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Marketing Mastery: Magnetically attracting big, profitable sales

September 14/21; Volume 30/Number 7

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(Second of two parts)

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 4.47.43 PMAs previously discussed, the vast majority of sales in the $20,000-and-above range don’t come from advertising; these kinds of sales typically come from repeat customers and referrals. In this installment I will cover strategies and principles to magnetically attract high-end, high-margin customers.

Market to your past customers

Over the years you’ve most likely taken on some large, high-margin residential jobs. Those customers are your best candidates for providing even more high-end sales. You should market directly to them once a month. The best way to do this is through a monthly newsletter supplemented with a weekly e-newsletter.

Be sure to include customer testimonials and acknowledge new and returning clients. Also thank those who referred you and mention your referral reward program. All of these tactics serve as proof that you and your store are different from the competition—that you are a trusted advisor, have lots of customers who are happy to pay your premium prices and plenty of people refer you because you’ve done exceptional work.

Implement a referral marketing system

For most dealers, referrals are a happy accident; they don’t have a system in place to generate referrals from their scheduled installations. The basic components of an effective referral marketing system are as follows:

  1. Be referable. Provide the kind of service that customers want to brag about.
  2. Ask each customer for referrals. I recommend using a referral form that explains how the customer and her referral will directly benefit.
  3. Follow up with all referrals. Send letters introducing yourself and your business, explaining all the benefits of buying from you vs. your competitors.
  4. Subscribe all referrals to your newsletter. If you stay in front of these prospects, those who aren’t buying right now will choose you when they are ready.

Build relationships

One dealer I work with had about five referral relationships with realtors, designers and remodeling contractors that collectively generated approximately $150,000 in revenue annually. Because his goal was to increase his revenue (like most dealers), I suggested he develop relationships with 10 times as many businesses. Sure, it might take about a year to do so, but investing the time and energy would add $1.5 million to his annual revenue with virtually no marketing costs.

By developing more relationships with other local businesses, he would also make way for the opportunity to close more multi-thousand-dollar jobs. Think about it: If you have 30 to 50 realtors, designers, contractors, carpet cleaners and architects sending you a steady stream of referrals, you’ve exponentially increased the odds of getting in front of high-end customers.

Another dealer I know developed a relationship with a realtor who sent him a steady stream of business through referrals, including a job that totaled over $40,000. Imagine having 10 more realtors doing the same thing.

For in-depth training on the strategies covered in this column, register for the “Retail Profit Explosion Boot Camp” taking place Nov. 5 at The International Surface Event East in Orlando. Visit tiseeast.com for more information.

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Marketing Mastery: Marketing multipliers

Aug. 17/24; Volume 30/Number 5

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(Second of two parts)

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 11.39.38 AMIn this installment I will continue with the topic of marketing multipliers, which are practical, hands-on strategies to assist dealers in gaining more leads and referrals from past customers. These strategies can be used by businesses to immediately generate more profit and build on the marketing multipliers discussed in Part 1 of this series (FCNews, Aug. 3/10).

House party

Any customer whose sale totaled $5,000 or more (you can choose the specific amount) will get to throw a catered house party hosted by you. The lady of the house can invite her friends for an evening full of wine, hors d’oeuvres and the chance to admire her new floors.

You should be there to meet and greet the guests, host a raffle in which the prize is a free area rug and take photos so you can trumpet the event in your next newsletter, on your website or via social media. All attendees will receive a gift bag from you with gourmet coffee, chocolate and a $200 gift certificate that reads, “Exclusively for friends of Rhonda Rumplestilskin” which is good for any purchase at your store of $2,500 or more.

All who respond will then go through your Core 3 strategies previously discussed: sales closer system, referral marketing system and a monthly direct response newsletter. As detailed in part one, Core 3 methods act as marketing multipliers because they dramatically increase the effectiveness of all your other marketing efforts.

