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Al's Column: How to develop a ‘right-sized’ marketing plan

December 18/25, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 14

By Jennifer Smiga

 

(First of two parts)

The slick print campaigns and glowing Instagram stories of big brands can make successful marketing feel out of reach, especially when you are running a one-person marketing department for a company, drafting budgets while posting to Facebook in the same day. It could even be soul crushing.

If you’re in this position, don’t let it get to you. You can grow a successful marketing strategy even if you don’t have annual sales in the six digits. What you need are some principles taken from the big guys and a budget that’s right-sized for your company.

Early this year The CMO Survey revealed companies in retail wholesale are now spending about 10% of their overall budget on marketing. This may seem out of reach for you today, but consider it in terms of future growth. At Marketing Rival, we find increases in marketing spend are directly related to increased revenue. Gone are the days where a company’s only option was to buy a print spread in a high-profile design magazine. Thanks to the power of digital marketing you now have the power to influence buyers at every stage of the purchasing process using your own website as the key tool.

Following are some tips:

Begin with blog content. Your first step toward creating a larger marketing strategy is to embrace a mindset change from manufacturer or retailer to magazine publisher. Your website and blog are your publishing platform to share your story. You should craft each blog post to attract your ideal buyer. If you’ve already started publishing, look at your posts with fresh eyes. Is your audience clear? Are you targeting another business owner or a customer? Are you talking to homeowners or designers?

For your blog to resonate with readers it has to speak to one persona. To help you focus each blog post, identify the pains and problems of one specific persona. For example, what are the questions your salespeople frequently field from this person? Each pain and question is fodder for blogs that will attract your desired customer as she searches on Google.

Model your marketing after a big company’s strategy. One of our clients is Polycor, a North American stone quarrier. You won’t find this company’s ads in print publications. Instead, the Canadian company has invested a significant portion of its budget in digital marketing with special emphasis on content marketing.

Since 2014, Polycor has consistently published blogs and social media just for members of the stone trade. In focusing on this sector they’ve developed a loyal readership and seen a direct impact on sales. In the last three years they’ve expanded their work to include email marketing, video, digital advertising and influencer marketing, and grown their own internal marketing team to leverage events and photography.

Their robust, weekly publishing may not be doable for your one-person marketing team, but you can implement the basics to align your sales goals and marketing through a strategic content and social media plan. Consistency, targeted communication and organization are key to making this happen.

In the second part of this two-part series, I will talk about a few tried-and-true tips for creating digital content. To learn even more about this topic, be sure to attend my presentation, “Small Business, Big Content: Wide-Reach Marketing Strategy Scaled to Your Size,” on Tues., Jan. 30, 12 p.m.– 1 p.m., at TISE in Las Vegas.

 

Jennifer Smiga is co-owner of Marketing Rival, a digital marketing and PR agency that creates profitable social relationships for makers of design products through storytelling, social PR and brand ambassadors. For more information, visit marketingrival.com.

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Digital marketing: Retailers sharpen search optimization strategies

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

It should come as no surprise that today’s consumers start their purchasing journey online. Many use search engines, social media, company websites, review platforms and online advertisements to obtain more information about products—or retailers, for that matter—so they are better positioned to make a purchasing decision long before they enter the store.

To get noticed flooring dealers must have an online presence—and a strong one at that.

While creating and running a digital marketing program takes time, it is absolutely worth it, say those who are successful at it. For dealers who might lack the time or knowledge to successfully run a digital marketing campaign, there are options available, including help from digital marketing companies.

