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Retail Education: Best practices

May 23/30, 2016; Volume 30, Number 24

This special FCNews Retail Education series, sponsored by 3M, is designed to help specialty retailers build their business through proven merchandising and marketing strategies as well as general best practices. Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 4.11.49 PM

Pam Kulick, owner of JK Carpets, Locust Grove, Va., had these words of wisdom for floor covering dealers looking to attract new customers while retaining existing clients: “Build your business on integrity, honesty and superior customer service. Always be sure to follow through on promises. And learn how to say ‘no’ to jobs that you’re not comfortable with or if you’re not confident you’ll completely fulfill the clients’ needs.”

Sam Chesher, president of Carpet Wise Flooring America, Longmont, Colo., recommends dealers focus on the service component. “You have to out-service everybody and differentiate yourself by being heads and shoulders above your competition. It is not the product; it is how you service it.”

For Paul Johnson, Carpet One, Tulsa, Okla., training is the key to success. “I often hear retailers bemoaning the fact they have to spend so much time training their employees. ‘What happens if I train them and then they leave?’ they say. “I tell them, ‘What happens if you don’t train them and they stay?’ The importance of having a well-trained staff cannot be overstated.”

These are just a handful of examples successful retailers cite when speaking on the subject of “best practices.” While the scenarios provided address different subjects—integrity, service, ongoing installation and sales training—theScreen Shot 2016-05-31 at 4.11.56 PM common denominator is the focus on building relationships with both the customer and employees while always aiming to maintain a high standard of doing business.

“Statistics show that approximately 85% to 90% of a flooring dealer’s business is going to come from referrals,” said Lisbeth Calandrino, a retail industry expert for 20 years and a regular columnist for FCNews (see pages 6 and 30 in this issue for more insight). “This has become even more critical because of social media, research shows approximately 70% of consumers won’t buy anything until they consult one of their Facebook friends.”

While retailers have the best intentions in mind, many fall short when it comes to after-sale marketing, Calandrino notes. “If you sold a customer and you don’t stay in touch with them you are discounting all of the hard work you put in to bring that customer in the first place,” she explained. “Most people just send out a thank-you card, thinking that it means a lot to the customer. While they need to send out a card—it’s just common courtesy—some dealers don’t call the customer periodically to follow-up and see if they need flooring for other projects. Dealers need to realize how much repeat business might come from that one customer.”

In many cases, it’s not that retailers don’t realize the important role after-sale marketing plays. Rather, Calandrino says, many store owners and managers just don’t have the time. “They’re too busy focusing on things that don’t matter—like chasing the installer all day to find out why he forgot the right cove base for the job, or something like that. If you are oriented that way, and you have bad systems, you’re always trying to pick up after somebody. Things that are really important and require some thought get tossed by the wayside.”

Calandrino offers this advice for retailers looking to develop a more effective way to generate repeat business using e-mail marketing: “Sending out an e-mail is not e-mail marketing—that’s just trying to get a message out. What’s required is an e-mail marketing campaign—or an after-sale marketing campaign—a well-thought out directive that has trackable hyperlinks. For example, if you want to drive someone to your Facebook page to take advantage of a promotion or an offer, you must have a mechanism in place that provides some statistics, such as open rates or click-throughs.”

For those businesses that might be short-staffed or otherwise too preoccupied to develop such an e-mail marketing initiative, Calandrino offers this suggestion: “If you’re not good at doing these kinds of things, then you need to hire somebody who is.”

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Marketing Online: Creating a solid social media strategy

May 9/16, 2016; Volume 30, Number 23

This special FCNews’ Marketing Online series, sponsored by 3M, is designed to help retailers build their social media presence and, by extension, strengthen the connection with consumers.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.07.24 AMIn today’s world it seems that just about everyone uses social media—from a 7-year-old child to an 80-year-old grandmother. With that, these online networks provide a platform for widespread exposure for businesses. People may follow major companies like Wal-Mart or Betty Crocker, but consumers seeking to do business close to home are going to engage the most with local dealers to see what they’re all about.

To that end, flooring retailers need to make sure they have an efficient and effective marketing strategy that involves a tangible social media presence. FCNews spoke with Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz, and Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier and digital marketing specialist at Simple Marketing Now, to get their advice on building a successful social media strategy. Following are the six steps they identified.

