Social Media Marketing

During the recent Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) and throughout the rest of the year, kitchen and bath manufacturers are finding social media marketing an increasingly indispensable tool. That’s true whether they’re posting “booth tours” on YouTube, asking customers to stop by their Facebook pages to tag photos or using QR Codes to provide customers and prospects with videos featuring detailed specs on their products.

From Facebook and Twitter to videos, virtual tours and QR codes, social media provides a multitude of new ways to reach tech-savvy prospects.

So, what can kitchen and bath dealers and designers learn from studying these companies’ social media marketing plans? The short answer: a lot. While manufacturers are often among the most cutting edge when it comes to new media marketing strategies, social media is increasingly relevant to all aspects of the kitchen and bath industry. And, with an increasingly computer savvy consumer spending more and more time researching projects and products online before beginning the in-person shopping experience, kitchen and bath professionals would do well to study these strategies to see what might be effective for their own firms.

Additionally, manufacturers with strong social media strategies can be valuable partners for kitchen and bath dealers and designers, increasing not only the visibility of specific product lines, but also of kitchen and bath dealerships as the “go to” source for these products.

This month, kitchen and bath product manufacturers share social media marketing strategies they’ve employed at KBIS and beyond.

PHOTO FINISH

It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is particularly true when using social media in the kitchen and bath industry. While Facebook and Twitter played key roles in kitchen and bath manufacturers’ efforts to promote their appearances at the recent KBIS, photos are also integral to the process.

One such manufacturer, Stafford, TX-based Cosentino North America, maker of Silestone natural quartz countertops, liberally utilized Twitter and Facebook to invite designers to visit its booth and view its new colors, according to Lorenzo Marquez, marketing v.p.

However, the company also used photos in a unique way. One evening during this year’s KBIS, the company threw an event it called the “2011 Cosentino KBIS Celebration.” Guests strolling along the red carpet into the party were photographed, then invited to stop by Cosentino’s Facebook page to tag their photos. Asking the attendees to tag their photos increased Cosentino’s Facebook fans and also spurred them to share their own photos of kitchens and baths designed using Cosentino countertops, Marquez says.

Kitchen and bath dealers and designers can employ a similar strategy at their own open house events, showroom parties, seminars or the like. By taking photos and inviting showroom visitors to tag them on Facebook, they not only can add to their Facebook fan base but can also gain exposure exponentially through attendees’ other Facebook friends. Likewise, dealers and designers might take photos of clients’ finished projects and invite them to post these photos on their own Facebook pages to share with friends.

Twitter, too, can be a great tool for enhancing a firm’s reputation and helping to spread exciting news. For instance, Cosentino often uses Twitter to tweet about press coverage it has garnered, or tout appearances of its products on upcoming television shows. Facebook Gallery can showcase photos of actual room installations featuring its products. And YouTube is an important social media marketing tool that allows customers to view clips featuring Cosentino products from HGTV or DIY Network shows, or episodes of “Extreme Makeover Home Edition.”

While shows and special events like KBIS provide a great opportunity for social media blitzes, Cosentino employs a different social media marketing strategy during the rest of the year. “During the year, it’s about us sharing trends, features and stories about our products, and having a megaphone to talk about new features and other news about our products,” Marquez says.

ENGAGING CONTENT

ROHL LLC, the 27-year-old Irvine, CA firm known for luxury kitchen and bath faucets and fixtures, began using Facebook, Twitter and YouTube about a month before the show to promote its appearance. On YouTube, the company posted a personal invitation from chief operating officer Lou Rohl, inviting attendees to visit its booth at KBIS.

“Our mission is to work very closely with design bloggers, providing them with good content to share in the social media space,” Rohl says.

For instance, bloggers were invited by ROHL on Twitter to visit its KBIS booth, with hopes they would see and blog about products they liked.

Like Cosentino, ROHL adopts different social media marketing strategies for KBIS and the rest of the year. The firm’s initial use of social media marketing came last year, when it employed a QR Code, similar to a UPC code, in one of its ads. When scanned by a smart phone, the QR code automatically directs the scanner to a video about the designer and product featured in the ad. “That’s how we kicked off our social media activity,” Rohl says. “We’ve been elevating that activity since then, primarily through Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.”

With so many consumers accustomed to using their smart phones for everything, QR codes may be an equally valid strategy for kitchen and bath dealers to use in their showrooms. These can link to videos on the firm’s Web site, product manufacturer sites, tips pages, project photos and more.

ROHL LLC also uses its Facebook Gallery to enable customers to quickly and easily view ROHL products.

The company also sees YouTube as an opportunity to make a more resonant connection with customers and prospects. “We can show through videos the history of the products and the way they’re manufactured. We can show the Western European villages where they’re manufactured, the people who make them and the techniques used in that process. Unlike traditional print that is static, the videos allow us to create a more emotive relationship.”

Like many companies, ROHL had to overcome some level of hesitancy about getting involved in social media marketing, Rohl recalls.