Following are several tried-and-true techniques that successful dealers have employed in their respective digital marketing campaigns.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.30 AMKelley DeCesaro, digital brand strategist
Star Lumber, Wichita, Kan.
“We continue to work on our SEO and SEM strategies, backed by quality website content and helpful online tools for our customers. We find we get the most lead generation from our PPC plan because we can direct them to a landing page that fits their project needs and prompts them to make an in-store appointment. Customers engage with us and hear our brand voice through social media. Social media is also a great way to push out information about our sales and services. Most of our social interactions are gained through our lighter, human-interest posts, but those interactions boost our profile presence, making it more likely for our customer to see our promotional posts. We utilize boosted posts and ads on social sites to increase our digital presence.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.35 AMMeaghan Karn, director of marketing
Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J.
“Digital marketing is essential in today’s business. We know customers are beginning the search online so we work very hard to make sure we are there when they are ready to buy. We use a combination of all the digital marketing methods—pay-per-click, SEO, social media, email, remarketing, etc. Each customer is at a different part of her journey and each one of those methods allows us to offer information about our products and services that are tailored to her needs.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.41 AMKevin Rose, president and owner
Carpetland USA, Rockford, Ill.
“Digital marketing is very important and becoming more significant on a daily basis as even the 50-plus generation is moving to digital. We have hired professionals who know the market to teach us and direct our funds to the appropriate areas. We focus on SEO, pay-per-click, etc.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.47 AMMary Ann Gore, office manager
Bridgeport Carpets, Alpharetta, Ga.
“Digital marketing is very important to us. When customers are ready to purchase, they generally use either a computer or smart phone for their research. It’s helpful if they can just pull up our website and determine whether we have the item. We utilize a digital agency to handle our website. It specializes in online marketing, so we are able to just focus on customers. We also have a Facebook page. The avenues we typically utilize for digital marketing are website, pay-per-click, social media and email.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.53 AMAdam Joss, co-owner
The Vertical Connection Carpet One, Columbia, Md.
“Digital marketing is critical to our business. It is how people are researching and shopping today. Specifically for big-ticket items, people are researching online before they go shopping in the store or contact the store. If you’re not contacting people online you’re losing the game before you even start. Websites, pay-per-click, SEO, email marketing and social media are all important. We also use Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.59 AMNick Freadreacea, president
The Flooring Gallery, Louisville, Ky.
“There is a plethora of options available, and the media outlets are driving people to their online presence. When we meet with reps for TV or radio, all they want to talk about is their online options for advertising. We are not that tech savvy but we have been trying new ideas for the past several years. We recently revamped our website and are consistently changing keywords to keep up with the changes that Google makes. It is an ongoing process to tweak their algorithms on what moves a site up the page.

“We also have pages on Facebook and Twitter; we were a Pro on Houzz for several years and just began an Instagram account. We also ran with Angie’s List for a couple of years, but that did not bring us viable clients as most were interested in labor only or strictly the lowest price. There is a fine balance as to what is ‘image’ on a social media site and what actually drives a consumer to your store for a purchase.”

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Digital marketing: Multiple ways to engage with consumers online

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

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.19.38 AMThe marketing landscape continues to change, especially as more shoppers utilize online media. To capture the attention of these consumers retailers are strengthening their presence online through digital marketing.

So, what constitutes digital marketing? According to Marketo, a leader in marketing automation software, digital marketing refers to “advertising delivered through digital channels such as search engines, websites, social media, email and mobile apps.”

While most retailers today have a digital marketing strategy that touches on a few of these channels, not all are aware of the different aspects of digital marketing.

Following are brief descriptions of some of the more common types of digital marketing.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
According to WordStream, PPC accounts for 64.6% of ad clicks. This type of digital advertising usually refers to the “sponsored result” on a search engine results page. It is flexible, visible and can be tailored to specific audiences. What’s more, a retailer only pays for the ad when it is clicked on.

Re-targeting
This aspect of digital marketing utilizes marketing automation tools to track how customers engage with a brand across multiple channels. Once that information is collected, retargeting allows the retailers to serve those customers personalized ads across multiple channels.

Search engine optimization (SEO)
According to Marketo, 67% of all clicks are from the first five listings on a results page. In addition, 71% of searches resulted in a page one Google organic click. When retailers use SEO they have the ability to increase the rank of their websites in online search results and site traffic by using popular words and phrases. In order for a website to increase its rank it must have valuable and engaging content, be well constructed, easy to use and have credibility.

Social media marketing
Many consumers are using social media to discover and research different brands. To run a successful social media campaign, experts say retailers should weave social elements into every aspect of their marketing. One of the keys to social media is the opportunity for peer-to-peer sharing. This allows content to be seen by a larger audience which could increase engagement. Some common social media sites include Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

Email marketing
According to Marketo, a successful email campaign must be engaging, informative and entertaining. It should also satisfy the following core attributes: trustworthy, relevant, conversational, strategic and be coordinated across channels.

Mobile marketing
Similar to social media, this channel has multiple options including SMS, MMS and in-app marketing. As consumers increasingly rely on mobile devices, it is crucial for retailers to participate in this channel. For consistency, mobile marketing should be coordinated across all digital platforms.

Marketing automation
This integral platform allows retailers to tie all of their digital marketing together. In addition to streamlining and automating marketing tasks, marketing automation also measures the results and ROI of a digital marketing campaign.

Many of these digital channels can be strengthened with a concrete content marketing strategy. Great content can aid SEO, social media, emails and paid search ads by inspiring and educating potential consumers.

