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Al's column: Maximizing your online presence

November 6/13, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 11

By Jay Flynn

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.45.39 AMSearch-engine optimization. Pay per click. Organic (and paid) social media initiatives. All these elements stand to have a big impact on any online marketing strategy. So the question is: Why aren’t more flooring retailers taking advantage of these tools?

They’re not acronyms and strategies to be afraid of but rather embraced. Still, just a mere mention of many of these online strategies makes some managers’ palms sweat. If this sounds like you, know that you’re not alone. Also know that there are certain resources you can tap into to better understand these strategies and take your online marketing to the next level.

One such resource within your reach is The International Surface Event (TISE), scheduled to take place Jan. 30 through Feb. 1 in Las Vegas next year. One seminar in particular, “How to Maximize Your Online Marketing Presence,” is designed to help retailers overcome fears of online marketing. During this presentation, I will give attendees the information they need to take their flooring company’s web presence to new heights, potentially leading to new business opportunities and, thus, more sales.

The seminar will consist of a panel of industry-leading retail flooring dealers that have driven business growth through a strategic online marketing program. As moderator, I will lead discussion on online marketing campaigns and invite panel members to share the respective tools they use and the results they get from implementing them. The goal is to help attendees learn what they can do in their respective businesses to give themselves more of an online presence, keeping in mind their budgets, competition and end goals.

Panelists will also discuss traditional marketing techniques and how those techniques can help complement online marketing. For instance, 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.

The seminar will also cover:

  • An overview of all the primary online marketing tools that flooring retailers can utilize.
  • What ROI flooring retailers can expect from each tool based on macro data.
  • What online tools are best suited for a respective business based on specific business parameters.

This informative seminar will help retailers gain a better understanding of how they can ensure they’ve selected the right online marketing tool and what to expect to budget for each. It is designed specifically to help specialty floor covering dealers implement an effective online marketing campaign to help fuel business growth.

There’s simply no reason to fear online marketing any longer. Rather, learn to embrace it. The reward of more leads and increased sales most definitely outweighs the risk. Register online today at tisewest.com to take advantage of these valuable educational opportunities.

 

Jay Flynn is vice president of Creating Your Space, a leading custom website and online marketing provider for the flooring industry. Founded by veterans of the flooring industry, Creating Your Space specializes in providing custom websites along with a suite of online marketing tools for retailers.

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Stanton Carpet launches new B2B site

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-27 at 12.27.40 PMStanton Carpet is looking to simplify the way it transacts with retail customers via a new B2B website—stantonb2b.com. The site makes it easier for retailers to find products, submit requests to create a rug, view dropped products and order swatches, among other features.

The new B2B site, which launched Oct. 9, is something Stanton has been working on for approximately two years. “A lot of what we’ve incorporated in this first phase comes from feedback we received from the retailers, because ultimately we are creating the site for them to use,” said Chad Johnfroe, director of information systems, Stanton Carpet.

With the development of this site the company has created what Jonathan Cohen, president and CEO of Stanton Carpet, calls “the Amazon of B2B. This is another way we can provide retailers with really great service aside from our other areas of service in the organization. While they are not required to do business with us online, there are so many more things available on the site. It’s better, faster, easier. We feel like we have the best of both with this new B2B system.”

On the company’s previous site, which Stanton refers to as its customer service interface, retailers could place orders. However, it was static and more of a utilitarian site. Retailers who were using the old system are now automatically enrolled in the new site.

With the B2B site, retailers can seamlessly navigate through different menus to view multiple accounts, custom rug jobs, reservations, helpful links regarding topics such as display and installation guides, promotional items, dropped products, new product introductions and more. Dealers can also create a rug as well as order swatches and stock. The create-a-rug feature was developed to help retailers save time when placing a custom rug order. The new site provides brief explanations for finish options, attached backing/padding as well as quarter-turn options. The create-a-rug section also includes a visualizer box that allows the user to zoom in on the product.

