Advertising Remains a Must in a Tough Economy

Like most of you, with things a little slow, we are taking a hard look at our business, trying to figure out the best things to do to keep us moving forward. This economy is forcing us to readjust, to consider what we’ve done in the past and compare it to what we need to do in the present and for the near future.

We’ve already cut the less productive employees, unnecessary perks, lunches out and the entertainment budgets.

But what about promotion and advertising? Should it be cut out entirely or scaled back, or should we be looking for new ways to advertise the business?

It’s certainly been noted that, when business is slow, cutting your advertising will only make things worse. Instead, we need to work smarter and harder to get the lion’s share of the business – and there is business out there. Consumers have not stopped buying kitchens and baths; they have just slowed the process.

With regard to advertising, the good news is that, in tougher times, advertising rates for newspapers and local magazines become more competitive. In addition, terrific deals are being offered by radio and television stations, as well as cable companies. They need business and they are ready to deal.

This is also a good time to look at opportunities that offer multi-pronged benefits. For example, we recently had our cable provider bring a program at a great value that would not only give us excellent exposure, but that we would also be able to use on our Web site to double the benefits.


Another great area to look at with regard to promoting your business is through home and garden shows. Our home show is run by the St. Louis Home Builders Association and has been one of our most successful marketing tools. We have always had a great home show manager, and that makes a big difference in the success of it.

For the past 20 years, I have presented seminars about kitchens and baths to attendees, usually at least two or three a day. Most home show managers are looking for presenters, because this brings them more attendees. As the speaker at an event, you become the expert, and what you say has more credence than someone in a showroom telling the client the same exact thing.

Home show managers also look for articles from kitchen and bath dealers that they can submit while advertising their home shows. They are doing all they can to get homeowners to attend their shows. By writing an article and submitting it to the home show office, you can sometimes get free publicity that you would otherwise have to pay for.

I’ve had local dealers ask me why I do home shows, and my answer is always the same: “Where else can you get face to face with thousands of potential buyers for the same cost of a home show?” On average, we have 50,000 to 100,000 attendees at a show. If we only sold 1% of them, that would more than pay for the time and energy expended by attending.

For the show, you don’t have to have the biggest display, the most products or the fanciest booth. What you need is something that represents you and is tastefully done. I’ve had everything from a small 10'x10' display with one kitchen and bath to a 40'x40' display with four kitchens, bath displays, appliance arrangements and a cooking demo.

Interestingly, you don’t always need cabinet displays to be successful. At this show, we had a nice decorative island about 60"x36" in a glazed painted finish with some features such as built-in wastebasket, roll-out shelves and touch latch doors with a 1-3/4" solid wood top. We also had a small island with a butcher block top and an open area below. We had a round table with four chairs and a wall system that showed our design system.

Instead of showing cabinets in a kitchen or bath setting, we decided to show people what it takes for a successful kitchen or bath. We presented our questionnaire, design retainer, floor plans and perspective drawings, as well as the cost breakdown and all things related to the project. We had pictures of projects so people could view the process from beginning to end.

The cost of doing a booth like this – a 10'x20' booth for four days – is around $2,500. Certainly, the larger the booth, the more expensive it is, but you should only take the size booth that you need to show your products or get your ideas across to customers.


At home shows, many attendees ask: “What are your credentials? What do you do that the guy down the street doesn’t do? How is your firm better?”

To give the best responses to these questions, you need to separate yourself from the flock. What can you bring to the table that your closest competitor can’t? Are you really good at design, or do you have a product that is very popular and you are the only company that carries it?

To start differentiating your firm, here are some suggestions:

  • Offer full-service remodeling. Have your firm handle the purchase of the cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring and maybe even provide the painting, as well. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer.

    I have heard kitchen and bath dealers tell me they don’t sell appliances because they cannot make enough margin of profit to make it worthwhile, while others don’t do floors because they think there’s too much work involved. What we need to do is decide if we are in the kitchen and bath remodeling business or are we just suppliers of product.

    If you’re in the full-service business, then be full service. Find a way to get the appliances for your customer. Don’t worry about the lower mark up; you can still make a worthwhile profit and, more importantly, keep control of the project, which in the long run can save money or make you more profit. If you don’t handle flooring or painting, find a flooring company or painting company that you can work with to complete the project for your clients. And remember to advertise that you do this for your clients.
  • Offer in-store seminars about how to purchase a new kitchen or bath. Help homeowners learn what the process is and how they should proceed. Offer to do talk shows on your local radio stations, or write a column for your hometown paper. Send them photographs of projects you have done. Put together a PowerPoint presentation to give at home shows that exploits your expertise. Take advantage of the many ways you can get your message out to consumers.
  • Advertising is a must. Call your ad reps and see what they are willing to do to help you succeed. You may be impressed with what is available in these slow times. Remember, the advertising you do today is generally not for today’s sale, but for the times ahead. Let the consumer know who you are. When they are ready to buy that new kitchen or bath, they will have you top of mind.