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Skehan & Associates adjusts management

Cape Coral, Fl.—Skehan & Associates, an independent sales representative agency, will undergo its first major change in management. Effective Jan. 1, David G. Skehan, president, will assume the new title of founder and CFO. With this change, Skehan will end his day-to-day operational control of the agency. In addition, John B. Chaney will assume the post of president.

Chaney joined S&A as the Midwest regional manager in June 2010. He is a 36-year veteran of the floor covering industry, having held positions in the retail sector including supervisor of installations, product buyer and store manager. He also served in the manufacturing and distribution sectors, most notably as district manager for Kentile in the Ohio and Indiana region, regional manager at Chicago-based Johnsonite, district manager for IVC US in the Midwest region, sales manager at Irvin Kahn Co. in Indiana and Kentucky and vice president of field sales at CDC Distributors in Cincinnati, Ohio.

 

 

 

 

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Lizbiz Strategies: Don’t let red-hot sales leads get too cold

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

Lisbeth CalandrinoThe good thing about hot sales leads is they tend to fall right in your lap. The bad news is you can’t sit on them for too long before they get stale.

Managing and following up on leads can be tricky. I get it. You meant to call them, but you were too busy. Now you’re afraid to follow up because you think the lead is too old. Finally, you reach out to the customer and she tells you she has bought from your competitor.

Why didn’t you make the time to call? You’re not the only one who hates calling people you don’t know and the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes. You need to contact potential customers as quickly as possible. Remember, they have already expressed an interest. If they haven’t gone to your website and connected, it’s your job to get them there.

Are you a manufacturer who supplies consumer or commercial leads to retailers? Purchasing leads is a big investment for your company, but if no one is keeping track how will you know what’s become of them? This is where a targeted, touch-point email marketing program can keep potential customers interested in coming to your retail store.

A touch-point email marketing program is specifically designed to deliver a particular message to your potential customer and is personalized to her shopping needs. According to Campaign Marketing, email is highly ranked in the marketing kingdom with a 380% ROI and $38 for every $1 spent. An email campaign is about building relationships, not just selling. Each email should have a message that is important to the customer. Even if you haven’t met her, useful advice on your products will begin to build your relationship. It doesn’t mean sending one note to the customer and disappearing. You must be consistent and have a series of timed touch points.

It is also not the holiday card you send out to relatives to see if they’re still alive. This is an electronic magnet. Instead of putting it on the customer’s refrigerator, it will stay on her mind through digital marketing.

There’s no reason why you can’t put together a three- to five-week email campaign starting with a friendly hello introducing yourself and an invitation to come in and pick up a gift. You can also direct her to useful information on your website, such as design tips or color ideas.

The key is to build a relationship so the potential customer feels like she knows you and wants to meet you. This is also why you need to market using your personal picture. It has been proven trust increases by more than 75% if the customer sees your picture before she meets you. Real estate agents routinely include their photos in marketing promos.

Remember, these potential customers have been referred to your store, so you’re just reaching out and providing something of value before they meet you.

Following up with your prospects is not a new idea, and current Internet tools make it even easier and more effective. There are a host of customer relationship management tools out there to help you track prospects from initial contact to close. But the key lies in acting fast; recent data shows 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 the time you get to 30 minutes. Don’t make a big mistake by ignoring them.

 

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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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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Technology: Podium places online reviews front and center

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Guest Column: Best practices in digital image management

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

By Phil Kenyon

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.14.09 AMThe use of the Internet and mobile devices as a means of researching products is increasing on a steep exponential curve. This is particularly true in the flooring industry—where there is a strong correlation to fashion and design and, hence, a heavy emphasis on visuals.

Now, more than ever, retailer/manufacturer websites represent a major portal for your customers to receive timely information about your products and services. For many consumers, color and appearance are a major part of the purchase decision, which presents both challenges and opportunities for retailers and manufacturers serving the industry. Among the main objectives: How to make your flooring look as good on the screen as it does in a showroom; how to present all of the possible choices in a fashion that makes product selection easy; and how to make sure you are ahead of your competition by keeping pace with advances in new technology.

Delivering on all of these directives requires an understanding of the art and science of color and appearance as well as traditional skill sets in programming, user interface and data management. A key element in this process entails generating the digital images to display your products online. Taking the time to do this right will allow you to maximize the usefulness of your assets. For instance, a photograph of your products in inspirational settings is great to attract and inspire, but this has limited use. Employing certain best practices when creating digital product images will allow you to use these assets in many useful ways and ensure the work you do today will also be useable as technology evolves.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Make sure you use color management tools when photographing or generating your high-resolution product images. Make sure your image files have ICC standard profiles embedded that allow the color information in each image to be consistent and as accurate as possible.
  • Capture a large enough area so full repeats can be created. This allows the images to be used for rendering your flooring into photographic images for visualization software in your website or for professional rendering of promotional materials.
  • Don’t use “mood” lighting to capture the samples. The samples should be evenly lit across the full image. Shadowing will make it difficult to use in visualization or rendering. A process known as “flat field correction” can help resolve this.
  • Where possible, include metadata that identifies the color information in the image in colorimetric terms such as “LAB.” This is an industry standard that identifies color in absolute terms. Attaching these values to your data will increase the likelihood your products will be found in these searches.