Other enhancements include greater access to customer service reps. Through the new site the customer service support desk is now available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. This is a dramatic change from its previous hours of operations which ended at 6 p.m. EST. The site also contains quick links for dealers with autofill, a mark-up tool and the option to view retailer vs. consumer pricing.

A key element to the creation of the new B2B site is it reinforces Stanton Carpet’s commitment to sell only to the flooring retailer. While certain features, such as the create-a-rug option, will soon be available on an updated consumer website, customers will not be able to purchase products directly from Stanton. If a consumer chooses to create a rug, they will only be able to submit a rug design, which then goes to the nearest retailer who can follow up about the desired product.

Stanton has scheduled a few webinars to help walk retailers through the new site. The company has also alerted dealers of the updated site through email and a “Top Five Reasons Why” campaign. The company also plans on showcasing the website at Surfaces 2018.

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FCNews exclusive interview: Lead-gen marketing in today’s web-centric world

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

Chase ShielsEven today’s most tech-savvy retailers, manufacturers and distributors realize it’s not enough to merely have a “presence” online. Proponents say success requires just the right mix of a content-rich website, interactive social media efforts (both inbound and outbound) and effective search-based, lead-generation tools. In short, all these elements—combined with traditional face-to-face selling, of course—all need to seamlessly blend together to help retailers maximize sales opportunities and develop potential repeat business in the process.

To discuss this critical integration, FCNews managing editor Reginald Tucker sat down with Chase Shiels, CEO of 4me Group, a Cincinnati-based tech start-up specializing in helping dealers convert more browsers into buyers. Utilizing its suite of cloud-based sales management software—including its signature Lead Tool program—the company works with several high-profile independent floor covering dealers as well as members of large retail buying groups. If that wasn’t enough, 4me Group has developed lead-gen programs for some of the industry’s largest manufacturers. It also has a successful track record with companies operating in the real estate sector. The goal is to help retail businesses provide a better customer experience.

In this discussion, Shiels not only talks tech but also delves into the importance of having a thoroughly integrated lead-generation, customer relationship management (CRM) system.

Q: Before we get into the actual software products, give us a little background on 4me Group.

A: I’d say we’re a combination of ex-operators and technologists—industry veterans who understand the building products retailing market. Two of our founders are successful former owners and operators of lumber distribution and dry-kiln facilities focusing on imported and domestic hardwoods and custom millwork. Our team has experience in all three key points of the supply chain: manufacturing, distribution and retail. More importantly, we have experience selling to modern consumers. As a group we are very experienced in bringing new technologies into different industries.

Q: Explain the transition from the manufacturing side of the business to the marketing end. 

A: My dad and I got out of the family lumber business, and I went to work in the car business. I was in sales in the middle of the recession. The owner of the automotive retail group I worked for spent several hundred thousands of dollars a month on online advertising, but he didn’t feel his sales staff was doing much with the leads being generated by all this advertising. The owner got fed up and pulled all the online leads from his entire sales staff and gave them to me and my business partner, George. I managed the division of the company that comprised Porsche, Audi, Maserati and Volvo. Together we managed between 300-400 new sales leads per month. Within about 90 days we were accounting for somewhere between 35%-40% of the monthly sales volume. We took all these leads that were supposedly “garbage” and converted them into sales. Mind you, we did all this during a recession, which is not a good time to be selling $100,000 cars. But I’ve learned a lot about lead generation, sales processes and CRM systems.

Q: What did that process teach you, specifically?

A: I learned how a sales process should look, how you can most effectively get someone to come into the showroom and buy a car—even when the person was not located in the [same] state. I did a lot of national and international business. I also learned about the importance of CRM platforms in helping salespeople turn every potential customer in a paying customer.

After I left the car business, I began working with another partner on building a lead-generation website geared very heavily toward specialty flooring retailers because. Homeadvisor.com, which was called Service Magic back then, was only servicing contractors—not brick and mortar stores.

