April 13/20, 2015; Volume 29/Number 1
By Nadia Ramlakhan
Over the years retailers have shared their tried and true methods for growing their businesses and garnering sales. While the flooring industry continues to advance and develop new products, dealers must constantly be on their toes looking out for creative ways to keep selling. FCNews rounded up some of the best practices that continue to work for retailers through an evolving industry.
Keep in touch
Bendele Abbey Carpet & Floor, Fort Myers, Fla.
“Every month we send out a four-page newsletter through the mail; I think it has a better impact than email. It’s a newsletter with fun facts, random news stories that aren’t too serious and a little bit of local information. It doesn’t talk about flooring much. I always feature my customers who have bought from us within the past month with their photos on the back page. There’s also a trivia contest in which the winners get a free dinner. This keeps it interactive.
“I’m a firm believer that a customer is worth more than just her initial purchase of $5,000. Over a lifetime she’s a much bigger client than that, between her referrals and repeat business. The newsletter keeps our name in front of our customers on a monthly basis so that even if they don’t need flooring, they’ll know where to send their friends if it comes up in conversations or they know they can call us for maintenance or repairs. It creates a more personal relationship.”
Wholesale Flooring, Fall River, Mass.
“We send out cards as a reminder to our past customers, asking them to come back and keep us in mind for future business. We usually go through our old customer base and send them out about four times a year. There is a coupon inside and customers have the option to use it or pass it along to a friend.
“The card says, ‘Come back! We miss you,’ but what we’re really saying is ‘We appreciate your business.’ We stick a business card in there as well and usually write a little something inside in addition to what’s printed on the card so it’s personalized to some degree. Most of our business is from repeat customers and word of mouth, so it just keeps us fresh on their minds so they can remember us for any future projects.”
To the heart through the stomach
Flooring Innovations, Cathedral City, Calif.
“We have a dinner meeting every month with the staff from both of our locations. We close an hour earlier and we swap back and forth between the locations so everyone can see what’s going on in both showrooms. The meeting runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and we provide lots of food and drinks. The point is really to talk about our goals, accomplishments, strengths and weaknesses.
“We encourage everyone to speak their minds; we want to hear what they think so we can provide an explanation as to why we do or don’t do certain things. In January we had about 350 customers and one person felt we needed to increase our sales staff so RSAs could have more time to focus on their customers. They were concerned about not being able to provide the best possible service because of how busy we were as far as traffic, so we hired two more salespeople.”
Floors & More, Benton, Ark.
“We’re a family-owned business and treat our customers like they’re a part of the family. When a friend or family member comes to your home, you ask them if they want something to drink and you make them feel welcome. We don’t give our customers a hard sale. Instead, we talk her through what her idea is and try to help her solve that dilemma. We offer bottled water, soft drinks and we have a Keurig so we can make cups of coffee or hot tea.
“We take five to 10 minutes to talk about the customer—what she likes, what she wants, what she hopes to achieve. Once she feels like she’s told you a lot of information, it becomes easy to recommend something. Sometimes it’s overwhelming so customers appreciate when you make them feel welcome and take the time to listen.”
OC Floor Gallery, Ocean City, Md.
“We have a partnership with a local doughnut company called Fractured Prune. They have specialty, hot doughnuts with lots of different flavors. It’s really an Ocean City icon that people seek out when they come here. We go out and buy about six dozen doughnuts and give out boxes of them with a couple business cards to realtors, project managers, contractors, hotel managers—anybody in the area who can give us repeat business. We usually stick around the resort areas where the hotels, town homes and condo units are.
“We don’t pressure them for any of their time; we just want to make an impression and leave. We don’t require them to listen to a sales pitch in exchange for doughnuts. When that pressure is off, people relax and they tend to come to us. More often than not they’ll ask us to look at something while we’re there and later on they’ll have something for us. We’ve gotten a lot of large accounts just for the cost of a couple doughnuts. We started doing it five or six years ago to try to generate some business when the economy was rough, and we’ve been extremely successful.”
Personalizing the process
Montgomery’s CarpetsPlus ColorTile, Venice, Fla.
“We’re so heavily involved in the community; that’s what sets you apart from the big box stores. We sponsor every sport at the local high school whether it’s baseball, football, basketball or volleyball. It makes up a huge chunk of our advertising budget. We sponsor the whole team so we buy their uniforms—the hats, the shirts, everything—and the kids wear them everywhere. If they’re at the grocery store or just walking around town, their shirts have our logo and full name on them.
“Keeping your name out there whether it’s a big or small thing, as long as it’s in your community, is really the biggest impact you can make. People who are coming to shop with you are coming to you because they know you and they see you locally. If you’re involved with something near and dear to a customer’s heart she will shop you and not the big box. More than 75% of our community is retired so when grandparents or parents are at a game and they see how involved you are with the kids they’ll recognize you.”
Carpet One Floor & Home, San Ramon, Calif.
“Out front we have professional decorators and salespeople who talk to the customer to find out what she needs and what she wants. Once that happens and the customer has narrowed it down to a product she likes, the salesperson will schedule a project manager to take over and go out and do measurements, etc. Neither of them is working for commission, and we really want our customers to know that. It immediately brings in a real sense of trust rather than the customer being defensive.
“We’ve been doing it for a while, and it really gives our customers a different experience. They can look at the entire store if they want—there’s really no pressure and they don’t feel like they’re getting force-fed something. Our close rate is about 75%, which is 30 or so points above the national average. Another bonus is if a customer is doing a bathroom or closet, she gets the same attention another customer would get for doing her whole house. We don’t have to worry that somebody isn’t getting taken care of just because her project is smaller.”