Overall, retailers have a ton of digital marketing options available to them. Furthermore, there are a significant number of companies willing to assist retailers with digital strategies. With all these channels and resources available, now is the time to develop and execute an effective digital marketing program.

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Lisbiz Strategies: Add email marketing to your digital strategy

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

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoDigital marketing uses online channels and methods that allow you to analyze what is and isn’t working. Because we’re talking about electronic media, this analysis can be done immediately. You can make changes on the spot if something isn’t working, which is not always possible with every marketing channel.

When I was in the retail business, I used weekly newspaper campaigns and never knew whether the customer had actually seen my advertisement. We would ask if they had seen our ads and most could not remember. Oftentimes they would tell us about a competitor’s advertisement thinking it was ours. This was just more money sent down the drain. However, this doesn’t have to happen if you plan your campaigns and stay on top of the statistics.

You’re probably incorporating Facebook, YouTube and Twitter into your digital strategy, but when and how often do you post? Do you check your statistics? Do you only post when you have a sale?

You must be consistent to get results, regardless of the methods you use. You have to determine how often you want to post and then schedule it. You need a long-term campaign to determine what to send and when. All of these digital channels have a way for you to check how you’re doing.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.02.05 AMMany think email marketing is old. However, it is very sophisticated if done right. What’s more, email marketing ensures your content is going directly to a known customer who wants to hear from you. You just need to have good subject lines and interesting emails.

According to Wordstream, 80% of retail professionals indicate email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention. Another statistic, according to MarketingSherpa, states 91% of people actually enjoy receiving promotional emails, with 61% stating they would like to receive them weekly and 15% wanting them daily.

Following is what you need to do to make your email marketing work:

Have good subject lines. The subject line is the first thing your customer will see when she checks her emails. Make sure your subject lines catch her attention and spark curiosity.

Segment your customers. Don’t send the same emails to all your customers. Different customers have different needs so when you put customers in your database, choose the appropriate category. I know you’re saying, “Do I have to do all this work?” Using a technique called data mining will help you determine buying and pricing for a specific group of customers. This is what the supermarket does with the information from your special discount card. They find out who you are and what you buy. Then they target you with special offers.

Check your open and click- through rates. If your emails aren’t getting opened, you need different subjects. There’s no reason for a click through unless there’s something to read. Always have some type of offer for the reader.

Keep the focus of the email on the customer, not yourself. All customers want information to help them solve a problem, even if it’s five ways to cook tomatoes. You need to know your customers and their angst. You know, what keeps them up at night? Be personal, be yourself, be trustworthy.

Keep trying. Not everything you write will be a hit. But every time someone says, “I love those articles I get,” you’ll know you’re on the right track.

 

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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Digital Marketing: Ready-made outreach programs at dealers’ fingertips

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Most retailers know they have to invest in digital marketing. However, not all dealers have the time or resources to run an effective digital campaign. While various marketing companies are available to provide digital help, flooring manufacturers are also stepping up to assist retailers.

Following is a sampling of some of the digital marketing initiatives currently available for retailers to leverage.

Armstrong
Armstrong Flooring’s digital marketing strategy contains many facets, including the company’s website, a campaign featured on HGTV and a promotion for Elevate retailers. Armstrong is also relaunching its residential website in November to dovetail with the consumer’s shopping journey.

“We take an integrated approach when it comes to our digital marketing strategy, seeking to connect with shoppers and drive qualified traffic to our aligned retailers,” said Ebeth Pitman, director of brand marketing. “We are continually evolving our website experience to drive more qualified leads through the doors of our retail partners. The website is a destination site for flooring shoppers and is optimized to capture that in-market consumer who is searching for flooring online.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.16.34 AMOther features of the website include a “request a quote” form available for each Elite partner store listing and co-branded web pages that are optimized for local search.

In addition to the website, Armstrong has a campaign titled “The Floor is Yours,” which is featured on HGTV and hgtv.com. This campaign is also integrated with a promotion for Elevate retailers called “The New Look of Tough,” which includes a campaign toolbox for retailers that includes video, social content, photography, merchandising, brochures and more.

Mohawk
Mohawk is committed to not only making quality flooring but also helping its retailers be successful. One of the ways the company aims to do this is through Omnify, its omni-channel solution.

