Ten years ago, Faith Popcorn, the futurist guru, wrote, "What will make us buy one product over another is a feeling of partnership with the seller," "Decency is not only the only way to behave, but decency can also be profitable," and "We want to buy from a person whom we trust." Today, these words resonate with special meaning as the Enron debacle lingers in the news. And, in an industry where friends commonly tell other friends about their "nightmare" remodeling projects, firms that can show proof of their business integrity will close more sales at higher gross profit margins.
Let's first be clear about the definitions of a few words. Honesty is saying what you did. Integrity is doing what you say. Marketing is the act of promoting something.
Experts recommend that small businesses should identify four or
five key unique factors that their target customers deeply value,
and then focus all of their resources on marketing these
Just what does your kitchen and bath firm stand for? According to Popcorn, consumers really want to know what to expect up front from doing business with a company. They want to know who the president is and what he/she believes in. And, they particularly want to know how the company will respond if something goes wrong.
Toward this end, smart business people will be pro-active by sitting down with their staff and agreeing on a set of principles by which to run the company. Once completed, everyone on staff should sign off on this statement or document.
To market your operational values, develop a brochure around the statement of values and include it in your Prospect Information Portfolio. Add even greater credibility by including a staff photo and the president's signature, pledging the entire staff will adhere to these values.
The following represent some of the values you might consider as part of your operational conduct and the tone of presenting them:
- Partnership. We believe each project is a team effort. An open
exchange of information and ideas is paramount. Personalities need
to mesh for a successful project.
- Communication. The burden of communication on the details of
the design, terms of the agreement, changes in schedule,
expectations during installation, etc. rests with our firm.
- Quality. We are sticklers for good quality in product and
workmanship. It means enduring value over time. If we can't live
with something, it will be corrected before you even ask.
- Trust. We believe in delivering what we promise no surprises and treating your home and project as if it was our own.
Many dealers proudly hang sales awards from cabinet suppliers in their showroom for all to see. But, what's the value to potential customers? Wouldn't there be greater value and hence greater motivation to buy from your firm if they saw something about your firm's job performance rather than your sales performance?
Every kitchen and bath firm should care enough about its customers to want to know how it performed for them. Therefore, it makes good business sense to mail out performance evaluation forms with a final thank you letter, requesting that customers rate your firm in critical areas. Then, take the best evaluations, house them in a handsome presentation binder, and place the binder in a dedicated showroom space entitled: Company Performance Evaluation Center.
If you give them space, clients may say nice things about your firm on these forms. But, I have found the most valuable endorsements come when a specially designed letter is sent, asking customers to comment on specific business qualities that your firm demonstrated during its project, such as: listening to their needs, attention to detail, meeting deadlines, trust, callback responsiveness, follow through, courtesy, quality of workmanship, and value.
Now, imagine the impact if a prospect walked into your showroom and saw a framed panel, or took home a consumer booklet with "Client Comments" on the rear cover that read: "The performance of XYZ Kitchens was excellent. The designer listened to our needs, incorporated many of our ideas, weighed the pros and cons of several different design solutions with us, and brought the project in at the targeted budget range. And, the company's courteous workmen were thorough, professional, timely and honest. We have used XYZ Kitchens twice and can say that this is definitely one firm that does what and when it says it will. If you want the best value in a beautiful new kitchen or bath, go no further than XYZ Kitchens."
John and Judy Chester
Receiving a design award in this industry is a great honor. But, by itself, the award says little about the conduct, performance, ethics or integrity of the designer or firm who performed the job.
However, if you entered a contest for "Top Design Firm In Customer Value," the average consumer will read a lot more into the award. The same would be true if you won a "Best Business Person of the Year" award from a respected industry or community organization.
In any case, getting out press releases to the local newspapers and magazines with photos of you receiving the award is essential. When it gets published, frame and hang a copy of the article in your showroom and include reprints with each new Prospect Information Portfolio.
You will stand out from the competition, gain additional sales
and increase your bottom line.
I know one firm that attributes thousands of dollars of new business to successfully publicizing a business performance award it won. One criterion for winning was business integrity. This company furnished multiple client testimonials attesting to the firm's integrity.
The bottom line is that marketing your integrity can enhance
your firm's reputation and profitability.