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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.

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Marketing mastery: How to win the path-to-purchase game

October 23/30, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 10

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Second of three parts)

When buying big ticket items ($500 or more), the average consumer spends 79 days on the path-to-purchase, research shows. Furthermore, 85% of consumers begin their path-to-purchase journey online, but 82% of the time do they make the actual purchase in a brick-and-mortar store.

To that end, it’s important that retailers stay in front of their prospect throughout the 79 days in order to make sure that the path ends at their store instead of a competitor’s.

In this follow-up to Part I of my series (FCNews, Sept. 11/18), I provide a three-step system for making this happen.

Step 1: Provide prospects with an “irresistible free offer” on your website. By “irresistible,” I mean an offer so compelling that a total stranger is willing to give you her contact information in exchange for the information you’re giving away. In creating this kind of offer, it’s important to understand the mindset of someone shopping for flooring. She is excited about the prospect of getting new floors to make her home more beautiful. She is about to invest thousands of dollars and she doesn’t want to make a mistake, buy the wrong flooring and have to live with a decision she’ll regret. So naturally, her excitement is combined with some nervousness—which is part of the reason the path to purchase averages 79 days.

The consumer begins her research online, so put yourself in the best position to offer her this guidance. For instance, she visits your website and sees a video or ad offering for a free report where she will learn how to avoid predatory dealers and questions to ask a dealer before purchasing. This is a compelling offer that she is likely to opt in for if she’s in the market for flooring.

Step 2: Obtain prospect’s critical information. Basically you need to collect three pieces of information from the consumer: name, email address and phone number. If a prospect is willing to give you all of this, she has raised her hand and identified herself as a hot prospect who is very interested in buying flooring. You can now focus more intense marketing efforts on this prospect.

Step 3: Establish an automated 79-day ‘drip’ campaign. For the first month, your prospect should get an email from you every two to three days. Every email should follow the 90/10 formula: 90% great content and only 10% consisting of an invitation to purchase. This means 90% of the content is valuable, informative, welcome and entertaining; it should be so compelling that she looks forward to your next email.

Up to 10% of the message can consist of a special offer or invitation to purchase. You should include a deadline for the offer along with a very clear, simple call to action: phone you or visit your showroom.

Within a day or two of opting in for your free offer, your prospect should get a phone call from a member of your sales team. The aim here is to schedule an appointment, either in your showroom or the prospect’s home.

Over the course of the next phase—31-79 days—send a weekly email. Follow the same 90/10 formula you used during the first 30 days.

By following this strategy you give yourself a huge advantage in the path-to-purchase game because most of your competitors will never implement a system as I’ve described.

 

New book!  For a free copy of Jim’s latest book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes Online,” visit BeatTheBoxesOnline.com.

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Marketing mastery: The best social media platforms for business

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMI sometimes hear busy flooring dealers make comments such as, “I keep hearing about the different social media platforms I should be using to market my business, but there are so many. I just can’t keep up.” It’s understandable for dealers to feel this way because there are a ton of options available.

If you’re struggling to choose a platform, why not put your focus where the majority of your customers are interacting? According to a report released by the Pew Research Center, 68% of Americans are on Facebook. This dwarfs the percentages on Instagram (28%), Pinterest (26%), LinkedIn (25%) and Twitter (21%).

In my opinion, Facebook is still the most effective at delivering customers. When done correctly it can produce a steady stream of quality customers for your business. You can make money using some of the other platforms if you have the time and resources to design and run effective marketing campaigns for each additional social media account. But most dealers barely have the time to effectively implement one platform, let alone several.

Some of you may have already attempted Facebook marketing and received mediocre results. I have found that dealers often make some common mistakes that hurt their efforts on this potentially lucrative platform. Following are four common errors.

Trying to sell directly on Facebook. The only products that tend to sell well on Facebook are low-end, impulse items like t-shirts, inexpensive electronic gadgets, costume jewelry, etc. In terms of selling, think of Facebook as a large mall. You don’t usually see big-ticket items like flooring being sold in malls where people tend to browse for impulse buys. Therefore if you want to generate sales, your marketing should be designed to get prospects off social media and into your store.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.15.38 AMPoor page design. Not properly setting up your page can hurt your visibility online and cause you to miss opportunities to get people into your store. Some common mistakes include: using incomplete information, having no call to action or link to the dealer’s main website, weak or non-existent unique selling proposition, having information and branding that is inconsistent with other online listings and setting up your business as a personal profile. (This is currently against Facebook’s guidelines and can get your profile shut down.)

