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Marketing Mastery: Great marketing cures a lot of ills

October 14/21, 2019: Volume 35/Issue 8

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Second of two parts)


In part one of this series (FCNews, Sept. 16/23), I made the point that, hopefully, industry-wide solutions to the installer shortage are coming, but that might take a while. In the short term you’ve got to solve it for yourself, which generally means either hiring installers away from other retailers, or recruiting and training them yourself. Either way, if you don’t have enough customers and your margins are low, you’ll have trouble affording it.

That’s where good marketing comes in. Let’s look at some practical strategies you can implement to attract plenty of quality customers and command margins of 40%-50% or more.

Build a strong foundation. The first thing you need to have in place is a strong selling system. Studies show that on average three out of 10 walk-ins wind up buying. If you’re investing time, energy and money to get customers to walk in—but your sales process is so weak that 70% of them don’t buy—you’re simply throwing your money away. So, before you even begin investing in marketing you need to put a strong selling system in place. Your selling system should equip your team to take control of the sales process, create differentiation, position them as trusted advisors, command high margins and close more sales.

Implement a referral-generating system. Referrals are less price-resistant, easier to close and more fun to work with than cold prospects who simply saw an advertisement. We all know this, yet most dealers don’t have a system in place to generate ongoing referrals. Your referral system should do two things: First, train your team on how to ask for and get immediate referrals from your completed installations. Second, your system should generate ongoing referrals from customers between purchases. You do this by creating a culture of referrals.

Dance with the one who brought you. Your business exists because of the patronage of your past customers. Stop ignoring them. Communicate with them at least monthly. I’m going to keep hammering this until the industry gets the message.

Wow ’em from the get-go. Everyone goes online looking for flooring, and everyone reads reviews. That’s why it’s important to make sure you’ve got dozens of 4- and 5-star reviews, with new ones being added each month.

Profit from other people’s herds.Over the years you’ve been in business you’ve rounded up a herd of past customers who provide you with repeat and referred business. Other businesses have too. Build referral relationships with these businesses. Top prospects include realtors, remodelers and designers.

The strategies I’ve presented have something in common: they all help increase your repeat and referred business, close more sales and position your store as the obvious choice. When you shift from being, say, 30% repeat/referral-driven, to being 70% repeat/referral-driven, your closed sales will automatically increase and it will be far easier to command high margins. And this will help you solve the installation crisis for your own business more effectively and less expensively than many other kinds of advertising.

Jim Augustus Armstrong is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, a company that provides floor dealers with marketing services and coaching to help them attract quality customers, close more sales, get higher margins and work the hours they choose. Visit FlooringSuccessSystems.com for more information.

 

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Marketing mastery: Attracting installers in a tight labor market

September 16/23, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 7

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of two parts)

On Aug. 23, I attended the Flooring Installation Taskforce meeting held at the CFI convention in San Antonio. This meeting was hosted by the Floor Covering Leadership Council to help further the mission of solving the installer shortage. Robert Varden, vice president of CFI, did a fantastic job presenting the challenges and providing real, actionable solutions to recruit a steady stream of young people to the installation profession. The only thing needed to implement these solutions is funding. Hopefully a few big players or a group of smaller players, or some combination, will recognize that funding these solutions is in their own best interests.

So, in the short term—while we work toward an industry-wide solution—you need to solve the installation problem for yourself. I believe there are really only two viable options to do this. The first option is to recruit installers away from other dealers. In today’s market it’s rare to find an experienced, qualified installer who is unemployed. Therefore, you’ll often be hiring them away from other dealers, which requires you to pay them better than your competition. The second option is to recruit and hire new, inexperienced installers. In this case you’ll need to provide training and—this is critical—a career path. (CFI has training programs to which you can send new installers.) You’ll need to show them how they’ll be making X-number of dollars, and how that amount will go up as they gain experience. You’ll also need to provide health insurance and a retirement plan. In other words, you’ll need to hire them as in-house employees because 18- to 24-year olds are generally not interested in starting their own installation business, buying a van, the tools, etc.

