Making Marketing a Full-Time Job

I have had the privilege of speaking at the Kitchen/Bath Industry Show a number of times. Years ago, in New Orleans, when I was getting ready for my first speaking "gig" at K/BIS, I was told that if I did a good job, maybe I'd be booked again the following year.

Basically, it came down to this: "If you don't fill the room, you probably won't be back."

So, that year, I stood outside my appointed room, where hundreds of conference attendees were choosing from dozens of seminars, and when somebody would search their show program for a particular session or topic, I'd simply say, "You should go in and hear this guy Popyk. I understand he's terrific."

It worked. The room was full. Standing room only, in fact.

And since the program was titled "How to Find More Customers," it kind of fit.

The point? Personal promotion is important.

Now, this year's show took place in Chicago. It was a bigger room, with more seats to fill. So, once again, I stood outside the meeting room.

This year's topic was "How To Increase Your Kitchen & Bath Business By 25% Starting Next Week!"

I did the "you should hear this guy" routine outside my room. Only this time people would ask, "What's the session about?"

I'd tell them it was about increasing business, getting better sales and doing creative promotions.

Believe it or not, many dealers and salespeople responded to that by saying things like, "I've got all the business I want."

Or, "We don't need any more customers." Or, "We've got all we can handle."

I was lucky to get the seats in my room full, and that gets me nervous.

I know: The economy is great, and consumers are spending money. But don't let that lull you into a false sense of security. In other words, I wouldn't cancel my Yellow Pages advertising and forget about promotions just yet.

Complacency hurts
One of the problems we all have when business is good is that we think it's always going to be good. We have a tendency to cut back on advertising, forget about customer retention and service, and treat potential new customers like they're expendable.'

Maybe I'm being a little drastic here, but you get the point.

In fact, I'm speaking from personal experience. You see, I've started to do some research into remodeling my own kitchen, and have visited several showrooms in the recent past.

One dealer said, "I can't guarantee that we'll get to it right away."

Another said, "This is a busy time of the year for us."

Some other things I've heard include: "If we have to order it, I can't tell you when you'll get if for sure," as well as "What do you want a new kitchen for? Yours is perfectly fine."

This does not exactly make me want to write a check for a deposit on the spot.

However, I'll also share with you the story of one of my friends who just remodeled his kitchen. He and his wife absolutely love it. I went over to see it, and to possibly get ideas about doing mine.

We sat at his brand new counter on his brand new stools. I had a cup of coffee with them in cups taken out of their brand new cabinets. Everything was perfect. It was like a mystical experience. They were so proud.

And here's the best part: They said that the kitchen designer who put this all together came over when the job was done.

He had a cup of coffee with them, right there where I was sitting.

And then the designer said, "This looks fabulous. I'm glad I was able to be a part of it. By the way, do you know of anyone else who might be interested in putting in a new kitchen?"

He left several business cards. He even stuck one inside one of the kitchen cabinets.

Now, here I am looking at their new kitchen, and these two raving fans of the designer are giving me his card and insisting I call him.

And I'm excited . . . and thinking: This is the way it's supposed to work.

On the flip side of the spectrum, let's compare this experience to my neighbors down the street.

They remodeled their kitchen last year, and are continually telling people to go someplace else. They had to wait a ridiculously long time, and the cabinets were not exactly what they'd ordered, and the salesperson was tough to get in touch with, and the installers weren't very competent.'

No kitchen designer came over to sit down with them to make sure everything was great. No cup of coffee. No asking for referrals.

Prime the pump
One happy customer will tell at least 10 people about you. Every dissatisfied customer will tell 20 others not to do business with you.

Keep that in mind!

Continue to remember, too, that every customer is important. You have to keep priming the pump; you have to create new leads and get more names.

It can be tough, but you need to motivate yourself to be on the lookout for more business because one of these days, that bright blue sky just might fall in on you.

You never know. Business might start to get soft. The Fed might raise interest rates, and people might stop spending so much money. The economy could start to slide with a new presidential administration.

Stated another way, you don't want your well to run dry. You never want to get too complacent when business is great.

Approach your business as if you need every prospect who calls or walks through the door. Make each customer feel special, and if you do, they'll take it from there. Satisfied customers can help do the work for you of finding new customers.

Mark Twain once said, "Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just stand there."

Next year might bring new competition, a slowdown in the economy or a change in consumer attitudes. You have to keep moving and thinking ahead.

Bob Popyk is publisher of Creative Selling', a monthly newsletter on sales and marketing strategies. He is the author of the book, How to Increase Your Kitchen & Bath Business by 25% Starting Next Week!, available through the NKBA, and is a speaker at various industry events, including the National Kitchen & Bath Conference. For a free sample of his newsletter, call (800) 724-9700, or visit his Web site at