By Phil Zaleon
While direct mail and Yellow Pages
ads have long been marketing staples, technology has
completely revamped how kitchen and bath firms view
marketing. Indeed, today’s most important marketing
tools are just as likely to include interactive Web
social networking sites, podcasts
and more, as some of the more traditional favorites.
Changing demographics and attitudes,
technological advances and a consumer mentality that
demands instant access to information are key drivers of
these changes. Yet marketing by technology is more than
just a function of younger, tech-savvy consumers. A very
old marketing concept – the importance of personalizing
the message – has been essential to the evolution of
technology as a marketing tool.
In the 2007 report “Foundations for
Future Growth in the Remodeling Industry,” published by
the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard
University, researchers looked at the demographics of
the “remodeling customer.”
They found that, by the year 2015,
slightly more than 45% of our customers will have been
born during the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. While a slight
majority may still wake up in 2015 with the morning
paper and coffee, the up-and-coming generations of
customers are turning to technology, rather than the
traditional media, for their information.
Gen Xers and Echo Boomers (born in
the 1970s-1990s) can attest to the fact that technology
has shaped their world, their frame of reference and how
they respond to messages – and therefore advertising.
These people grew up in a world of hundreds of
television channels, personal computers, the Internet,
cell phones and other personal technologies. In
addition, as these technologies became the norm, many of
the Baby Boomers (born in the ’50s and ’60s) embraced
them, creating a likely majority of kitchen and bath
industry customers looking beyond traditional media for
their news and information.
The 2007 book, “Connecting to the
Net.Generation: What Higher Education Professionals Need
to Know About Today’s Students,” by Reynol Junco and
Jeanna Mastrodicasa, cited a survey of 7,705 U.S.
college students, which found this relationship between
Echo Boomers and technology:
- 97% own a computer.
- 97% have downloaded music and
other media using peer-to-peer file sharing.
- 94% own a cell phone.
- 76% use instant messaging (IM) and
social networking sites.
- 66.6% of college students have a
- 60% own some type of portable
music and/or video device such as an iPod.
- 49% regularly download music and
other media using peer-to-peer file sharing.
- 44% read blogs.
- 34% use Web sites as their primary
source of news.
- 28% author a blog.
- 15% of IM users are logged on 24
hours a day/7 days a week.
These statistics illustrate a shift
in the communication paradigm. The communication
channels we rely upon to reach Baby Boomers won’t work
to reach their kids and those older individuals who have
adapted to the new paradigm.
Effective advertising was once about
reaching people with a message over and over again so
that they might act upon it if it were delivered often
enough. We were complacent about being interrupted by “a
word from our sponsor.”
We eventually got a bit more
sophisticated and only wanted messages that pertained to
our demographic group. It was okay to be delivered a
message as a male, aged 35-54, while listening to a
classic rock radio station. And advertisers delivered
the same messages over and over until we believed them.
But now technology has changed the
way we accept advertising. Today, effective advertising
is about reaching the correct person at the correct time
with the correct message delivered in the correct
manner. We perform an online search, and expect
immediate results. We decide to buy music or a movie; we
can do so at our keyboards within a matter of minutes.
Technology has changed the communication paradigm and
our expectations. And no one understands this better
than the generations that are growing up in the midst of
For savvy kitchen and bath marketers,
now is the time to embrace new technology and use its
marketing power to reach your current customers, as well
as those coming down the pike.
A successful kitchen and bath
marketer will develop an integrated marketing strategy
designed to reach those embracing the latest
technologies, along with the more traditional customer
base. As Max Isley, CMKBD, president of Hampton Kitchens
in Raleigh, NC says, “I am not ready to dump the
traditional [marketing channels] for the latest
technology. We use both to an extent and I can usually
guess – with a high degree of accuracy – which was most
effective in bringing in a [specific] new client. Our
older customers respond to the more traditional messages
in newspapers, the Yellow Pages and the like, while our
younger customers are driven by the Internet and
Mark Ergmann, president of Coastal
Kitchen & Bath Designs in York, ME, adds that,
“Generally, people who come to us from our Web site are
five to 10 years younger than our average customer.”
As an industry, we are taking baby
steps employing new technology in our daily marketing. A
look at some of the strategies and tactics implemented
throughout the country may provide the spark you need to
become more successful moving forward.
For kitchen and bath professionals, a
Web site is a must, but it is only the beginning. The
days of the standard “brochure” sites are quickly coming
to a close, as your customers are looking for more. They
want more information and more interactivity.