Customer appreciation events

These events can include anything from holiday parties to parking lot BBQs or even wine tastings. If you need more ideas for events, my friend Lisbeth Calandrino has written a fun little book called 50 Events to Drive Traffic to Your Store. Get it and I promise you’ll never run out of great ideas for enjoyable and effective store events. Attendees can fill out raffle tickets with their names and mailing and email addresses to be entered into the drawings that take place every 30 minutes. After the event, attendees are sent a “You won!” letter, which includes a gift certificate for $200, good for any purchase of $2,500 or more at your store. Include a deadline.

Website marketing

There are two elements I suggest you add to your website that can dramatically enhance its effectiveness. First, have a page dedicated to testimonials and include photos of customers whenever possible. Second, offer a free report that visitors can opt in to download. This gives you the opportunity to use follow-up marketing.

Anyone who goes from your website to your store will also move through the Core 3.

Facebook testimonials

Post rave reviews and photos of enthusiastic customers to your Facebook page. Begin the post with, “Help us congratulate Bob and Betty Bugler on their new Berber floors!” followed by a testimonial from the Buglers and a brief description of the floor and why they selected it. Tag them in the photo so the post appears on their timelines. When their Facebook friend visits your store, she will also go through all of your multiplier strategies.

Some of you might be thinking you don’t have the time to implement these strategies. If that is you then let me ask, what is taking up all your time that is more important than driving sales in your business? You need to take a hard look at how you spend your workdays and delegate a bunch of the low-dollar tasks to others so you can focus on activities that will propel sales and build wealth for you.

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Marketing Mastery: Marketing multipliers

Aug. 3/10; Volume 30/Number 4

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 11.39.38 AMMy goal for this column is to provide practical, hands-on strategies that you can immediately plug into your flooring business to generate money. In this series, let’s take a look at how a number of these strategies can be assembled to form a marketing blueprint. These strategies work together to create a marketing multiplier effect, giving you an enormous advantage over the big boxes and other competitors. Following is the foundation for the Core 3 strategies:

Core strategy No. 1: Sales closer system

This is a sales process that converts shoppers into buyers and increases your closed sale ratios. It also has a huge multiplier effect on the rest of your marketing. Let’s say your website generates 10 walk-ins per month and you normally close three of them—a sales closer system can increase these to four or five closed sales, multiplying the effectiveness of your website without increasing your costs.

Core strategy No. 2: Referral marketing system

By using a system to farm those five closed sales for immediate referral business, you can add another two or three sales—also a big marketing multiplier.

Core strategy No. 3: Monthly direct response newsletter

If eight customers who visited your website subscribe to your monthly newsletter, you are ensuring their repeat business and boosting your referrals over the coming months from those customers, which is another marketing multiplier.

The rest of your customer list is a gold mine, and if you’re like most dealers, it is a woefully untapped gold mine. A monthly newsletter is hands-down the best way to mine this gold. To build upon this foundation, I recommend the following set of guidelines and strategies:

Zero resistance selling environment

When customers come into your showroom, the following zero resistance strategies should be in place:

  • Hand customers a beverage menu and ask, “What can I get you to drink?”
  • Cover a wall of the showroom with testimonials from raving, satisfied customers.
  • Feature monitors that show photos of customers, testimonials, before-and-afters and video clips of you interviewing customers.
  • Serve freshly baked cookies on a tray to all walk-ins.
  • Have a children’s play area equipped with toys, video games and DVDs.
  • Offer men a “man cave” with a recliner, mini fridge for beers or sodas and a large flat screen TV tuned into ESPN.

Testimonial drip campaign

After the flooring is installed in the homes of each of your eight new customers, get photos of them along with testimonials. Send postcards to the 500 homes surrounding each installation with a headline that reads, “Your neighbors just got the beautiful floors of their dreams!” Include the customer’s name, photo and testimonial. Also include a special offer with a deadline exclusively for neighbors. 