 

  1. Learn the playing field

The world of social networking may seem daunting as the latest social media trends seem to change on a daily basis. The best way to navigate the waters is by simply experimenting with these various tools. Or, as Friederichsen puts it, “do you homework. This means taking some time going online rather than going strictly off of what a friend, relative or business associate has told you. Explore the different platforms.”

It’s helpful to start with Facebook as most dealers are already familiar with this social network on a personal level. “I’m hopeful that someone has done some experimenting and is somewhat familiar with one of the networks,” Whittemore said. “It really helps to understand the network from a personal point of view before getting involved with business perspective.”

Other social networking platforms are also useful. Pinterest, for instance, is helpful as it is visual in nature, which correlates nicely with flooring—an industry based on style and design. “More than 80% of people signed up for Pinterest are active users,” Friederichsen said. “You want to share eye-catching pictures, room scenes, close-up product shots, etc.”

Whittemore shared similar advice. “Pinterest can be incredibly effective because flooring is a visual business and this is the platform where people go for visual inspiration.” Once Pinterest boards are active, account administrators can track which pins send traffic to the dealer’s main website.

Regarding Twitter, Friederichsen suggests using it as an “intelligence-gathering tool.” Because posts are limited to 140 characters, only so much can be shared on this particular network. Less text with a link to a longer article or a website is typically best for Twitter. “It is a great tool to keep tabs on the competition by following their accounts,” he explained. You can also learn what’s trending in the industry by following manufacturers, suppliers, decision makers, etc.

 

  1. Know your audience

A retailer’s customer demographic will shed light on where they are spending time online. Facebook, for example, is the most popular social media platform for women ages 34 to 54. “Most dealers should have a good handle on knowing where most of their customers come from, what age bracket they’re in, what income level they are at and what there interests are,” Friederichsen noted. “That’s a good indicator as far as what platforms they’re really going to want to look at seriously.”

 

  1. Understand analytics

Setting up a Google Analytics account is easy and incredibly helpful for tracking website traffic. By connecting social platforms with a website link, dealers can determine which networks are truly attracting customers. “You can spend a lot of time on social media and get nothing out of it,” Whittemore said. “A great way to monitor a platform is with Google Analytics through your website. You can see which networks refer traffic to your site. You are starting where people go to build relationships, but at some point some of those people will want to do business with you. Facebook and Pinterest are quite effective for this when you utilize them correctly.”

 

  1. Create a budget

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.07.33 AMOne of the best things about social media is it offers an advertising vehicle for a very low price. You can actually choose to spend nothing, but experts suggest working with a budget—it can be as little as $35 a week—to get additional exposure. “It’s the cheapest media money you will ever spend,” Friederichsen said. “You could spend $10 on Facebook to boost a post or ad and get 1,000 to people to look at it. The return on investment for this doesn’t compare to anything you’ll spend in mass media.”

Whittemore also encourages boosted posts. “You are basically paying Facebook for increased visibility. It’s a fabulous tool because you can target certain people in specific locations and you can do it for very small amounts of money.”

But don’t boost everything, she noted. “Before you boost, see if the post gets some organic attention [with likes and comments]. If it’s a dud, don’t waste money on it. You want a mixture of updates—some about you and some about topics that are of interest to your customers. You have to test what works.”

 

  1. Be transparent

Social media is a helpful tool for building relationships with customers. It’s an opportunity to give them a behind-the-scenes view of your business or how “human” you are. It also enables dealers to highlight top-notch customer service and the quality of completed jobs. Experts recommend dealers share photos of their best installations.

“If you want to attract new customers or get the word out about your business, you may want to focus on what’s new in the store or talk about some events you are hosting,” Whittemore suggested. “Think ahead of time to decide what you are going to share and when.” And if someone comments on your post, be sure to respond in a reasonable amount of time.

Experts also suggests dealers get their customer service reps and sales teams involved with social media as well, as this helps with consistency. “It’s not a matter of showing up once; you have to be there all the time,” Whittemore stated. “It’s like joining local business organizations or attending chamber of commerce meetings—you have to go regularly to meet people and hand out business cards. Social networking serves the same purpose, except you’re doing it all online.”

