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Lisbiz strategies: Learn to strike while the iron is still hot

October 28/November 4, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 9

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

In the world of retail, salespeople and owners live and die by leads. These leads may come through sophisticated electronic marketing systems, or they may come to a flooring store by more traditional means such as word of mouth. In either case, the objective is to jump on them before they get stale.

I understand that managing and following up on leads can be difficult at times. You meant to call them, but you were too busy. Now, you’re afraid to follow up because you think the lead is too old. When you finally do reach out to the customer she tells you she has already bought from your competitor.

Why didn’t you set time aside to make the call? You’re not the only one who hates calling people you don’t know, and the longer you wait the more difficult it becomes. You need to contact potential customers as quickly as possible. Remember, they have already expressed an interest in what you’re selling. If they haven’t visited your website and connected, it’s your job to get them there.

Are you a flooring manufacturer who supplies consumer or commercial leads to retailers? Purchasing leads is a big investment for your company, but if no one is keeping track how will you know what has become of them? This is where a targeted, touch-point email marketing program can help keep potential customers interested in coming to your flooring store.

A touch-point email marketing program is specifically designed to deliver a particular message to your potential customer and is personalized to her shopping needs. According to Campaign Marketing, email is highly ranked in the marketing kingdom with a 380% ROI and $38 for every $1 spent. An email campaign is about building relationships, not just selling. Each email should have a message that is important to the customer.

Even if you haven’t met her, useful advice on your products will begin to build your relationship. It doesn’t mean sending one note to the customer and disappearing. You must be consistent and have a series of timed touch points.

It is also not the holiday card you send out to relatives to see if they’re still alive. This is an electronic magnet. Instead of putting it on the customer’s refrigerator, it will stay on her mind through digital marketing.

There’s no reason why you can’t put together a three- to five-week email campaign starting with a friendly “hello,” introducing yourself and offering an invitation to come in and pick up a gift. You can also direct her to useful information on your website, such as design tips or color ideas.

The key is to build a relationship so the potential customer feels like she knows you and wants to meet you. This is also why you need to market using your personal picture. It has been proven trust increases by more than 75% if the customer sees your picture before she meets you. Real estate agents routinely include their photos in marketing promos.

Remember, these potential customers have been referred to your store, so you’re just reaching out and providing something of value before they meet you.

There are a host of customer relationship management tools out there to help you track prospects from initial contact to close. Don’t make a big mistake by ignoring them.

 

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

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Lisbiz strategies: How to disagree without being a jerk

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

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words of wisdom.

 

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

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Lisbiz strategies: How to avoid common social media missteps

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

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Lisbiz strategies: When wooing customers, focus on the ‘experience’

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

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Everyone talks about the customer experience, but few know what it actually is. It goes way beyond reciting a pleasant greeting when a consumer calls or offering assistance when she ultimately enters your store.

Customer service today is essentially about delivering a memorable experience for the consumer throughout the entire purchasing process. Why is this so important? According to a study published by the Temkin Group, companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn, on average, an additional $700 million within three years of investing in improving the customer experience. Not only is this a significant return on your investment, but it goes a long way in improving your relationships with your customers. Which, in turn, brings more repeat business—and so on.

Following are some actions you can take to improve the customer experience in your store:

Be clear on what really matters. If being on time is an important value, make sure everyone understands and adheres to it. By being consistent is one way you can show your customers you care. Continually discuss what matters, monitor to see that every- one is following the rules. Furthermore, check to see if the rule is creating any problems.

Know your customers better. When it comes to improving your customer relationships, one size does not fit all. If you are finding problems with your policies, it’s likely you’re not clear on who your customers are and what they need. One way to find out if you’re on track are customer surveys. If you ask them what they need they’re likely to let you know.

Get your customers to love you more. Remember, the customer doesn’t love products— she loves the people who provide the products. Statistics provided by the Journal of Consumer Research showed more than 50% of an experience is based on an emotion. In other words, if I feel good about working with you, it’s likely you have produced a positive emotion. It may be as simple as sending the customer a hand-written thank-you note after the completion of the sale or something a little more impactful such as sending the customer flowers after the sale.

