What is the best way to describe yourself? Entrepreneur or small business owner? It may seem like splitting hairs, but each will convey a different message.
Choosing the right words for your kitchen and bath firm’s Web site, ad, brochure or client presentation can greatly affect your success, says Dr. Frank Luntz, a prominent “language architect” and public-opinion pollster.
In his book Words That Work, Luntz identifies key words and phrases that resonate with Americans today based on hundreds of thousands of telephone interviews, hundreds of focus groups and a million research hours. Here are the ones that are especially relevant to the kitchen and bath industry.
Words That Work
First, “small business owner” is preferable to entrepreneur, according to Luntz. Entrepreneurs are viewed as more financially successful, but are also seen more as speculators. Small business owners are perceived as using their own money, their own skills and their own sweat to build a business.
Note the terms “viewed,” “seen” and “perceived.” These are key. You might think of yourself as an entrepreneur and feel that “small business owner” is not as prestigious. But what matters is what potential clients hear and associate with the words, not what you think.
In presenting your firm, emphasize small and local, and invoke images of the Mom and Pop store. “We associate it with personal, reliable, down to earth and in touch,” Luntz writes. “It connotes customer service, caring and attentiveness.”
Home Depot’s founders understood the importance of a local perception and tagged each store with its state: “Georgia’s Home Improvement Store;” “Pennsylvania’s Home Improvement Store.” In the early days, people perceived the stores as more local than a big chain.
However, there are some cases where our clients might be concerned that “Mom and Pop” comes across as unsophisticated. In major metro areas, where you are appealing to a very upscale clientele, you may need to downplay the Mom and Pop. Play up the personalization that is associated with it, but balance it with your broader perspective. Make it clear you know what’s going on in New York, Los Angeles, Milan or wherever your clientele thinks it needs to shop. Make it clear that your customers can get the best of both worlds with you.
You should also consider using the word “independent” when describing your firm. “It’s seen as having no constricting ties, no conflicts of interest, honest, candid and responsive to your customers,” Luntz writes.
This is why it is so important to brand yourself. Consumers must distinguish between you and the manufacturers you represent. If you only hand out manufacturers’ literature or run co-op ads, prospects perceive that you are not independent.
To avoid this, tell people, “We are an independent kitchen design firm…an independent decorative plumbing and hardware showroom…an independent fabricator.”
The word “independent” is powerful for another reason, Luntz explains. Americans associate it with being individual and delivering unique experiences. “Because we identify so closely with the products we use, because they are often such a critical element of our own self-images, we don’t want them to be the same as everybody else’s,” he observes. Constantly reinforce the custom one-of-a-kind nature of your products and design service.
Happily, what Luntz identifies as the most powerful words for the 21st century include ones especially relevant to our industry. They are “renew, revitalize, rejuvenate, restore, rekindle and reinvent.” Of course we would add “remodel, redesign and rehab.”
The “re” words imply action, movement, progress and improvement, Luntz stresses.