Rob Baugher, JC, CGR, CGB, GMB, CAPS,
CGA, owner and CEO of Baugher Design and Remodel in
Birmingham, AL, has added an RSS Feed to his site. “RSS,
which stands for Real Simple Syndication, is a way for
my clients to ‘subscribe’ to my Web site. That is, as we
update and add new material, those visitors who have
signed up for RSS get a message with the new information
and a link to the Web site. This has been a great way to
keep my clients and potential clients informed and
Baugher also intends to add podcasts
to his site in the near future. “We have a Saturday
morning radio show on a local station. The natural
progression is to place podcasts on the site – expanding
our audience, and our reputation as remodeling experts,
along with it.”
Nicolas Mottet, advertising manager
for WarmlyYours, manufacturer of electric floor heating
systems, says that WarmlyYours has “always found the
Internet to be among the most effective marketing
channels for us. We recently invested in a proprietary
Flash-based technology to let homeowners or designers
design floor plans online and simply drag-and-drop
predesigned fixtures into their plans. This tool has
proven hugely successful as over 3,000 homeowners and
designers use it every month to design their room, and
get an instant quote on our electric floor heating
Some industry professionals use the Internet as their primary
selling tool. Matthew May, CKD, president of Cabinet Dynamics, is among them. “I
found a way to not only sell cabinets and vanities online, but to use the power
of the Internet to provide designer services, as well. It has opened up new
revenue channels, unheard of just a few years ago,” he says.
Kevin Telaak, v.p. of Artisan Kitchens and Baths of Buffalo,
NY, uses eBay as an additional selling tool. “We set up an eBay store a couple
of years ago to sell some appliances and overstocks, and it has become an
integral part of our business, bringing in more revenue than we ever imagined.
There are hundreds of thousands of eBay users out there, and having a store puts
us at their fingertips – literally.”
In addition, other developing and older technologies have
found their place independently on the Internet, or as part of company Web
sites. Mottet believes that the Web site experience is critical to a company’s
success and, to that end, interactivity is a must.
He states: “Our site has evolved into an interactive platform
where visitors enjoy controlling their surfing experience and quickly accessing
content that is relevant to them, delivered in an interactive and entertaining
format. From online tools to videos and libraries of customer projects, our site
delivers an interactive, relevant and personalized experience. We blog two or
three new customer projects every month.”
Just a few steps beyond a “typical” Web site is Web 2.0.
Wikipedia explains, “Web 2.0 has numerous definitions. Basically, the term
encapsulates the idea of the proliferation of interconnectivity and
interactivity of Web-delivered content.” But, it also states, “Web 2.0 is a term
describing changing trends in the use of World Wide Web technology and Web
design that aims to enhance creativity, information sharing, collaboration and
functionality of the Web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and
evolution of Web-based communities and hosted services, such as
social-networking sites, video-sharing sites, wikis, blogs and
“We take the videos from our Web sites and place them on
YouTube.com,” says Nicholas Mottet. “It is just one more place to reach the
consumer. We are not getting thousands of viewings, but each viewer is
potentially someone who didn’t know about us before.”
Jamie Goldberg, AKBD, CAPS, owner of Jamie Goldberg Kitchen
and Bath Design of Tampa, FL, uses blogging to keep her online content fresh and
her name high on search engines. “My blog also allows me to keep in touch with
my clients and vice versa. I write about industry shows, new trends, styles and
innovations, all of which help me maintain a communication link with my current
clients and prospective ones. It also allows me to build my reputation as a
Tampa Bay area kitchen and bath expert.”
“Social networking is not just for kids anymore,” adds
Goldberg. “I am on LinkedIn.com and Twitter.com. I use LinkedIn for
introductions, pitching articles, getting and making recommendations, finding
out about resources through the Answers section, getting images to accompany
articles and blog postings through e-mailing my contact list, staying in touch
and, most recently, participating in the Group discussions feature. The groups
have the potential to be invaluable, with a number of industry-related ones such
as the NKBA group, the Kitchen & Bath Industry Marketing Group and Kitchen
World, among others.”