Stay on top of customer feedback. When I go to business websites, I often see unhappy customer comments that have been on the site for years. Ask customers for testimonials and continually post them on your website.

Use social media to create a great customer experience. Post new products on your Facebook page and ask visitors for their opinions. If this is new to you, or you’re not comfortable with these tools, get someone to help you. It’s likely your competitors are already doing this. Don’t give them an unchallenged advantage.

Make your business a community hub. Everyone is looking for something to do, so why can’t your place be that destination? You can show movies, arrange fun get-togethers or even have someone conduct Zumba/yoga classes in your store. If it were me, I would have the farmers market in my parking lot. Find out what will draw customers to your store and go for it.

Think creatively. There are no rules for what you can do to attract more people to your store. Continue to recreate your own customer experiences. You’ll quickly discover what works, although you may have to do them more than once to achieve the desired effect.

 

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

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Lizbiz strategies: Differentiation is the key to your survival

April 15/22, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 23

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

A flooring retailer recently told me she couldn’t understand why customers weren’t coming to her store. “Don’t they know I have the best prices, and that I’ve been here 20 years?” she asked. “We only get the cheap customers.”

The movie, “Field of Dreams” memorialized the saying, “Build it and they will come.” That was nothing more than a line in a movie, but it doesn’t mean the customer equivalent of Shoeless Joe Jackson is going to show up. We’re already overbuilt with retail space and restaurants; how much fast food can we consume?

In the old days, you didn’t have to try too hard to draw customers. But then again, this was a time before the Internet, social media, blogs and Amazon. Differentiation meant you existed. Today, you have to do more than show up if you’re going to thrive.

Need proof? Just look at what’s going on with the fast food industry. I live in Upstate New York, where Friendly’s, a family restaurant, is closing the remainder of its Albany stores. They aren’t the only ones; it appears that Ruby Tuesdays, Chili’s, Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Outback and Hooters have all been selling off their restaurants or shutting them down. Several are reportedly basing their lackluster performance on trends showing millennials like to cook at home. Really? That’s hard to swallow.

Fact is, many of these fast food chains pretty much look—and taste—alike. A blooming onion or scantily clad servers won’t cut it anymore. (By the way, I heard Hooters has plans to open new restaurants under the name of “Hoots” and put more clothes on the servers. No, I didn’t make that up. According to my research, several of the older chains had internal disputes about what they should do when business was declining, and they chose to do nothing. You need more than new paint to attract today’s customer.)

So, what can you do to differentiate your business? Here are a few ideas:

Teach your salespeople to be marketers. No one knows the customer better than your RSAs, so ask them to post regularly on social media. I’m appalled when I see a store that’s been in business for 50 years but only has 500 friends! If you have 10 salespeople and their average number of Facebook friend is 338, that’s potentially 3,380 people who like your employees and should be on your business page as well.

Organize a ‘Product Day.’ Pick a day of the week or month to promote wood, carpet or even area rugs. Invite people on social media to attend; the ones who are interested will come in. Give away goods and get people excited.

Use your parking lot to stage events. Putting up a tent and throwing some remnants in the parking lot isn’t exciting. How about having an antique car day or animal adoption to bring in customers? In my area, Curtis Lumber hosts a car, truck and jeep show—an event that brings in hundreds, if not thousands, to their parking lot. Better yet, how about a yoga or Zumba event?

Partner up with local businesses. One retailer I know organized an event with a nearby landscaper. He offered advice on how to make them thrive, and he sold a ton of plants in the process. Spring is the perfect time for such a promo. Memorial Day typically brings everyone out to buy products to spruce up their homes.

Bottom line: Always be on the lookout to find ways to market to both new and returning customers. This way, when they need flooring, you’ll be top on their list.

 

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

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Lisbiz strategies: How to make the most of TISE after the show

February 4/11, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 18

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Surfaces is a great time to catch up with friends and customers. It makes me aware of how important people are in my life even if I only see them once a year. Thank goodness for social media.

This year I decided I would take away information from Surfaces that will be useful until next year. That means new people, new products and new ideas.

I picked up as load of magazines and sent them home. Keeping up on new products is difficult; I’m interested in trends and what architects and designers are thinking. The concept of “aging in place” is a tremendous opportunity for our industry. I hope you are attending local classes.