It’s a good idea to set up some guidelines for social media pages, particularly Facebook. In the “About Us” section, the profile administrator should list some rules for comments. This will help the team be prepared for any negative feedback that may come up on the page. There should be some scenario planning to determine how to respond to unfavorable comments. “As a business owner you want to encourage reviews but you know you’ll get bad reviews,” Whittemore noted. “Sometimes there’s a customer who is difficult, but you want to acknowledge her and know how to respond. Consider it an opportunity to show how your business reacts and deals with people.”

 

  1. Utilize LinkedIn

Most people think of LinkedIn as a way to get their résumé out to people they’re connected with in the industry. However, LinkedIn is actually a great way to gain exposure for your business and your team. It is also an effective vehicle for a dealer to showcase his approach as a businessperson.

“LinkedIn gives you an opportunity as a businessperson to talk about issues that are important to you and share those kinds of things that will get noticed,” Friederichsen explained. “There’s an opportunity there to stake out your territory in a social forum as far as what’s important to you and your business—integrity, honesty, quality of service.” Here you can tout accomplishments and successes including high-profile installations or awards.

Individual LinkedIn profiles should be complete and thorough for both the dealer and his team members. From there people can be connected to a business’ LinkedIn group and its website. “Having an individual LinkedIn profile is like having a business card; it indicates you’re a professional,” Whittemore said. “It’s also important to create a LinkedIn page for your company and make sure everyone in your business links to that profile. Remember: everyone is an ambassador for your business.”

 

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What’s in a name?

Brand recognition helps dealers sell more Scotchgard

October 26/November 2; Volume 30/Number 10

By Nadia Ramlakhan

Screen Shot 2015-10-30 at 4.27.16 PMThe Scotchgard brand is still thriving more than 60 years after its introduction, now a household name synonymous with soil, stain and water resistance for flooring, furniture, clothes and more.

When it comes to the flooring industry, Scotchgard provides carpet treatments for major manufacturers including Beaulieu, Mohawk, Congoleum and Godfrey Hirst; the result is a superior product with a name and reputation that resonate with consumers.

“Their products are everywhere,” said Desaray Noel, director of purchasing and quality assurance at Avalon Flooring, with multiple locations throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. She added that all of the brand’s associated qualities tend to carry over into flooring when the consumer is in the market to buy.

“People know [Scotchgard] because they see it in other products, so when they see it [in floors] it’s something familiar they latch onto—something they know. Everyone knows they are a big company and they’ve been around for such a long time. People can buy Scotchgard cans at the store to spray their furniture; all of the merchandise, the POP kits and everything they have—it’s definitely a name recognition thing and that’s why customers are more likely to choose a Scotchgard product.”

Steve Lewis, president of Lewis Carpet and Home in Northbrook, Ill., said that Scotchgard’s promise of protection helps him close more sales. “We do a lot of business with Godfrey Hirst and their synthetics are treated with Scotchgard stain protection. They are at an extremely aggressive price point and the fact that they perform as well as they do allows me to sell them with confidence.”

The winning combination of a quality product backed by Scotchgard’s technology is what Lewis said differentiates his proprietary brand. “Because of the stain protection they have and the products being exceptionally valued and well-colored, they have been a huge success for me. The brand in our store is Lewis Floor and Home, but the sub-brands are really important—whether it be Karastan, Daltile, [etc.]—because they help support the brand that is Lewis Floor and Home. Anything that helps differentiate me from everyone else is a good thing. So if you couple 3M with a good carpet manufacturer and our brand, it is easy for me to sell, make money and do the things I need to do.”

From a shopping standpoint, customers don’t necessarily go into stores asking for Scotchgard; however they do automatically feel reassured after hearing a name they have come to trust over time. “Directly or indirectly, [customers] always ask, ‘Is this product protected from stains?’” Lewis said. “If we can say to them, ‘Yes it’s got Scotchgard on it,’ it eliminates that fear. And if you can eliminate that fear, that is one more buying objection that gets removed from finally making the sale. It’s not the most important part of the sale, but it certainly adds value because if [stain protection] wasn’t there we would have to dance around the issue.”