“Omnify is about simple, connected retail,” said Mollie Surratt, senior director of public relations and inbound marketing. “Mohawk is focused on walking the consumer through her digital journey by empowering the retailer’s online presence. Omnify makes digital marketing easy with all the tools at her fingertips to drive qualified leads, publish relevant, optimized content and advertise using the best tools in the industry.”

The omni-channel solution drives qualified consumers to a retailer’s store through a variety of optimized content and digital advertising solutions. This ranges from organic and paid social media to web content structured for search engine optimization.

“Mohawk’s new Omnify advertising package is built to utilize the most effective strategic methods of capturing the consumer during her digital journey and delivering her to your store,” Surratt explained.

To learn more about Omnify, visit mohawktoday.com/omnify or talk to your local Mohawk representative.

Shaw Floors
Shaw offers its retail partners a complete suite of digital marketing services to help reach today’s consumers in innovative ways. This includes social media support, website building and online reputation management.

“Promoboxx is Shaw’s social media content solution, providing retailers with support, content and best practices for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” said Misty Hodge, director of digital marketing, Shaw Floors. “Shaw Web Studio is a complete website solution, enabling retailers to quickly and easily build professional flooring websites to remain competitive in the digital space. Share it Forward began as an online ratings and reviews directory and has since evolved into a full-service online reputation management program that notifies retailers of when and where they receive reviews and also offers education and coaching on how best to deal with negative reviews.”

As more consumers look online to shop and qualify a brand, it is important for retailers to have a strong digital presence, experts say. Shaw is helping retailers save time, stress and money by providing meaningful solutions to their digital marketing efforts.

“Our retail partners look to us as a leader in the digital marketing space, and we leverage all the resources available to us to make that task as simple, carefree and effective as possible,” Hodge explained. “It’s Shaw’s philosophy that we win by helping our retail partners win—we’re in this together.”

USFloors
USFloors has strengthened its digital presence to assist retailers in promoting the company’s products. Beyond building up its presence on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Houzz, Pinterest and LinkedIn, USFloors also uses its website to showcase products and installations.

“We use our digital presence as a communication platform to the retailers selling our product and their customers,” said Maud Swalens, social media and marketing coordinator, USFloors. “We provide platforms where both retailers and consumers can share their experiences with us as a company, and our product. This allows us to improve and enhance our service and products.”

The goal, according to Swalens, is to be available at all times to both retailers and consumers, “whether it is to answer questions, help with requests or assist with anything else. Conversation is the focal point, and that is why an online presence is extremely important to us.”

Beyond the communication aspect, USFloors looks to help homeowners get more creative. “We lead a product category and like to inspire retailers and consumers with our innovative decors,” Swalens said. “For this purpose, Houzz and Pinterest are used mostly. We share mood boards, provide style or design advice (when requested) and invite our customers to get inspired and innovate with us.”

 

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Technology: Mohawk’s Omnify program drives results for retailers

Web-based solutions, tools aim to boost dealers’ online presence

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.31.57 PMMohawk’s Omnify, a program introduced at the company’s Solutions conference last year, is beginning to make an impact on dealers’ online initiatives. The program, named for its ability to provide “omni-channel solutions,” aims to simplify digital marketing by capturing and tracking leads, and streamlining social media publishing and search engine marketing.

Specifically, Omnify was created to provide a number of solutions for dealers. Among them:

  • Improve social reach and convert potential customers into qualified leads;
  • Tailor the dealer’s digital storefront to engage consumers and promote enhanced content;
  • Build and strengthen local reputation of retailers through rankings and reviews;
  • Increase store visibility and improve search rankings, and
  • Build trust and confidence with consumers.

“Omnify connects the [consumer’s] online and in-store experiences,” said Mollie Surratt, senior director, public relations and inbound marketing, Mohawk Industries. “Omnify is all about simple connected retail. It is an omni-channel solution empowering retailers to own their market in the digital space. It’s giving them the content, tools and reporting they need to take their digital marketing presence to the next level and drive more traffic into their stores.”

Retailers have provided positive feedback since the program’s launch. For instance, Harry Schillings, president of Houston-based Spring Carpets, is definitely seeing an increase in traffic due to Omnify. In fact, his store is recording an average of three call-in leads a day since the program’s launch.

One of Schillings’ favorite features about Omnify is its ability to record phone conversations between consumers and employees. “That little feature is absolutely priceless. On our website there is a contact button that allows the customer to call the store from her phone. When I had the chance to listen to these recordings I [discovered a shortcoming] in my business. We had a large void that I was able to fix, but I would have never found that flaw without listening to those voicemails.”

