DARLINGTON ON SHOWROOMS: The ABC’s of Marketing Your Business
by Hank Darlington
December 1, 2006
A friend of mine just published his first book. I’ve just finished
reading it — and I consider it to be a “must” read for anyone in the
kitchen and bath showroom business. It’s a quick read (about 2-1/2
hours). It’s an easy read, and it’s a terrific playbook for everyone
that does any marketing at all. Most wholesalers do very little
marketing of the wholesale side of their business. But, if you operate
showrooms you have to be a good marketer. If you don’t have strong
expertise in this area, read this book, and if it makes sense, hire an
outside professional advertising firm to help you. The title of the
book is, “A is for Advertising…B is for Branding…A hands-on guide to
improved profits through marketing your Kitchen and Bath business.”
It’s written by Philip D. Zaleon. You can buy this 103-page gem by
visiting www.kitchenmarketing.com, which is Phil’s Web site, or you
can go directly to the publisher at www.lulu.com.
With Phil’s permission I am going to touch on each letter of the
alphabet and whet your appetite on the ABC’s of marketing your
- A is for Advertising — Successful advertising can be defined as the
right message in the right media mix delivered to the right people at
the right time. Advertising is relatively new to kitchen and bath
businesses. The Home Depot and Lowe’s have elevated consumer awareness
to a new level, and smart kitchen and bath firms are taking advantage
by advertising beside them. The opportunities to advertise are
limitless and come at a wide range of price points. Do your homework
and figure out what works best for you.
- B is for Branding — Branding is the process of developing your brand
in the eyes and minds of your target market. You don’t have to develop
a global brand like Coca-Cola’s red color and wave, or McDonald’s
golden arches. You simply want people in your community to recognize
your company when they see or hear your name. As in advertising, there
are a number of ways to achieve your brand. (Read the book and see
what they are.)
- C is for Collaterals — This generic term refers to all the printed
material you hand out or mail: brochures, pocket folders, information
sheets, catalogues, etc. Each piece should reflect your brand, your
message and your business.
- D is for Demographics — Demographics should be central to your
marketing plan. Successful showrooms don’t try to be all things to all
people. They define their business based on their target market, and
they define their target market based on demographics: age, gender,
location, income, size and value of homes, etc. You can learn detailed
demographic information for your specific market relatively easily
from the Internet — some for free and others for a fee.
- E is for Effective — Marketing effectively: sounds like a no-brainer!
But there is more to it than making rash judgments because folks
aren’t coming through the front door. Find a way to track the
effectiveness of your various advertising and promotional activities.
How well do you track leads? In other words, are you achieving the
desired results from your detailed marketing plan? Do you even have
- F is for Financing — The sixty-four-dollar question is: How much
should you allocate to your marketing plan? We budgeted 5% of annual
gross sales for our total marketing plan. We recouped approximately 2%
of this from our vendor partners. Your budgetary figure will be driven
by what you want to accomplish. If you have to borrow money to achieve
your marketing goals — do it! When business slows down, don’t cut your
marketing dollars — add to them!
- G is for Graphic Design — If you want your prospective clients to take
you seriously, you must be serious about the quality of your graphic
design, as this is the crux of your brand: from the initial logo,
colors, icon and typeface that make up your brand to the layout and
design of your Web site, your print ads, your letterhead and business
cards. Everything has to have the same consistent high quality. In
this area, you will most likely have to look for outside professional
- H is for Home Shows — Oh my, I had a love/hate feeling for these
events. They are so much work: to build-out, to set up, man, tear
down, store for the next one, etc. But if you do them well and have a
“hook” (a reason for people to stop in your booth and come visit your
showroom), they can be a fine marketing tool. Do your “market
research” and see if they are right for you.
- I is for Image Advertising — Image advertising is a slow-moving beast.
Its purpose is to help brand you in the mind of the public. Consider
image ads as those that show off who you are, what you do and why you
are better than your competition. They are “soft sell” — but they are
always consistent with the high-quality image that you want to
project. Image ads will not fill the showroom with people, but they
will tell prospective clients why they should visit you when they
build new, remodel or simply need a replacement faucet.
- J is for Jingle — A jingle is defined as a “short song, usually
mentioning a brand or product benefit, used in a commercial.” We used
a jingle to help advertise our annual summer tent sale. It was cute
and effective — and people knew we were having a sale when they heard
it. Here again, you’ll need professional help. When well done, they
help promote your brand.
- K is for Knowledge — Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power,” and
Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
An effective marketing plan requires that you take a little from both
of these quotes. Develop as much knowledge as possible on what pieces
you want to incorporate into your marketing plan and then add Mr.
Einstein’s imagination and creativity. You want to be recognized as
the kitchen and bath expert in your trading area (that’s knowledge).
Teach seminars (in the showroom, at home shows, to trade
organizations, etc). Put your knowledge to work for you.
- L is for Leads — Leads should be one of your best marketing tools. The
question is: How do you develop and increase good viable leads? The
book spends a little time on database marketing, networking, strategic
partners, referrals and the Internet.
