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Marketing online: Fearing social media—a thing of the past

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Lindsay Baillie

 

With all of the resources available today, social media should no longer evoke fear of the unknown. However, despite the large shift in favor of social media sites, there are still retailers with lingering fears of how to create, maintain and drive traffic to their social sites.

FCNews spoke with several digital marketing experts to find solutions to some of the common fears associated with using social media platforms.

Understanding each social platform. Before using any social media, sites experts suggest conducting a brief Internet search to learn more about each platform. As Katrina Olson, freelance writer and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications, explained, “A quick search will yield tons of free articles and educational downloads about the strengths of each platform, how to use it and how to build a following.”

When deciding which platforms to use, it is important to recognize the differences among each site. “Facebook users are great at commenting and sharing,” Olson said. “Twitter is good for quick notifications. YouTube is great for demonstrating or explaining a solution or process. LinkedIn can connect you with vendors, suppliers and possibly customers. And blogs can educate while interjecting your company’s brand personality.”

While it might be overwhelming in choosing which platforms to join, social media experts suggest starting with one or two sites and then adding as necessary. “Most residential retailers should use Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Houzz,” said Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz, a marketing and branding consultancy. “If dealers are also selling a substantial share of Main Street commercial, they should add LinkedIn and Twitter to their list.”

Finding someone to run each site. Oftentimes, dealers either run their social sites themselves or have younger people, who are more familiar with social sites, run their social media accounts. However, most experts warn against these practices.

“It’s not that the younger people don’t understand how to use social media, it’s that they probably don’t have a marketing background,” said Lisbeth Calandrino, FCNews columnist and retail industry consultant. “I suggest dealers hire an industry person with retail experience—industry people understand the customer as well as the flooring industry. Companies need someone who knows how to follow the customers, connect with them and understand how to build relationships.”

If an industry person is not available, experts recommend finding or recruiting a freelancer or social agency to run the social sites with the business owner’s involvement. “You (or the employee you designate as responsible) must be involved in reviewing schedules, content and monitoring,” Friederichsen said. “You cannot put your social campaign on autopilot and be unaware of the face of your brand on the various platforms.”

Allocating time to post and interact. Finding time to participate on social media is a major concern for some floor covering dealers. Yet, the solution is quite simple, according to experts. “Devote at least half an hour every other day in the beginning and also be willing to invest some of your ad budget into boosting your select posts—a little goes a long way,” Friederichsen said.

Another way to think of this is by breaking it into small and regular chunks and making it part of the day-to-day processes. “Spend a short amount of time consistently paying attention to what is going on in the network and you can observe and lurk, or you can participate,” said Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now. “By having these time limits it means you’re not going to get overwhelmed and spend too much time.”

What kind of content to post. When thinking of what content to post, it is important to give people what they want to see relevant to a store’s product offerings. “If I am considering wood floors, I want to know how to clean and maintain them, and which finish will best meet my needs,” Olson explained. “If I’m considering installing wood floors, I’m interested in strength and durability, and the differences between species. If you give me information I want, I’ll keep coming back; but if you just try to push products and services, I’ll get annoyed.”

Another key point to remember is that it is important to empathize with the audience. “Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—it is the basis for all relationships,” Calandrino explained. “When people talk about their pet, they want more than a ‘like.’ A like doesn’t build relationships—one needs to post comments. We should treat online conversations as if they were face-to-face discussions.”

There are also a plethora of sites available to help dealers who are having trouble creating new content. BuzzSumo is an idea generator for new topics and articles to share. MeetEdgar is a subscription-based site that gives fun content for social media. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are other sites that will link social accounts together to help monitor and post.

In addition to using these services, dealers should also be aware of what their competitors are doing on their social accounts. Find out what they are posting, what times they are posting and how many reactions—likes, comments, shares, etc.—they are getting on those posts.

How to monitor a site’s effectiveness. Before retailers can accurately determine the effectiveness of posting on a social site, they must clearly define their goals. “If you’ve set goals, you can attach metrics and measure the results,” Olson explained. “After testing a few different types of content or tactics over time, you may find some platforms perform better than others. Be sure to do your research and realize that a number of factors can impact success.”

