Flooring America, Flooring Canada and Floor Trader members brought the buzz and excitement of digital marketing and social engagement to Montreal, Canada, where the co-op of more than 500 independent retailers met for its annual digital marketing conference, Building Buzz.

In this digitally-driven era, where digital marketing and reach are proving to be key ingredients to a successful business, no matter the industry, the co-op recognized the need to provide its members with direction and exposure to new opportunities available in the social and digital landscape.

“Building Buzz was the need to really show the dealers the additional marketing components that they need,” said Cathey Gundlach, vice president of merchandising for CCA Global Partners. “More than just above and beyond our normal conventions.”

Where Focus Goes, Energy Flows

This year’s convention emphasized the need to quiet the noise and distractions on both the shopping and selling sides of the business in order to simply focus. For the independent flooring retailer, that means focus on getting and keeping consumers through lead conversions, social media engagement and marketing plans.

“Focus on your visual merchandising,” Gundlach said. “Focus on your merchandising. Focus on your marketing and focus on those key components that make your showroom what it needs to be for our dealers to be successful in today’s marketplace. How to differentiate yourself from the big box, how to separate ourselves from what they’re doing in the specialized marketplace. How to talk to and reach our consumers.”

Supported by a day of deep-dive education developed to teach Flooring America, Flooring Canada and Floor Trader members new tactics to grow their business, members attended several breakout sessions throughout the day that covered a multitude of topics from how to maximize their business for Pinterest and what not to do when creating local video content, to key trends in product design that put fashion in flooring and building a marketing and media plan that drives traffic.

“I went to the microsite workshop, so I had my computer and I went through how to edit my site so that I can change out pictures and change out information,” said Lynn Collins, owner of Collins & Sons Flooring America in Swansea, Ill. “I had done a bunch of that a couple months ago, so it was a good reminder to go back and refresh it, because the more you refresh that, it drives Google more.”

New Programs and Tools

Rolling out new programs and tools to better position members for growth alongside the growing market and consumer, convention attendees were given an in-depth look at DRIVE and the Mover Program.

The new fully managed, fully integrated one-stop digital marketing solution, DRIVE, was developed to help sales professionals close more sales, accelerate productivity and increase retailer’s profitability.

“DRIVE is a stack of integrated marketing services that’s going to help you close more sales and convert more leads at the show room level,” said Frank Chiera, senior vice president, marketing and advertising, CCA Global Partners. “It all starts with a world-class CRM platform. And then we’ve added on this ability to understand a little more information about your core customer in the way of demographic and psychographic information, so that when a customer comes into your store, or fills out a form on your website, or makes a phone call, in relatively real time, instead of that lead just coming into your CRM system, DRIVE is actually appending (where possible) demographic and psychographic information on that customer.”

The marketing tool also has the ability to send sales professionals reminders to follow up with customers so that, essentially, there is an opportunity for no lead to be lost. DRIVE also handles marketing automation for retailers, which is a marketing workflow of digital communication that would get sent out to customers in an automated fashion. Referred to as “personal gifting” by Chiera, marketing automation is important as it connects retailers to customers not only digitally, but by direct mail, personal handwritten notes, gifts, etc., thanking them for their business and making them feel valued and appreciated.

The existing FAST program, which is a turnkey, local social media management, monitoring and customer engagement platform for members, will be integrated into DRIVE.

Most importantly, says Chiera, is DRIVE’s ability to provide businesses with insight and reporting. “That means that everyone from the sales person to the sales manager to the owner will have access and insight into the leads, the opportunities and potential converted sales that are available to that showroom—all in real time.”

Also highlighted was the new Mover Program, created in partnership with Updater, a resource that streamlines almost every aspect of moving, which can often be a very stressful process.

“Updater is an app that lets you take care of all of those tedious, time consuming moving related tasks quickly, easily and all in one place,” said Amanda Fischer, senior marketing manager at Updater.

Assisting with everything from forwarding mail to connecting utilities, Updater has partnered with CCA Global Partnership to now directly connect movers to flooring solutions.

“A lot of our movers are looking for carpeting and flooring solutions, but we’ve never had a partner to provide them with options for their new homes,” Fischer said. “CCA, Flooring America and Updater have come together to provide a way for you to put your local business right in front of movers at the exact time that they are searching for products and services for their new homes.”