5-around strategy

The five homes surrounding each previous installation (one on either side plus three across the street) should get a door hanger that says, “Your neighbors just got gorgeous new floors!” Include an exclusive offer with a deadline.

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Marketing Mastery: How to boost responses with digital marketing

July 6/13; Volume 30/Number 2

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 11.39.38 AMIn my two previous articles, I discussed the implications of consumer shopping habits for flooring dealers and strategies to capitalize on the biggest source of revenue: repeat and referral customers. Out of 65,000 consumers surveyed, 50.6% were prompted to buy by referrals from past customers.

Let’s assume you have your repeat and referral marketing strategies in place and they are producing for you. You may want to turn your attention to boosting responses from your social media and website marketing.

You will have to decide, however, if digital marketing is worth your investment. I worked with a dealer who had a staff member dedicated to handling his Facebook marketing efforts. He managed to boost his revenue from that source to about 5%, more than double the average for social media, but it took a lot of time and effort.

He decided these results were worth the expenditure of time, energy and money required, but you will have to make that determination for your company. Keep in mind that digital marketing is most likely never going to generate a huge portion of your revenue—nothing close to repeat and referral marketing—so make sure you don’t spend more time on these strategies than the ROI warrants.

With that in mind, let’s look at some ways to boost your responses with website marketing.

Your first task regarding website marketing is to make sure your website can be found. This is done through search engine optimization (SEO). I have a book about SEO strategies that is about 2 inches thick and was obsolete by the time I finished reading it. The challenge with SEO for flooring dealers is there’s a lot to know and the rules constantly change. Therefore, unless you really enjoy the topic of SEO, I recommend hiring a reputable company to do it for you.

Once people can find your site, your next tasks are to:

1.Create differentiation

2.Position yourself as a trusted advisor

3.Compel an immediate response from the visitor to buy or take some other action

4.Capture the visitor’s contact information for follow-up

There are many strategies for accomplishing these tasks, but one relatively quick and simple option is offering a free report.

For example, when a visitor lands on your site, she will see a message on the top of the page that reads, “WARNING: Don’t call or visit any flooring dealer until you read this free flooring guide. You will learn six costly misconceptions about flooring, three common mistakes to avoid and five critical questions to ask before purchasing.” In order to download the report, the visitor must provide her name, email address and phone number.

This will accomplish those aforementioned tasks. First, few flooring sites have an offer like this, so it creates differentiation. Second, it positions you as a trusted advisor. When consumers read your report they will see you as an authority on flooring. Third, it compels an immediate response from the visitor to take action. Fourth, you’ll receive their contact information.

The report also acts as a filter to identify those consumers who are serious about buying flooring. Out of 100 visitors, only five may opt in for your report, but those five have made it clear they are interested in flooring. You can then use follow-up marketing for these contacts.

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Marketing Mastery: Managing your marketing strategies

May 25/June 1, 2015; Volume 29/Number 4

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2015-05-29 at 3.56.50 PMJohn Mapes, founder and president of My Flooring Warranty, a retailer referral program, recently told me that his company polled 65,000 consumers across the U.S. and Canada who bought flooring from one of the 1,300 dealers who participate in the My Flooring Warranty program. He brought one question in particular to my attention, knowing that I would find the results very interesting. During the poll, each consumer was asked, “What prompted you to buy this time?”

Having been involved in sales and marketing, this question immediately piqued my curiosity. So I had to ask, “What were the results?”

  1. A referral from one of your past customers: 50.6%
  2. I drove by your store: 8.9%
  3. TV or radio ad: 3.1%
  4. Social media: 2.2%
  5. Internet search: 2.1%

The fact that referrals ranked at 50% was not at all surprising to me. Since I started conducting polls in 2007, dealers have revealed that repeat and referral business totals 50% to 80% of their overall revenue. But even I was stunned at the utterly dismal results from Internet searches and social media. Two percent?

