FORT LAUDERDALE, FL — Susan and Armand Rocco have always loved to cook. Coming from a large Italian family, Susan Rocco maintains: “Cooking is in our blood.”
Indeed, that love for cooking and entertaining was the inspiration behind their South Florida kitchen design firm, The Kitchenworks Inc.
With the family’s passion for good food, it’s no surprise that appliances have always played a key role in their firm’s success. So, when the economy crashed and appliance sales took a hit, the owners of the 22-year-old firm had to think outside the box. “Small firms like ours have to get creative in how we market and sell in this brave new economy,” Susan Rocco explains.
For The Kitchenworks Inc., that creativity took the form of an online appliance magazine, Appliance Buyer’s Guide (http://appliancebuyersguide.com/wolf-viking-miele-electrolux-and-bosch-electric-ovens/), which the firm created to address what they saw as a growing need for appliance information on the part of consumers. The online magazine quickly gained the firm nationwide attention while positioning The Kitchenworks Inc. as appliance experts. At the same time, it provided a solid appliance education to potential clients, helping to drive sales.
That, combined with exclusive products, a commitment to service and an understanding of its niche in the market, has helped the firm to survive, and even prosper, even during challenging times.
The Kitchenworks Inc. specializes in high-end custom residential homes and condos, servicing both permanent and seasonal residents of South Florida, as well as projects throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean. The showroom is essential to the firm’s success, according to Susan Rocco, who maintains that, “People want to see, touch and feel what they are getting!”
The showroom features seven kitchens, a library and a bathroom, and she adds, “We are in the process of doing two new displays and a bath vignette, which we are very excited about.”
With the firm’s strong expertise in all things cooking related, it’s important for showroom visitors to be able to see just how the appliances work. For that reason, all of the kitchen displays have live appliances, according to Armand Rocco, who states, “This is very helpful when clients want to see the benefits of gas cooking, for example.”
The firm is an authorized appliance dealer for Sub-Zero, Wolf, Viking, Miele, Electrolux, U-Line and many others. Additionally, The Kitchenworks Inc. is an exclusive dealer of Dutch Made Custom Cabinetry, and also offers Sorrento Cabinetry, along with a wealth of plumbing products, including Rohl, Franke, KWC, Everpure and Kohler.
Because they deal with a high-end clientele, the Roccos are very aware of the importance of getting all of the details right. “You get what you pay for,” they say, noting that their clients not only want beautifully designed spaces, but an error-free process. The staff’s ability to create free-hand sketches on the spot – which are then converted into CAD drawings that can be shared with the architect or builder – makes this easier, the Roccos maintain. “This process is very helpful to eliminate errors, be very precise and prevent misunderstandings,” Susan Rocco states.
In addition to kitchen and bath design, The Kitchenworks Inc. also offers design consultations (tile layouts, lighting plans, etc.), as well as interior design services. The firm’s lead designer has more than 20 years of experience in the field, as well as previous experience working with an architecture firm.”
A Working Partnership
Business at The Kitchenworks Inc. is definitely a family affair, and Susan Rocco is proud of the working partnership she and her husband share. She explains, “My husband Armand is responsible for the appliance side of the business. He knows more about appliances than anyone I have ever met.”
Susan Rocco is also a licensed interior designer in the state of Florida, and she notes, “I am responsible for the cabinet side of the business.”
She adds, “I think we are a good team! We have been married for 30 years,” which she jokes is “not an easy task when you work together every day.”
But while the two have different areas of expertise, they share the same basic philosophy about work and money. Susan Rocco states, “We pray hard and work hard! I think it helps that we have no debt. Everything in our showroom is paid for. I was given good advice years ago from a friend who is a very successful contractor who said, ‘Watch your money. Review every job, every week, and stay on top of your accounts receivables.’ We follow his advice!”
Armand Rocco explains, “We do our utmost to maintain excellence throughout the course of a project and to finish with the clients feeling happy and excited. In a nutshell, we want to make our clients happy, not just for right now, but for the long run.”
Marketing Online and Off
The Roccos recognize the importance of marketing, and as a result, the firm stays busy with everything from live events to “a very original and unique appliance review blog.” According to Armand Rocco, “This has been a phenomenal marketing strategy. We do not advertise our business directly on the site, but instead opt to include that information in our ‘author’ footnotes.”
He continues, “The amount of traffic and support the blog has developed in six months has blown us away. We are even able to forward leads to other dealers outside our state from time to time.”
The Kitchenworks Inc. has a specific staff person responsible for Internet marketing and following up on Internet leads, as well as handling the company’s Web site, Facebook page and blogs.
But while the firm takes full advantage of online marketing opportunities, there are also plenty of opportunities for in-person, face-to-face marketing. For instance, Susan Rocco notes, “We have hosted various events at our showroom, from large executive groups to smaller more private cooking classes for current and past clients.”
She adds, “We are constantly looking for ways to service our clients even after the job is done so that we are never far from their minds. Referrals are the most important form of advertising for us.”
Its creative marketing, both online and off, has helped the firm gain clients and positive word of mouth. Susan Rocco concludes, “Even though we’re living in uncertain economic times, we are optimistic that with hard work, diligence and staying true to our core values, we will not only weather the storm, but come out stronger in the end.”