If you ask kitchen and bath dealers and designers how business is right now, their responses will likely be all over the map.
“Business is great!”
“We are having the worst quarter in years!”
These are real comments from kitchen and bath professionals in different parts of the country, and both are representative of today’s economy. Despite conflicting notions that the economy is great, or awful, or on the verge of recession or boom, your kitchen and bath firm may be seeing business to the contrary. After all, just as there’s no “one-size-fits-all” design, neither do all firms experience the same business conditions at the same time. That’s because a kitchen and bath firm’s business conditions can be impacted by a huge array of factors, only a few of which it is able to control.
Consider some factors beyond your control that affect your business: new construction, housing starts, existing home sales, interest rates and weather conditions.
Now, consider two different kitchen and bath firms located a few miles apart in a community where housing starts and existing home sales are down, interest rates are still favorable and the area has not been hit with floods, fires or hurricanes lately.
Alice’s Kitchens and Baths is in great shape, with projects booked five months out. By contrast, Kitchens by Bill is seriously considering going to work for Alice.
The difference between the two firms can be as simple as their marketing plans.
Let’s say Kitchens by Bill traditionally works with builders and markets directly to them, while Alice’s Kitchens and Baths targets the consumer. This is a key difference, because the conversation at the consumer’s house is likely to be something like this: “We really can’t afford to move, houses in our neighborhood just aren’t selling. Maybe we should stay here and renovate. Besides, I always loved this place; it just needs a new kitchen!”
By contrast, the realtor is quite likely telling the home builder, “They’re just not selling at the price you want. I’d hold off on beginning that new development.”
A few years ago, the conversations were just the opposite. That’s why who your target audience is can have as much to do you with your success as the overall economic climate.
However, even with all the factors you can’t control, there are still some you can: your business model, staffing, location, salesmanship and marketing. Marketing includes defining your audience and how best to reach them, regardless of who they are or the current economic conditions.
Because there is no such thing as a “magic bullet” that will effectively market every kitchen and bath firm, the kitchen and bath professionals who shared their experiences for this article have varying opinions based on what works for them, their business model and target markets.
A Budget and a Plan
Setting your budget and determining a marketing plan is the first step toward putting your firm in the best possible position for success. Despite the economic conditions around you, if you are consistently and effectively marketing yourself, you will make an impression in your market. As your brand permeates, you will become known to your potential customers and they will continue to walk through your door.
Scott Duncan, owner of Duncan’s Creative Kitchens in Bradenton, FL, says, “Our target market is the high-end consumer, and we typically spend 5-7% of sales in marketing to them. While we feel fortunate to get almost two-thirds of our jobs from referrals, we maintain a presence in our local newspaper to keep our name out there.”
Artisan Kitchens & Baths in Buffalo, NY “sets a budget of just over 7%. We have recently hired an agency to help us develop a marketing plan to spend that money more effectively,” states Kevin Telaak, v.p., Artisan Kitchens & Baths.
Traditionally, the first thing business owners do in an economic slump is cut back on marketing and advertising. Marketers and advertisers will tell you not to do that, and with good reason: Maintaining consistency regardless of the economy is key to keeping business flowing.