- M is for Marketing Plan — For 12 years, I have been preaching how very
important this is to the success of your showroom business. Most of
you don’t do one. You do the hit-and-miss approach. You wait for
someone to come to you with a “good deal” as opposed to you taking
charge of your own destiny. Please, please — start right now putting
together your 2007 showroom marketing plan! If you don’t know how,
then call or e-mail me and I’ll send you some information.
- N is for Newsletter — A lot of wholesalers have an internal company
newsletter — but how many of you have one for past and potential
customers? A newsletter is a great way to help you communicate with
potential and past clients. It keeps your name and brand in front of
them. It should be educational, informative and should offer
something, i.e., “We’re having a sale,” “Come in and see/hear what’s
new in kitchen and bath products,” “Come in and see our newly
remodeled showroom.” As in everything else you do, stress your brand.
- O is for Objectives — Your objectives should be spelled out in your
three-year business plan, in your mission statement and in your annual
marketing plan. As it refers to your marketing plan, you should know
your objectives when deciding what media and promotional activities to
use as you attempt to drive clients in your doors. Know what you want
to accomplish with each type of advertising campaign you participate
- P is for Portfolio — Do you have a scrapbook that shows photographs of
your completed jobs and letters of testimony from happy clients? You
should! Do you have articles and awards posted/framed where everyone
can see them? You should!
- Q is for Quality — This would be quality of products and services
offered. Your brand will conjure up an image of the quality you offer.
In your business, you can offer three things: quality, service and
price. You cannot offer the best of all three. If someone wants the
cheapest price, you will have to give them less quality and/or
service. That’s just how it is!
- R is for Referral — Referrals should be the No. 1 way new prospects
hear about you. They really are the “lifeblood” of your business.
Referrals can come from your vendor partners, happy past clients,
plumbers, builders, remodelers, architects, interior designers,
friends, relatives, neighbors, etc. Learn to use past happy clients as
an important source for new referrals.
- S is for Showroom — Your showroom is your main sales tool. It’s your
“home court advantage.” It’s your No. 1 marketing asset. Is your
showroom done in keeping with your brand? Does it project the image
you want to put out there? Is it easy to find, clean, up-to-date and
customer-friendly? Do you have a list of “Showroom Best Practices”
that everyone follows to maintain a first-class showroom? If not,
e-mail me and I’ll send you a copy of some ideas that should be
- T is for Target Market — This is part of demographics. Who is your
main target customer? Is it just the plumber? Or do you aggressively
market to higher-end custom home builders, remodel contractors,
residential architects and interior designers? How about the
homeowner? Are you familiar with the Baby Boomer generation and why
they are today’s most important buying segment? Know who your target
audience is and market your business to them.
- U is for Unique Selling Proposition (USP) — What are your main value
points? What makes you different, better, more unique than your
competition? If you develop your very own unique sales features and
then translate those features for your prospects, you will strongly
enhance your chances of success.
- V is for Video — Do you have a “Welcome to our showroom, this is who
we are, how we work and why we are better than our competition” video
that is right up front in your showroom? How about videos of completed
projects or educational videos from your vendor partners? You should!
They’re interactive. They tell stories that might not get told
otherwise. Do you use any video material on your Web site? How about
giving information to your prospects on you, your showroom, your
products and services? You should!
- W is for Web site — This is BIG and getting BIGGER. Today’s baby
boomers and the up-and-coming generations are very techie. They are
getting on the Internet before they go shopping. They pre-judge
businesses they will visit based on their Web sites. Is yours the best
in your marketplace? It should be!
- X is for the eXtra — Extra is defined as “more than or beyond what is
usual, normal, expected or necessary.” Yes, doing a business plan, a
marketing plan, writing job descriptions, developing a formal training
program, doing sales skills training and all the other important
things you should be doing will take some extra time, and may cost
some extra money — but what a difference the extra effort will make!
- Y is for Yellow Pages — They used to be the main way to advertise your
business. But, in my opinion the Web has taken over. Yes, you need a
presence in the Yellow Pages, but it shouldn’t be the bulk of your
- Z is for Zip Codes — Zip codes developed the world of direct mail.
After my business had been around for eight or nine years, I cut back
on image advertising and started to use direct mail as an advertising
tool. We used zip code mailings to invite prospects into the showroom
to hear a series of seminars on remodeling, to experience cooking
demonstrations or to see the latest in kitchen and bath products. They
were very successful. Give it a try!
Well, I’ve just covered the ABC’s (and more) of Mr. Zaleon’s book. The
book goes into a lot more depth on each topic. My goal in this article
was to make you aware of just how much is involved in a good marketing
program for your showrooms. This book offers you a great guideline.
No, I get nothing for the plug — except the satisfaction of knowing
that some of you will become better in this all-important segment of
your business. Good luck!
Hank is the showroom contributing editor for Supply House Times. He is
a consultant, teacher and author, with more than 30 years experience
in the distribution and decorative plumbing industry. He can be
contacted by phone at 916/852-6855, by fax at 916/852-8866 or via
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.