Floor Trends sat down with Eric Demaree, president of Carpet One Floor & Home, at the buying group’s summer convention in Salt Lake City to learn more about how the cooperative is helping the independent retailer compete more effectively in the marketplace.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All

“We have a very simple mission statement that everybody in Carpet One follows,” Demaree said. “Our mission is to help independent entrepreneurs and small business owners compete more effectively in the marketplace.”

Carpet One does this by focusing everything around three core objectives: help members sustain profitable growth, attract, engage and convert more consumers, and improve product mix through Carpet One core brands that will drive higher rebate income for retailers.

With flooring retail operations around the country varying in everything from size to product offering and number of locations, Carpet One recognizes that one size does not fit all in terms of what it can offer its members and owners and how it can approach those core objectives.

“What’s interesting about a cooperative, unlike a franchise, is we don’t believe in one size fits all,” Demaree said. “We do a lot of custom work for people depending on what their requirements are.”

Ranging from succession planning to training and certification, and everything else in between, Demaree said there’s not a business discipline that Carpet One doesn’t have the resources to help an individual owner with, from the group’s largest member to its smallest. “Whatever the need is, we go outside and we say, ‘Okay, who’s the best in this arena?’ And then we go out and find them.”

With an emphasis on networking, CCA Global has facilitated various ways for its Carpet One membership to further connect and network. “The power of the organization really is in the networking,” Demaree said. “So in addition to the convention, we have councils, we have regional network groups and we have business network groups. In addition to clustering members by geography as regional groups, we also make available to them businesses of like size and kind. So, if you’re a luxury high-end retailer in San Francisco, you can talk to our luxury high-end retailer in Aspen, Colo., or Summit, N.J.”

Developed for those involved in the business that are 40 years or younger, Carpet One’s Next 40 group is a testament to the cooperative’s efforts to further connect its membership across the board.

“They have a different point of view. So we created a council to represent that second and third generation. Because they didn’t drink the teal Kool-Aid, their parents did, they weren’t a part of the original Carpet One owners.”

Online, the group also utilizes a closed-loop Facebook page that has become a discussion board where members are on it constantly discussing things like best practices, Demaree added.

All Things Digital

While traditional marketing and advertising certainly still have their place, there should be more emphasis on all things digital, Demaree said, and Carpet One continues to encourage its membership to invest in digital and to get on board by way of the cooperative’s one-stop digital program.

“That program is supported by a digital content coordinator team,” Demaree said. “It’s all about search engine optimization and improving the rankings for natural and organic search. I like to call it non-stop digital.”

In addition to Carpet One’s internal digital team measuring the effectiveness and the efficiency of the spend across digital initiatives like retargeting ads, banner ads, Facebook boosting and YouTube, the cooperative also has national contracts with Angie’s List and Houzz, and it works closely with Pinterest to drive unique visitors to member’s microsites. As a result, through these efforts and Carpet One’s digital team, members are able to have their microsites humanized, localized and customized.

“I’m excited about the fact that because of what we are investing in online, we are leveling the playing field against the big boxes and everyone else,” Demaree said.

Back to the Basics

Demaree had three takeaways for members regardless of the type of business they have: “Let us be your digital agency. We know what we are doing and we have the proof. Certify your salespeople. Go through our 15-week program. Change your retail salespeople into certified flooring consultants. Would you give your taxes to someone who wasn’t CPA? I don’t think so. So why wouldn’t you certify your people? The last thing is lead conversion.”

According to Demaree, if you respond to a lead within five minutes or less, you are 100 times more likely to have a successful connection than if you responded the next day. “So we have a whole group of people who do an unbelievable job of converting leads into sales. Let us show you the best practices so that you can convert more leads to sales.”

Even with the emphasis on these digital, sales and marketing practices, Demaree maintains that in order to run a profitable business, you have to have caring people that know how to present, promote, position and price product in a way that creates a promise that is fulfilled by the customer to the customer.

“Everyone is so focused on technology and really it boils down to people buy from people,” Demaree said. “Go back to the basics. Make it easier. You have to have product knowledge, you have to have professional skill and you have to have people knowledge. You have to have all three.”

According to Demaree, Carpet One is already there, and having all three of those things is what sets the buying group apart from the big boxes. “I told them all when I first got here, you’re winning because of the quality of your people. Please understand, it is not the product that they are buying. They are buying the experience from an expert. They want a trusted advisor that is going to help them pick the right product that they are in love with, at a price that they can afford. Big boxes don’t offer that.”