While a customer wants to make sure the flooring she is about to buy does indeed come with added stain protection, she isn’t often fooled by a generic name or brand. “3M is associated with quality products and consumer goods and therefore adds value to the finished product,” Lewis continued. “When the customer understands it has 3M protection, she believes she is getting a product that is safe; that is almost always the case, especially with our more affluent or particular customers. If she hears ‘Joe’s Stain Protection,’ she thinks, ‘What does that mean?’”

Advertising plays a key role in relaying the brand’s message to consumers in addition to letting them know which products contain Scotchgard protection. According to Randy Thornton, president and co-founder of Randy’s Carpet Plus in Conyers, Ga., dealers should display this particular feature of a floor because “it’s a name brand and people want to see those.”

He attributes years of experience to his success with Scotchgard. “Over the years, it’s been driven into everyone’s heads—it’s got to be on there, it’s the biggest name out there. And it still is the biggest name out there. When customers see the label on the back of the carpet they are confident they are getting something valuable. With 3M Scotchgard on there, it means something to them; they know they’ve got stain protection and they believe in it. If it’s not on the carpet, people don’t want it. Basically they need selling and when they see that label, it’s sold.”

Building on its successful history, 3M continues to explore new ways to evolve based on feedback from customers. “There’s a couple of ways we do this,” said Dave Cheatham, Scotchgard laboratory manager. “Because we’re in the consumer business, one of our big focuses is consumer insights so we do a lot of marketing around the consumer as well as our direct customers. We get feedback from both groups as far as trends and what they are looking for. We also understand that there are changing generations, so there are different communication channels that we are reaching out through as well. On top of that, all of that feeds into our product development cycle to develop superior products in comparison with the competition we have on a global basis.”

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Godfrey Hirst partners with 3M on easyliving@home contest

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 2.03.27 PM

Adairsville, Ga.—Godfrey Hirst recently partnered with 3M, makers of the Scotchgard brand, to offer its dealers an exclusive chance to participate in a contest featuring easyliving@home, the mill’s solution-dyed PET product.

The contest ran from Feb. 1-Aug. 15 and winners were selected based on the most sales in terms of dollar volume.

One winning dealer from each region (East, West and Canada) received a free trip for two to the Bank of America 500 race at the Charlotte motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 10 (FCNews Oct. 12/19).

Winners included Steve Lewis, president of Lewis Carpet and Home, Northbrook, Ill.; John Grimmer, site manager at ProSource, Plymouth, Minn.; and Kirk Goodman, warehouse manager at Irvine Carpet One Floor & Home in Barrie, Ontario. In addition, Deseray Noel, director of purchasing and quality assurance at Avalon Flooring in Cherry Hill, N.J., won from a drawing of names based on the most roll purchases.

Easyliving@home, introduced in 2012 and backed by Scotchgard’s stain resistance and protection, recently added 14 products to its collection and plans to unveil more at The International Surface Event (TISE) in January.

“We use Scotchgard on all of our leading products,” said Laurie Bray, marketing manager for Godfrey Hirst. “We value their support and commitment to Godfrey Hirst—they really are in our corner.”

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3M introduces innovative resilient floor protector

3M_Logo_RGB_10mmSt. Paul, Minn.—3M unveiled the next generation of its innovative Scotchgard Resilient Floor Protector, a proprietary and patented high performance floor coating with nanotechnology that protects and enhances a floor’s natural appearance. The zinc-free, low-odor formula utilizes multiple technologies to produce a hard surface that features superior gloss retention, superior black mark and hand sanitizer resistance, and easier black mark removal. The protector works with the 3M Resilient Floor Protection System, a solution approach to providing tough, durable protection and helping to keep floors clean and bright while requiring less maintenance and fewer chemicals.

“Scotchgard Resilient Floor Protector customers have been able to keep their floors looking their best while eliminating some of the traditional steps required for a typical cleaning and maintenance process,” said Paul Amos, Marketing Manager at 3M. “It won the 2014 ISSA Innovation Award in the cleaning agent category, and now we’ve made the next generation of the product even better.”

Designed for facility floor maintenance in areas such as hospitals, schools, office and retail spaces, Scotchgard Resilient Floor Protector is formulated for multiple surfaces, including sheet vinyl, linoleum, luxury vinyl, and VCT. It is available in a one-gallon bag for use with the 3M Easy Shine Applicator or a 2.5-gallon jug.