When monitoring social media sites, it is important to look at analytics and not focus on just getting “likes.” In fact, some social media experts equate these sites to office picnics, parades on Main Street, and other social gatherings where communication of thoughts and ideas are necessary. “These are places where people socialize,” Whittemore explained. “You meet people on these sites and that’s great, but it doesn’t mean they’ll be customers. If you have goals, you can monitor the sites and stay focused in your activity. Then step back and evaluate whether being on those sites is time well spent.”

How to promote the business more effectively. Promoting a business on social media can be tricky, experts say, because a dealer does not want to come across as being too self-promotional. The key is to use creative content to remain top of mind for consumers regardless of where they are in their purchasing journey.

“The goal is to build relationships that will eventually lead to sales,” Olson said. “You want to engage with followers and fans by giving them information they want, not by simply trying to sell them. We all have the friend who talks about herself all the time. We also have the friend who listens, cares and wants to help us. Who would you want to spend more time with?”

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Marketing Online: Make the most of social networking

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 10.43.18 AMMost retailers understand the importance of developing a digital marketing campaign and having a strong social media presence. However, simply being on social media is not enough. In order to social network on these platforms retailers have to create and engage in conversation. If used correctly, experts say, the online world provides multiple avenues for retailers to connect with potential and existing consumers and stay top of mind.

FCNews spoke with several digital marketing and social media experts to uncover how retailers can make the most of their social networking.

Connect your plan with your tools. Retailers should make sure their overall marketing plans align with specific social sites before jumping into all of them. As Lisbeth Calandrino, FCNews columnist and retail industry consultant, explains, “It’s one thing to have LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, but if you don’t have a marketing plan to go with those tools—and you don’t use those tools with consistency—then you won’t see positive results.”

Aligning a company’s goals and marketing plan with social networking sites can also save retailers valuable time. “It’s really important for businesses to understand what the company’s goals are for being on social networks,” said Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now. “Is it just to promote your business? Is it to generate new leads? Is it to address questions people have? It may end up being a combination of all three because people hang out on networks and they may try to reach you there.”

Have a strong home base. While social networking generally occurs on social media sites and review sites, experts urge retailers to have a strong website as well. “It’s really important for retailers to make sure their home base (their website) is as strong as it can be,” Whittemore explained. “It’s a good idea to make sure the website is mobile friendly and has helpful information.”

The content on a retailer’s website can help influence the posts or conversations he or she has while social networking, Whittemore added.

Do a quick company Google search. Most retailers aim to have their website appear on the first page of a Google search. But what they often forget is other public profiles, including social media accounts and review sites, can also appear on that first page. Experts warn retailers to look at those other sites and make sure branding and key information about their company is consistent.

Whittemore suggests: “Do a Google search on your company name and find out what public profiles files exist about your company. There are a lot of profiles that will be created automatically by virtue of you having a business phone number and address, and you want to claim them.”

Adding pictures and logos, along with making sure the information about the business is consistent across all platforms, helps as well.

Be consistently active. Most experts agree a retailer cannot network socially unless he or she is “in the conversation” or active on key platforms. It is also crucial for retailers to find out where their customers are interacting online. In addition to having a presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz, suggest retailers explore LinkedIn. “[This platform] is vital for business to business, particularly if you’re a dealer who does or wants to do a lot of Main Street or commercial business. LinkedIn is probably best at facilitating networking within your community of decision makers. Facebook is best for residential/consumer networking.”

Part of being active on social media sites is creating and maintaining conversations. As Calandrino explains, “One way to do this is to pose a question on social media—find out what people think. The more people write and say, the more opportunities you have for connecting.”

Examine the analytics. Why post on multiple platforms if only one or two are delivering positive results? Cutting down the number of active social media sites to include only those with positive results can save a retailer time and potentially money. Retailers can determine which sites are crucial to their success by looking at weekly or monthly analytics.

“Analytics are what help you change your campaign,” Calandrino explained. “It’s very important retailers look at their analytics and take the time to really see what has been successful.”