Dennis D. Gehman, CR, CLC, CKBR, GAC, CAPS, president of
Gehman Custom Remodeling in Harleysville, PA, is investing in Web 2.0 with his soon-to-be released updated Web site. “Our new site is going
to be heavily tied to blogs, YouTube, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. We are
actively looking for a high school or college student who wants to earn extra
money doing what he or she already enjoys. Our idea is to hire a student to
maintain our presence on FaceBook, MySpace and the like through use of blogs,
videos, photo albums and general updates. The cost to us will be minimal,
students know what they’re doing [in this arena], and hours can be flexible. Our
challenge is finding the right person willing to accept and adhere to our
business/life values and philosophy in order to represent us in a professional
Max Isley, CMKBD has a presence on LinkedIn, but has not yet
exploited it to any extent. “I understand there is value to online social and
business networking. I have always used networking – the old-fashioned, personal
kind – in my business, I just have to get used to it through a keyboard and
monitor. The value as I see it is to first build my network with peers and
clients; then ask my network to recommend my work. As they build their networks,
their connections will read my recommendations and hopefully will increase
Among the other, more popular, networking sites not
previously mentioned are Plaxo.com, Classmates.com, Twitter.com, Yahoo360 and
ecademy.com. A Web search will provide a more complete list, which is likely to
be updated often.
Of course the newest technology is often tied to some of the
oldest technology. Somewhere around 1455, the printing press was invented and
book publishing was born. In the last few years, technology has allowed book
publishing to be “reborn” through the advent of OnDemand publishing by companies
such as lulu.com. OnDemand publishing allows an individual to publish without a
traditional publisher or the associated expenses. For example, a kitchen and
bath designer could publish a coffee table book of projects to use as a sales
tool, for very little investment.
Those who subscribe to cable and satellite are likely
familiar with OnDemand programming – programming you watch when it is convenient
for you. Along with the traditional cable networks such as HBO, Showtime, TBS,
TNT, etc. offering OnDemand choices, many of the cable systems have “local
channels” offering OnDemand, as well. A call to
your cable representative may allow you to put your expertise on cable for your
community to see.
Newsletters and direct mail have always been industry
staples. Technology – specifically database and mail merge – has made it simpler
and provided individuals with the ability to speak one-on-one with a
cross-section of clients simultaneously with varying messages.
Dennis Gehman uses his firm’s database for e-mail blasts. “We
send monthly newsletters with photos of six to eight projects focusing on a
specific type/element. We’ve found that the best way to grow our e-mail list is
when clients forward the newsletter to their friends, family and co-workers
because a picture of their project is featured. We have learned that the more
projects per newsletter, the more it gets forwarded and the more new subscribers
It’s the consummate marriage of direct mail and networking –
and it’s instantaneous and cheap.”
It’s a safe bet that no one could have imagined the iPhone in
2000, the Internet in 1980, TV in 1920 or the recorded voice in 1850 – but each
technological advance changed the face of marketing and advertising in its day.
What will change our ability to market our showrooms in 2009 and beyond is
anyone’s guess. But those who are not willing to embrace the latest technologies
as a part of their marketing efforts will be playing catch up as the next
generation begins renovating their kitchens.
As Jamie Goldberg explains, “I spent 25 years in media and
marketing before becoming a kitchen designer, and have always been interested in
new media. My last career was focused on leveraging content and brands across
multiple media platforms. I’m applying the same strategies to my new career, as
well. For example, if I’m presenting a design-related seminar to a local
community group, I’m also going to create a newsletter article on that topic and
blog about it online. Next, I’ll update the status line on my LinkedIn page and
Twitter about my involvement with that subject. The combination creates a much
greater ROI and broader reach for the time I spent developing the seminar.”
Philip D. Zaleon is founder and president of Chapel
Hill-based Z promotion & design – a full service
integrated marketing and creative agency focusing on the
kitchen and bath industry.
Prior to founding Z promotion & design in 1996,
Phil held the position of v.p./research &
development for a new technology-based communications
Phil is currently Vice President
Communications/Technology for the Eastern Carolinas
Chapter of NKBA, an industry speaker on marketing,
advertising and technology subjects and author of "A
is for Advertising... B is for Branding... a hands-on
guide to improved profits through marketing your kitchen
and bath business - volume 1".
Z promotion & design is a member of NKBA and KCMA.
He can be reached at Z promotion & design, P.O.
Box 17291, Chapel Hill, NC 27516; Telephone:
919-932-4600; Fax: 919-932-4447;
Web site: www.kitchenmarketing.com
Some manufacturers are utilizing YouTube in order
to attract consumers and demonstrate product possibilities in a
Manufacturers are shifting away from traditional
‘brochure’ sites for marketing purposes and creating more
interactive content, much like the Artisan Kitchens & Baths Web
site, seen here.