Q: Have you learned anything that has surprised you?

A: Statistically speaking, many sales reps—about 48%—don’t bother to follow up. Furthermore, something on the order of 80% of sales reps don’t close until after the fifth to 12th contact. So what happens with lot of these online leads is when you don’t respond right away when they’re paying attention, you don’t get ahold of them and then you have to try contacting them again. There’s a cadence effective salespeople follow—i.e., call/send an email; call/send a text, etc. It can’t be a one-and-done situation. Unfortunately, most salespeople will call a lead just once, follow up with an e-mail and then throw out the lead if they don’t get a response.

Q: In your opinion, why are so few RSAs, percentage-wise, following up on leads?

A: We did a podcast recently on social media, and we learned that many of the things we’ve been talking about are not widely accepted in this industry. Here’s the thing about online: If you don’t contact someone who submits an online inquiry in about 10 minutes, your chance of converting that lead into a sale decreases by a factor of 10 by the time you get to 30 minutes. Furthermore, if you don’t respond within an hour, your chances of converting that sale are preposterously low. That’s from an independent study, “Lead Responsiveness Management,” which insidesales.com recently conducted.

Online leads really require you to be constantly on your game. It’s helpful to have a CRM platform that instantly lets you know when you have a lead, and then you have to be inside that platform; it has to be part of your daily routine. Basically you have to adopt the technology to make the online lead really beneficial for you.

Q: Where are retailers falling short when it comes to adopting or implementing these CRM systems?

A: Five years ago retailers could simply “manage their leads,” but it’s just not enough today. Many store managers resort to paying someone to do syndicated social media content, which they then publish for thousands of other people. Here’s the problem: Content syndication absolutely kills your Google ranking and destroys your SEO. So you might hear a dealer say, “Yeah, our business does Facebook,” but it’s not enough. What dealers need is a full-suite CRM system that encompasses everything from first contact all the way to after sale, which includes remarketing to customers you have already serviced in the past.

All of these initiatives help salespeople better connect with their customers and decrease the time it takes to provide the customer more value. From a marketing perspective it’s basically the Holy Grail since it offers multiple touch points and a breakdown of where your target customers are by channel.

Q: Tell us how Lead Tool came about.

A: We invented Lead Tool partly as a solution to our own frustrations. It was developed with one goal in mind—change the game and offer an intelligent and useful platform for building material retailers, distributors and manufacturers, and ultimately help them make more money.

Our platform offers a place where manufacturers can send online leads; their customers can manage them and their retailers can run their entire sales business off our platform. It’s a full-suite CRM. We cover the entire sales cycle; lead management is just the front end where the qualification takes place. Then there’s the sales management component, where you’re actually trying to close the sale; and, finally, after-sale management, where you’re scheduling the installation or calling to ask for a referral. Then you have remarketing, where you’re going back in and re-prospecting for other sales opportunities in other areas of the home.

We are big proponents on moving the industry forward when it comes to technology. With our founders having owned/operated a company in the building materials industry and our core team having already revolutionized the real estate industry with technology, we are now doing the same in the flooring industry. We already work with several Top 50 retailers and have partnerships with manufacturers such as Shaw and Mannington as well as buying groups such as Floors & More.

For many of our clients, it’s important to convey the need for CRM before we talk about selling a particular product. We have a unique perspective on this because we’re the only real tech start-up in the space that’s doing this day in and day out. For us it’s not a side project.

Q: You mentioned the “ease-of-use” aspect of the program. How do you facilitate training when you bring on new clients?

A: The cool thing about our system is we’re entirely cloud based, so we do most training via the web. We have a full implementation process; it’s pretty straightforward and very easy. The nice thing about it is it goes as fast as the client wants it to go. For example, after completing a sale we will schedule a session with the succession team. There’s an initial phone call where we ask the client what their objectives are: i.e., do they want to close more online leads? Or do they want to have more oversight of their entire sales pipeline? We focus on what’s going to make this a valuable tool for the client’s organization.

