Designers Discuss Referral and Walk-in Business

"We have a large volume of walk-ins, who I guess could also be classified as referrals because a lot of them talk about how we did their parents’ kitchens or their neighbors’ kitchens years ago. They know us because at some point in the past we’ve worked with someone they know.

We’ve been in business for more than 50 years, so we’re pretty well known in the New Orleans area. But we do some print advertising to encourage walk-in customers who aren’t familiar with us. We also host functions at the store and participate in the local home show. That’s still important, because even though we’ve been around for a while, there are still new people moving into the city who don’t know who we are.”

Chris Licciardi, CKD

Marchand Creative Kitchens, Metairie, LA


"I opened my showroom as a destination showroom in June 2006 based almost entirely on referrals and word of mouth. I received very little walk-in traffic because of its location, which is in the garden district (lower level) with the main entrance positioned to the back of the building.

Business was great until 2008, then everything dried up. I’m in a second-home market. Half of my business is second homes here locally, and half of it is homes in other parts of the country.

I knew I needed to make a change to improve walk-in traffic, but because of my location, no one knew where I was. I decided to do more online. I improved my Web site by adding more information, posting a larger number of current projects and learning about keyword searches. With the help of my assistant, we also created a Facebook page, and I plan to write a blog.

Another change I made was to hang a sign out front. Originally I wasn’t allowed to do so, but now I get a lot of walk-ins from the high-end hotel across the street.

I redecorated the front hall of the building. I gave it more elegance with window treatments and nicer furniture to make it more welcoming. I also highlight a featured ‘artist of the month.’ When people come into the building looking for tourist information, they see this area and can find me downstairs.

These changes have brought in more walk-in traffic, some of it qualified. I would say now about half of my business is referral and word of mouth, and half is walk-ins or those who find me online.”

Wendy F. Johnson, CKD, CBD

Designs for Living, Manchester Village, VT


"We do rely on walk-in traffic, and we have a marketing department that helps us develop strategies for encouraging this business. But most of our business is referral.

We get a lot of referral business from participating in our local home remodeler’s show, where we showcase a house or kitchen that we’ve remodeled. The weekend event is held each spring and fall, and we’ve participated in it for at least the past 10 years.

One of the things we like about this event is that people can see what we do. We can talk with them about real projects to give them a better understanding of our work. When we remodel a home, we’re looking to really improve its mechanics, not just change it superficially. That can be difficult for people to understand. With the remodeler’s show, we can show visitors a ‘before’ picture, and when they see the new space in person, they have a better understanding of what we do.

Typically we have about 300 hundred people go through a house in a weekend. That’s a lot of people…a lot more than would ever go through our showroom on any given weekend.

We’ve had two projects already as a result of last spring’s [home remodeler’s] show, and I have two more people I’m currently working with.

Most communities probably have a similar event. I think it’s a great way to bring awareness to our business. And there’s residual value, too. Sometimes people who go through the home might not be doing a project right away, but they remember it, and they come to our showroom, sometimes years later, saying they went through one of our homes.

We really think this is one of our best marketing strategies.”

Carol Kornak, designer

Crystal Kitchen Center/Design Build, Crystal, MN


"We have a lot of repeat business, with a bit more than half of it coming from area builders. We are very fortunate to have a number of builders who have stayed with us for all of these years. We encourage their business by taking care of them. They know they’ll get an outstanding job, done on time and done right.

To help drive walk-in business, we advertise locally in the Charleston Home and Charleston Home + Design magazines. We also exhibit at the builder’s show, which is held each January.

Back in the heyday of our industry we were so busy it was hard to stay on top of all of the jobs, but those days are gone. Now, it’s important for us to put our best foot forward. We do that by bending over backwards for all of our customers, both repeat and walk-in business. If we promise a quote on a certain day, we’ll make sure to get it done on time.”

Sheryl Greenberg

Allied member ASID, BA in interior design, MBA

Carolina Kitchens of Charleston, Charleston, SC