There is another designation called “Age Safe America.” I just took the class; it is very insightful. It’s important you know what kinds of flooring are safe for customers who are planning on staying in their homes long term. If you want to know more about it, reach out and I can give you a course discount. I will be teaching a course on “aging in place” in Albany in March.

When I found out I didn’t have to walk miles to get my badge I was elated. Could this be any easier? The layout with the speakers and the press made it easy to network and talk with people. The meeting rooms were close by and the rooms had sofas and chairs in the front row. It was like talking with people in my living room. Normally I would be spending my time looking for my meeting room and rushing around. I had less stress and more time to meet and talk—my favorite things. Hats off to Katie Thompson, senior content and project manager, The Design Group | Global Exhibitions and all those at Informa for making it easier to navigate the education sessions.

This year I took photos of certain displays and posted them on social media and asked friends what they thought. There were lots of comments from attendees and others who just follow my posts. I forget that flooring is very fashionable, and who doesn’t like fashion? Since I’m teaching a class for realtors and retailers, “The Value of Historic Homes,” I spent time looking at products that could be suitable for period homes. I live in a historic area in Albany, N.Y., called Hudson Park. My neighbors are always asking me what flooring and paint colors they should use in their homes. Reach out to realtors and ask if you can show flooring at one of their internal trainings.

Many of the floors in period homes are old and elegant so sand and finish or screen and recoat is often the solution. If there is extreme damage, a new floor is called for. I found some perfect “historic” flooring and will bring some samples to class. By the way, if you’re in the Albany area and want to attend any of my realtor classes, just let me know and get my schedule. I teach an all-day product knowledge class that is well attended by realtors. This is a great place to network. Teaching these classes has made me more aware of flooring fashion as well as the technical aspects. I am also teaching the “Historic Homes” class in Rochester, N.Y., on March 27. If you live in New York and would like to host one of these classes, let me know.

Despite the long days on my feet, TISE never ceases to amaze me. Thanks to the industry and how hard everyone works to make TISE a success.

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Lisbiz strategies: Learning opportunities abound at TISE 2019

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

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

For the last couple of years, I’ve been a part of The International Surface Event (TISE) education committee. For two days, we review proposals and discuss trends. It’s a ton of decisions to make in a very short time. I love being part of this process and listening to all the ideas. Attending the show is like seeing it all come together.

TISE 2019 comprises three world-class tradeshows: Surfaces, StonExpo/Marmomac and TileExpo. TISE is the largest North American floor covering, stone and tile event in the industry. I’ve been attending Surfaces for more than 20 years, but I still get excited thinking about it. Every year, the Informa Exhibitions marketing department puts on their creative caps to come up with a new theme. I love this year’s education theme: Converge.

According to Informa, “The new Converge education program at TISE will offer the industry a whole new way to gain training, knowledge and information. With flexible scheduling allowing for the busy trade show atmosphere, persona interest groups (Creatives, Suits and Hammer & Nails) for immersive, targeted discussions and the freedom to pass freely between session topics to gain exactly the knowledge attendees are seeking.”

So what do you want learn? Many of you have told me a real issue is what technology should you be using to connect with your customer? Another issue is how do you train your salespeople on the same technology? Every business needs a competitive advantage, and that’s what you can get at TISE 2019. This is the age of the consumer. Take this opportunity to learn as much as you can to connect with them.

I suggest you work in as much education as possible and take tons of photos of new products to post on social media with your customer. I can almost guarantee you will have an order by the time you get home. If you’re still not sure how to use your social media or upload photos, check out one of the seminars taking place at the show that can get you up to speed.

This is the time to get dressed up, put on your best face and enjoy this wonderful show. It probably sounds silly, but I always have tears in my eyes when I first look at the show floor. It requires so much effort on the part of so many people to execute.

I am honored to be part of the Converge program, and I will be speaking at the following seminars: “7 Techniques to Talk Crazy Customers (or anyone else) Off the Ledge,” Tues., Jan. 22, 8 a.m.-9 a.m., and “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace,” alongside attorney Jeffrey King. This seminar takes place on Wed., Jan. 23, 9:30 a.m.-10:30 a.m. King will talk about legal implications, and I will discuss how to create a civil workplace.

