I appreciate letters from readers, and try to respond to as many as possible. This is an actual letter from a reader I received just a few weeks ago:
Your columns in Kitchen & Bath Design News have prompted me to write to you about a couple of things I've noticed when visiting showrooms.
I have been looking for a new job, having recently left the employ of a showroom, and have been very disappointed at showrooms in the industry. Many of them are tiny, cramped, poorly designed, thrown together, poorly lit, "catch-as-catch-can" in appearance, and staffed by people who don't seem to have a clue as to the meaning of "customer friendly."
Many of these places are so disappointing upon first look that I find myself doing a "just looking, thank you" routine and walking out without inquiring about work.
I find myself wanting my own showroom. I know of two locations in an area where development is taking off, but there are no showrooms within 10 miles. I just haven't any idea how to go about it and I have no capital with which to begin. If you might have any suggestions for me, I would appreciate any help you can offer.
I want large, well-lit, well-delineated areas for displays and not too much clutter. I want to cover fashion plumbing and hardware with cabinetry, closetry, tile and surfaces. In addition, I want lighting.
Every showroom I've seen fails to address one of the most important elements of design lighting. They use some lights in their displays, but fail to offer lighting as a part of the comprehensive design package except when the lighting is integral to cabinets or mirrors.
It seems that my hunger to have my own business is coming to the forefront, and I don't know if it will ever leave me.
Tell me, please, if you have any thoughts on this. I would appreciate another viewpoint. Thank you.
I thought this letter was very interesting. I have visited a lot of kitchen and bath dealers around the country, and have come across some really well laid-out, nicely designed and well-lit showrooms. But, like this writer, I have visited some that were terrible. They were very poorly lit, not very well put together, and in just one word "piggy."
This letter made me realize that one of a kitchen and bath dealer's best marketing tools is the showroom itself. It needs to be a destination spot, where potential buyers can allow themselves to be caught up in a "life-enhancement, better-living atmosphere."
Once you have a showroom that will knock prospects off their feet, all you have to do is concentrate on bringing more prospects into your showroom. Using your showroom as a marketing tool means updating it frequently, lighting it well and making it comfortable, clean and convenient for your prospects to look, touch, feel and dream. Your showroom needs to be looked at from the eyes of a potential buyer, not just from the eyes of someone who has to be there day after day.
I told the writer that I thought she had a great future in the kitchen and bath industry, and if she was really interested in going out on her own, to find someone who shared her feelings as well as foresight, and maybe partner up with them. It could be an investor, a partner or someone who would bring her into their business. She seems to have found an area of the country where the competition is "asleep at the switch."
How do you stack up against your competition? When you go into your showroom tomorrow morning, here's a little checklist of a dozen things you should go over:
1. Is there any dust anywhere on any of the displays?
2. Are there any pamphlets, coffee cups, tools or scrap lying on or near the displays?
3. Are your floors clean, carpets vacuumed and hardwoods shined?
4. Is your showroom well-lit, with the lighting well-focused? Are all of the bulbs working?
5. Are your displays seasonally correct? Do you have the right mood, accessories, decorations, floral pieces and POP pieces for the right time of year?
6. Do you have a comfortable, clean area for your prospects to sit? Is there a space to roll out plans and designs without having to clear a mess away?
7. Do you have a children's area where kids can entertain themselves while their parents concentrate on a new kitchen or bath?
8. Are your restrooms clean? Do your restrooms look like they are representative of a showroom that shows great bathrooms?
9. Do you have a coffee, soft-drink and water set-up to slow down customers who need time to think and converse?
10. Are your displays uncluttered and customer-friendly and do they look like they are something a customer would want to come home to?
11. Is your showroom representative of your creative talent for designing kitchens and bathrooms?
12. Is your showroom the type of place customers would want to tell friends and relatives about?
You know what the answers to those 12 questions should be. Are you 12 for 12?
Now, send someone over to your competitors' showrooms. How do they stack up? Next, decide what you can do to make your showroom even better.
Don't think of your showroom as a warehouse or secondary part of your business. If you do, you'll lose as many customers as you'll get.
Think of it as a marketing tool. Concentrate on getting more customers and prospects through your door. With great-looking, creative, constantly changing, well-lit displays, it will be easy after that.
Bob Popyk is the publisher of Creative Selling', a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies. For a free sample, call (800) 724-9700; e-mail RPopyk@bentley-hall.com; write to: Bentley-Hall, Inc., 120 Walton Street, Suite 201, Syracuse, NY 13202, or visit his Web site at http://www.creativeselling.com.'