By Lindsay Gonzalez
As the world’s digital landscape continues to expand, many flooring consumers are starting their journey to purchase online. It is crucial now more than ever that flooring dealers are actively working to generate as well as convert leads online.
FCNews asked several industry experts for their top tips on generating leads.
Focus on existing customers
One of the most inexpensive ways to generate leads is by keeping in touch with your past customers. That’s according to Jim Armstrong, FCNews columnist and president/founder of Flooring Success Systems. “Your past customers are the only people on the planet who have proven they’ll give you money in exchange for flooring,” he explained. “Don’t invest thousands of dollars chasing cold leads online if you haven’t implemented a system to communicate regularly with the people who have already bought from you.”
Communication with previous customers open two channels for leads—repeat business and referrals. John Weller, co-founder and chief innovative officer of FloorForce, suggested flooring dealers contact their customers a few days after a project has been completed to get feedback.
“See if they have any friends or family who may need help with their floors,” Weller explained. “If they say yes, you’ll have a much easier sale on your hands than a typical lead. After all, referrals account for more than 60% of flooring sales. Even if the client does not have an immediate referral, your phone call will leave a positive impression and keep your company at the top of their mind.”
Master your website
A flooring dealer’s website is crucial to generating online leads. However, in order to collect those leads, a website must have the right forms and tools to reel in the consumer. “If a customer comes into your store and your salesperson doesn’t ask for the order prior to her leaving, your business is in trouble,” Jay Flynn, vice president of Creating Your Space (CYS), explained. “The same holds true for your website, but the ‘order’ is the request from the consumer to engage with your business.”
This, Flynn continued, can be in the form of product information, booking an appointment, requesting samples or pricing, an easy “click-to-call” button, etc. In terms of product information, dealers should show product they actually carry in the store. “They also want to see what that product will look like on the floor—even better, on their floor,” Flynn added. “They get this from car dealers, furniture dealers and other big-ticket items. You need to provide the experience they expect.”
In addition to product catalogs, FloorForce’s Weller suggested dealer websites have useful video content as well as augmented reality and live chat options. “Augmented reality visualization is becoming a key feature on flooring websites and has proven to keep consumers on a website longer,” he explained. “Also, more consumers are opting for live chat and texting over phone calls and email. The more communication channels you offer your customers, the more likely they are to connect with you.”
Create brand recognition
Lead generation can be influenced by brand recognition, according to Jason Goldberg, CEO of Retail Lead Management (RLM) and owner and CEO of America’s Floor Source. To increase this recognition among consumers, Goldberg suggested dealers look into both traditional and digital forms of advertising.
“For example, I recognize your brand because I’ve seen your wrapped trucks in my neighborhood,” Goldberg noted. “I’ve seen your yard signs; I’ve heard your radio commercials and seen your TV commercials; I’ve seen your Facebook and Instagram social posts, etc. When I do a [Google] search and you show up in the results, the brand recognition is based on everything you are doing, not just digitally.”
Regardless of the type of advertising, experts stress the messaging needs to align with the dealer’s business. “Your digital marketing—whether it is display ads on Facebook, your Google My Business listing, directory ads or Google Search Ads—needs to be specific and custom to your business,” CYS’s Flynn said. “Your brand, your products, your target markets and custom landing pages must be aligned with your offers and ads. Using and paying for generic offers not specific to your business are not going to optimize your results and build your brand, which is the key to long- term success.”
Be where your customers are
With the plethora of digital platforms available today, it is important for flooring dealers to have a presence where their customers usually interact. According to Doug Regner, vice president of sales – home service industry, Podium, local businesses have an upper hand when it comes to SEO. This can help get their businesses in front of consumers.
“Simply managing your presence and reputation on a few sites will allow you to show up at the top of search results,” Regner said. “These days, that starts with optimizing your presence on Google and Facebook. Then do the same on relevant, industry-specific channels and implement a few website best practices to ensure your online presence is just as significant and impactful as it is in person and offline.”
While it might be tempting to change offers and messages for every “Hallmark” holiday, Flynn warned against it. “Consistency of message and a focus on driving what your business value is—this could be low price, great inventory, range of products and services, proven value in the market or one of multiple others—will drive the best results,” he explained. “Making changes just to change will have an adverse effect on consumers recognition of your brand and, therefore, on your sales.”
Convert leads to customers
While generating leads is a key point to growing business, dealers must be able to convert those leads into paying customers. To do this, Regner suggested dealers make themselves readily available to prospective customers.
“All call-to-action on your website or business page needs to be crystal clear,” Podium’s Regner explained. “Whether it’s a ‘Get a Free Quote Today!’ or ‘Schedule an Appointment,’ your customers need to know what to do to engage with your business. Other great and modern ways to convert online leads into in-person customers is to encourage two-way messaging by adding a text-to-chat solution to your website, as well as including a phone number or textable link to your Google and Facebook listings.”
To truly grow a business, Weller explained that dealers need to be ready the second those leads come in. “A full 50% of sales go to the company that responds first, so having a plan in place to quickly interact with customers is increasingly critical as an increasing number of consumers shop online.”
What’s more, Weller explained that being ready means understanding today’s customer. “Many customers will reach out with much more information and higher expectations than they had in the past. Listen for signs that they are ready to move quickly—because if they are ready and you are not, they will likely take their business elsewhere.”
A crucial part of converting leads is first properly managing them, according to RLM’s Goldberg. “I don’t care how many leads you generate; if you don’t have a way to manage those leads to a sale with full visibility in that process, you are just wasting money. This is where software, such as Retail Lead Management, comes into play.”
An important part of generating leads is appearing at the top of a consumer’s online search. One way to improve your business’ placement is with positive reviews, according to Regner.
“Review frequency, quantity and rating can (and will) help you show up on top when customers are searching,” he added. “If you want to show up at the top of the local online search, make sure to always ask for reviews in person, then send an invite, collect customer reviews after every interaction and respond to reviews and feed- back in a timely fashion.”
Don’t buy leads
While it may seem easy to purchase leads from different websites, Flooring Success Systems’ Armstrong strongly warns against doing so. “You have to be very careful where you buy your leads. Home Advisor sells the same lead to several flooring dealers. This is really great for Home Advisor, but not so much for dealers who have to fight over these leads. I spoke with a dealer not long ago who spent $70,000 over the course of a year buying online leads. It mostly attracted price shoppers who wasted hours of his time, and then bought from someone else. He didn’t come close to breaking even.”