With all of the bad news in the media today, it’s no wonder our clients are holding their purse strings tighter. First it was the bank bailouts, then the auto industry bailouts. What’s next, the “main street” bailouts? I doubt it.
For most of us who own or work for a kitchen and bath firm, we will be the ones who must perpetuate our own success. There will be no outside help for us, so it boils down to making sales. Here are a few common sense (and inexpensive) ways to generate leads:
- Start with your current clients. You already have a good relationship with your current clients and they’ve probably been talking to their friends and relatives about their project. Don’t be afraid to ask them for a referral. Your current client base and their social network could provide leads that are easy to exploit; you just have to ask.
- Talk to past clients. Reach out to clients you’ve completed jobs for and start the conversation as a follow up. “I just wanted to see how you are enjoying your new space, and see if there’s anything else we can do. Maybe we could do a touch up or a door adjustment?” This is an inexpensive way to show increased customer service while maintaining solid client relationships. It’s also a great way to ask for a referral. “Since you had such a great experience with us and are happy with your space, is there anyone you know who may be considering a project and is interested in a similar experience?” Ask them to invite them over and you bring a light luncheon or breakfast.
- Follow up on lost leads. Look through your files of lost jobs and contact them. There are many reasons the job may have been lost: price, postponement of the project or even a decision to use a competitor. These all have the possibility to work in your favor after some time has gone by. If cost was the problem, see where they’re at now. If they haven’t moved forward with another company, consider offering a special discount. If they postponed the project, you could reach out to see if the timing is better now.
In the case of a job lost to a competitor, contacting them in the middle of the installation and asking how everything is going can work in your favor. “I know we didn’t get the chance to work with you on your project, but I wanted to see how your experience is going and if there is anything I can do to help.” When the clients’ experience with your competitor is not what they’d hoped for, they are usually open with you. Perhaps the biggest complaint is they can’t get them back to punch out or finish or touch up. You can offer them this service. I know it may cost a little money, but it will ensure your name is mentioned when the client talks to friends. And I guarantee you will get that client’s next project. This especially works with builders working on multiple projects.
- Contact allied professionals. Architects and interior designers can be another great resource. Simply drop off literature at their office (schedule a visit, don’t just drop by) or host a presentation in your showroom and invite them in. Make the gathering informative and relevant. Perhaps talk about regional architectural details or historical period architectural elements that certain cabinet companies – along with your design expertise – can provide for them and their clients. Offer your showroom as place to host an AIA or ASID meeting. And don’t forget other building trades. My next door neighbor owns a residential integrated mosquito misting company and we share leads all the time. Cabinets and bug repellent – farthest thing apart, right? Yet we’ve gotten many jobs from each other just from a conversation over the fence. Contact people you know – from a concrete supplier to a painter. They’re probably looking at a set of plans for a bid that you are not and vice versa. It’s a great way to build your network and get referrals.
- Get involved. Join your local home builders associations or Chamber of Commerce, and volunteer at a local charity. Any professional organization will bring value to your business while increasing your networking opportunities. Remember, selling does not occur from 9-5 Monday through Friday, or by appointment only. It’s in line of the grocery store, it’s when you’re out for dinner, and it’s on the sidelines at your child’s soccer game. The more people you interact with, the greater the possibility of getting leads.
- Explore and utilize your community. For new construction, look for jobsites that have a building started. Most builders will have signs in the front, and that is a lead. “I saw you’re building a home at this address. Have your cabinetry choices been finalized for that house?” If not, invite the builder/client into your showroom. If yes, try to get them to your showroom anyway. You may be in the right place at the right time and hear they’re ready to make a change. Additionally, contact the neighbors of current clients and let them know who you are and what you can do, and see if they may be interested in a consult. You have to be at your jobsite sometime and a short walk to visit the neighbors is an easy in.
- Generate and utilize free advertising. Most of us have our projects photographed. We all know that marketing is the first line item on the balance sheet to be cut. It should be the last thing cut, but if the budget must be reevaluated, free marketing is your next best option. Contact local newspapers or magazines and send them some pictures. Ask them to do a short article, feature or write up on your showroom or recent completed project. Send pictures to national industry magazines as well. They are always looking for great shots of projects. Lastly, enter design competitions. This is a great way to get national recognition and press, both nationally and locally. Make sure you send a press release to your business journal and local papers to showcase your accolade. The associated word of mouth and local recognition are easy ways to expand on these free marketing ideas.
- Participate in a local showhouse or tour of homes. The key is to find one that has a budget. For showhouses that don’t have budgets, you will have to weigh expense versus gain. But for the ones that do, what a great way to take a little less margin and get invaluable exposure. Most of these are televised or highly advertised and some are charitable, providing great exposure.
- Distinguish and promote your showroom and use your jobsites. Take the time to make sure your showroom is clean and has no burnt out light bulbs. Make sure your color samples are replenished and your door samples up to date. Make sure windows are clean and clutter removed. These are simple things we can do daily to ensure our showroom pops. Another idea is to take clients to jobsites to see the craftsmanship of the installation and meet the installer. Our installers are among our best salespeople.
- Maintain a positive attitude. It’s easy to get discouraged when your sales are down, but you have to remember to maintain a positive attitude. The desperation sale or negativity from a bad day can be read instantly by a client. Attitude really is everything.
Editor’s Note: Beginning this month, Bryan Reiss will be addressing sales and marketing strategies for kitchen and bath professionals in a regular column, appearing exclusively in KBDN.