by Lane Mangum, VP Business Services, The Concrete Countertop Institute
Insider knowledge that will help you SELL your concrete countertops.
Relationship Marketing: the best tool you can use to build a successful business.
Remember that even if you have concrete that never cracks, is very stain and damage resistant, and looks great every time, you must be able to market it effectively; all the quality in the world doesn’t matter if no one sees it. This is where relationship marketing comes in. Relationship marketing is the art of networking with the influencers who will help you sell more product. In the case of concrete countertops, kitchen designers are the most powerful influencers.
Think about it. How many friends and family do you know right now who are remodeling their kitchens? None? One? Five? So if someone had made a beautiful concrete countertop for you and you wanted to give them a glowing referral, you would have maybe one to five people to refer them to. How many people do you think a kitchen designer knows who are currently remodeling their kitchens? Probably 50 or more. So who is the better source of referrals?
Let’s back up and talk a little about what a kitchen and bath designer is. A kitchen and bath designer is an educated professional who understands how to combine all of the elements of a kitchen or bathroom for a workable, livable space. (As shorthand, I generally use the term “kitchen designer,” but most of these professionals also design bathrooms.) Kitchen designers understand cabinets, countertops, sinks, faucets, appliances, floor finishes, lighting, tile and other design elements. They are like general contractors for the kitchen, and in fact some kitchen designers are actual general contractors.
Kitchen designers have showrooms where they display the cabinet, countertop, fixture and appliance brands they carry in appealing vignettes to help the customer make selections. They also keep a library of samples.
The ultimate goal is to get your concrete countertops displayed in the high-end kitchen and bath showrooms in your area, creating a virtual sales force for your product. But before you can do that, you need to develop relationships with these professionals. Kitchen designers need to have confidence in you and your product, to know that you are going to do a good job for their clients. These relationships give you a dramatic advantage over any competitor who is not utilizing available connections and networking opportunity.
Step by step….
If you are just starting out in the countertop business, the prospect of getting displays in these fancy showrooms may seem daunting. But it all starts with a simple phone call, with the modest goal of getting an appointment. Kitchen designers want to keep up to date on all the latest products. They will be happy to receive a phone call simply introducing your company and asking if you can show them some samples. Usually they will agree to a quick meeting, but even if they don’t, they will likely agree to let you drop off some samples and a brochure.
When you get a meeting with a kitchen designer, you have three goals:
- make a good impression
- leave samples
If the outcome of the meeting is that they are confident in you and your product, they will agree to keep the samples and show them to potential clients.
Once you’ve done a good job on a few projects with a kitchen designer, he or she may want you to install a display in their showroom if they have space. Be aware, though, that even if you leave samples or install a display, kitchen designers will not actively sell concrete countertops unless they understand them. In larger kitchen and bath showrooms, there are often multiple designers who work for a vice president of sales. You may have convinced the vice president of sales to put a large, prominent display in the showroom, but if the individual designers are not educated about concrete countertops, they will steer customers away. Make sure that you educate all the designers, and check in at least once per quarter to see whether there are any new designers and to give them samples of new colors, new edge styles or updated brochures. Maintain the relationship.
There are lots of other ways to develop and maintain relationships with kitchen and bath designers, as well as other design professionals such as interior designers and architects.
- You can network at meetings held by the National Kitchen & Bath Association or the American Society of Interior Designers
- have a grand opening of your shop
- present to architects at lunch-and-learns
The same principles apply: Find the influencers, network with them to develop a relationship, and educate them so that they will feel confident in you and your product.
The power to create a successful, thriving business fabricating AND selling concrete countertops is within your grasp. Develope your website, get some materials to hand out, and go meet people who can influence your local market. What are you waiting for?
If you’re still a little uncertain about the details, get the 132-page book on How to Market and Sell Concrete Countertops, including actual call scripts for contacting kitchen designers.