Schillings is not alone. Scott Allen, general manager, Carpet Corner, Kansas City, Mo., has also generated a great number of leads. “Since the Omnify site went live our customer contacts— specifically the number of folks requesting quotes—has increased to double what we were generating at a fraction of the cost. These are high-quality leads with a higher closing ratio than other Internet leads.”

In addition to seeing increases in quality leads, dealers like Adam Pace of Metro Floors, Lancaster, Calif., are already seeing a major return on investment. “Within the first month, the revenue off the sales [from these leads] has paid the cost of the program for the whole year.”

Mohawk is receiving recognition from not only its dealers but other companies as well, according to Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing. “We have some of the best companies in the digital space telling us we got the recipe right. When Mohawk is challenging some of these companies to up their game, that makes me feel like we’re pushing the envelope for the sake of our retailers. We have the power to fight hard for independent retailers so they have the tools they need to excel.”

Looking ahead, Mohawk is continuing to develop content and solutions for Omnify to further assist specialty retailers. As Austin Messerman, marketing brand manager, explains: “Our team is working on developing our advertising strategies in local markets as well as our content strategies—all of which will work together to make the tool more powerful and see that it continues to drive success for the retailers.”

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Houzz launches trade program

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.30.44 AMPalo Alto, Calif.—Houzz has launched the Houzz Trade Program to provide industry professionals with multiple ways to profit from purchasing and recommending products in the Houzz Marketplace. The Houzz Marketplace offers everything from items for major remodeling projects and custom home builds, such as bathtubs and fixtures, to furniture and decor products. All professionals working in the home improvement industry, including designers, architects, contractors and more, can apply to the program. The Houzz Trade Program is integrated with existing Houzz tools including ideabooks and Sketch.

Some of the benefits of the Houzz Trade Program include:

  • Trade-only pricing with discounts up to 50% on hundreds of thousands of products including top brands, European products and Houzz exclusives, plus earn Houzz credit on regular priced items
  • The opportunity to earn up to 10% in credit when clients purchase any of the 8 million retail-priced products
  • A dedicated trade support team to help facilitate and expedite orders
  • Free shipping on most trade-discounted orders over $49

Some of the vendors providing discounts to Houzz pros enrolled in the Trade Program include Baldwin, Emerson, Feiss, Flos, Kraus, Missoni Home, Safavieh and Swarovski.

Houzz has also arranged pre-approval into the Trade Program for members of several industry trade associations, including the American Society for Interior Designers (ASID), the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the Interior Design Society (IDS).

To learn more about the Houzz Trade Program and to enroll, visit houzz.com/trade-program.

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Technology: Houzz programs support retailers, suppliers

May 22/29, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 25

By Lindsay Baillie

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.30.44 AMHouzz, a visual-based, online platform focused on home renovation and design, is working to provide flooring retailers a space to develop name recognition in their local markets. The goal is to help retailers reach new customers and network with other flooring/home remodeling professionals.

“Houzz is the largest platform for home remodeling and design,” said Kathleen Hegedus, industry marketing representative for Houzz. “We have more than 40 million people using this site and app every month to get inspiration, get smart about home improvement and ultimately find the right professionals for their projects. Whether that’s a small or large project, we have something for everyone.”

The company offers free and easy-to-use profiles to flooring professionals. It also provides additional local advertising programs that flooring retailers can use to drive extra exposure in their local markets and also gain new business. “We’re happy to talk with any local installer or retailer about the options that are available to them,” Hegedus said.

Houzz also has several co-op programs with manufacturers, including Armstrong, Mohawk and Shaw. In fact, Houzz acknowledges manufacturers and retailers with its “Best of Houzz” awards, which celebrate the best design, customer service and photography on the website.

Houzz strives to add value for its partners by regularly creating new features and enhancements. One example is Idea Books, which allows retailers to connect and communicate with prospective clients. “It also keeps a lot of that inspiration and communication in a single place, which can be beneficial for flooring professionals to stay organized as they share those ideas with their prospective clients,” Hegedus explained.

Looking to the future, Hegedus said Houzz is focused on making improvements by testing new features with its customer base. “We look forward to even more co-op and national partnerships down the road.”

Flooring professionals interested in opening an account can go to Houzz.com/pro to sign up.

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Technology: Podium places online reviews front and center

May 22/29, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 25

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 10.25.11 AMPodium, a customer interaction platform, is looking to make it easier for flooring retailers to manage their online reviews and customer interaction. The company, which was founded in 2014 by Eric Rea and Dennis Steele, allows businesses to not only build and manage online reviews, but also drive interest with potential and existing customers through channels like text message. By collecting reviews, businesses can improve their local search optimization, which generally means they rank higher in search results to ultimately drive more business.

