April 27/May 4, 2015; Volume 29/Number 2
By Jim Augustus Armstrong
(Second of two parts)
Flooring is a commodity. Marketing expert Dan Kennedy said if you’re in a commodity business, get out. He didn’t mean leave the industry; he meant reinvent and recategorize your business to create differentiation within the industry. Sell differently, answer the phones differently or deliver your goods and services differently. There is so much sameness among flooring retailers—similar showrooms, products, ads, websites—that creating differentiation can pay huge dividends for dealers who invest the time and energy. My goal for this series is to give dealers strategies to spark their imaginations and inspire them to create total differentiation in their markets.
Invent your own vernacular
Starbucks successfully commands premium prices for a commodity; part of its strategy is the creation of its own vernacular. Starbucks doesn’t offer small, medium or large. Instead, it sells tall, grande and venti. Here’s an exercise to get you thinking creatively in this direction: Create your own terms for “salesperson,” “installer,” “staff,” “consultation” and “estimator.
Wear medical booties when you visit a customer’s home You’ll instantly communicate to the customer that you care about her home. Some of the dealers I work with who do this include Scott and Pamela Schaefer from Ohio, Matt Capell from Idaho and many others.
Invent unusual but value-enhancing guarantees
There are common customer service lapses in the flooring industry that cause unnecessary frustration or worry for consumers such as unprofessional installers, tardiness to appointments, phone calls not returned or a mess left after the installation. Make a list of all the things that irritate consumers about the buying process and create guarantees to reassure your customers those things won’t happen when they buy from you. For example, Jerome Nowowiejski from Texas guarantees his customers receive a high level of professionalism, skill and cleanliness from his installers.
Make confirmation calls
Call your customers the day before their measurements or installation appointments. Call when your estimator, sales person or installer is on their way to the home.
Create a unique phone-answering script
What do you hear when you call most flooring stores? Probably some variation of, “Thank you for calling Boring Flooring, how may I help you?” Instead, create a script that includes one of your guarantees. For example, “Thank you for calling Jimbo’s Floors, where you’ll love your new floors or we’ll replace them free!”
Have uniforms for your entire in-store team
This can be as simple as a polo shirt with your store logo, slacks and dress shoes.
Market to your customer list monthly
During my presentations at Surfaces in Las Vegas this year, I asked the attendees if they marketed monthly to their past customers; only about 3% said they did. If you market to your past customers, you’ll not only reap huge financial rewards, you’ll create total differentiation from the 97% of dealers who don’t. The best tool for this is a newsletter, with 80% fun, informative, entertaining and valuable information, and only about 20% flooring-related information.