I knew the percentage of revenue generated from these strategies would be low, but this is shocking, especially when you consider how much time and energy is devoted to these methods by the flooring industry at large. But it gets worse; as a result of our industry emphasizing online and social media advertising—often with the exclusion of proven marketing methods—dealers wind up spending a disproportionate amount of time and money on advertising methods that produce a small fraction of their revenue.

As it turns out, the vast majority of dealers have an online presence but no marketing system in place to capitalize on their biggest source of revenue: past customers and referrals. Our industry needs to do a better job of educating retailers on strategies proven to be effective, rather than strategies that happen to be in vogue. If door hangers only produced 2% of revenue for dealers, would we devote multiple workshops, seminars, trainings and other resources on how to market door hangers? Of course not. So why do online strategies receive emphasis that is out of proportion to their effectiveness for dealers?

In a world where everyone is tethered to the Internet through the umbilical cord of their smartphones with social media taking over as a dominant mode of social interaction, some may see this article as sacrilegious.

I don’t care.

When it comes to marketing, the only thing I care about is helping dealers put more money in the bank. And if you’re a dealer, that should also be the only thing you care about when deciding where to spend your marketing dollars. If online advertising accounts for only a small piece of the revenue pie, why are you investing a disproportionate amount of time and money there? If it’s because everyone else is doing it, that’s a lousy way to run your business.

Lest anyone misunderstand, I am a big believer in online marketing. I do a ton of it and train dealers on effective online strategies. Online methods are an important part of your overall marketing mix. Problems occur when dealers over-prioritize it within that mix, while completely ignoring strategies that capitalize on much bigger sources of revenue such as past customers, referrals and affiliate relationships with other businesses. This is something that is widely misunderstood.

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Marketing Mastery: The cheap-price, dead-end mission

March 30/April 6, 2015; Volume 28/Number 20

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

Screen Shot 2015-04-07 at 2.29.34 PMI’ve preached numerous times in this column that for most dealers, competing on price is a suicide mission. If you thought I was overstating my case, the recent Lumber Liquidators debacle should forever erase that idea from your mind.

Positioning yourself in the market as the dealer with the cheapest prices is, at best, a fragile and temporary advantage. All it takes is someone to come along with a cheaper price and you’ve instantly lost your advantage. Companies like Lumber Liquidators that have built their entire businesses around low prices know this and they face enormous pressure to keep their prices down. This pressure often leads to poor quality control and sometimes even to activities that are unethical or outright illegal.

Customer service is another casualty of offering cheap prices. It’s simply not possible to offer good service, provide quality installations or honor your warranties when you’re charging razor-thin margins. Perform an online search for customer reviews for Lumber Liquidators, Home Depot or any other major discounter and you will find hundreds of horror stories.

A cheap-price business model is difficult to maintain, even for large companies that can buy in bulk and have investor capitol and cash reserves. In the early 1980s, Kmart was the king of the low price retailers and in its heyday the idea that it could be dethroned seemed ludicrous. Then Walmart came along.

However, most dealers who engage in price slashing don’t have an actual cheap-price business plan in place or the economies of mass scale working for them. They are acting out of pure desperation, reacting to the advertising they see coming from the national discounters, and believe they have to lower their prices in order to be competitive. These dealers who are simply lowering the numbers on their price tags are most likely desperate price slashers.

Desperate price slashers pay an enormous personal cost. They are typically overworked and underpaid. 50-hour work weeks are the norm and much of that time is spent dealing with problems created by selling on the cheap such as the inability to hire quality installers, lack of administrative help, robbing Peter to pay Paul, and so on. Sometimes they work for decades and have nothing to show except a business that can’t be sold, little or no retirement savings and a pile of debt.

So what is the solution? How can dealers command margins of 45% and higher when legions of competitors are pushing for cheap prices? The answer is to use a system of strategies all working together to empower you to command premium prices. There is no silver bullet; no single strategy will make this happen. The first step is to make a commitment to learning and implementing multiple premium-price strategies. In the next installment, I’ll review a number of proven strategies to help you.