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3M Scotchgard reinforces strength in its brand

January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.35.23 PMThe Scotchgard brand name and its distinguished tartan plaid logo have forged a brand identity for nearly 60 years, all in the process of becoming one of the most recognized names in consumer products.

In flooring, 3M has positioned its Scotchgard Protector as the strong, steady brand that protects carpet and other products from stain and soil. While the brand equity remains strong and consistent, the company has continued to invest in R&D in order to keep product performance state of the art. Today it provides treatments for various fiber types, including polyester, nylon, blends and polypropylene for several major mills, including Mohawk, Beaulieu, Godfrey Hirst, Royalty Carpets, Lexmark and Cherokee.

“What we [represent] is added value,” said Jim Stevens, global sales manager, 3M Protective Materials, Home Care division. “We work with the mills to apply the right product to the right carpet. As they make changes, we make changes. The outcome is always positive from a performance standpoint.”

3M has been in partnership with Mohawk for years with its Scotchgard Protector Advanced Repel technology featured in carpets such as Wear-Dated Embrace nylon in addition to hard surface products. According to a Mohawk survey, the majority of respondents chose Wear-Dated with Scotchgard Protector Advanced Repel technology as the brand of choice. “The product has changed [a few times] over the last five years but we haven’t changed the brand positioning,” Stevens said. “We are trying to keep it simple.”

The message from the Scotchgard Protector brand conveys that it is the leader in soil and stain protection. “This allows easy communication of what the protection is and does, and builds immediate trust and confidence so retail salespeople don’t have to spend time explaining the unknown to their customers,” Stevens explained. “Instead they can focus on the product’s look, feel or design—and why they should be buying from their store.”

The breadth and depth of Scotchgard products extends beyond carpet to include Mohawk wood, Congoleum vinyl, Bissell (the leading DIY carpet cleaner), cleaning formulas, professional cleaners and commercial floor maintenance products.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.35.29 PMStevens said consumers have a comfort level with Scotchgard because it is backed by a trustworthy company and brand. “Then they can move onto the important part, which is the overall style and the design of the carpet [or other products].”

The original formula for Scotchgard was discovered by accident in 1952 by 3M chemists Patsy Sherman and Samuel Smith. Sales began in 1956, and in 1973 the two chemists received a patent for the formula.

As fabrics have changed over the years, so did the needs of customers. In response, 3M scientists continually look to innovate by introducing more environmentally friendly formulas that protect against dirt and stains, and have the ability to repel liquids.

“Our goal is to always be state of the art relative to performance,” Stevens said. “Otherwise, we lose that brand position. The goal is to have new products each year, but that doesn’t happen easily.”

3M recently added an 800 number (800.433.3296) to provide customers easy access to warranty and carpet care service. According to Stevens, 3M is one of the few companies that still has live customer service representatives.

“And they have knowledge, years of experience, know the various warranties and can offer guidance, including access to over 1,400 certified cleaners.”

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Scotchgard Protector leverages brand equity with sustainability

As national sales manager for 3M in charge of the Scotchgard brand, Jim Stevens doesn’t have to spend a lot of time explaining who 3M is or what Scotchgard represents. With a consumer brand recognition of 96%, Scotchgard is one of the most recognizable and trusted brands in the consumer products industry.

“That’s the good thing, the easy part,” he said. Continue reading Scotchgard Protector leverages brand equity with sustainability

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Congoleum adds Scotchgard Protector to DuraCeramic

Mercerville, N.J.—Congoleum’s residential tile line, DuraCeramic, now features Scotchgard Protector and silver antibacterial protection.

“We are very excited to work with 3M to incorporate their Scotchgard Protector in all of our Dura products—DuraCeramic, DuraCeramic Options and Duraplank,” said Dennis Jarosz, vice president of sales and marketing, Congoleum. “With the incorporation of Scotchgard Protector, DuraCeramic has a significant performance advantage over the competition. Add to that the silver antibacterial protection which kills mold, mildew and germs on the floor, and DuraCeramic is far and away the best choice for consumers.”  He continued that Consumer Reports rated DuraCeramic the highest in the resilient category even before incorporating Scotchgard Protector and silver. Continue reading Congoleum adds Scotchgard Protector to DuraCeramic