incentivize referrals from customers
  • Referral relationships with realtors, designers, remodelers, etc.
  • Sales system
  • Website
  • Online reviews

Tier two: Marketing to cold prospects

  • Social media
  • AdWords (pay-per-click)
  • (SEO) Search Engine Optimization
  • Online lead capture
  • Print ads
  • Direct mail to targeted list

Tier three: Broadcast advertising

  • Billboards
  • Radio
  • Television

Implement all the tier one strategies first. Once these are fully up and running, then implement tier two. (Or, if you have the marketing budget for it, implement tier one and two simultaneously.) Implement tier three only when you’ve thoroughly implemented everything you possibly can in tier one and two. Use discretionary marketing dollars for tier three.

Almost all dealers invest heavily in tiers two and three and virtually ignore tier one. Reviews are in tier one because everyone is looking at your online rating, including your past customers and their referrals. Studies show that 88% of consumers now trust reviews as much as a referral from a friend. If you have no reviews or a low rating, you risk losing these once-loyal customers to competitors with a better online reputation.

Posted on

Marketing mastery: Using technology to make life easier

March 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 20

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

When I first meet my clients, it’s not uncommon for them to tell me they’ve been putting in 50-70 hours per week. I’ve even encountered a few tortured souls whose average weekly hours on the job were north of 90.

As a flooring dealer you work very hard. You provide employment. You help people make their homes beautiful and inviting. You also shoulder the risk that goes with being an entrepreneur. You deserve to have an awesome life in flooring—to make a lot of money and have a business that’s rewarding.

However, if you want to have a great life in flooring, you must transition your business from being owner-dependent to system-dependent.

While I was at TISE earlier this year, I interviewed the leaders of two major flooring software companies—QFloors and RFMS—about technology’s role in helping dealers transition to being system-dependent.

“There’s a lot of confusion about the types of flooring-specific software,” said Chad Ogden, president, QFloors. “It’s important for dealers to understand there are four basic categories: estimation, room virtualization, CRM and ERP.”

Estimation software enables you to create job quotes quickly and efficiently, even right in the customer’s home (see page 24 in this issue). Room virtualization allows customers to see what different flooring types will look like in their home. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tracks the customer as they move through your sales and marketing funnel. Some CRMs also provide email and other marketing capabilities.

ERP, another popular acronym, stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. “It’s the software that does the heavy lifting of helping to systemize the daily operations of your business, such as calendaring, inventory, accounting, etc.,” Ogden said.

Knowing your numbers is also important if you want to grow your business efficiently. After all, that which gets measured gets improved. “It’s vital that your software be able to give you key performance indicators any time you need them,” said Fred Kotynski, chief information officer for RFMS. “For example, if your goal for the current year is to have overall margins of 40% or more, you need to be able to check regularly that you’re hitting that benchmark, break it down by salesperson and do it with a single click. Quickbooks and other generic accounting software can’t do that efficiently.”

It’s critical you take the time to educate yourself on the different software systems available. “Dealers shouldn’t necessarily rush into a buying decision when looking at software,” said Miranda Golden, administrative director, RFMS. “My advice is to explore the software and take the time to really understand what you’re buying.”

Finally, realize that software by itself will not make your business system-dependent. Software is not the system; software makes the system you already have in place—or the one you want to put in place—run more efficiently. For example, every flooring company needs a calendaring system. As part of that system you need to have a written procedure for scheduling appointments, communicating appointments to your staff, etc. This is true whether your calendar is done on paper or as part of your flooring software. The only difference is the software makes your system run more efficiently.

 

Jim Armstrong is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides digital and offline marketing services as well as coaching to help flooring dealers make more money, work fewer hours and get their lives back. Visit flooringsuccesssystems.com for more information.

Posted on

Marketing mastery: Promote the things that make you special

February 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 19

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

A dealer recently told me his close ratio is only 15%. “Our sales team is wasting time with people who wind up not buying,” he stated.

I told him it sounded like he was not answering the prospects’ unspoken question.

When I bring up the unspoken question, most dealers have no idea what I’m talking about. You see, every prospect who goes online looking for flooring, or calls you, or walks into your store, has an unspoken question: Why should I buy from you instead of your competitor? If you don’t have a compelling answer you’ll continuously lose customers or wind up selling solely based on price.

When I’m coaching dealers on how to get more customers, I’ll often pull up their website along with the websites of several of their top competitors and we’ll look at them side-by-side. Almost without exception, every website has the business name at the top, links to what they sell and contact information. Some have a room designer, a “contact us” form or teaser prices, but overall each site’s message is identical: here’s our name, here’s what we sell and here’s how to find us, etc.