Q: How long does the implementation process typically take?

The implementation can be done within a week or two for those clients who really want to hustle. In some cases it can take about 30 days. We train every single person who’s going to be on the system, whether it’s group training or one on one. And this continues with the life of the system—that’s why we call it a “success” department as opposed to a “support” department. We are very proactive in this regard, and we provide reporting to our clients on a regular basis.

Q: Some retailers we have spoken to say their salespeople are reluctant to use CRM programs so they won’t buy it. How does Lead Tool address this issue?

A: At the end of the day it’s really a leadership decision. The main thing we’ve learned is the industry, on the whole, is really far behind in terms of buying in to what’s going on in the world. The fact is people are interacting and buying differently, using social media, etc. Retailers really need to understand their customers’ retail footprint. You have to buy into the mindset that people are buying differently. Customers today expect mobile payment options, they don’t want to come back to your showroom and sign a contract. It’s all about making it easier to transact.

Q: Can you provide an example of how this system has worked for other industries you service?

A: For the real estate industry we’ve developed systems that allow people to pay for a home using their mobile device; we’d like to do the same for someone who might spend, say, $10,000 on a new floor.

We recognize this is a massive change for everyone. While CRM systems have been around for 20 years and is the gold standard in almost every industry, it is new to the flooring/lumber/furniture space. We try to get new adopters to embrace the sales process and really think about the pipeline, especially if they’re coming from a pen-and-paper process. We want all our clients to kill it out there and make that transition process as smooth as possible.

Q: In terms of ROI, how soon after implementation of these lead-gen and CRM programs can a retailer expect to see tangible results?

A: In full disclosure, I can only speak to our systems and the publicly available data we have. In general, the ROI on CRM is about 700% and—that’s the accepted standard that we obtained through a third-party study. But in our case, we have customers who will see an ROI immediately.

For instance: The average flooring sale is about $2,000; our smaller accounts probably spend about $2,000–$3,000 per year with us. If you are only following up with half of your sales prospects, then all of a sudden you put in a CRM and you start following up with 75%–100%. In general, for every dollar dealers spend with us, they’ve logged about $80 in total sales. That’s just the average; we have some customers who are logging $200-plus for every dollar they spend with us.

I would expect someone who adopts our system to have an ROI within 30 days—even if they paid upfront for a year. The longer you’re on it and the harder you’re working the system, the more you’re going to get out of it.

Q: What’s your message to retailers who have not yet adopted integrated CRM systems?

A: It’s important to convey to the industry the amount of significant change that has taken place in recent years. People want to buy differently, whether it’s a builder, homeowner, etc. Understanding how the retailer customer wants to buy and then catering to that customer.

A lot of retailers have rose-colored glasses on right now. And things are going to be good until they are not so good. We’re heading toward the end of a long, successful business cycle, based on forecasts we have seen. Many retailers won’t be ready for the change.

 

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Technology: Xintory.com 2.0—More products, improved functionality

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.29.06 AMEarlier this year the flooring industry got its first look at Xintory.com, a web-based B2B portal designed strictly for manufacturers, distributors, dealers and installers to sell and buy overstocks, drops and specials (FCNews, Feb. 27/ March 6, 2017). The objective, according to Larry Feldman, the 30-year floor covering industry veteran who founded the company, was to provide a marketplace where sellers and buyers in the trade can reliably and securely get together to solve an issue that impacts virtually everyone across the supply chain—what to do with excess, discontinued inventory.

Nearly a year after the program’s first beta test, the company reports not only a significant increase in usage among both buyers and sellers but also a host of improvements and upgrades. These enhancements, which have resulted in what Feldman refers to as “Xintory.com 2.0,” are designed to improve the program’s overall functionality for all parties involved.