Another major growth area in digital marketing is virtual reality. In particular, there is significant interest among builders for tools that allow customers to select a range of products while immersed in a virtual, three-dimensional visualization of a room or building. In this scenario, it is essential that robust, up-to-date CAD assets are available for all products. This will ensure products displayed in the real world also match renderings in the digital realm.

The way in which your products are represented online is essential to enjoying the many opportunities this medium presents.

 

Phil Kenyon is vice president, color solutions, at Chameleon Power, which specializes in visualization software for the home improvement industry. Since the early ’90s, he has worked with numerous multinational corporations on their online marketing initiatives.

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IVC US names David Sheehan SVP of product management

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 12.45.50 PMDaltonIVC US, a division of Mohawk Industries, and Mohawk Resilient updated the company’s resilient product team today. David Sheehan will now serve as the senior vice president of product management.

“David brings more than 24 years of talent and experience in sales and marketing, with strengths in product management and strategic planning,” said Paul Murfin, president of IVC US and Mohawk Resilient. “In his new role, David will lead product management for our residential business as we expand product plans for rigid LVT, flexible LVT and sheet vinyl across multiple channels and brands. I am confident that David’s ability to build relationships, while effectively improving processes, will benefit the business and our customers.”

IVC US became a part of Mohawk Industries in 2015 and since then has expanded both its team and resilient capabilities.

“I’m excited to join such a bright and talented team at IVC and Mohawk Resilient,” said Sheehan. “With the combination of having the most recognized brands in the industry and our innovative technology, we are very well positioned to become the leading resilient manufacturer in North America. The passion at every functional area, including sales, marketing, product management, finance and manufacturing, is exhilarating. I am looking forward to seeing our collaborative efforts win in the market place.”

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Al's Column: Managing a family-run business

January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16

By Jacqueline Tabbah

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 3.49.34 PMThere are many issues facing floor covering retailers today, especially family-run businesses. For instance, how do you keep your business running smoothly and successfully when generations work side by side or begin the succession process?

How do you keep family and work balance? What is the influence of your corporate/family culture on business structures and policies?

I will be addressing many of these issues and more at Surfaces this week when I convene a panel of real-life members representing different segments of the stone industry Wednesday, Jan. 18, 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. During this presentation, “Managing a Successful Family Business,” participants will share their experiences and encourage attendees to share their own observations in this interactive town-hall style discussion.

In my experience working in a family-run business, I have found there is a fine line between respecting your family’s business that they’ve built from the ground up and being an innovator. This line can often feel like a tightrope, but once you make it to the other side, you will achieve a rewarding and meaningful career.

For instance, in many cases I have found working in a family business requires adapting to a system that’s already in place—and may have been for years. My advice is to embrace this system initially by trying things “their way” in order for you to earn and build trust. Over time, you can slowly tweak the areas where you think there is room for improvement.

Another issue to be mindful of is nepotism or the appearance of favoritism. I strongly recommend managers demonstrate proficiency at all times during office hours by communicating in a professional manner in the presence of employees and customers. The workplace is not the venue to make family jokes or have a heated discussion. Instead, set aside differences and work together respectfully. When family members who work together trust and respect each other, your employees will follow suit because they will see that you are taking your family business seriously.

After these fundamental concepts are established, you can start introducing your innovative ideas. My advice is to start with baby steps. For instance, you may want to upgrade your social media skills. It costs nothing and can really boost the company’s web presence. You can even reorganize your filing system by simply creating a shared drive or cloud-based system that everyone has access to at all times.

You may want to get involved in numerous local and national groups such as the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA) and the Natural Stone Institute (MIA+BSI), to name a few. Most of the national groups have local chapters. Start locally as your business is local, and people do business within their community.

Finally, I encourage you to broaden your scope and think outside the box. Successful family businesses thrive over generations because every person brings something new to the table. Each generation must adapt to fit the times. Learn everything you can from your fathers and mothers and build on that.

 

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-4-09-49-pmJacqueline Tabbah is vice president of International Stoneworks, an active member of the Marble Institute of America. She also writes a weekly blog, which includes stone care tips, fun facts and product recommendations. Visit intlstoneworks.com/blog.