Creating an entirely new way for members to market their local businesses to people during the moving process, the Mover Program is designed to introduce local brands to moving consumers at the right time.

“When people move, they spend a lot of money, often on products for their new home, like flooring,” Fischer said. “According to the National Association of Home Builders, in the first year after buying a new home, American’s spend an average of $10,000 on renovations, they are four-times more likely to try a new brand, and 85% of them will choose the first brand presented to them. The goal of the Mover Program is to make your local store that first brand.”

While there was an emphasis and much excitement surrounding new programming, not to be forgotten were existing programs and resources like CCA Global University, which trains sales professionals through a full suite of programs and interactive courses.

New to the group’s leadership team is Nicole Harding, vice president of CCA University, who urged convention attendees to better utilize the University and bridge the gap between knowing and doing. “We have everything you need for your business needs and your people needs,” Harding said. “We have a ton of really fantastic offerings; online university, leader-led sessions. You name it and we have it for you.” 

But Harding says stats indicate that members are not taking full advantage of all that CCA University has to offer them. “The usage just isn’t really where I want it to be. I really want to make sure that you members are using our offerings so that you can really drive your business. We’re giving it to you and I really want you to use it.”

Attendees Fired Up with Keynote

Demystifying the luxury vinyl tile (LVT), wood plastic composite (WPC) and stone plastic composite (SPC) flooring terms, Piet Dossche, president of USFloors and executive vice president of hard surface at Shaw, shared insight on the latest trends in the flooring industry and how both hard and soft surfaces can be sold in a profitable manner.

Dossche advised attendees to embrace and join the accelerated movement toward LVT’s market growth. “What’s creating buzz today in your stores?” he Dossche. “It’s LVT. And what’s creating buzz in LVT? It’s WPC; it’s SPC. Your biggest growth opportunity in your stores for the next couple years and beyond will be waterproof polymer core products. The genie is out of the bottle.”

Dossche encouraged members to focus on profitability, sell at high margins, become experts in their markets and differentiate themselves. 

“Piet’s keynote was just phenomenal,” said Ilaria Hare Heiderich of Flooring America Seattle. “He was fired up and it was super educational. I think that we as dealers focus on the product, but we sometimes get lost in the weeds. I feel like he did a really good job clarifying the different product categories and how they are going to move forward.”

A New Show Floor

The concept of focus was found throughout the convention’s programming, right down to the trade show floor, where for the first time, Building Buzz featured only its private brands and a section dedicated solely to commercial products.

“There is some amazing excitement buzzing around this summer’s floor,” Gundlach said. “It’s all focused on our private brands. There’s so much to do, there’s so much to see with 26,000 square feet dedicated to just your private brands and displays. We have reps from all the suppliers that support us on hand to talk to you, and this is your time to meet the key national reps for CCA while being surrounded by only your private brands and displays.”

Introduced on the show floor were new products like Rival by Resista, an innovative carpet line of 16 collections made of high performance fiber, designed for active homes that include children and pets. Also included in the summer introductions was Galvanite luxury vinyl, offered in extra wide planks.

Members Weigh In

Retailer members with operations of various sizes all reported that business is doing well, and with the resources and tools provided by CCA Global, things continue to look up.

Representing the next generation of the business and industry, first-time attendee Jennifer Apsey-Vaughn of Absolute Flooring America in Colorado Springs, Colo., has taken on several roles within the retail operation and she is eager to lead the Absolute Flooring team in implementing all that she learned at Building Buzz. 

“My dad is the owner of our company, so I have taken on several roles,” Apsey-Vaughn said. “It’s very challenging, but it keeps me on my toes. I’ve learned a lot in the public relations session. I really enjoyed it and I think there’s a lot of things that will beneficial once I get home and can start implementing them.”

Heiderich was able to see first-hand the value of the co-op through her experience serving on its advisory council. “Any time you’re a part of a group, you think maybe it’s going to be like a rubber stamp committee. But management really does care about what the membership feels.”

Heiderich said all members can benefit from the digital marketing and social media assistance provided by the co-op. “As a younger owner, I should have a better online social media presence,” she said. “As a small business person, it’s one of those things that I don’t have to figure out on my own. When you come to Building Buzz and you’re a member of a co-op, they have the resources to call someone and have them help you get back on track.”