Among the most notable improvements and changes: a continually expanding online inventory; door-to-door delivery service; a new “Buyer’s Alert”; a “Make-an-Offer” feature; and a new product pricing function that reflects the true scale of the discounted product offerings.

“People who may have visited the site a few months ago but not lately will be very surprised,” Feldman stated.

Following is a closer look at the upgrades and what they mean for users:

Expanded inventory. New products are listed on Xintory.com every single day. To put things in perspective, this translates into many millions of dollars worth of product featured on the site since last December. Categories currently offered on Xintory.com run a wide gamut—resilient flooring, carpet/area rugs, ceramic and stone, hardwood and laminate, as well as subfloor prep materials and accessories. Virtually every product category is represented.

“We have a lot of product here and some amazing bargains on different products,” Feldman explained. “If buyers are looking for a significant amount of product for their stores—or if they just want several hundred feet for a small job—they can frequently find what they’re looking for on Xintory.com. It’s important that buyers keep coming back to see what’s new.”

Door-to-door delivery. Buyers can now arrange for their own shipping or have Xintory do it. Users can simply click a button and Xintory will provide a freight quote, add it to a buyer’s cart and provide door-to-door delivery service, thereby simplifying shipping logistics.

New “buyer’s alert” feature. In the event a retailer or distributor can’t find what they’re looking for on Xintory.com, the buyer can sign up for customized product alerts by literally clicking a button. As Feldman explains: “Let’s say a buyer is looking for 650 square yards of carpet tile in a particular color, but she doesn’t want to pay any more than $10 a square yard. When she clicks the ‘add alert’ button, we can tell her when it becomes available. At the same time, we can contact all of our sellers to try to find the material for that buyer. In short, buyers can leverage our floor covering network to help them find the materials they are looking for.”

Counter-offer functionality. Xintory employs technology that lets buyers make an offer and negotiate their own price. It not only provides shoppers with more purchasing flexibility, but it also boosts engagement between buyers and sellers. “Looking at the transaction patterns, we can see many sales go through this negotiation process,” Feldman explained.

More transparent pricing. When registered sellers list the prices of their products on the site, Xintory asks manufacturers and distributors for their regular list price and dealers their original cost. “This way, the buyer knows Xintory is actually selling the products at a significant savings—which means 50%-90% off, in some cases,” Feldman said. (He cited one case where a buyer saved more than $9,000 on a small order of 502 square yards of carpet tile.) Note: Registered/verified users cannot see any prices unless they are signed in. This prevents non-trade consumers from price shopping. Accounts can be set up for free; no fees are charged unless a purchase is completed.

Other key features of Xintory.com include hyperlinks to manufacturer websites, which allows potential buyers to obtain more detailed information such as product specifications, features, etc. “Everything about the new Xintory 2.0 portal is designed to drive more buyers to the site,” Feldman explained.

One such buyer is Lois Hatton, purchasing and inventory clerk for Re:Source New Jersey in Budd Lake. Her first go-round interfacing with a particular seller using the system was a little tricky, but she said the second experience with Xintory.com was much smoother. “It’s probably better for the big mills or retailers that have a lot of inventory; we’re a smaller installation contracting company. But overall I think it’s a good program. And the prices are attractive.”

Those observations are in line with others who have used the system. “It’s a cool website and a useful tool,” said Tom Cooper, vice president of dealer development, Tandus Centiva, which currently features select overstock products on Xintory.com. “I think it’s a great program.”

Several months ago, Xintory conducted several focus groups with buyers to get their feedback on the system and to explore ways to improve functionality. “After making these changes and getting back to the buyers in the focus group, they feel we answered their concerns,” Feldman noted.

A new feature that Xintory buyers really like is the shipping tool. “Xintory has added a freight option that makes it easier to get a better handle on the delivery costs,” said Jerry Jennings, owner of a Floor Trader store in Lawrence, Kan. The ability to order samples quickly and efficiently is also a draw. “The site gives us access to inventory that we wouldn’t otherwise have. Larry [Feldman] has really done a nice job with the site. It’s been working out fine for us.”