As a speaker, I never have enough time to get to all the seminars, but it’s important for me to learn from other industry experts. I love the Hammer & Nails category. Just like you, I’m interested in what’s new in the installation area. I will get to one of the Creatives. You know fashion is my passion, so I’ll have to find what colors are hot and what’s in and what’s out. I am also teaching continuing education classes to realtors this year, and color and style is one of my courses.

Don’t forget to pack those comfy shoes, an additional cell phone charger, a couple of energy bars and get some extra sleep. Book those important appointments and don’t forget to make dinner plans with those friends you only see once a year. See you there.

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Lisbiz strategies: Customer testimonials are a virtual gold mine

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

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

According to Maria Dean of conversionlifters.com, testimonials and word of mouth are the driving force behind 20%-50% of all purchasing decisions, yet only about one-third of businesses are actively seeking and collecting customer reviews on an ongoing basis.

I recently conducted a workshop on the value of reviews and testimonials. When I asked the group how they used the reviews and testimonials, they said they assumed they received referrals from them. It seems like asking for referrals is something you do. However, no one has a strategy for using them. The reviews sit on the platforms waiting for something to happen.

Statistics tell us that at least 73% of consumers go online and look for reviews before they shop. Therefore, the more reviews you have the better.

Consumers perceive reviews are true, and your platform profiles enhance SEO. Any good feedback will help your business improve. Yes, there are crazy customers out there who can find problems with any situation. Responding to them can repair a bad relationship or help address a bad situation. Reviews can be fake, and some people just love causing trouble. You will still have to respond to them. You should always make sure you have 15 positive reviews that keep changing. Reviews that are five years old really don’t help you.

Let’s talk about testimonials. When you ask for a testimonial, it’s valuable to find out about the customer’s business. Not all customers will have a business but the ones that do can become an important business partner. On my site, I put the logo above their testimonial and then thank them for their testimonial. Think about how great it looks to the next customer reading the testimonial.

You can tell your customer you would like to put her testimonial on twitter and then ask if she would mind liking and retweeting it to her followers.

Where do you get your testimonials? Your installers have the best opportunity to get valuable video testimonials. When the customer tells the installer how beautiful the floor looks, this is an opportunity to ask her if she’d let you video the testimonial. Some customers will decline, which is fine. You can be sure the ones who agree are glad you asked them and love being in front of the camera.

Don’t forget to get a signed release from the customer stating you are allowed to use the testimonial online and as part of your marketing. These testimonials can also go on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. The more places you can share it the better.

Let’s talk about video testimonials and your installers. Installation is the key to our business, so a customer raving about the installer and the product is worth a ton more than you can imagine. It would be great if you could take a photo of the product, the installation, the installer and the customer.

Here is another testimonial that will get you considerable mileage: Have one of your better customers review one of your new products. Let’s say you come back from a product show and find an unusual product. Call up that great customer and give her enough products to test it. She could install a piece or get it dirty and then clean it. After she “test drives” it she can write a review for your website.

Great idea, right? It wasn’t mine. Two years ago I was asked to try out a magnificent area rug and write a review about it. And what did I get? The area rug.

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Lisbiz strategies: Fighting fiery situations with cool temperament

November 26/December 3, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 12

By Lisbeth Calandrino

The other night a friend and I were having dinner at a local restaurant. All of a sudden, I hear a male customer yelling at the top of his lungs: “I’ve been insulted by the waitress; I don‘t have to take this!” He kept at it as the waitress tried to calm him down, but nothing seemed to help. Then the owner came out and the argument continued. The customer’s wife began crying, and the man huffed off to his car. His crying wife got her meal to go.

Apparently, the customer was cleaning his teeth with dental floss right at the table, and the people at a nearby table complained. It seemed everyone was upset, including two waitresses and the owner. The more they tried to calm the customer, the more he yelled. Nothing was working.

I talked with the waitress. She said she told the customer he was upsetting the other people, and he needed to stop cleaning his teeth. This set him into a rage. Maybe he felt wronged and humiliated. Who knows? But wouldn’t it have been easier to move the complaining couple to a different part of the dining room?

