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Lisbiz Strategies: Growing your business with inbound marketing


November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 3.56.12 PMInbound marketing is the process by which businesses connect and convert consumers to customers.

At the base of this process is content. Inbound marketing is relatively new but the difference between it and outbound marketing is very clear. Outbound or interruption marketing is what most businesses practiced in the old days. The idea is to stay in front of your customers at all costs, whether they like it or not. This includes the use of newspapers, TV, radio, billboards, etc.

Contrast this with inbound or pull marketing, which engages the customer. This is also called permission-based marketing, where the customer downloads a white paper or something else of interest or subscribes to a blog. The primary tool for inbound marketing is content. You’ve heard “content is king” and you’re probably tired of hearing that you have to blog. Sorry but blogging is powerful.

Inbound marketing takes the customer through four stages: attract me (something for me to see and enjoy), convert me (give me something I can download), close me (since you know what interests me) and then stay in touch with me. This, of course, is the simple definition, but at the heart of the process is the ability to build a relationship and continue to communicate with your customer. In addition the last phase is best accomplished by an automated marketing system that will continue to deliver timely and specifically designed messages. This brings us back to the value of content—unique content for each type of customer.

Who in your business should be blogging? It can be accomplished by anyone who is talented and likes to write. There is plenty of talk about having your salespeople write your blogs—why not? Who knows your business better than them and who has more information? Additional content can be used to create downloadable white papers on information needed by the customer. This might be an article on, “How to choose the right flooring store.” Why should someone else write these articles? The new salesperson has to be part of the marketing team, whether it’s engaging online or writing timely articles for your special customers.

Salespeople are a significant part of the engaging process and will get their share of referrals and repeat business if they put effort into building those relationships.

Content can pay off. It should be done on a schedule, weekly if possible and should be planned out weeks in advance. Everyone should invite people to sign up for the blog and explain they will be writing about the store and other fun things. Customers can also be asked to be guest bloggers. Ask them to share the post and your reach will expand.

The blog responsibilities can be shared: those with great ideas and those who can write. The writing must be consistent. Blogging content builds community and friends; isn’t that what sales is all about? Up until now, we have been focused on the short-term payoff (the sale) and haphazardly committed to the long-term payoff (referrals and repeat business). No matter what your theory these are the two cornerstones of your business. Why allow your competitors to steal those relationships.

One surefire way for Google to find your business is through timely content. If this doesn’t work, you can always hire out the writing. If you need ideas for your blog, give me a call.

 

 

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Digital Marketing: Novalis uses digital strategy to enhance its family of brands

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

By Ken Ryan

Novalis Innovative Flooring is emerging as a forceful player in the LVT/WPC market, thanks in large part to a strategy to drive its brands through digital and social platforms. In just two years, Novalis has grown from a neophyte in the digital space to a company with a well-rounded and robust digital strategy.

According to Julie Foster, product and marketing manager, Novalis Innovative Flooring, the company embarked on this effort in carefully orchestrated phases of development. Novalis began growing its NovaFloor brand of residential and Main Street LVT in 2014 and recognized the need for a dedicated NovaFloor website to properly service a growing list of distributors and dealers with product information.

screen-shot-2016-11-14-at-3-28-51-pmIn 2015, Novalis launched NovaFloor.us as a first phase toward an ambitious online presence for the North American market. The site features a blog to address topics of interest to both trade and consumer visitors. In addition, Novalis recently added a room visualizer tool where users can try any NovaFloor style in a variety of room situations, including different installations and wall colors. Phase Two for Novalis was the introduction of social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, LinkedIn and Pinterest) to support the brand.

At the 2015 NeoCon East, Novalis introduced its new commercial LVT line, AVA, and supported it with the launch of AVAFlor.com, which included a room visualizer and product sample light box to enable enlargement and closer product examination. This push represented phase three of Novalis’ online development.

Phase four entailed the addition of Twitter and Instagram to support AVA and YouTube to archive a growing list of video assets for Novalis. Moreover, the Novalis corporate site is being rebuilt and expected to re-launch in January.

The NovaFloor.us and AVAFlor.com room visualizers are built into the site navigations and are designed to look identical to the rest of the site. The capability is built with electronic and digital signature (eSIGN) technology and coordinated out of the Novalis office in Germany under the guidance of David Ruland, product manager for Europe. “Anyone can select the room visualizer from the site navigation bar and be immediately and seamlessly accessing the NovaFloor or AVA room scene library and hundreds of flooring style combinations,” Foster said.