I’ll then say to the dealer: “Cathy Consumer wants new floors. She goes online to find the right dealer. She’s asking herself, ‘Why should I choose you instead of your competitors?’ Does your website answer this question?”

Your website isn’t the only place where you need to answer the unspoken question. In fact, every touchpoint with your prospect should be engineered to answer the question, over and over again in different ways.

Let’s look at some examples of how you can make this happen.

Website. Feature testimonials as social proof. Offer a free report or white paper on how to choose the right flooring. Host videos that demonstrate your expertise by educating her on flooring products, care and maintenance.

Showroom. Keep it spotless and free of clutter. Use a curated approach—you don’t need 87 samples of beige carpet. Have a beverage bar and snacks available. Post testimonials where walk-ins can see them.

Print ads. Feature testimonials. Use risk reversal by highlighting your replacement guarantee and your lifetime installation warranty.

Phones. Make sure the person answering your phones sounds welcoming. Instead of saying, “Boring Flooring, how may I help you?” say, “Thank you for calling Jimbo’s floors, home of the lifetime installation warranty. How may I help you?” Instead of playing music when people are on hold, play recordings of client testimonials.

Restrooms. Keep them spotless. Decorate them. Spend a few bucks to impress your clients.

Social media. Stop posting mundane photos of your display racks. Instead, post pictures of your clients standing on their new floors, along with a testimonial.

In-home measure. Wear medical booties while in your customer’s home. This will communicate that you’re different, you care and you’re a total professional. Keep dog biscuits handy as a treat for the family pet.

These strategies create total differentiation from competitors, position you as a trusted advisor and, most importantly, answer the unspoken question multiple times in many ways.

How many more can you think of? Send them to support@flooringsuccesssystems.com and I may feature them in a future column.

Posted on

Marketing mastery: How to take back control of your life

January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(Second of two parts)

 

In part I of this series (FCNews, Jan. 7/14), I outlined why dealers deserve to have an awesome life in flooring. I also provided examples of dealers just like you who have done it.

Unfortunately, many dealers don’t achieve the life they want, and I’ve found the reason why is they don’t have the two-part success formula in place. Part one is making plenty of money so you can grow your business, hire good people and afford a great lifestyle. Part two is having freedom so you’re able to take time off and work the hours you choose.

Let’s cover some of the basic steps I take dealers through to put the success formula in place so they can have the life in flooring they really want.

Step 1: What does your ideal lifestyle look like? When most floor dealers begin their business or take over an existing one, they are totally consumed with growth. A few years down the road, many find they are working 60-plus hours per week, and they don’t have time to do what’s important to them outside of business.

I believe the purpose of your business is to fund and facilitate your ideal lifestyle. So, let’s start by creating your ideal lifestyle on paper. Write down what your ideal week looks like. How many hours would you like to work? What time do you arrive at work? What time do you go home? What do you do with your free time? For example, coach your kid’s sports team, golf every Wednesday, volunteer at your church, hang out with your spouse, train for a marathon, etc. Also include the things you’d really like to do but can’t because you’re too busy or can’t afford it.

In other words, create a clear picture of what you want your ideal lifestyle to look like without any limitations.

Step 2: What needs to change in your business in order to make your ideal lifestyle a reality? For example, let’s say you’re currently working 50 hours per week, and 15 of those hours are spent on the sales floor, including Saturdays.  Furthermore, let’s say that as part of your ideal lifestyle you want to cut your work hours down to 35, quit working weekends and golf every Friday. What needs to change in your business to make this happen? You would write down that you need to hire someone to take over those 15 hours of selling from you, what your revenue needs to be in order to pay for the new hire and a process for delegating.

Step 3: Put your plan in place. Block out several hours each week to begin implementing these changes into your business. You would begin implementing marketing strategies to increase your revenue and creating a plan to delegate your selling responsibilities. Finally, you would recruit your new hire.

Step 4: Enjoy your new life. Obviously, this is an oversimplified example. I would normally do this over several months, the plan would be much more detailed and it would be done in carefully planned stages. However, this gives you the 30,000-square-foot view of what it looks like to take your business from where you are right now to having the awesome life in flooring you truly want and deserve.

Posted on

Marketing mastery: Make 2019 your best year ever in flooring

January 7/14, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 16

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of two parts.)

I’ve spoken with many dealers who are unsatisfied or frustrated with some aspect of their business. They say things like: “Jim, I love flooring, but my business isn’t growing the way I want it to; I’m not making enough money; I’m losing customers to the competition; I can’t find good salespeople or installers; I’m working 60 hours or more each week, and I’m stressed out all the time, etc.”