Provide helpful information to consumers. While social media would appear to be the ideal place for highlighting new products and flooring specials, experts suggest retailers provide consumers with useful tips and resources instead.

“Retailers need to approach social media and social networking as being a local facilitator of home fashion ideas, solutions, advice, tips, resources and value from the flooring point of view,” Friederichsen said. “Social networking is not the place to hawk the latest special in wood flooring by [this brand or that brand]. It is the place, however, to convey advice on the best place to install that particular wood flooring, how best to care for it or link the advice to a blog article on the retailer’s website.”

Today’s selling environment, Friederichsen added, is all about relationship building and trust. “That’s the huge advantage the independent retailer has over chains and big boxes.”

Be human. Social networking is very similar to traditional networking in that it involves a conversation between two entities. However, a major difference is social networking often occurs between a customer’s personal page and a company’s business page. Unlike personal social media accounts, business pages can often feel cold or look exactly the same. According to experts, social networking is most effective when a company comes across as a person and not business. This can be achieved through the types of posts on a social media page and how a retailer chooses to engage with the customer.

As Whittemore explains, “The more you can be human, the more successful you will be with networking socially.”

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Digital marketing: Retailers sharpen search optimization strategies

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

It should come as no surprise that today’s consumers start their purchasing journey online. Many use search engines, social media, company websites, review platforms and online advertisements to obtain more information about products—or retailers, for that matter—so they are better positioned to make a purchasing decision long before they enter the store.

To get noticed flooring dealers must have an online presence—and a strong one at that.

While creating and running a digital marketing program takes time, it is absolutely worth it, say those who are successful at it. For dealers who might lack the time or knowledge to successfully run a digital marketing campaign, there are options available, including help from digital marketing companies.

Following are several tried-and-true techniques that successful dealers have employed in their respective digital marketing campaigns.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.30 AMKelley DeCesaro, digital brand strategist
Star Lumber, Wichita, Kan.
“We continue to work on our SEO and SEM strategies, backed by quality website content and helpful online tools for our customers. We find we get the most lead generation from our PPC plan because we can direct them to a landing page that fits their project needs and prompts them to make an in-store appointment. Customers engage with us and hear our brand voice through social media. Social media is also a great way to push out information about our sales and services. Most of our social interactions are gained through our lighter, human-interest posts, but those interactions boost our profile presence, making it more likely for our customer to see our promotional posts. We utilize boosted posts and ads on social sites to increase our digital presence.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.35 AMMeaghan Karn, director of marketing
Avalon Flooring, Cherry Hill, N.J.
“Digital marketing is essential in today’s business. We know customers are beginning the search online so we work very hard to make sure we are there when they are ready to buy. We use a combination of all the digital marketing methods—pay-per-click, SEO, social media, email, remarketing, etc. Each customer is at a different part of her journey and each one of those methods allows us to offer information about our products and services that are tailored to her needs.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.41 AMKevin Rose, president and owner
Carpetland USA, Rockford, Ill.
“Digital marketing is very important and becoming more significant on a daily basis as even the 50-plus generation is moving to digital. We have hired professionals who know the market to teach us and direct our funds to the appropriate areas. We focus on SEO, pay-per-click, etc.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.47 AMMary Ann Gore, office manager
Bridgeport Carpets, Alpharetta, Ga.
“Digital marketing is very important to us. When customers are ready to purchase, they generally use either a computer or smart phone for their research. It’s helpful if they can just pull up our website and determine whether we have the item. We utilize a digital agency to handle our website. It specializes in online marketing, so we are able to just focus on customers. We also have a Facebook page. The avenues we typically utilize for digital marketing are website, pay-per-click, social media and email.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.53 AMAdam Joss, co-owner
The Vertical Connection Carpet One, Columbia, Md.
“Digital marketing is critical to our business. It is how people are researching and shopping today. Specifically for big-ticket items, people are researching online before they go shopping in the store or contact the store. If you’re not contacting people online you’re losing the game before you even start. Websites, pay-per-click, SEO, email marketing and social media are all important. We also use Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.23.59 AMNick Freadreacea, president
The Flooring Gallery, Louisville, Ky.
“There is a plethora of options available, and the media outlets are driving people to their online presence. When we meet with reps for TV or radio, all they want to talk about is their online options for advertising. We are not that tech savvy but we have been trying new ideas for the past several years. We recently revamped our website and are consistently changing keywords to keep up with the changes that Google makes. It is an ongoing process to tweak their algorithms on what moves a site up the page.