Fine, indeed. According to Feldman, Xintory.com has seen both its transactional volume and the amount of users increase every week. “We’re still a start-up and we’ve got a ways to go, but we’re getting great feedback and it’s good to see people are using the site. It takes a lot of persistence to get people comfortable using the system, but the trends we’re seeing are very encouraging.”

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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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Mohawk supports anniversary sale with digital, social initiatives

MAS logo Horz versionCalhoun, Ga.—The Mohawk Anniversary Sale, which launched on Sept. 17, provides consumers with special pricing, instant rebates and financing options on a wide array of in-demand soft and hard surface products, while also introducing brand new digital resources and social marketing strategies to position retailers for prime success through Oct. 28.

A $500 instant rebate on select SmartStrand Ultra Forever Clean, SmartStrand Silk Forever Clean, Wear-Dated SoftTouch, EverStrand carpet, ceramic, hardwood, laminate and vinyl products drives retail traffic, centrally located on mohawkflooring.com/sale, supporting a major focus on online leads. Coupled with 36 months equal payments, no-interest financing opportunities, consumers have greater flexibility when making purchases before the peak retail holiday shopping season.

To seamlessly connect the online, in-store and product experience, and ultimately empower retailer success, Mohawk has also debuted the sale on the industry’s first and only omni-channel solution, Omnify. Omnify retailers can optimize their individual strategies and collect customer data, while engaging consumers, automating marketing campaigns, accessing premium content and key measurements all in one central dashboard.

“This is simple, connected retail,” said Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing for Mohawk. “Omnify can change the way that sale events play out for our retailers. By empowering independent retailers with the best tools, we can help position them to have their most successful Mohawk Anniversary Sale to date. Maximizing the digital space will not only benefit their sale, but also set up even greater long-term marketing efforts for each specific business.”

Along with local and in-store advertising materials, Mohawk’s additional partnerships with Yelp and BuzzLocal create even more chances for retailers to drive leads, generate reviews and reach new audiences. Also, Mohawk’s industry-leading Lead Booster program optimizes search engine marketing activity to maximize local market reach for every retailer.

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Guest column: The golden rule of software implementation

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Wes Dillingham

 

(First of two parts)

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when buying and implementing software is not approaching it as change first. It’s important to keep in mind that any software you plan to implement at your company is likely to present a major change to the day-to-day routine of your employees.

In other words, if you are implementing any type of software or any other type of change to your company, you need to first recognize it for what it is—not just new software or a new process but a new way of thinking and working.

When you are changing up the routine of your employees and asking them to implement any change that includes but is not limited to a new software program, you are likely going to experience resistance and you can expect your most tenured employees to fight the hardest, even though this may seem counterintuitive. They will also have the most ammunition in their arsenal. All of their experience and history with the company will likely be used to defend their position, especially if they have a proven track record of getting successful results.

According to Nikolay Bulava of Customer Think, the top reasons cited for resisting a CRM software implementation are:

  1. Fear of change
  2. Fear of visibility into one’s daily work
  3. Inconvenience of use

The following is a very simple and logical way to approach change within your organization. There are numerous change management concepts and processes you can Google to learn more, but I have found the “Switch” methodology to be a very simple concept to grasp. This concept comes from Dan and Chip Heath’s New York Times bestseller of the same name. In the book, the authors describe the problem their method helps to solve in the following excerpt: “For things to change, somebody somewhere has to start acting differently. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s your team…each has an emotional ‘elephant’ side and a rational ‘rider’ side. You’ve got to reach both, and you’ve also got to clear the way or the path for them to succeed. In short, you must do three things to impart the change you want:

  1. Direct the rider — appeal to the logical side.
  2. Motivate the elephant — the emotional side.
  3. Clear the path — the environment around them.”