Neither option is possible if you don’t have enough customers, your close ratios are low and your margins are in the toilet. If you’re trying to compete by being cheaper than everyone else, you’ll cause a host of problems for yourself, just a few of which include: inability to recruit quality help of any kind, including installers; inability to grow; difficulty weathering recessions; and massive stress and overwork for yourself.

Yes, there are large companies that sell on cheap price (or at least pretend to), but as an independent retailer you shouldn’t emulate them. First, they have a business plan that supports a cheap-price model, including the ability to buy in massive volume. Second, whenever “cheap price” is your big market advantage, all it takes is for someone to come along offering a cheaper price to eliminate your advantage. Case in point: I was recently consulting with a dealer from Georgia who told me, “No one beats our price.” A while later in our conversation he complained he was surrounded by dealers who owned nothing more than a website and some samples, who were selling out of their truck or garage and undercutting his prices. I pointed out that this is why cheap-price selling is a dead end. I’m now working with him to completely reposition the business away from cheap price and implement marketing to attract the right customers.

The good news is you can attract plenty of quality customers while having high close ratios and selling at high margins. In part two, I’ll cover strategies to make this happen in your business.

 

Jim Augustus Armstrong is the founder and president of Flooring Success Systems, which provides floor dealers with marketing services and coaching to help them attract quality customers, close more sales, earn higher margins and work the hours they choose. Visit FlooringSuccessSystems.com.

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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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Marketing mastery: 15 sure-fire strategies to win customers

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

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

There was once a chiropractor who built up a million-dollar-per-year practice. He sold his business and quickly built another million-dollar practice. Then he did it a third time. Obviously, this man had a system for building successful chiropractic operations. So, he began to host seminars teaching other chiropractors how to grow their businesses. After almost every seminar someone would approach him and ask, “I need a way to get 50 new clients a month.” To which the million-dollar chiropractor would reply, “I don’t know one way to get 50 new clients a month; I know 50 ways to get one new client a month, and I do all 50.”

This is the exact kind of thinking you need to apply to your flooring business. Too many dealers fall prey to “silver-bullet” thinking. They are hoping to find that one strategy or social media/website platform that will solve all of their customer acquisition problems. Or, they get approached by a marketing company offering lead-generation services, SEO or pay-per-click, and they become seduced by the idea that this company’s product will generate all the customers they need.

The key to having a thriving business is to implement marketing and business systems. Following are 15 marketing strategies to get (at least) one new customer per month:

1. Market to your past customers consistently. The most effective way I’ve found to do this is with a monthly printed newsletter and a weekly e-newsletter. You can touch your list this often if in your communication you use the 90/10 formula: 90% fun, informative, welcome, entertaining content and 10% flooring subject matter.

2. Print extra newsletters each month and give them to walk-ins.

3. Subscribe all the businesses within six blocks of your store to your newsletter.

4. Wear shoe covers during in-home measures.

5. Five-around strategy: When you install flooring in a customer’s home, leave a promotional door hanger with their two neighbors on either side and the three across the street.

6. Follow up with every prospect every few days until they give you a yes or no.

7. Hand every walk-in a beverage menu and ask them what they’d like to drink.

8. Welcome packs for walk-ins: Have professional folders printed up and inside include your latest newsletter, customer testimonials and your guaran- tees and warranties.

9. When you do an in-home measure, give the prospect a free bottle of spotter with free lifetime refills.

10. Take photos of your customers standing on their new floors. Post the photos on your Facebook and Instagram page along with a testimonial.

11. Put a review campaign in place so every customer is automatically asked to review your business online.

12. Stream reviews on your website.

13. Record short video testimonials from your customers. Post them on your website.

14. Post video testimonials on social media.

15. Implement a system to generate referrals from every installation.

 

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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.