“We also have pages on Facebook and Twitter; we were a Pro on Houzz for several years and just began an Instagram account. We also ran with Angie’s List for a couple of years, but that did not bring us viable clients as most were interested in labor only or strictly the lowest price. There is a fine balance as to what is ‘image’ on a social media site and what actually drives a consumer to your store for a purchase.”

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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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Marketing mastery: The best social media platforms for business

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

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-06 at 10.45.16 AMI sometimes hear busy flooring dealers make comments such as, “I keep hearing about the different social media platforms I should be using to market my business, but there are so many. I just can’t keep up.” It’s understandable for dealers to feel this way because there are a ton of options available.

If you’re struggling to choose a platform, why not put your focus where the majority of your customers are interacting? According to a report released by the Pew Research Center, 68% of Americans are on Facebook. This dwarfs the percentages on Instagram (28%), Pinterest (26%), LinkedIn (25%) and Twitter (21%).

In my opinion, Facebook is still the most effective at delivering customers. When done correctly it can produce a steady stream of quality customers for your business. You can make money using some of the other platforms if you have the time and resources to design and run effective marketing campaigns for each additional social media account. But most dealers barely have the time to effectively implement one platform, let alone several.

Some of you may have already attempted Facebook marketing and received mediocre results. I have found that dealers often make some common mistakes that hurt their efforts on this potentially lucrative platform. Following are four common errors.

Trying to sell directly on Facebook. The only products that tend to sell well on Facebook are low-end, impulse items like t-shirts, inexpensive electronic gadgets, costume jewelry, etc. In terms of selling, think of Facebook as a large mall. You don’t usually see big-ticket items like flooring being sold in malls where people tend to browse for impulse buys. Therefore if you want to generate sales, your marketing should be designed to get prospects off social media and into your store.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 10.15.38 AMPoor page design. Not properly setting up your page can hurt your visibility online and cause you to miss opportunities to get people into your store. Some common mistakes include: using incomplete information, having no call to action or link to the dealer’s main website, weak or non-existent unique selling proposition, having information and branding that is inconsistent with other online listings and setting up your business as a personal profile. (This is currently against Facebook’s guidelines and can get your profile shut down.)

Buying likes. Having thousands of likes on your Facebook page makes you look more relevant, and if the likes are from real followers—and you market to them properly—they can translate into big revenues for your business. However, it can be tempting to buy likes, and there are companies all over the Internet offering to sell them to you. Don’t do it. If you have 10,000 likes from fake followers not interested in your product, then they are going to have low engagement. This hurts the visibility of your posts, and your real followers won’t see them. Fake followers are also not going to buy your product.

Having no Facebook marketing plan. Many dealers simply post photos of products or special offers periodically with no thought-out plan for systematically generating business from this platform. Your posts must fit into an overall plan for generating quality customers.

 

Jim Augustus Armstrong specializes in providing turnkey marketing strategies for flooring dealers. For a complimentary copy of Jim’s book, “How Floor Dealers Can Beat the Boxes and Escape the Cheap-Price Rat-Race of Doom Forever,” visit beattheboxestoday.com.

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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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Digital Marketing: Ready-made outreach programs at dealers’ fingertips

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

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Most retailers know they have to invest in digital marketing. However, not all dealers have the time or resources to run an effective digital campaign. While various marketing companies are available to provide digital help, flooring manufacturers are also stepping up to assist retailers.

Following is a sampling of some of the digital marketing initiatives currently available for retailers to leverage.

Armstrong
Armstrong Flooring’s digital marketing strategy contains many facets, including the company’s website, a campaign featured on HGTV and a promotion for Elevate retailers. Armstrong is also relaunching its residential website in November to dovetail with the consumer’s shopping journey.