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a premium-price strategy you can implement immediately: consumer education. I wrote a column titled, “How consumers can protect themselves from unethical flooring dealers” as a consumer education piece in response to the Lumber Liquidators scandal. It includes five steps a consumer can take to find an honest, ethical dealer who sells safe, quality products. I designed this as a sales tool that dealers can give out to customers who ask about the safety of laminate flooring. It educates customers and positions dealers as consumer advocates.

For free reprints go to www.Lumber2.VipRespond.com.

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Marketing Mastery: How consumers can protect themselves from unethical flooring dealers

March 23; FCNews Compliance Guide

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

Note: This article is an educational piece for consumers who may be concerned about the safety of laminate flooring. For reprints to offer customers, please visit lumber.viprespond.com.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 12.15.00 PMConsumers recently learned that Lumber Liquidators has been selling Chinese-made laminate flooring with formaldehyde levels up to 13 times higher than allowed by California emissions standards. Formaldehyde is found in virtually everything, living or manufactured, but its excessive emissions can cause health problems, which is why California has strict standards for the amount allowed in flooring. Products following these standards are known as CARB 2 compliant. CARB 2 standards were accepted by the U.S. Congress and are scheduled to be adopted nationwide later in 2015.

It is estimated that in California alone tens of thousands of Lumber Liquidators customers were victimized. After the story broke, consumers were left wondering how to ensure they were buying safe, quality flooring. It all starts with finding the right dealer. The good news is that by following the five steps outlined below, consumers can be sure to find an honest, ethical dealer who provides safe, quality products and reliable installations.

Step 1: Work with a local dealer

Box stores, national discounters and online dealers have no roots in your community and are usually unwilling to invest in professional-level customer service to secure repeat and referral business. By contrast, local dealers— which include independent “mom-and-pop” operations, as well as reputable franchises and co-ops—have a vested interest in providing safe, quality products, reliable installations and good customer service.

Step 2: Avoid the high cost of cheap prices

Big box stores like Home Depot or Lowe’s that operate by slashing prices sacrifice the quality of the floor itself, the installation and possibly your health. Saving a few hundred dollars is simply not worth the heartache of a floor that falls apart six months down the road or causes health problems.

Step 3: Beware the risks of “free” installations

An installation by a skilled mechanic is as important as the product itself. You can pay top dollar for a high-end product only to have it coming up at the seams within a year because of a shoddy installation.

It also isn’t true that installations are “free.” No installer works for nothing. Discounters make up for the cost of the “free” installation by padding the price of the materials. Also, the installers are usually underpaid, which means they have to rush from job to job, often sacrificing quality just to make a living.

Step 4: Ask questions

Here are some important questions to ask a dealer before buying flooring:

  • Are your laminates CARB 2 compliant? Working with a reputable, local dealer who provides references will help ensure you’re buying CARB 2 compliant products.
  • Do you provide product warranties? If a dealer won’t provide a warranty on the product itself in writing, buy from someone else.
  • Do you provide installation warranties? The installation is just as important as the product and should also come with a written warranty. Box stores, national discounters and online dealers will sometimes have written warranties, but if you need to make a claim they often delay resolving the problem until you are forced to take legal action or simply give up.

Step 5: Get a list of references, testimonials.

This is by far the most important step. References and testimonials are the only way you can tell ahead of time if you are working with an honest dealer who provides safe, quality products, professional installations and who honors warranties. If he refuses to provide references, find another dealer.

By following these five steps you can help ensure that you avoid a flooring nightmare and instead get the safe, beautiful floors you’ve been dreaming of.

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Marketing Mastery: Retailer marketing questions answered

March 16/23, 2015; Volume 28/Number 19

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(Second of two parts)

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.20.29 PMIn this series, I answer questions that were asked during the two sales and marketing training sessions I presented for dealers at Surfaces in Las Vegas.

What should we say when someone asks the price of a product right at the beginning of the sales process?