“We compare online reviews to the new word of mouth,” said Matt Boyce, director of demand generation. It is with this focus, he notes, that Podium has developed its platform and features.

Not to be confused with other platforms, Podium is not a traditional marketing company. What separates Podium from other platforms is its focus on helping businesses communicate and interact with their customers to get reviews and in-depth feedback.

“Podium offers a customer interaction platform that focuses on making the exchange of collecting customer feedback on key websites really easy,” Dallin Palmer, sales director, home services, explained. “We use a three-stage program to help retailers get found, get chosen and get insight into their business.”

One of Podium’s key features is its text messaging system that allows businesses to ask customers for reviews with a push of a button. By using this feature, businesses are able to request a customer review—to any device—seconds after a service is performed. According to the company, this increases the business’ probability of gaining more reviews.

Podium takes this feature a step further by generating an easy-to-use, interactive text message that allows the customer to choose which review site she would like to use. The list of review sites the customer sees is completely customizable by the business sending the text message. Podium has found that the top two platforms most businesses target are Facebook and Google. In addition, while the company doesn’t generate reviews on Yelp, it is an official Yelp Knowledge Partner, which means it can pull Yelp data for a business into the Podium platform, according to Palmer.

While the platform is available to all types of businesses, flooring retailers can really benefit from Podium’s products, Palmer explained. “For most flooring business owners in most areas you’ve got really stiff competition. We’ve found in situations where you’re selling a commoditized product, people are looking at the reviews and past experiences of others to learn about the services they will receive. Consumers leverage these reviews to make buying decisions.”

The ultimate goal, according to Palmer, is to change the paradigm. “We want to revolutionize the way local businesses go about communicating with their customers. It’s all about identifying the needs within this area.”

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Social Media: Using Instagram to find new customers

February 27/March 6, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 19

By Ayme Sinclair, Stanton Carpet

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.47.25 AMIf you look at the top 100 brands in the world, 90% of them have an Instagram account. More importantly, customer interactions with the brands that are on Instagram are 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times greater than Pinterest and 84 times higher than Twitter. Statistics prove Instagram is by far the best platform for staying connected with your customers.

Using at least one hashtag (or keyword) increases the likelihood of these connections, making them an important feature to use on this platform. Users can tag their images with keywords to describe things about the photo to make them searchable. These keywords can be a variety of things such as the name of the park where the photo was taken or the type of animal being shown.

But how would this help a retailer? Dealers can use these keywords to find customers who are looking to make renovations. It’s a great tool to help you identify users who have visited a nearby furniture or big box store. The beauty of the hashtag is it also works in reverse. Users can search hashtags, and if you use them properly they will find you. Once you identify and start using the correct set of keywords, your customer will easily find your Instagram page and see the images you’re sharing.

However, utilizing social media isn’t just about sharing photos. It’s a platform that allows you to talk and interact with potential customers to help you build a relationship with them. Remember, hashtags will only increase these interactions. For example, Stanton Carpet recently helped one of its retailer partners develop an effective set of keywords. At the start, Cove Carpet One Floor & Home, based in Summit, N.J., was receiving about 10 “likes” each time it posted a photo on Instagram. Stanton was able to boost this number to 68 after using the hashtags in only a single post. That represents an increase of nearly 600%. But what’s more important than the sheer number was the quality of the audience. Reports show 30% were designers or contractors with another 30% comprising home improvement enthusiasts; 10% were real estate professionals.

“We connected with more people in this post than we’ve ever had before,” said Donna Dwyre, president, Cove Carpet One Floor & Home. “The results were not only fantastic, but they were instant. It helped us start conversations with customers who had not been in the store for months.”

Which leads me to my last point: The best part about using social media marketing is you can see the results immediately, and all the interactions are documented. These interactions, also known as engagement, are golden nugget leads that your sales associates can use to follow up and get new and returning customers back into the store. And the best part is it can all be done for free.

 

Screen Shot 2017-01-13 at 10.53.12 AMAyme Sinclair is the marketing director at Stanton Carpet. Her innovative social media programs in the home industry have provided explosive growth and revenue-generating leads prompting case studies from companies like Architectural Digest and General Electric. For more information on how to use social media to grow your business, join the Stanton Retailer Facebook group: facebook.com/groups/stantonretailers.