Jonathan Haidt, a University of Virginia professor who originally proposed the analogy of the rider, elephant and the path in his book, “The Happiness Hypothesis,” describes it this way, “Our emotional side is an elephant and our rational side is its rider. Perched atop the elephant, the rider holds the reins and seems to be the leader. But the rider’s control is precarious because he is so small relative to the elephant. Anytime the six-ton elephant and the rider disagree about which direction to go, the rider is going to lose. He’s completely overmatched.”

In the next installment, I will delve a little deeper into the rider, elephant and path concepts. But in the interim, remember this: The successful adoption of a new software program is 80% preparation and 20% implementation—that’s the golden rule. If you do the pre-work, the actual software itself should be a relatively minor step in the process.

 

Wes Dillingham is vice president of customer success at The Lead Tool, a Cincinnati-based CRM start-up. You can connect with him directly on LinkedIn or via facebook.com/theleadtool

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Marketing Online: Turning negative reviews into positive outcomes

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

By Ken Ryan

 

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.34.03 AM

The above exchange between a would-be customer and specialty flooring retailer appeared on Yelp in June. While the complaint was relatively benign it nonetheless resulted in two dissatisfied customers walking away from a potential purchase.

The flooring retailer in question usually receives favorable reviews on Yelp, so the complaint was out of character. Still, even the best flooring dealers can receive negative online reviews no matter how great their intentions.

In this case, many social media experts say, the retailer responded appropriately.

“Nobody likes getting negative reviews,” said Taylor Cutler, demand-gen specialist for Podium, a company that specializes in social media and online marketing. “In fact, it can be hard to not get upset when a customer leaves a bad review. That being said, a small number of negative reviews adds to the authenticity of all your reviews. Consumers know that no business is going to be perfect, so they will be understanding when they see one pop up from time to time.”

The key to dealing with negative reviews, Cutler explains, is to view them as an opportunity to improve your business. “When responding to negative reviews the first thing you should do is remain calm. Lashing out at customers is never going to end well, even if you think the review is unwarranted.”

Here are a few tips from social media experts on dealing with negative reviews.

Be responsive. The age-old retort, “I am not even going to dignify that with a response,” might be a way to handle certain situations but not online complaints, experts say. It may be tempting to delete negative feedback. However, responding well to negatives can actually turn into a positive when other customers see a thoughtful and respectful response. “Typically when people come to social media with a complaint it is a result of some sort of miscommunication,” said Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising, Flooring America/Flooring Canada. He recommends flooring retailers reply as quickly as possible and do whatever they can to help the customer out. “Good service and a prompt response can go a long way to make that customer happy. In most cases, his members have already worked directly with the customers to resolve the issue they are experiencing, and they are a result of things outside of our store’s control—like subfloor problems or issues with independent contractors who installed our product. If you’ve done everything you can already to please the customer, we recommend you briefly recap the steps you’ve taken in your response and invite the person to get in touch directly if she would like to discuss it further.”

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.34.22 AMFlooring America’s F.A.S.T. (Flooring America Social Tools) program, for example, provides comprehensive monitoring across all social media platforms so the buying group is able to find and address these complaints quickly as they come in. The My Floor Story creates a place for reviews to live on all member microsites.

Don’t wait too long to act. Numerous surveys have found that a high proportion of customers regard online reviews as credible. While negative reviews still make up a relatively small portion of all reviews posted— according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, only one in 26 customers will take the time to complain publicly—when you do get a bad review you should take it very seriously.

Research the incident. If necessary, speak to your staff to get their side of the story, and communicate privately with the reviewer to find out more details. If you’ve joined a review site, you should be able to message reviewers privately. If you haven’t joined, you can post a public message asking the reviewer to contact you offline (i.e., by phone or email) to discuss her concern. If the negative comment is on a blog, Facebook page or Twitter, you may have to respond publicly and ask the writer to contact you privately. The last thing you want is a public he-said-she-said argument. You can respond to inaccurate reviews to set the record straight about facts without getting into a tit-for-tat conversation.

