How to Sell Your Business Message

Unfortunately, it happens all the time. A guy, probably named Bob, makes a great meatloaf. His family loves his meatloaf. His neighbors love his meatloaf. His co-workers tell him, "Bob, this is so good, you should open your own restaurant."

As it turns out, often enough, Bob decides they're right. He opens his own restaurant. At first, his place is full. Everyone raves about the meatloaf. Gastronomically pleased, the customers smile as they leave. But . . . they never come back. Eventually, the restaurant fails. Bob loses everything and never makes meatloaf again.

Business failures are not limited to those who specialize in ground beef. In every industry there are winners and losers. The question you've got to ask is, what separates the winners from the losers? Within the same industry, why are some firms highly successful while others can't make a go of it?

I think there are two major reasons.

The first one is more obvious capitalization. If you don't have the money to get the job done, you're finished. Every business textbook talks about the need to be properly capitalized. The lesson is always that it takes money to make money. For the most part, I agree. I do think it's possible, however, to grow a successful business while starting on a shoestring.

Know Your Message
It's not possible, however, for a business to succeed without understanding the second primary reason for success or failure. That reason, stated simply, is knowing what your business message is.

The term "business message" is never mentioned in textbooks about business; similarly, it's not taught in business schools. There may be courses you can take on capitalization, but there are none about the business message. You can hire professionals to help work through money issues, however, there's no one to talk to about what your message is, and if you're communicating it effectively. But, believe me, this is critical stuff.

Many kitchen and bath dealers approach their business much the same way as Bob did. Their "meatloaf" is their design work. I can't begin to count all the business owners who've told me that their design work "sold itself." I don't believe it for a minute. Can quality design work be important to success? Absolutely. We must remember, however, that it's only one ingredient and not the whole recipe.

It doesn't matter what segment of the kitchen and bath industry you work in. The concept of the business message holds true. Whether you're selling to builders, architects or consumers, the consistency of your message is the foundation of your success.

Let's just say that you're in the high-end consumer business. The obvious Message that you want to send is that your firm offers quality. Quality design work. Quality products. Quality results.

So, how do you send that message? When I ask that question of high-end showroom owners, I usually get answers like, "We emphasize our design capabilities," or, "We demonstrate the construction details of our fine cabinetry."

No one ever tells me that "Our parking lot does not have any potholes." I've yet to hear, "Our restrooms are immaculate." If the customer sprains an ankle or now needs a front end alignment, what has your parking lot said about you? If your restrooms are a mess, what business message have you sent your clients home with? Its like Bob and his meatloaf, they may never come back.

Establish Consistency
I guarantee you that all of the real winners in the kitchen and bath industry have one thing in common: Visiting their showrooms is a pleasant experience.

It starts with their advertising. Every promotional effort delivers the same message: "Come and see us, we're a top-quality outfit."

When they come to the showroom, even before they get out of their cars, the clients are delivered the same message. The parking lot is neat. The grass is cut. The signage is tasteful. When they enter the business, what they see is what they came to see. Tasteful displays. A clean, well-lighted showroom. There are no door samples piled up here and there. There are no knobs missing from cabinets. There are no overflowing wastebaskets. There is no blasting music. The message is being delivered.

When they meet a designer, they find that designer to be courteous, knowledgeable and appropriately dressed. The designer is conveying the message. If a client in a successful, high-end showroom requests a glass of water, it will not arrive in a Dixie cup. The coffee will not be served in styrofoam. There's a place for people to hang their coats. The salesperson is not constantly interrupted by phone calls. The carpet is not threadbare. If the client uses the restroom, it's clean. There's soap in the soap dispenser. The toilet paper was not purchased from a discount warehouse.

When these clients are presented with their plans, it's done professionally. The quotations are prepared in a uniform, precise format. The sales agreements are thorough, detailed, yet easily understood.

These are all things that send a business message. A message that transcends quality design work. A message that's too often overlooked.

After The Sale
The Business Message continues after the sale, as well. Are phone calls returned promptly? Is after the sale follow-up service as big of a priority as it was to obtain the sale? Do former customers continue to refer you? Do the charitable efforts you support lend themselves to the message you want to send?

These are all critical questions. All questions that separate those who succeed from those who don't.

We all make judgments when we walk into a business for the first time. Most of us can immediately surmise whether the place is going to make it or not. Unfortunately, it's only occasionally that we walk into a store and immediately feel good that we're there.

I hope that from now on you'll recognize that those warm and "fuzzy" feelings are the result of an owner and staff who understand completely their business message.

There are countless things that need to be considered: the way your phone is answered; how your stationery and business card looks. The list goes on and on.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter whether you're a kitchen and bath dealer or a meatloaf maker the lesson is the same.
The recipe for success can be found in the message.