Colorado Firm Finds Success Online

It's "the perfect way to sell a job from a distance," says Eileen Barna.

I recently sought her out to ask how she and husband Jim put their Web site to use for their dealership, Black Diamond Kitchens.

These two East Coast transplants have built their business in Fraser, CO, the town next to Winter Park, a favorite ski resort of mine. A large majority of the Barnas' clients are from out of town, which could range from Denver, CO, and Dallas, TX, to London, England.

When potential clients walk through the door of the Fraser showroom, Eileen, Jim and everyone on the staff understand there isn't a lot of time to waste, since they're smack dab in the middle of a vacation mecca. In the winter people visit the Winter Park area to ski, snowshoe and take advantage of Jack Frost's handiwork. During the summer people trek over the Berthoud Pass to hike, mountain bike and applaud Mother Nature.

"Because they are going skiing or doing something else, we really don't have a lot of time to do any selling with potential clients," Eileen says. "Our Web site is that little thing that gives us an edge for dealing with customers who don't have a lot of time. It gives us that edge against our competition here."

In fact, Eileen told me that when potential clients visit the firm's web site, www.BlackDiamond, there is a 50% higher chance of securing the job. "We know they'll see our jobs, via photos on the site, and then be hooked," she explains.

Creating comfort
Eileen feels that one of the biggest advantages to a Web site is that it's an easy, comfortable format for people to shop. "Sometimes we all just sound too much like salespeople when clients are in our showrooms," she laments. "You want to get the important things across, but you don't want them to think you're just trying to sell them."

Perception is another obstacle the firm's Web site helps them overcome. With Denver just a hop, skip and a jump away, Eileen believes some prospects might think they have to work with designers from "the city," in order to receive the quality products and the sophisticated design they desire.

"We've gained so much credibility with our customers due to our site," she notes. "They probably come into us thinking that a little town won't have anything this professional, and our Web site says 'Wow! This little town has a kitchen company that is so professional' and 'Yes they can!'"

One of the clients brought in via was a gentleman from England. Eileen told Eileen he went online searching for a kitchen designer in Winter Park, CO, and that of all the kitchen dealers there, their site was the only one that came up. He told her that because of the professional nature of the site , it was obvious that Black Diamond Kitchens is a professional operation, that it was clear they understood technology, and because of that, he'd feel comfortable working with them via e-mail. He only came into town about three times during the entire remodeling process.

Secondary reference
Often, too, clients find out about Black Diamond Kitchens via builders. This is when the Web site does duty as a secondary reference.

Local builders provide the consumer with the name of the site, and then from the comfort of their home, they can peruse the site, without any pressure, on their own schedule, and knowing there's been a reference from their builder.

According to Eileen, Black Diamond loves to use its site this way, because it allows them to sell without really selling.

"I think most of our clients are comfortable with technology," Eileen observes. "It's a comfortable way for them to do some shopping, without any pressure. They like the control of being able to do it from another location, when they are at home and not on vacation."

Using your Web site as a "secondary reference" is a great way to do consultative selling.
In fact, by adding information such as remodeling tips and a questionnaire for potential clients to fill out to help get them underway, it will marry the client to your company. This "consultant" type of approach automatically puts you in the driver's seat with prospects, since you're seen as the "expert."

Black Diamond Kitchens has a questionnaire on its Web site. People are encouraged to use it because the firm feels it cuts down on the number of revisions they have to make to their designs.

The Web site's questionnaire asks such questions as: What activities will take place in your new kitchen? How long do you plan on living in the home you are remodeling/building? Do you have large or small gatherings? Who is the primary cook? Is that person left- or right-handed?

While these are questions that we, as designers, are all familiar with, having that information
gathered from the client on their time and not yours is, of course,
a great plus.

Using links
Another way Black Diamond Kitchens uses its Web site to drive its bottom line, is via links to its Web site.

For example, Wood-Mode is just one of the cabinet lines the dealership carries. Eileen told me that they've had great success with a link from to Black Diamond's site.

"If a client is remodeling or building in the Winter Park area and they already have Wood-Mode cabinetry at home on the East Coast or in Texas, the client wants to know who carries Wood-Mode in our area," Eileen says.

"Instead of trying to figure out who they should go to in our area, the prospects just use the link from to find us," she points out.

When it comes down to dollars and sense (and yes, I mean sense and not cents!), Eileen told me she feels a Web site is the best place to put your marketing dollars.

"We all, as kitchen dealers, spend so much money on advertising," Eileen says. "You might as well take your advertising budget and deduct from it first, the Web site, and then use whatever is left over for the other forms of advertising."