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Distributor's perspective: Online marketing in flooring distribution

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

By Steve McKenna

 

In this modern technology age, no one can dispute the importance of developing and maintaining a viable online marketing strategy. Problem is, many of us are not utilizing our websites to their full potential. As I look around the industry, I’m noticing our websites are vastly different from our day-to-day customer interactions.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 11.39.53 AMIn the flooring distribution world, many distributors choose a strategy that attempts to set themselves apart by being experts in their industry and providing a higher level of service than our clients can receive elsewhere. As distributors, we pride ourselves on being problem solvers for our clients. We offer them a level of expertise they cannot obtain from our competitors.

So why do most of our websites look like, at best, a product marketing flyer? Most of the time we barely communicate who we are, what we really do and how we do it on any level.

Here is the difference between how we market online and how we market in person: In face-to-face interactions, we have a conversation with a client we probably already know. We analyze the situations they are working on. We have an active dialogue together about potential solutions, and we strive to offer solutions that will fulfill their needs, including budgets, time frames and expected performance. We don’t have to tell the clients we are experts; they already know because we have taught them something they needed to know.

Online, however, we might tell someone about everything we sell using a list. We may even have some links to the manufacturer sites, which give the clients the information they are looking for. The more advanced distributors likely have product videos and maybe even a bit of history about where some of our products have been used in the past. Some of us also use online portals that tell customers packaging information, pricing and availability of inventory. But this only serves to easily fill the order. It does not utilize any of the expertise we exercise every day in person.

If we are using our websites to let our customers know we have a pulse and they can place an order with us, then we have missed the point of the Internet. People generally aren’t going online to see who you are and where you’re located. They may do this once, but more commonly they are looking for information. The web is a great learning tool, and if we don’t take the opportunity to educate our customers then someone else will.

The most powerful service we can provide our clients is information that is easy to access, relevant to our specific needs and entertaining so they stay engaged. If we sell hardwood, for example, we know our customers may have several specific questions related to that particular product segment. (For instance: What is the best hardwood to use for my studio apartment? Should I buy oak or maple for this project?)

Odds are your sales and customer service staff are already answering these questions. Imagine if you could provide your clients and staff with a tool that answered all of these questions quickly and efficiently.

 

Steve McKenna is president of McKenna Distribution, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. He has experience across various positions, including shipping and receiving, inbound and outbound sales, purchasing and management. 

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Salesmaster expands Mannington partnership

Salesmaster's Steve Kurtz and Tony Giannattasio.
Salesmaster president Steve Kurtz, left, and Tony Giannattasio, VP, finance.

Deer Park, N.Y—Salesmaster Flooring Solutions, a leading flooring industry distributor for more than 50 years, has expanded its partnership with Mannington Mills based in Salem, N.J.

Salesmaster, which already distributes Mannington Commercial products in downstate New York, has now received distribution rights to the rest of New York State. This adds the territory from Albany to Buffalo, including Rochester, Syracuse and Binghamton.

The extensive Mannington product line includes homogenous and heterogeneous sheet vinyl, LVT, VCT and premium visual tile (PVT). The new arrangement reconfirms Mannington’s commitment to superior quality service and provides for the improved availability of product inventory in the designated geography.

Salesmaster will open a new distribution “supercenter” in the Rochester area. The centralized location will promote faster service and more efficient deliveries of Mannington products to commercial floor covering contractors, installation workrooms, the design community and retail floor covering stores. In addition, the area will be supported from Salesmaster supercenters in Chicopee, Mass.; Deer Park, N.Y., and New Jersey, which total more than 150,000 square feet of dedicated distribution space.

Salesmaster and Mannington have enjoyed a long history of success together. Salesmaster has distributed Mannington products in Southeastern New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Long Island since 2004, and has handled the Mannington line in New England since 2011.

Zach Zehner, senior vice president of distribution for Mannington Mills said, “We’re excited about the expanded relationship and the new distribution footprint because Salesmaster is a proven commodity. They have done an outstanding job in the New England marketplace. Mannington and Salesmaster are also driven by remarkably similar core values. Each cares deeply about the customer and goes the extra mile to ensure that customer needs are met. Salesmaster salespeople are highly trained and highly technical. They are experts at commercial flooring products and have demonstrated the ability to provide the service and knowledge base that Mannington customers require.”

Steven Kurtz, Salesmaster president, added, “We are delighted to extend our partnership and we welcome the opportunity to significantly grow Mannington sales in the western New York region. Our blueprint is to adapt Salesmaster systems that have enabled growth in other regions, especially customer service protocols, efficient logistics, prioritized fulfillment and better lead times on special orders.”

Tony Giannattasio, Salesmaster’s vice president of finance, said the company “will maintain extensive inventory to further ensure that Mannington customers get what they want when they need it. This commitment is in keeping with the allegiance to contractors and the design community that both Mannington and Salesmaster maintain. With Salesmaster, the customer is always first.”

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Bamboo Hardwoods inks distribution deals with All Tile, NRF

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 1.25.20 PMSeattle—Bamboo Hardwoods, an innovator in bamboo flooring and panel products since 1995, has entered into two distribution agreements with top 20 wholesalers All Tile and NRF Distributors. The new deals expand Bamboo Hardwoods’ nationwide distribution network.

Headquartered in Elk Grove Village, Ill., All Tile supplies 54 lines of building materials to clients throughout 14 states in the North Central region of the U.S. NRF Distributors, based in Augusta, Maine, services more than 3,000 retail stores encompassing all of New England as well as upstate New York and western Pennsylvania.

“Both All Tile and NRF are well known for representing top-quality flooring products and a growing customer base seeking bamboo flooring, so these partnerships are an ideal fit,” said David Keegan, president and CEO of Bamboo Hardwoods. “There is much upside potential for the bamboo category to become even more mainstream within these markets, and these partnerships will greatly benefit our collective growth for years to come.”

Bamboo Hardwoods offers 100% rapidly renewable, FSC-certified flooring products that are popular with designers, architects and homeowners who prefer using durable, environmentally friendly products. Known for providing quality bamboo products for more than 20 years, Bamboo Hardwoods offers a vast selection of colors and styles, with a large assortment of matching accessories and transition pieces to complement a wide array of residential and commercial décor styles.

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EarthWerks expands distribution with J.J. Haines

earthwerksHouston—J.J. Haines is now the exclusive supplier of EarthWerks LVT flooring for Eastern Tennessee (Nashville East).  J.J. Haines has been distributing EarthWerks LVT in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Northern Alabama for over ten years.

“This territory expansion with J.J. Haines is part of a valued long term relationship and vital to EarthWerks’ continued growth in our focused markets,” said Shane Calloway, EarthWerks’ vice president of sales. “We look forward to our continued success in the markets served by J.J. Haines.”

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Flooring distribution: Change is the one constant, but some things remain the same

Every business sector faces its own unique set of challenges, and distribution is no different. Yes, wholesalers have to deal with a changing economy and be on top of industry and consumer trends like everyone else, but as the proverbial middle man, they must react to being pushed and pulled by their suppliers and retail customers alike while also being proactive in advancing their place as a valuable and necessary cog in the industry. Continue reading Flooring distribution: Change is the one constant, but some things remain the same