Novalis is using each platform to provide an added dimension and depth to the brand identity while building trust and familiarity. Novalis uses Facebook for both consumer and trade-facing posts, LinkedIn for trade-oriented interests and Pinterest to populate with its extensive library of room scenes. Twitter and Instagram are being leveraged currently to build awareness for its AVA commercial LVT brand. All platforms are cross-linked and promoted.

Novalis worked closely with Spartan Surfaces, its commercial distribution partner, on the formation and rollout of the social media strategy with Spartan’s Meredith Nicholson serving as the point person. Nicholson worked closely with Novalis personnel in building the AVA brand for the A&D community, which meant more of an emphasis on Pinterest and Instagram. “Our goal was to create brand awareness with the great selling points of AVA — durability, aesthetics, environmental story, installation, ease of maintenance,” Nicholson explained. “Those are great selling points for everything in their collection.”

 

 

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Digital Marketing: Putting social media to work for your business

Expert advice on helping dealers take the virtual plunge

November 7/14, 2016: Volume 31, Number 11

Achieving success at retail in today’s high-tech marketing, media-rich world requires a departure from traditional consumer-outreach thinking. Experts the world over agree that a solid social media strategy should be at the core of any marketing program.

That begs the question: What’s the best way to get started? It might sound elementary, but the first order of business is to get to know your audience. Experts say 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.

Next, review the various social media platforms to see what might work best for your needs. The possibilities on social media are growing and evolving, with new platforms launching frequently (see graphic). Among the most popular are Houzz, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn. Before deciding on a platform that best suits their needs, objectives and, yes, capabilities, retail business owners and operators should consider how much time they can devote to social media. Many experts agree that about an hour a day should be spent on each social network (at least when first starting out). Next, retailers need to consider the audience and demographics. For instance, which social networks are used most by your customers?

Many online marketing proponents believe Facebook tends to deliver the greatest results given its widespread use across varied demographics. According to Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier and digital marketing specialist at Simple Marketing Now, 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,” she said. “It really helps to understand the network from a personal point of view before getting involved with business perspective.”

Starting off small with Facebook makes sense, experts say, as consumers often search that platform in much the same way that they look for a regular webpage. At the same time, marketing advisors and professionals only recommend posting something on Facebook that has a purpose. In the case of floor covering dealers that means attracting new customers and retaining customers that dealers have already sold.

On the flip side, many retailers remain hesitant to get involved with social media because of seemingly inevitable negativity, particularly with customer reviews. Most dealers know all it takes is one unhappy customer sounding off on a social network or review site to potentially affect other consumers. However, business owners should take these reviews as opportunities to turn negatives into positives.

“More frequently, consumers who are thinking of replacing a floor are looking online for answers: what to buy and where to buy it,” notes Paul Friedrichsen, owner of BrandBiz, a marketing and branding consultancy. “That means she’s probably paying close attention to online reviews. In fact, research says 70% of online customers rely on reviews before making a purchase. So, if you’re not listed on a review site then you’re not in the game. Even worse, if you are online but your reviews are lousy, you’re already losing.”

Ultimately, presence on the top social networks is key, particularly visually based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest. Posting original, engaging content on Facebook is paramount, along with short, attention-grabbing blurbs on Twitter. Business listings on Google+, Yelp and Angie’s List will help with search rankings and garnering customer reviews. Houzz—which allows users to express their creativity—is another network rising in popularity in recent years. It works like Pinterest in that it is based on inspirational photos, which falls right in line with the home furnishings/fashion industry. Once a dealer has selected a platform—or group of platforms—the next move is allotting a budget for online marketing initiatives. One of the best things about social media, experts say, 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 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 and anything, 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.” social-infographic2015

Creating a connection
At its core, 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.”

 

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Mohawk becomes Google Partner

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 10.51.02 AMCalhoun, Ga—Mohawk is the first U.S. manufacturer as well as the first company in the flooring industry to become a Google Partner—a certification of excellence in digital marketing.

Google Partners are considered trusted online experts who are qualified and certified to manage the online marketing of other businesses. As a digital leader in the flooring industry, Mohawk already provides a comprehensive and successful suite of digital marketing tools to its retailers. This certification enhances those services.

“Being a Google Partner assures our retailers that they are receiving best-in-class service when it comes to digital marketing, which we at Mohawk believe will transform the industry in the next five years,” said Mike Zoellner, vice president of marketing services for Mohawk. “Everything we do at Mohawk is designed to drive consumers to our retail partners for a fully integrated shopping experience. Over the past 24 months, we’ve made significant investments to help connect consumers to our retail partners through a variety of search, social and online platforms.”