Any of this sound familiar? I know you work hard as a flooring dealer, you provide a valuable service to your customers, you provide employment and you’re an asset to your community. You deserve to have a growing, thriving business that’s rewarding and fun—a place you look forward to going each day where you work the number of hours you choose. You deserve a business that provides you and your family with a great lifestyle, including vacations and weekends off. In other words, you deserve to have an awesome life in flooring.

I’m here to tell you that, whatever your past experiences have been, it is possible to have a great life in flooring, just like the dealers who sent me the following comments:

“I’m working less than 35 hours per week, revenue is up 50%...business is fun again!” —Earl from Saskatchewan

“October was our busiest month in 20 years, November was our second busiest and this month we are crashing new records!”  —Mark, Ill.

“Costa Rica! Blended drinks on the beach with my bride of 25-plus years. We had a blast! Jim, thanks for the motivation to let our store work for us rather than us working for the store.”  —Dan, Mont.

I’ve discovered that almost without exception, dealers who have achieved a great life in flooring have put into place a two-part success formula. The first half of the formula is making plenty of money. Let’s face it, if you don’t have enough money, it’s hard to grow and hire good people, it’s hard to give back and help others, and you can’t afford a great lifestyle for you and your family.

The second half of the formula is having freedom. This means you control your business, not the other way around. If your business has too much control, and has you running around in 20 different directions each day, then you don’t have the freedom to focus on growing, taking vacations or spending all the time you want with your family. You’ll always be stuck on that hamster wheel, running and running, but never moving ahead the way you want to.

There are several steps that go into implementing the success formula, and the first is having the correct mindset. I have found I can give dealers proven, step-by-step strategies for making more money and having more freedom, but those strategies are useless if the dealer believes it’s impossible to work fewer than 60 hours per week, or that wanting to make a lot of money is selfish.

You’ll notice that I began this installment by listing some of the reasons you deserve to have a great life in flooring and then showing you examples of dealers who have achieved it. I did this because I want to help you have the right mindset. Deep down in your gut I want you to really know and feel two things: No. 1 that you deserve a great life in flooring, and No. 2 that it’s possible for you to achieve. Both statements are not only true but necessary in order to get the success you really want.

In the next installment I’ll outline proven steps to help you get there.

Posted on

Marketing mastery: Customer appreciation goes a long way

December 10/17, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 14

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

To understand the importance of customer recognition, let’s take a minute and put ourselves in our customer’s shoes. Cathy Consumer is a 35-year-old mother of three, all under the age of 10. She and her husband work full time. Cathy loves her kids and is a devoted mother, but they’re a little weak in the recognition and appreciation department. Maybe they show some appreciation on Mother’s Day and her birthday but the rest of the time her kids rarely appreciate her efforts on their behalf.

Cathy works as an insurance adjuster. Other than her bi-weekly paycheck, her boss doesn’t give her any recognition. The public, whom she deals with during insurance claims, doesn’t give her recognition. Neither do her co-workers.

Her husband, while devoted, is overworked and stressed out. He’s tired all the time and mostly just watches TV in the evenings, so he doesn’t give her as much validation for her efforts as she would like.

Cathy is craving recognition and appreciation, but she’s not getting much of it in her day-to-day life. It’s the same story with many of your customers. Even those who receive sufficient recognition on a day-to-day basis wouldn’t turn down a little more.

If you were the one to give Cathy Consumer and all of your other customers the recognition and appreciation they crave, it would give them great, positive feelings about you and your business. More importantly, it would strengthen their loyalty, so next time they might not be so quick to be seduced by a “free installation” offer by some box store. It would make them more likely to refer you. It would help you create deep connections with your list of past customers.

Let’s look at some customer recognition and appreciation strategies you can put in place immediately.

Beverage menu. After welcoming a walk-in and thanking her for visiting, hand her a beverage menu and ask her what she would like to drink. This will make her feel instantly appreciated, not to mention create total differentiation from competitors.

Handwritten thank-you cards. Send personalized cards to customers after every completed installation. This is something you virtually never see from any business in today’s retail environment.

Customer of the month. In your newsletter and e-newsletters, feature a customer of the month and honor her by sending her out to dinner. People love to see their names in print. Also, people will open your mail to see your next customer of the month.

Acknowledge customers publicly. Thank customers for their business in your newsletter, email and social media. Post photos of their installed floors, along with their comments. Make them into mini celebrities just by buying from you.

Acknowledge referrals. Have a section in your newsletter thanking the people who sent you referrals. Remind everyone of your referral incentive program.

Welcome whiteboard. Put a whiteboard on an easel near your front door. When you know a customer is coming in for an appointment write, “Jimbo’s Floors Welcomes Cathy Consumer” on the board so she sees it when she walks in.