Many people feel anger is dangerous, and if they confront it they will also be out of control. One of the conditioned responses is a feeling of fear, which often stems from having been around angry parents or other adults when we were children. This makes us believe confrontation is dangerous. The thinking goes: If I’m angry, I’ll lose control, just like my father and mother. Being exposed to this as a young child produces a conditioned response and feelings of fear when we’re around anger or confrontation.

Anger is tricky. How you feel about it has a lot to do with how you handle it. Do you want to go and hide? Do you start to sweat, get furious or ignore it?

When it comes to conflict resolution, sometimes the best solution is finding a way to de-escalate the problem by letting the aggrieved person have their say and empathize with them. The theory is people just want to be heard and acknowledged.

Situations such as these can be unpredictable, and you never know what will happen once you open your mouth. We live in a society where situations can quickly turn violent. Here’s my advice: Whenever possible, look for differences in opinions rather than who’s wrong and who’s right. If I had been sitting next to Mr. Floss, I think I would have just said I would like to move. My feeling is there was no reason to confront him or take sides. No matter how wrong the person is, taking sides only heats up the argument. The real problem started when the waitress told the man he was upsetting the other patrons. Other than bad manners, what was the man guilty of?

The moral of the story is, whatever happens, don’t take it personally. When you are trying to litigate a situation, taking sides will only exacerbate things. Show empathy to the injured party. This means understanding their feelings, although you might not agree with them. The waitress could have told the annoyed party that she understood this might be upsetting, and she would be happy to move them. Instead, the waitress summoned both the boss and the owner and confronted Mr. Floss.

When dealing with angry customers in your business—and hopefully that’s the exception rather than the rule—it’s best to focus less energy on who’s right and wrong and more attention on putting out the fire to begin with. Remember—there’s always another way.

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Lisbiz strategies: Expanding your client base can reap rewards

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Everyone says they need new customers. The question is, where do you find them? Looking for individual customers is really the hard way. Instead of looking for one or two new customer, it’s easier and more efficient if you look for “industry partners” who use your products. After attending the Remodeling and Deck Expo in Baltimore (FCNews, Oct 15/22), I’m thoroughly convinced flooring owners should be networking with people in the building industry and attending this conference. Why just connect with one or two builders or remodelers in your area? Why not look for ways to connect on a larger scale?

Let’s talk about the real estate industry. Realtors are always interested in new customers. Who do you know that has more connections with consumers than those in the real estate business? I think this is a winning group for you, but you’ve got to “work it,” as they say.

Through the years, I have spoken at real estate offices about flooring products and trends. Usually these meetings are small (about 10-15 agents). Regardless, they are always excited to learn about new products.

This past year I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Greater Capital Association of Realtors (GCAR). As one of the largest realtor associations in the U.S., the group represents more than 10,000 members from Washington, D.C., and Montgomery County, Md., as well as industry-related professionals who follow the real estate business. Frankly, I never thought this would be anything more than a one-time speaking opportunity. After the event, Debbie Isom, director of professional development, spoke with me about becoming certified to teach. I started thinking, would this industry be interested in flooring on a larger scale?

The certification was quite a process. You are required to have a certain number of points that support your expertise and ability to teach. You get additional points for being in the real estate business. Our first class was filled. In fact, we had to turn people away at the door. Who would have thought so many people would be interested in flooring? They actually thought it was fascinating. Attendees received continuing education credits.

We are about to offer our second class— Nov. 7–9, in Malta, N.Y., and Mohawk Industries has agreed to sponsor our event. Why am I telling you this? This is a huge opportunity for you to build some great connections. I’m not suggesting you get certified to teach an event, although this is an option. The requirements for certification are different for each state. You can probably connect with instructors in your state and talk with them about a flooring class and all you have to do is help them write a course in flooring.

Furthermore, you can host this event in your business, invite builders, interior designers, kitchen designers, home inspectors or anyone in the real estate industry and consumers. Imagine the event you can hold; you will be able to fill your showroom with lots of new faces and potential customers. FYI, several of our participants in my last class were consumers who were considering purchasing new flooring.

Why not use this as an opportunity to start your own networking group? It’s a great chance for a flooring dealer to get connected in the building industry. Furthermore, why not include your local flooring association and the World Floor Covering Association? Think big!