“We take an integrated approach when it comes to our digital marketing strategy, seeking to connect with shoppers and drive qualified traffic to our aligned retailers,” said Ebeth Pitman, director of brand marketing. “We are continually evolving our website experience to drive more qualified leads through the doors of our retail partners. The website is a destination site for flooring shoppers and is optimized to capture that in-market consumer who is searching for flooring online.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 9.16.34 AMOther features of the website include a “request a quote” form available for each Elite partner store listing and co-branded web pages that are optimized for local search.

In addition to the website, Armstrong has a campaign titled “The Floor is Yours,” which is featured on HGTV and hgtv.com. This campaign is also integrated with a promotion for Elevate retailers called “The New Look of Tough,” which includes a campaign toolbox for retailers that includes video, social content, photography, merchandising, brochures and more.

Mohawk
Mohawk is committed to not only making quality flooring but also helping its retailers be successful. One of the ways the company aims to do this is through Omnify, its omni-channel solution.

“Omnify is about simple, connected retail,” said Mollie Surratt, senior director of public relations and inbound marketing. “Mohawk is focused on walking the consumer through her digital journey by empowering the retailer’s online presence. Omnify makes digital marketing easy with all the tools at her fingertips to drive qualified leads, publish relevant, optimized content and advertise using the best tools in the industry.”

The omni-channel solution drives qualified consumers to a retailer’s store through a variety of optimized content and digital advertising solutions. This ranges from organic and paid social media to web content structured for search engine optimization.

“Mohawk’s new Omnify advertising package is built to utilize the most effective strategic methods of capturing the consumer during her digital journey and delivering her to your store,” Surratt explained.

To learn more about Omnify, visit mohawktoday.com/omnify or talk to your local Mohawk representative.

Shaw Floors
Shaw offers its retail partners a complete suite of digital marketing services to help reach today’s consumers in innovative ways. This includes social media support, website building and online reputation management.

“Promoboxx is Shaw’s social media content solution, providing retailers with support, content and best practices for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter,” said Misty Hodge, director of digital marketing, Shaw Floors. “Shaw Web Studio is a complete website solution, enabling retailers to quickly and easily build professional flooring websites to remain competitive in the digital space. Share it Forward began as an online ratings and reviews directory and has since evolved into a full-service online reputation management program that notifies retailers of when and where they receive reviews and also offers education and coaching on how best to deal with negative reviews.”

As more consumers look online to shop and qualify a brand, it is important for retailers to have a strong digital presence, experts say. Shaw is helping retailers save time, stress and money by providing meaningful solutions to their digital marketing efforts.

“Our retail partners look to us as a leader in the digital marketing space, and we leverage all the resources available to us to make that task as simple, carefree and effective as possible,” Hodge explained. “It’s Shaw’s philosophy that we win by helping our retail partners win—we’re in this together.”

USFloors
USFloors has strengthened its digital presence to assist retailers in promoting the company’s products. Beyond building up its presence on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Houzz, Pinterest and LinkedIn, USFloors also uses its website to showcase products and installations.

“We use our digital presence as a communication platform to the retailers selling our product and their customers,” said Maud Swalens, social media and marketing coordinator, USFloors. “We provide platforms where both retailers and consumers can share their experiences with us as a company, and our product. This allows us to improve and enhance our service and products.”

The goal, according to Swalens, is to be available at all times to both retailers and consumers, “whether it is to answer questions, help with requests or assist with anything else. Conversation is the focal point, and that is why an online presence is extremely important to us.”

Beyond the communication aspect, USFloors looks to help homeowners get more creative. “We lead a product category and like to inspire retailers and consumers with our innovative decors,” Swalens said. “For this purpose, Houzz and Pinterest are used mostly. We share mood boards, provide style or design advice (when requested) and invite our customers to get inspired and innovate with us.”

 

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Technology: Mohawk’s Omnify program drives results for retailers

Web-based solutions, tools aim to boost dealers’ online presence

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.31.57 PMMohawk’s Omnify, a program introduced at the company’s Solutions conference last year, is beginning to make an impact on dealers’ online initiatives. The program, named for its ability to provide “omni-channel solutions,” aims to simplify digital marketing by capturing and tracking leads, and streamlining social media publishing and search engine marketing.