Learn from it. Successful business people learn from negative reviews, improve their business—if need be—and then move on.

Offer a solution. According to Podium’s Cutler, apologizing to your customers is great but what they really want is a solution. He recommends including a detailed plan of action to remediate the problem as part of your response.

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Rise in e-commerce concerns flooring retailers

July 31/Aug. 7: Volume 31, Issue 4
By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.20.23 AMAs e-commerce grows in the retail channel, specialty flooring retailers have expressed concern that online sales could negatively impact their business. It’s a subject that has many store owners and managers on edge.

“Don’t get me going on this topic,” Ben Boss, owner of Boss Carpet One Floor & Home, Dixon, Ill., told FCNews. “Looking out 10 to 20 years, I wouldn’t be surprised if the flooring retail landscape is completely different.”

Andrew Wiebe, co-owner of Red Deer Carpet One Floor & Home, Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, echoed those sentiments and fears, adding, “It’s coming, folks.”

Cathy Buchanan, owner of Independent Carpet One Floor & Home, Westland Mich., had this observation: “Just look at Amazon and how it has taken [online retailing] by storm. Our world and the interpersonal relationships are dwindling. I am concerned.”

Looking at news reports, you can understand why dealers are feeling uneasy. Through June 20, there have been 5,300 store closing announcements in the U.S. this year, making 2017 the second worst year on record at the six-month mark. The worst year ever for store closings was 2008 during the Great Recession, when Credit Suisse counted 6,163 closings. Some believe 2017 might eclipse that number.

The growth of e-commerce and what retail experts say is an overbuilt retail landscape has contributed to this situation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce, e-commerce sales in the first quarter of 2017 accounted for 8.5% of total retail sales. That compares to 7.8% of total sales in Q1 2016, 6.9% in Q1 2015 and 6.2% in Q1 ’14. Five years ago, for example, e-commerce represented 5.1% of total retail sales.

So while flooring dealers worry about e-commerce’s rise, there is some encouraging news. The retail consultancy Alix Partners tracked five years of financial performance for 20 publicly traded retailers. For the group, online sales grew from 10.5% of total sales in 2012 to 15.5% in 2016—but margins steadily declined by 150 basis points to 9% in the year. It concluded that retailers’ store fleets were subsidizing their online businesses.

What’s more, it cited a recent study of millennial shopping habits in which 82% of respondents said they still prefer shopping in stores.

While the tactile, face-to-face experience of shopping for flooring in a brick-and-mortar store will likely never go away, retailers like Wiebe said dealers must come to terms with the growing trend toward online sales, particularly among DIY and low-cost segments.

Deb DeGraaf, owner of DeGraaf Interiors, Grand Rapids, Mich., agrees there are consumers who will always want to touch and feel before they purchase, “but in that case some of us are going to be used for the touching and feeling of the product and the customer will then purchase online. I see this being a problem particularly with case goods. Rolls of carpet will remain primarily through retailers and box stores because of the challenge of receiving the roll. It is very important that we as independent retailers create an experience and romance the customers when we get the opportunity.”

As e-commerce sales grow some flooring retailers say they will turn to more private-label goods as a way to slow e-commerce’s growth. Others, however, worry that suppliers can use e-commerce to leapfrog the retail channel and sell directly to the end user.

“We should be very concerned,” said Casey Dillabaugh, owner of Dillabaugh’s Flooring America, Boise, Idaho. “Anything that eliminates the friction of the purchase decision in the eyes of the consumer ought to be considered serious competition. As such, as retailers, we must be willing to explore other non-traditional ways of relating and communicating with our potential customers. With all that said, I do believe there will always be a sector of the community that still wants the experience that only a specialty flooring retailer can provide. In the end, it’s how we relate to the customer that will ensure our survival.”