Making Your Statement in 2001

Business may be somewhat harder for kitchen/bath design firms to stake out in 2001 compared to the past few years, if forecasts are to be believed about the market softening a bit.

But business in the new year will no doubt continue to boom for those companies that don't incur memory loss brought about by too many months of high demand, easy sales and more than enough business to go around for everyone.

In other words, business in 2001 promises to remain very good for those kitchen/bath design firms and suppliers who remember who they are . . . and then deliver a strong reminder, through a compelling and persistent marketing campaign, to their customers and prospects.

The subject of marketing may be more important in 2001 than it has been in recent years, in light of economic conditions and retail competition that only promises to intensify if the market begins to constrict.

That's one reason Kitchen & Bath Design News and the NKBA decided that 2001 was a good time to launch a sales and marketing track as part of their well-received "Managing for Profit" seminar series.

It's also a reason to devise some marketing-related New Year's resolutions that will hopefully last far longer than the diet you're now on, or the promise you made to stay in closer touch with friends.

Among those resolutions should be the following two:

  • Don't forget your USA. USA, in marketing parlance, simply means establishing, and marketing, a "Unique Selling Advantage" that differentiates your company from all others.
  • Too often, companies in the kitchen and bath industry convey tepid messages. I've heard showroom personnel pitch their kitchen cabinets with empty, vague assertions like, "It's the best cabinetry around."
    Okay . . . but what company doesn't say that?
    Or, "it provides tremendous value."
    Er, sure . . . but how?
    The point is, when your company doesn't present a clear message that it's unique in a way that prospects find appealing, those prospects are likely to take their business elsewhere. By not positioning your company with a distinct USA, not only do you blend in with everybody else, you give your competitors the opportunity to position your company for you.
    The first step in positioning your company, it seems to me, is probably to ask yourself a basic question: Do you know what makes your company unique in your marketplace?

    If you don't know or, worse yet, if your company is not unique you must take steps now to make a statement that you're somehow special.

    There are many things to hang your hat on: catering to a special kind of client, saving time or money, adding style and/or convenience to homeowners' lives through some unique product, design skill, or customer service program.

    Resolve in 2001, if you haven't already, to study your competition, identify your own strengths and pick one "big idea" that's important to your customers and sets you apart. Then be sure every one of your employees knows it at least as well as the timetable for receiving their paychecks.
  • Develop a clear, simple and persistent message.

    Once you've decided on a USA, commit to a compelling, clearly defined statement that's communicated through your ads, your promotional materials and your sales team.

    The key thing to remember about a positioning statement is that it must be simple, it must emphasize a clear benefit to your customers and it must be persistent. Remember, if you can't say it simply, your prospects can't understand it, and if you don't sustain it month after month they won't remember it.

    2001 is the best of all possible years to begin a new marketing campaign, or hone the one you have remembering all the while that a company or product that purports to stand for everything actually stands for nothing, and the company that forgets who it is also forgets that its prospects have plenty of other options.