Specifically, Omnify was created to provide a number of solutions for dealers. Among them:

  • Improve social reach and convert potential customers into qualified leads;
  • Tailor the dealer’s digital storefront to engage consumers and promote enhanced content;
  • Build and strengthen local reputation of retailers through rankings and reviews;
  • Increase store visibility and improve search rankings, and
  • Build trust and confidence with consumers.

“Omnify connects the [consumer’s] online and in-store experiences,” said Mollie Surratt, senior director, public relations and inbound marketing, Mohawk Industries. “Omnify is all about simple connected retail. It is an omni-channel solution empowering retailers to own their market in the digital space. It’s giving them the content, tools and reporting they need to take their digital marketing presence to the next level and drive more traffic into their stores.”

Retailers have provided positive feedback since the program’s launch. For instance, Harry Schillings, president of Houston-based Spring Carpets, is definitely seeing an increase in traffic due to Omnify. In fact, his store is recording an average of three call-in leads a day since the program’s launch.

One of Schillings’ favorite features about Omnify is its ability to record phone conversations between consumers and employees. “That little feature is absolutely priceless. On our website there is a contact button that allows the customer to call the store from her phone. When I had the chance to listen to these recordings I [discovered a shortcoming] in my business. We had a large void that I was able to fix, but I would have never found that flaw without listening to those voicemails.”

Schillings is not alone. Scott Allen, general manager, Carpet Corner, Kansas City, Mo., has also generated a great number of leads. “Since the Omnify site went live our customer contacts— specifically the number of folks requesting quotes—has increased to double what we were generating at a fraction of the cost. These are high-quality leads with a higher closing ratio than other Internet leads.”

In addition to seeing increases in quality leads, dealers like Adam Pace of Metro Floors, Lancaster, Calif., are already seeing a major return on investment. “Within the first month, the revenue off the sales [from these leads] has paid the cost of the program for the whole year.”

Mohawk is receiving recognition from not only its dealers but other companies as well, according to Seth Arnold, vice president of residential marketing. “We have some of the best companies in the digital space telling us we got the recipe right. When Mohawk is challenging some of these companies to up their game, that makes me feel like we’re pushing the envelope for the sake of our retailers. We have the power to fight hard for independent retailers so they have the tools they need to excel.”

Looking ahead, Mohawk is continuing to develop content and solutions for Omnify to further assist specialty retailers. As Austin Messerman, marketing brand manager, explains: “Our team is working on developing our advertising strategies in local markets as well as our content strategies—all of which will work together to make the tool more powerful and see that it continues to drive success for the retailers.”

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Floors & More: Members urged to take ‘unconventional’ approach

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.47.57 AMLeesburg, Va.—Thinking outside the box can help dealers discover new ways to grow their businesses. That was the primary message Floors & More management sought to drive home to members in attendance at its summer convention here.

The message correlated directly to the theme of the conference, “Unconventional.”

The two-day convention provided Floors & More members the opportunity to network, hear best practices from peers, as well as learn about new offerings and rebate opportunities from vendors. The show also provided members with multiple solutions to combat changing consumer buying habits and develop a greater digital footprint.

More importantly, the group stressed the importance of building quality relationships with customers, vendors and other members. To that end, the group’s vendor partners had the opportunity to participate in any of the member events, including the general session, keynote and activities. The goal was to cultivate and continue member/vendor relationships.

“We believe our vendors are our partners and our members are our partners—so we have a three-part relationship,” said Vinnie Virga, founder and CEO, Floors & More. “Our job is to make sure that relationship is incredibly strong so there is great, unfiltered communication between us so we’re helping each other and challenging each other. We believe only by having that kind of relationship between all the parties do we get the best growth, the best ideas and the best participation. This is the ‘Unconventional’ convention.”

Doing things different is at the core of the Floors & More group from its rebates program to its partnerships with Soci, a platform for managing social media, and 919 Marketing, a national marketing agency that provides members with relevant, localized and personalized content that targets all types of consumers. In addition, the group has added new private labels, expanded its vendor lineup and launched new websites for Floor to Ceiling and Big Bob’s stores.