Buying likes. Having thousands of likes on your Facebook page makes you look more relevant, and if the likes are from real followers—and you market to them properly—they can translate into big revenues for your business. However, it can be tempting to buy likes, and there are companies all over the Internet offering to sell them to you. Don’t do it. If you have 10,000 likes from fake followers not interested in your product, then they are going to have low engagement. This hurts the visibility of your posts, and your real followers won’t see them. Fake followers are also not going to buy your product.

Having no Facebook marketing plan. Many dealers simply post photos of products or special offers periodically with no thought-out plan for systematically generating business from this platform. Your posts must fit into an overall plan for generating quality customers.

Jim Augustus Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring dealers. For a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes and Escape the Cheap-Price Rat-Race of Doom Forever,” visit beattheboxestoday.com.

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Marketing mastery: The best social media platforms for business

October 9/16, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 9

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMI sometimes hear busy flooring dealers make comments such as, “I keep hearing about the different social media platforms I should be using to market my business, but there are so many. I just can’t keep up.” It’s understandable for dealers to feel this way because there are a ton of options available.

If you’re struggling to choose a platform, why not put your focus where the majority of your customers are interacting? According to a report released by the Pew Research Center, 68% of Americans are on Facebook. This dwarfs the percentages on Instagram (28%), Pinterest (26%), LinkedIn (25%) and Twitter (21%).

In my opinion, Facebook is still the most effective at delivering customers. When done correctly it can produce a steady stream of quality customers for your business. You can make money using some of the other platforms if you have the time and resources to design and run effective marketing campaigns for each additional social media account. But most dealers barely have the time to effectively implement one platform, let alone several.

Some of you may have already attempted Facebook marketing and received mediocre results. I have found that dealers often make some common mistakes that hurt their efforts on this potentially lucrative platform. Following are four common errors.

Trying to sell directly on Facebook. The only products that tend to sell well on Facebook are low-end, impulse items like t-shirts, inexpensive electronic gadgets, costume jewelry, etc. In terms of selling, think of Facebook as a large mall. You don’t usually see big-ticket items like flooring being sold in malls where people tend to browse for impulse buys. Therefore if you want to generate sales, your marketing should be designed to get prospects off social media and into your store.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.15.38 AMPoor page design. Not properly setting up your page can hurt your visibility online and cause you to miss opportunities to get people into your store. Some common mistakes include: using incomplete information, having no call to action or link to the dealer’s main website, weak or non-existent unique selling proposition, having information and branding that is inconsistent with other online listings and setting up your business as a personal profile. (This is currently against Facebook’s guidelines and can get your profile shut down.)

Buying likes. Having thousands of likes on your Facebook page makes you look more relevant, and if the likes are from real followers—and you market to them properly—they can translate into big revenues for your business. However, it can be tempting to buy likes, and there are companies all over the Internet offering to sell them to you. Don’t do it. If you have 10,000 likes from fake followers not interested in your product, then they are going to have low engagement. This hurts the visibility of your posts, and your real followers won’t see them. Fake followers are also not going to buy your product.

Having no Facebook marketing plan. Many dealers simply post photos of products or special offers periodically with no thought-out plan for systematically generating business from this platform. Your posts must fit into an overall plan for generating quality customers.

 

Jim Augustus Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring dealers. For a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes and Escape the Cheap-Price Rat-Race of Doom Forever,” visit beattheboxestoday.com.

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Marketing mastery: Winning the so-called path-to-purchase game

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMIn 2016 Synchrony Financial did a major-purchase study that focused on the path to purchase consumers take when they buy big-ticket items. The company found 85% of consumers begin their path to purchase online, 70% then visit a brick-and-mortar store and 82% make their purchase in the store. According to GE Financial, this entire process takes 79 days on average.

Therefore, if you want to win the path-to-purchase game, your website should do the following:

  1. Create differentiation to make your dealership overwhelmingly obvious.
  2. Have a strong call to action that moves prospects along the path-to-purchase in your direction.
  3. Capture prospects’ contact information.
  4. Do follow-up marketing and stay in front of prospects throughout the path to purchase.

Let’s take a look at why most flooring websites do not accomplish these four things.

Failure to create differentiation. How many flooring dealer websites have you seen with the business name at the top, photos and/or lists of products (sometimes with teaser prices) and company and contact information?

I call these “Name, Rank and Serial Number” websites. Superficially these sites vary, but most of them say the same thing, which creates no differentiation from competitors.

You see, all prospective customers searching online have one question: Why should I buy from you instead of your competitors? Most websites do a poor job of answering this fundamental question.

