Al’s Column: Getting to know your customers

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May 11/18, 2015; Volume 29/Number 3

By Paul Friederichsen and Brian Gracon

During our educational session at The International Surface Event (TISE) 2015, we spoke with floor covering business owners about typical flooring challenges and, since experience is the best teacher, we asked how they solved their issues.

The World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) helped us define the most significant challenges retailers face today. Just as in our previous column (FCNews, April 27/May 4), we are reporting on how dealers cope with marketing effectiveness.

We believe that at the core of successful marketing is an understanding of your customer, not only from a “who, what, when, where” perspective, but also from a human perspective: What are their needs, what are their concerns?

The dealers in our session shared with us their tips and techniques for connecting with customers:

  • Use available research to gain a better perspective about the customers in your area. Go online to look at census data for your market, read the latest reports on how people shop. You’re not trying to become a marketing guru, just staying current on trends that affect your business. The marketplace is always changing, even subtly. Stay on top of it.
  • Stay engaged with your social media accounts. Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are free but have a huge demand—your time. You can’t be social if you’re not engaged, contributing and following up. Imagine how you’d feel if you were at a party and someone ignored you. Build your participation into your schedule—it only takes a few minutes daily. Install the social media apps on your phone so you can keep track during those down moments. Just be present for your customers.
  • Don’t be reluctant to ask your customers what their Internet habits are, what social sites they visit, etc. Use a survey or have your sales associates work it into their sales dialogs. And promote your social media presence everywhere.
  • Use videos. Research has shown nothing spikes attention like online videos, yet so few dealers tap into that. Every smart phone takes HD video beyond what was achievable in TV studios even a few years ago. A 30-second clip of you introducing a new product line will add life to your website and Facebook page. That life will translate to interest, and that interest will translate to comments from your customers.
  • Consider updating how you define your target customers based on the information you’re learning about customers and about your market.
  • Follow up with previous customers. When you do, be sure to thank them for their business, ask them why they bought from you and ask for referrals. There can be two types of referrals: One type provides information so you can contact the customer’s friends or family members. With the second type of referral, your customers might instead use their social media sites to recommend your goods and services to the very large number of people who follow them.
  • In your store, remember that your first job is to listen, not sell. Learn about your customers’ needs and wants before proposing solutions.
  • Think about the local clubs and activities in which your customers might participate. Get involved through membership or sponsorship. Leverage these customer interests in your marketing and selling.


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