Dealers Share Time Tested Branding Strategies

Kitchen & Bath Design News recently posed the question to dealers and designers in the kitchen and bath industry: What are the most important elements for an effective branding platform in a down economy? Following are some of their responses.

“A really critical element is constant exposure – to not let your brand fade away during a tough economy. We continue to advertise and focus some of our advertising on products with which we have exclusivity, which makes it less easy to shop for them. That way, if someone likes an item and wants it, they have to get it from us. We have even done a little bit of private labeling.

We are also making a point to market to the design trade, and we’re putting ads out that have more of a contemporary slant. We are focusing on the trade because we feel those are qualified leads, so we are not just doing consumer advertising.

We also do events in the showroom for the trade. For instance, I just came back from Germany and the week after I got back I did a presentation in the showroom on European trends in kitchen design.

As far as our Web presence, we find we are getting more good leads from the Web. I think the reason for that is, when you go onto our Web site, it is pretty obvious that this is not a place where you are getting the cheapest price.

We want to be exclusive, but we don’t want to appear too expensive. We want people to still feel that they are getting value – but not too cheap. So, depending on the brand that you’ve established, you get the kind of leads that you want based on the image you’ve established through advertising or your Web site.

Peg McGowen, ASID, CMKBD
Kitchen & Bath Concepts
Houston, TX

“I believe, being a small business owner, that maintaining and improving relationships with customers on a one-to-one basis is the most important thing. It is critical to be first on their minds when they think about buying or remodeling a kitchen. Running a small kitchen renovation company, I am going back to my past customers and interfacing with them via personal phone calls and mail to let them know we are still here for them. So, instead of broadcasting, I am going back to my individual customers to make sure that they have brand awareness.

In this economy, there is always pressure to expand your niche, but I am a firm believer that you should focus on improving what you already do well instead of expanding your services. That is my business plan, and who knows us [better than] our past customers?”

Ron Auer, president
Auer Kitchens
Cincinnati, OH

“I think everybody in this industry has seen that the advertising that we used in the past may not be as effective today as it was then. So, we are trying to come up with new ideas and new ways to contact people.

One of the ways we do that is to market ourselves individually in local business groups. These are things we may not have considered in the past but see now that they have some worth to us. In this area, it is important to project an image of high quality and longevity. We also do a lot of high-end color print advertising, and we send out newsletters.

Visibility is so important these days, and we rely a lot on referrals, as well. The fact that we’ve been here for 20 years certainly helps. So, we just really try to keep our name out there.”

Donald L. Smith, staff designer
Dream Kitchens
Nashua, NH

“A strong brand is one that builds customer loyalty, so the elements that are conducive to an effective branding platform in a down economy are the same ones that are effective in a stable economy. That is particularly true when you talk about things like quality service and the overall value offered to clients. While our marketing efforts have been tweaked over time to push economical product offerings and to reflect changing buying habits, we’ve been extremely careful that the message doesn’t undercut our brand image and that the customer ultimately remembers the positive experience they had working with us and not just the price that they paid [when they had their kitchen designed or remodeled].”

Jenna Eschenbauch, owner, designer
J & D Kitchen Co.
Stevens Point, WI

“I think that consistency with your message and consistency with your firm’s logo are very important aspects to a successful branding platform, especially in a challenging economy. In addition, you should also strive for a high level of performance with each of your customers.

We work a lot with referrals, so we concentrate most of our efforts on doing a quality job. Our Web site definitely is very important to our branding philosophy as well. We use it to show exactly what services we provide and the high level of our work.

One of the other things that we do is use an in-house slideshow of completed jobs. That is very effective in promoting our work. It showcases at least a few hundred kitchens we’ve completed over the years. The projects are photographed, and we can access them and show a potential client our capabilities, which also builds the image we are trying to project.

Overall, in a tough economy, it is important to expand your view of what you do – in terms of the size and scope of jobs – and try to present that in a consistent way to the customer.”

Matt Giardina, president
Front Row Kitchens
Norwalk, CT