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.48.17 AMOver the past year the group has worked on fundamental elements to provide members with the tools they need to succeed. Part of this adjustment is how Floors & More members invest in the buying group. “All we did was flip the equation,” Virga explained. “We made it so the members have that upfront. The rebates are paid out and the vast majority of the rebate dollars goes to the members (around 80%). By making that flip it took those members who weren’t really committed to the program or buying from our vendors and it made it so they had to make an investment and commit to the group or they wanted to go—which is exactly what we wanted. We wanted people who were committed—who were going to stay and support the vendors.”

Virga believes a member’s investment should be viewed more as a marketing fee since the group covers social media, websites, commercials and review sites. Floors & More also provides unlimited education through the WFCA education library and the group’s full product library. It also covers convention attendance (excluding room costs) as well as a rare opportunity to meet with executives from the Floors & More corporate team for a consultation.

“Everything else we’re doing with the rebates is really a return on their support of the suppliers,” Virga explained.

Now that these elements are fully in place, the group plans on growing dramatically, according to Virga. “We’re starting to add new members a little at a time. We’ll also be growing through acquisition. You’ll definitely see us make some acquisitions over the next couple of years. We plan on being 700 or 800 stores stronger in the next five years, and we’re very committed to that number.”

New vendors, programs
Floors & More continues to expand its list of vendors, which includes Mannington, Phenix, Armstrong, Stainmaster, Wolf, Graber, USFloors, Nourison and RFMS—to name a few.

“The vendors here are top notch,” said Dave Bradley, vice president of Floor to Ceiling, Ottawa, Ill. “I really think [Virga] is pulling in great people for us on the technology side as well.”

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 11.48.11 AMThe group also recently launched an insurance program whereby store owners, installers, builders, remodelers and trade professionals are able to receive life and accident insurance as well as a 401(K) plan. Another key program announced at the convention is the development of an e-commerce system for member websites, which the group plans to launch by winter.

Floors & More management believes e-commerce is a crucial space for retailers today. “You need to be online with your products so consumers can first see it and then pick it,” Virga explained. “[While] our business is still very much tactile, you need to have it there because consumers demand it. It’s the price of admission of being a retailer today.”

Floors & More members like Lowell Matthys, president of Floor to Ceiling in Marshall, Minn., are embracing e-commerce. “Whether you like it or not, that’s the way our technology is moving. We carry more technology in our pockets than ever. That aspect of the business is changing.”

Matthys’ store already has an online presence, and he runs a website and Facebook page in connection with Floors & More. “They’ve set up the web page for us and we’re also going to be doing some postings to Facebook through Soci.”

For others, such as Roger Lake, owner of Lake Design & Décor/Floor to Ceiling in Manchester, Iowa, Floors & More not only offers new technology and group buying power but also education. In particular, he cited keynote presenter Mark Sanborn, author, entrepreneur and professional speaker, who conducted a presentation about leadership and ways to drive improvement. The talk provided valuable insights for Lake and his staff. “[Sanborn] was talking about motivating and how to get sales.”

Overall, the convention hit on a couple of key points for members such as Joe Virga, regional manager, Floor to Ceiling, Auburn, Mass. “It opened my eyes to our company’s potential and the importance of embracing change.”

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Marketing Online: 10 tips to help you create an effective social media strategy

March 27/April 3, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 21

By Lindsay Baillie

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 11.31.34 AMFor many retailers, jumping into social media is similar to exploring uncharted territory. It is unfamiliar, time consuming and poses the risk of failure/getting lost. However, now more than ever, social media has become a crucial part of the consumer’s search for products and services. If you are not maintaining your presence on social media, you run the risk of being buried by your competition, experts say.

FCNews recently spoke with three social media marketing experts to gather tips on how to create a social media strategy.

Tip #1: Make it mandatory. “The first thing retailers have to realize is social media is no longer just an option—it is a necessity,” said Paul Friederichsen, marketing expert and owner of BrandBiz. Retailers have to “understand it is a part of their overall marketing strategy. It is just as important as advertising and public relations.”