“There were a number of concerns about having a strategy in place, and making sure we weren’t getting into social media marketing just because many other companies were. In addition, we wanted to make sure we had tools to conduct the monitoring of the social media marketing space, making sure we could see all the activity going on in the market. The reason to get into social media marketing is to engage, not just to throw information out there,” he says.

VIDEO PRESENCE

Rev-A-Shelf LLC, the 33-year-old Louisville, KY maker of cabinet storage and organizational accessories, is also an active social media marketer, using a strong video presence to enhance its marketing efforts.

At KBIS, “we used it to do live show updates on Facebook, which were linked to Twitter,” says marketing manager Shari McPeek. “We shot a video at our show booth …and we’re creating a post-show ‘booth tour’ for those who were not able to attend. We link all of our videos, including this one, to YouTube.”

Rev-A-Shelf also participated in and shot a video at the KBIS Kickoff Gala, and has posted the video to its Facebook page and put it on YouTube.

Because the kitchen and bath industry is highly visual in nature, video is an ideal medium for promoting new products and design features, and this is equally applicable to kitchen and bath manufacturers and dealers/designers. In fact, many designers may be inspired by Rev-A-Shelf videos – which show product details and the added functionality these products bring to a kitchen design – and may want to incorporate video of their own to help clients better understand the benefits of certain design features.

During the year, Rev-A-Shelf uses social media to promote events, many involving its promotional Rev-A-Truck, which motors around North America to kitchen and bathroom distributors’ showrooms. “It allows customers to come in, view products and interact with the displays,” McPeek says. “We promote the truck’s appearances on Facebook, Twitter and our Web site. It’s in Sioux Falls today; we’re doing live updates inviting people to come if they’re nearby.”

Rev-A-Shelf is likely to increase its use of some social media marketing tools in the future, McPeek adds. For example, the company expects to use Twitter more, particularly after glimpsing NKBA’s Tweet Wall at KBIS. “They had a huge screen up, and showed all tweets coming in from those tweeting,” she says, laughing. “Some were tweeting, ‘Wish I were there.’”

The company plans to grow its use of Facebook Gallery, highlighting unique applications featuring its products, and plans to continue using YouTube not only to promote events, but to spotlight its instructional videos demonstrating correct installation of its products.

YouTube is being used in other ways as well. Rev-A-Shelf has a showroom video on YouTube that depicts how its products are used in consumers’ daily lives, McPeek says. YouTube is also used to showcase what the company calls “KBIS Live” or “Closet Show Live” video interviews. These are interviews conducted by designers, show attendees and publications, in which representatives of Rev-A-Shelf discuss their products and the way they are used.

In addition, QR Codes are destined to shoulder more of the marketing load in the future, McPeek says. “Our ad in KBDN was among the first to use QR Codes. When people ran their smart phones over the codes, they were sent a link to our Web site, and a page about a featured product, with detailed specifications. We also used a QR Code to link to a video showing how many items could be stored in one of our pantries. That was also up on YouTube.”

The only real concern Rev-A-Shelf experienced regarding entering the social media marketing space was its desire to make sure the company allocated an appropriate level of time and attention to the effort, McPeek says. “We have started with the marketing department having rights to it, and are looking to expand the responsibilities into the customer service department,” she explains.

WORKING WITH DEALERS Some manufacturers are leading the way when it comes to working with their dealers and distributors on social media best practices. Le Sueur, MN-based Cambria, one of the few quartz surface plants in the world, works with its exclusive partners to develop a social media strategy. This allows Cambria to grow a social media base while benefiting from an online network of enthusiastic word-of-mouth marketers. Cambria’s Lexus Partners are provided with social media contact information to seek help with any questions that may arise.

While many manufacturers report some level of social media marketing integration between themselves, dealers and distributors, consensus exists that more is needed. “There’s a lot of opportunity to really link the sites more effectively,” Rohl says. “Integrating with the networks of designers, of showrooms, would bring benefit to everyone.”

For his part, Marquez believes that kind of integration would give “manufacturers a local dimension to their own business, and help the end user identify with the manufacturer through their local dealer or distributor.” Dealers and designers would also gain greater exposure, as they would be promoted as the source for in-demand products – particularly beneficial in the cases where they may be exclusive distributors of these products.

While social media is clearly a growing marketing avenue, both manufacturers and designers/dealers are still exploring ways to use this to maximize their exposure, creative expression and sales. And, while there are many different schools of thought on the best way to do this, there seems to be one common thread echoed by the companies: To achieve high levels of success, companies must not just dip their toes in the water, but rather must dedicate and immerse themselves in social media.

 

Walt Denny Inc. is a full service PR, advertising and marketing agency in Hinsdale (Chicago), IL that specializes in the home products arena, Internet marketing and social media. The agency was started 22 years ago based on the credo to provide creative marketing solutions, combined with a high value on personal relationships and accountability. Walt Denny Inc., “The Home Products Agency,” was established in 1989. For more information, visit www.waltdenny.com or email: marylou@waltdenny.com.

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