You don’t want to get into a price discussion until after the prospect has seen your entire presentation, including testimonials, warranties, guarantees and your unique selling proposition, and has been thoroughly wowed by your service. This makes commanding margins of 45% to 50% or more much easier. Also keep in mind that when a consumer asks about price right away it doesn’t necessarily mean she is a price shopper. Your prospect doesn’t know anything about flooring, so she is asking the most obvious question: What’s the price? I’ve found that if you deflect the question most prospects will follow your lead. I suggest dealers reply with something similar to, “I’d be happy to give you a price on your project. Let me ask a few questions that will enable me to give you an exact, guaranteed quote so there are no surprises.” This is a very effective method to change the topic and allows you to discuss pricing after she’s seen all of her options.

Should we post prices on our products in the showroom?

There are very successful dealers who post their prices on products in the showroom. However, I’m against it for several reasons.

First, you’re inviting people to comparison shop on the worst criteria possible: price tags. They think they are comparing apples to apples, but they’re not. There are many other factors that don’t appear on a price tag such as your quality of workmanship, your expertise, your warranties, the quality of the product itself and more. Your sales process should thoroughly educate your prospects on these factors before price even enters the conversation.

Secondly, the price you post gives absolutely no meaningful information to the prospect because she has absolutely no idea how to calculate that square-footage price into an overall project cost.

Lastly, you’ve reduced your business to a number on a tag.

Should we reward people for sending us referrals?

I recommend it. It doesn’t have to be anything huge—it could be a pair of movie tickets or a Starbucks card along with a hand-written note. People refer you because they know, like and trust you. Not for a token reward, but I recommend it because it endears you to your customers, strengthens loyalty, differentiates your business, brightens their days and creates top-of- mind awareness. Besides, it’s a very polite and gracious thing to do—something missing in today’s world of customer service mediocrity.

Some of our staff members are resistant to change. How can we get our sales team to use new sales strategies?

First, be sure you’ve empowered your sales team for success by taking these five steps:

  1. Provide the tools they need to succeed. In this case, the new sales strategies you’ve learned.
  2. Train them on how to use the tools.
  3. Hold them accountable to use the tools.
  4. Recognize their successes.
  5. Reward their successes.

By doing this you’ll likely get a lot more buy-in from your sales staff. However, if a member of your team still refuses to get on board, then it’s a good sign he or she is not the right fit for your business.

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Marketing Mastery: Floor Dealer Marketing Questions Answered

March 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 18

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 12.27.18 PMI had the privilege of presenting two sales and marketing training sessions at Surfaces in Las Vegas to more than 300 floor covering dealers. The sessions were fun and dynamic, with a very enthusiastic group who asked a lot of great questions, some of which I thought would be instructive to highlight here.

How often should we market to past customers?

You want to reach out to past customers at least monthly via direct mail. For every month that goes by in which you don’t contact your past customers, you lose 10% of the value of that relationship. In other words, the list goes cold. Reactivating it is certainly possible using a customer reactivation campaign, but once it’s reactivated you need to keep it active. Monthly contact is the minimum in order to accomplish this.

Won’t people get tired of hearing from me so often?

If you are sending them nothing but advertisements, then yes they will. People sort their mail over a trash can, tossing anything that looks like a business solicitation. This is one reason I’m such a big believer in newsletters as a tool for staying in front of your customers. Newsletters should be 80% to 90% fun, entertaining and informative content such as quizzes, contests, customer recognition or testimonials. Only 10% to 20% of the content should be about flooring or your dealership.

Can I email the newsletter instead of snail-mailing it?

You can, but the effectiveness drops dramatically. The best way to use email is as a supplement to your newsletter, not a replacement. Each week, send your list a short, informative, general interest article about something other than flooring. At the end, include a short blurb about your dealership. You’ve got to make these things fun to read otherwise people will just delete your messages or opt out of receiving them altogether.