Tip #2: Align your social media efforts with your business strategy. Christine Whittemore, chief simplifier, Simple Marketing Now, encourages dealers to ask themselves a few questions when developing a social media strategy. “Why are you doing this? It takes a lot of time and effort to do social media correctly—just like anything else does—and you want to make sure those resources deliver value to the business.”

Tip #3: Start with your customers. After fitting social media into your business strategy you have to decide what platforms to join. For this, Whittemore suggests talking to your customers. “Find out where they hang out online. Ask them what they do there. Where do they go to find inspiration? That can help guide content and the kind of relationship building you do.” According to Whittemore, the time you spend on digital media is similar to what you would spend networking in person, so you also want to uncover where the majority of your customers look for new products.

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 11.29.35 AMTip #4: Learn about each platform. According to Friederichsen, retailers should learn the best roles for each platform and what kinds of social etiquette are required for each. Bottom line: Retailers should have a pretty good understanding of what each platform does and what the environment is on those platforms before joining.

Whittemore calls this understanding the “nature of the network,” so you can show up with the right kind of content and know how to say what you want to say. “It’s not just about sales,” she explained. “It’s about providing helpful information.”

Tip #5: Be selective. After talking with customers and learning about the different platforms, take the time to be selective about which platforms you actually join. Whittemore suggests retailers stay away from joining every social media site. Instead, maintain a presence on heavily populated sites such as Facebook and where your customers hang out such as Pinterest. She also recommends regularly Googling your business to see if any listings—such as Yelp—show up. If they do, make sure to claim them.

Tip #6: Start with one and then add on. If you are worried about maintaining multiple sites, experts advise starting small and concentrating your efforts on one. “Start with one and work on it,” said Lisbeth Calandrino, FCNews columnist and retail industry consultant. “Get a lot of customers on your page so then when you have good sense of that [platform] and people are replying to you, you’re ready to go to the next one.”

After you have successfully grown one social media account, try branching off to another site; however, make sure you do not take on too much to handle. “Retailers should be on as many sites as they can do well,” Friederichsen noted. “It’s better to do a few things well than many things poorly.”

Tip #7: Engage your customer. “This is the age of the consumer, and the consumer needs to talk,” Calandrino said. “What better way to get a referral than to have your customer be online and talk about a job you’ve done? You have to figure out how to engage the customer.”

Along the same vein, Friederichsen explained it’s not the place to push out your message as you would in an advertisement. “It’s the sharing of ideas; it’s an engagement [with others]. A lot of dealers feel like that is really not selling, when in fact it is because it creates a much broader view of your store and your brand so that you can attract the kind of customers you want.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-31 at 11.29.41 AMTip #8: Create a blog. In addition to communicating with your customers, social media helps call attention to your website. While social media platforms provide ample opportunity for customers to visit your site, Calandrino recommends creating and maintaining a blog. “It’s likely that your website is stagnant. If every time I go to your website it’s exactly the same then I am less likely to return. If you have a blog and it is up to date—you decide to post every week or every day—then whoever signs up for [the blog] will see your site.” She recommends retailers build content around their personality and strengths instead of buying posts.

Tip #9: Let social media buffer your other marketing outlets. Social media is an interconnected form of marketing and can easily complement a retailer’s overall marketing campaign. Friederichsen suggest retailers use their social media accounts to share when sales are occurring, when new products come in or when any seasonal promotions are going on in the store, etc. “Like advertising and public relations, social media plays an important role. They don’t all play the same role but they complement one another.”

Calandrino agrees, adding: “A social media strategy doesn’t stand by itself. It is not an isolated strategy. Rather, you need to work it into whatever else you’re doing. If you’re doing a contest you should move it to your social media so people have to respond.”

Tip #10: Be patient. Developing and maintaining a social media strategy requires time, but probably not as much time as you think. In order to maintain a couple of social media sites, experts say retailers should spend anywhere from 30 minutes to one hour every day, as time and effort are equally important.

Friederichsen warned retailers that building followers on social media doesn’t happen overnight and followers should never be purchased. His recommendation: “Build a following over time with good content and consistent posts—with proper etiquette.”