The heart of Mohawk’s digital efforts is the Mohawk Lead Center, a CRM system that allows retailers to capture highly qualified leads, follow up and remarket. Essential components of the Mohawk Lead Generation Program, which drives consumers who are ready to make a purchase into Mohawk retailers’ stores across the country, include:

  • A database of over a million homeowners receives ongoing communication campaigns that encourage repeat purchases by providing information on new product introductions, announcing annual sales promotions and delivering printable coupons.
  • Mohawk’s industry best-in-class program, Lead Booster, which helps retailers analyze search traffic and purchase most-used search terms in a local market. Based on that information, digital promotional advertisements are directed to targeted consumers and serve up offers, connecting interested consumers to a retailer’s lead platform for follow-up and conversion.
  • The ability for consumers to purchase select soft and hard surface samples PartnerBadge-151030online at MohawkFlooring.com. Contact information from those consumers flows directly into the Mohawk Lead Center so retailers can follow up.
  • An ongoing collection of syndicated social media content to almost 2,000 retailers through the online marketing platform Promoboxx.
  • Mohawk’s Friends and Family program which since its inception has seen thousands of coupons printed annually with a redemption rate of 90%. With a potential audience reach at more than 3 million homeowners, these targeted leads feed into the Mohawk Lead Center for tracking and future marketing campaigns.

Retailers like Manasota Flooring in Sarasota, Fla., which takes advantage of Mohawk’s digital services and tools, believe having a digital presence is the wave of the future. Manasota manager Chris Quattlebaum said the store uses Promoboxx and pays for leads that are target specific and local. Manasota’s three stores use Pinterest and Facebook to drive traffic to the company website where visitors can pick up a store coupon 24/7. “From January 1 to May 1, our store coupon promotion delivered 50 leads, which contributed $30,000 to $40,000 in sales,” he noted.

To become a Google Partner, Mohawk had to meet the specific, rigorous requirements, which included staff certification in Google AdWords and a proven competence implementing best practices in marketing campaigns for clients. Google reviews its partners’ marketing campaigns to make sure they continue to meet its standards. Google Partners stay up-to-date on the latest Google tools and products by passing Google-administered certification exams every 12 months.

 

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Quick-Step driving consumers to retail partners via digital marketing

qs_website_2014_screenshot_hiresDallas—Quick-Step is continuing to effectively drive customer traffic to its retail partner stores via digital marketing. Quick-Step’s overall brand strategy takes a winning product line and wraps it in a comprehensive merchandising program. In today’s marketplace, digital media is a critical part of any successful merchandising program.

“Digital media is here to stay and savvy brands like Quick-Step are capitalizing on this opportunity to reach consumers in a new way,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of brand marketing for Unilin (Quick-Step’s parent company). “Brand promotion and sales assistance via digital media is not only the most effective of today’s marketing tools, but in most cases, cost effective with high ROI.”

Quick-Step’s comprehensive digital marketing program reaches consumers through every viable aspect of internet, website, YouTube, social media and mobile channels. The brand’s digital strategy is designed to increase overall brand awareness; educate consumers on Quick-Step’s superiority in style, design, and innovation; guide shoppers through the selection process; make it fun and easy to choose the right Quick-Step floor; and, most important, drive customer traffic into retail partner stores.

“Part of the beauty of marketing in the digital age is that we are able to easily and accurately monitor the exact levels of engagement with each of our digital marketing endeavors,” Thorn-Brooks said. “These measurements have continually shown that what we are doing digitally is definitely working.

“Our brand is committed to staying at the forefront of innovative, tech-based merchandising to help Quick-Step connect creatively with consumers and drive the right kind of traffic into our retailers’ stores,” she added.

Visit www.us.quickstep.com for more details on Quick-Step’s entire product assortment, www.quickstepstyle.com for exclusive designer tips from Quick-Step’s celebrity designer partner Erinn Valencich, http://www.facebook.com/#!/quickstepflooring to follow the latest news and information on Quick-Step’s Facebook page, http://www.pinterest.com/quickstepfloors to view Quick-Step on Pinterest, http://www.houzz.com/pro/usquickstepflooring/quickstep-flooring to interact with Quick-Step’s presence on Houzz, and https://www.youtube.com/user/quickstepfloors to watch Quick-Step videos on a myriad of topics.