Like finding the mythical Bigfoot, the search for new customers can sometimes feel like an endless venture that offers plenty of false starts and stops, without ever quite leading to the real thing.
Indeed, prospective clients have been so hard to come by these past few years, some kitchen and bath dealers have joked that they were beginning to miss the tire kickers. But finding potential clients is finally getting a little bit easier, and dealers expect to see increases in showroom traffic, number of leads, quality of leads and consumer confidence in the next 12 months.
That’s according to a recent KBDN survey that looked at how dealers seek out prospective clients, what factors impact their ability to find potential clients and what they expect the coming year to bring. The survey, which polled nearly 200 kitchen and bath dealers, showed a growing optimism about the coming year in terms of traffic, lead quality and consumer confidence. A shift toward a greater focus on referrals from both past clients and allied professionals was also among the trends noted by dealers.
The good news is that finding prospects will likely begin to get easier over the coming 12 months. In fact, of those surveyed, 38% said they expect finding potential clients to be easier in 2013 than it was in 2012 (see Graph 1), while 45.2% expected it to be about the same. Only 16.8% said they expect finding clients to be more difficult.
Likewise, closing a sale will likely either be the same as last year or easier, according to those polled, with 30.1% saying they expect closing a sale to be easier this year than last, and 48.8% saying they expect it to be about the same (see Graph 2).
Another positive note was noted in dealers’ response to how they see leads evolving over the next 12 months, with half saying they expect to see increases in the number of leads (see Graph 3), and nearly half projecting increases in showroom traffic (47.8%), consumer confidence (46.6%) and quality of leads (44.4%). While converting leads to sales remains a challenge, more than one-third of those polled (34.3%) also expect to see increases in conversions in the coming year.
Although showroom traffic has long been a staple in how dealers find prospects, it’s certainly not the only way – or even necessarily the most effective one. In fact, when asked what venues they rely on to find new clients, it was referrals, not showroom traffic, which topped the list (see Graph 4). Some 89.3% of dealers say they rely on referrals from past customers to find new clients, while 61.8% rely on showroom traffic and 60.7% rely on referrals from allied professionals.
The next most common source of new clients was print ads, cited by 34.3% of those surveyed, followed by social media (33.7%), home shows (20.8%), special promotions (19.7%) and online ads or apps (19.1%).
As one dealer stated, “We still spend the majority of our marketing budget keeping in contact with past clients. It’s cheaper and the conversion rate is better. We have two-thirds to three-quarters of our new sales traced to past clients through referrals and repeat business.”
Another dealer concurs: “Referrals are by far the best source of leads for us, and we don’t see this changing in the near future. These can come from colleagues, clients, social media connections, etc. But right now, it’s all about meeting people face to face at networking events or on social media, and asking clients for referrals.”
So, why are referrals so important? As one dealer explains it, “In tough times, trust becomes more important than ever. People are looking for someone they can trust, and a referral from a friend, having someone they know and trust say, ‘This guy is okay, he took good care of us,’ carries a lot of weight.”
Dealers’ online marketing efforts are on the rise, with more than half of those surveyed (50.6%) saying they will increase their online marketing efforts in the next 12 months (see Graph 5). By comparison, a mere 1.2% plan to decrease their online marketing in the coming year.