A weak or non-existent call to action. Most flooring websites are basically electronic brochures. They give product and business information, but do not have a strong call to action. Your website should compel visitors to take specific action that propels them down the path to purchase in your direction and away from competitors.

Failure to capture contact information. You’ve invested money into your website. Chances are you have paid an SEO company to improve your rankings so people can find you. You have also probably invested large sums into pay-per-click ads. However, most consumers simply poke around for a minute and then leave, never to be heard from again. You’re only giving yourself one shot at these prospects’ business, so most of the money you invested driving them to your site is wasted. If you capture their contact information you will have the opportunity to stay in front of them throughout their path to purchase.

Failure to do follow-up marketing. The goal with follow-up marketing is to transform a single website visit into unlimited opportunities to stay in front of prospects and drive them toward your business. Because most flooring websites do a poor job of capturing visitors’ contact info, there is rarely an opportunity for follow-up marketing.

What if there was a single solution to all four of these website problems? Well, you’re in luck, and I’ll reveal it in the next installment.

 

 

Jim Augustus Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring dealers. For a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes and Escape the Cheap-Price Rat-Race of Doom Forever,” visit beattheboxestoday.com.

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Marketing mastery: Cut the rope to finally grow your business

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Third of three parts)

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMIn the first two parts I compared a flooring dealership to a hot air balloon. It wants to float up into the sky but a rope is anchoring it to the ground. The rope represents the amount of hours you can physically work in your business. By cutting the rope, your business can grow and you can work less. In part two, I explained two out of the five keys to cutting the rope. Here are the final three.

Key #3: Marketing. If you want to work fewer hours it is essential to delegate, which means hiring quality people. Being able to afford this requires having effective marketing strategies in place, strategies you can rely on daily to produce a consistent stream of revenue.

The best place to begin is by marketing to people who have already proven they will give you money in exchange for flooring—past customers. Here are three examples of dealers who made dramatic business transformations by marketing to past customers on a consistent basis.

  • In six months Mark Bouquet, an Illinois dealer, went from nearly closing his doors to being booked out for weeks. In recent years his business has exceeded $3 million in revenue.
  • Garry Combs, another dealer in Illinois, was on the verge of closing his doors. He not only turned his business around but within two years he opened his second store.
  • Craig Bendele, a Florida dealer, grew his business by 50% two years in a row. He is currently building his dream home.

These dealers did other things as well to build their businesses, but past-customer marketing was a major factor driving these revenue increases.

Key #4: Systems. A system is a procedure, process, method or course of action designed to achieve a specific result. Systems are the only way to produce a reliable, quality experience for your customers. They allow a person who owns 15 dealerships to deliver great service to his customers without things falling apart.

Your job as an entrepreneur is to work on rather than in your business, and that means developing and maintaining systems. Let’s say you implement a system for measuring a home and quoting the job. If something goes wrong resist the temptation to do the task yourself. Instead, work on your business by determining what went wrong and fixing the breakdown in your system.

Key #5: Management/ leadership. Part of good leadership means maximizing your team’s success. Here are three things you must have in place to ensure this happens.

First, you’ve got to give your team the tools to succeed. For example, if you want your sales team to increase their closed sales, it’s not enough to say, “You need to close more sales.” You’ve got to give them the tools, such as a step-by-step sales system that can be taught and learned. Second, you’ve got to train them on how to use the tools. Third, you’ve got to have accountability to use the tools correctly.

All three of these can be accomplished in weekly training. This same three-step process can be used for any position within your company.

By implementing these five keys you can cut the rope and allow your business to soar, while at the same time eliminating the stress and burnout of working 50-plus hours per week. If you have questions or comments I’d love to hear them. Email me at support@flooringsuccesssystems.com.

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Marketing mastery: Cutting the ropes that are tying you down

August 14/21: Volume 32, Issue 5

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(Second of three parts)

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMPicture a hot air balloon lifting off the ground, but it can’t go higher than 60 feet because of the rope holding it down. The balloon is your business, and the rope is how many hours you can physically work each week. Your business wants to soar, but eventually you reach the end of your rope. It might be 50, 70 or 90 hours, but eventually you’ll run out of the time you can put into your business. Let’s look at five keys to cutting the rope.

Key #1: Goals/objectives. Imagine a ship setting sail from New York; without a goal where is it going to go? In circles, most likely. Which is where a lot of dealers find themselves going. Goals enable you to set a course and move forward toward a specific destination.

Goals must be specific, written and have a deadline to be useful. Saying “I want to make more money,” is not a goal. But writing “I will increase my average monthly revenue from $20,000 to $25,000 by July 1, 2018,” is a goal. Saying “I want to work less” is not a goal. But writing “I will take Fridays and weekends off by November 1, 2017,” is a goal.