Why can’t I make my newsletters and emails 100% about flooring? All that other stuff seems silly.

All flooring is all boring. Only a small fraction of your total customer list needs flooring in any given month, so don’t bore them with content that’s all flooring related. That would be like getting a newsletter from your dentist that’s all about the latest advances in crowns and root canals. You’ll put them to sleep.

As far as the rest seeming silly, remember that you are not your customer. Just because you’d rather read 100% flooring content doesn’t mean your customers feel the same way. Those other elements act as emotional triggers that make your customers look forward to getting your letter, eagerly open it the minute it arrives, read all the content and respond with repeat business and referrals.

What do I do when I greet a walk-in and she says, “I’m just looking”?

Use the rule of reciprocity. Hand her a beverage menu and say, “Great! What can I get you to drink while you’re browsing?” Don’t say, “Can I get you a drink?” because that gives her an option to say no.

Not everyone will accept, but those who do will have given you an “in.” When you bring back her beverage say, “Tell me a little about your project.” You’ve just given her a gift, shown her hospitality and she will feel a strong internal pressure to reciprocate by talking to you. You can then engage in a dialogue about her project and guide her into your sales system.

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Marketing mastery: The 5/45 dealer

February 16/23, 2015; Volume 28/Number 17

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

(Second of two parts)

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 12.11.03 PMI presented two seminars at Surfaces in January and I asked both audiences if they were marketing to their past clients on a monthly basis. Out of 300 attendees, only about 10 dealers answered yes. Besides helping you make a ton of money, marketing to your past customers will create huge differentiation from your competitors.

I suggest dealers use a printed, “snail-mail” newsletter. Have it contain 80% fun, informative and general interest information with only 10% to 20% flooring-related information. Some emotional triggers that will make your newsletter more effective include a trivia contest, acknowledging new and returning customers, promoting your referral program, calling out customers who sent you referrals and a “customer of the month” article. Black print on colored paper works extremely well because it looks more personal than something slick and glossy.

Mark, a dealer from Chicago, went from nearly closing his doors to being booked out for several weeks about six months later. He implemented a number of strategies to make this happen, but a monthly past-customer newsletter was his main marketing method.

Create a weekly e-newsletter as a supplement to (not a replacement of) your printed newsletter. It should contain a single 150-to-200-word fun, general interest article that has nothing to do with flooring. At the end include a short blurb about your flooring business.

Next, develop a robust referral marketing system. In comparsion to walk-ins, repeat and referred customers are easier to close, easier to command premium prices from and just easier to work with overall. As a dealer you’re doing anywhere from dozens to hundreds of installations per month; this represents a huge marketing opportunity to get instant referrals.

Visit each home after the installation. Surprise your customer with a gift basket, inspect her flooring and then ask for referrals. I recommend creating a form that describes the benefits of your referral program such as a reward for any referral who becomes a customer or an offer for a gift certificate to your store. Explain how she will be doing her friends and relatives a huge favor by referring a trustworthy dealer. For this to be most effective, ask for the referrals in person. If your installer simply leaves a referral form behind, very few people will fill it out and mail it in.

If each RSA generates two extra referrals per week and your average ticket is $3,000, that’s an extra $312,000 annually per salesperson.

You should also develop referral relationships with realtors, designers, remodeling contractors and carpet cleaners. To establish these relationships, first send them a letter introducing yourself and your business. Follow up with a call to schedule an appointment for coffee or lunch. You can also establish relationships by joining networking groups.

Once the working relationship is established, nurture the partnership by putting your connection on your newsletter list. Call or meet with your referral partners every month or two. Leave business cards at their places of business. Periodically bring lunch or other goodies to them and their staffs. If you have 20 businesses sending you four referrals per year (a very conservative number), that’s an extra 80 sales per year. With an average ticket of $3,000, that’s $240,000 in revenue with no marketing costs. Want even more revenue? Add another 10 referral partners. Millions of dollars in revenue can be generated using just this strategy.