Do you understand the difference betweensellingandmarketing?Sellingis used for a specific occasion when you want to convince customers that your business provides one-stop shopping, will do a great job at meeting their expectations and provide a quality product. Marketingis an ongoing process that may result in a sale when the same customers seek out your business because they’ve heard about you and want to know more. Once they have found you is when you have some selling to do!

The foundation of effective marketing is planning. But before you can plan wisely, you need to figure out just who you are. You probably already know this stuff or have it floating around in your head. But take it one step further and write it out on paper. Here’s a list of topics to consider as you compose your statement:

  • Who are you as a company?
  • What do you do well?
  • What services do you offer?
  • What do you want to do in the future?
  • Historically, what has been your best kind of work? What’s been most profitable? What’s been most enjoyable?

The answers to these questions will provide the keys you need to develop a marketing plan. This plan will focus you on what you are going to do — and how often you will do it — to attract the kind of customers and business you want. Your budget forallof your marketing programs should be somewhere in the range of 1% to 5% of gross sales.

Publicity

Publicity is one cost-effective way of bringing your name to the attention of the public. A positive story in the local paper about your showroom will do you more good than a paid advertisement on the same page. Newspaper feature editors are always looking for good (and free) copy, and many papers contain home and garden sections. Send press releases about your events, awards and news.

There are various ways a business can become a local household name. You can achieve this aim through public service radio announcements, such as a short spot on decorating tips. By participating in and sponsoring charity work and special events, you’ll keep your showroom’s visibility high and garner frequent newspaper coverage. You can even offer your showroom as a venue for civic group meetings.

As for charities, opt for smaller, local charities rather than a large national one. This shows that you are interested in the community and raising funds on its behalf. Choose a project, such as a before-and-after remodeling, benefiting a charity that the local radio or TV stations are also promoting. (A remodeling project can be very effective because it gives you two opportunities for exposure — the before AND after!) Anything you do for a charity can come back to you a thousand-fold in new business or media coverage if you get the word out!

A showroom that handles building materials of any kind is an ideal place to host cooking demonstrations, powder-puff plumbing clinics, tile-setting demos, short courses on remodeling ideas, and even instructional clinics on floor covering installation.

Home tours represent another means of getting your name in lights. There are tons of home tours, but you can design yours to highlight just the rooms to which your products relate. Contact former customers about having their home on tour. Photograph the rooms to give media representatives a preview of what they might like to feature. (Contacting media from the entire metro area will help ensure broader coverage.)

A home tour project can attract new consumer prospects, builders, architects, and designers. In fact, anyone who can use your services should be placed on the list of invitees. It’s a great way to get everyone to see what your firm can do.

Another way to generate great publicity is to involve local dignitaries. Think of a project that can include the mayor, city council members, the Chamber of Commerce, or a local big business in sponsorship of the event.

Let the VIPs handle the invitations and bring some new blood into the showroom. You’d be amazed at how many different kinds of people will come to your showroom, including potential customers that you would not get otherwise.

Or choose to help a local group raise money for a scholarship. By involving others, your investment of time is lessened and you still reap the notoriety. Become a friend to the community!

Do you know who the home furnishing and design editors are at your local newspapers? You should. I’ve never met one that complained about having too much information to publish. Offer to act as a local expert in your field and contribute information about your industry whenever you can. Send editors a report on trade shows that you’ve attended. More than likely, they aren’t going to be able to make these shows, so the information is something they don’t have access to.

Also make yourself available to radio and TV stations. They’re always looking for experts to discuss trends. Call the media outlet, get the name of the appropriate contact and send a letter outlining a particular issue you could discuss. You can even suggest questions the interviewer might want to ask. (Very critical to your success in landing an interview is to help the media people do their work. Pre-arranged questions help you to prepare stellar answers!) Get excited about colors, materials, products, and designs.

Anytime you’re involved in an event that serves the public, you should send a fact sheet to the media. This is a public service item, and radio and TV stations must devote a certain amount of coverage to these events as a condition of their licensing.

You don’t have to write the article (in fact, they’d really prefer that you didn’t). They’ll want to know is: who you are doing it for; what the event is; where it’s being held; when it will take place; what you expect to accomplish; and who is involved.

Keep the fact sheet simple. You’ll better your odds of getting the media to cover your event. Give them just the basics!

I hope you’ll join me for my next installment of Showroom Management. I’ll discuss design trends for 2001, and explain how to combine floor coverings and home furnishings for maximum sales potential.