It’s important to review your goals regularly. Let’s go back to that ship setting sail from New York. The captain has a goal to reach London. During the voyage, waves and wind will knock the ship off course, so the crew must monitor where they are at and make continuous course corrections. The ship will get to London not in a straight line but in a series of zig-zags. It’s the same with your business. The more frequently you review your goals, the tighter the zigs and zags and you’ll get there more efficiently.

Key #2: Develop core values. These are the timeless values that that are unique to your business and separate you from the competition. Some real-world examples include: customer service, always do the right thing, continually strive for perfection, exhibit creativity, be growth oriented, we have fun in business, etc.

Your core values already exist in your organization, you’ve just lost sight of them in all the chaos. An effective way to uncover them is to do the following four steps, which I learned from the book “Traction” by Gino Wickman.

Step 1: Have your leadership team make a list of the two or three people in your organization who—if you could clone them—would enable you to dominate your market.

Step 2: Make a list of all the positive traits those individuals exhibit in their roles.

Step 3: Your businesses core values are contained within this list. Your leadership team should identify every core value or principle that applies to your company.

Step 4: Whittle the list down to the five to seven that are truly your company’s core values.

Being clear on your core values enables you to attract and keep the right people. It empowers your team to make decisions or handle tricky situations when you’re not there. Once you identify your core values, hire, fire and train based on these values. This will enable you to build a strong company culture that can survive ups and downs in the market and enable you to achieve your ideal business and ideal lifestyle.

In the next installment I’ll cover the remaining three keys to cutting the rope so your business can soar. If you have questions or comments I’d love to hear them. Please e-mail me at support@flooringsuccesssystems.com.

 

Jim Augustus Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring dealers. For a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes and Escape the Cheap-Price Rat-Race of Doom Forever,” visit beattheboxestoday.com.

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Marketing mastery: How to escape the feast-or-famine roller coaster

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

(First of three parts)

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMHow many of these statements sound familiar?

  • “Business is slow, so I scramble to get more customers. The next month things pick up and I stress out and work long hours trying to stay caught up; then things slow down and the cycle starts all over again.”
  • “I feel like I’m stuck at the same level no matter how hard I work.”
  • “I’m working too many hours and I’m burned out.”
  • “I make a living, but I’ve been unable to accumulate real wealth or save for retirement.”
  • “I feel discouraged that things will never change for the better.”

If any of these ring a bell, you’re not alone. The good news is by implementing the right strategies you can make a higher salary than the average family doctor, while working less than 35 hours per week.

Craig Bendele, a Florida dealer, is a great example. Like many dealers he was working 60-plus hours each week, including weekends. The stress was terrible and business was not fun anymore. Finally, he had enough and began implementing changes. Things have completely turned around for him. Now he only works Monday through Thursday. He takes vacations and time off when he wants. At the same time, his business grew by 50% two years in a row.

Jerome Nowowiejski is a dealer from Texas who underwent a similar transformation. When I met him he was working six days per week. His residential margins were below 30%, and he was struggling to grow his business. Once he began implementing the correct strategies the change happened fast. Within 90 days his margins were at 45% to 50%. He is consistently booked out for weeks at a time, and he’s been able to use the additional profits to buy multiple rental properties. Furthermore, he dramatically cut his work hours. He no longer works weekends and frequently takes vacations.

How were these storeowners able to do what so many dealers only dream about? They transformed their businesses from being owner-dependent to system-dependent. Owner-dependent means that if the owner isn’t there to personally babysit the operation, things quickly begin to fall apart. (Sound familiar?) System-dependent means the business runs on standard operating procedures whether the owner is present or away.

A good example is the dealer who owns 15 stores. There is absolutely no way he can possibly be at each location 60 hours per week or even 10 hours per week. He could never grow beyond one or two locations if his stores were dependent upon him personally being there. His stores must be system-dependent.

You can create a system-dependent business even if you only have one store. What you need to do is cut the rope. Here’s what I mean:

Picture a hot air balloon lifting off the ground, but it can’t go higher than 60 feet because of a rope holding it down. The balloon is your business and the rope is how many hours you can physically work each week. Your business wants to soar but eventually you reach the end of your rope. In the following parts you’re going to learn how to cut the rope so your business can thrive, allowing you to live your ideal lifestyle.

 

Jim Augustus Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring dealers. For a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes and Escape the Cheap-Price Rat-Race of Doom Forever,” visit beattheboxestoday.com.