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Nov 18 2013

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How Presence and Presentability Helped Me Find Employment (Twice)


By Monica Aur

Part 1: Preparing to Meet Prospective Employers

While completing an associate’s degree in kitchen & bath design, I was assigned to explore local kitchen and bath shops and firms and interview designers, owners, etc. The thought of returning soon afterward to these same places (to seek?) employment made me nervous, to say the least. Even the most confident people would have undertaken this task with some level of trepidation.

The backstory: I was a non-traditional student (code for older), this course of study was not available at any of the local universities, and I was completing my degree online. This caused further uneasiness because of the possible skepticism that I was actually a student and not competition, but there were less than a handful of these businesses locally, and it was the height of the recession. Researching options and planning precisely where to go and what to say was essential.

So on the morning I went to go look for a job, I dressed carefully, trying to look casual yet serious and designer-like all at once. The look was to convey creative good taste with a level of restraint. With questions in hand and lump in throat, off I went to the designated kitchen and bath shops.

Part 2: The Meetings

The first business was a high-end, full-service firm with the most beautiful showroom I had ever seen. The brands of cabinetry were custom and the appliances high end. It was the type of shop that had to buzz you in.

The designer who greeted me was very helpful; even though I felt – by the way she eyed me throughout the interview – that she did not completely believe I was a student. (Glad I looked presentable.) She answered my questions, gave me a tour and a stack of brochures, nonetheless.

I then went to the second business on my list. This shop was small, had stock-to-custom cabinetry, but no appliances. The only employee present was the cabinetry installer. He was very attentive and helpful, showed me the lines and explained the differences to me. We then sat in the showroom and talked, hoping that the owner would soon arrive. That did not happen, but the installer took my name and number.

Part 3: The Hire

A few months later, with another research paper due, l made a call to the owner of that second shop, the owner I had not met. After answering my questions, he asked if I needed to complete an internship and would I like to intern there. Thrilled, I said yes.

The first week of my internship went really well, and he offered me a position as kitchen and bath designer ASAP. I happily accepted, and that was when the installer with whom I had interviewed told me he never believed I was a student, but that I was spying for the competition. What a conspiracy theorist! Anyway, it seems I made a good impression on him and he had spoken to the owner about me.

Part 4: The Repeat

After graduating and working for this company a couple of years, I decided to make a life change. This meant leaving the city where I had lived for most of my life, taking a leap of faith and moving to a completely new place knowing no one. This was really done on a whim.

The week after the move, while dining in a local pub and reading the free local weekly paper, I saw the annual Tri-State Home Show was coming soon. I became really excited with the idea that I could use this home show as a means of finding employment. (Did I mention I moved before getting a job?) The show was immediately put on my calendar.

So, once again on the morning of the home show came the planning of the wardrobe: something casual with creativity and color. This time, with old business cards in hand and lump in throat, off I went to the home show.

This move felt so right. Receptive and helpful folks greeted me at every turn. I simply said to perspective employers at their booths, “I came to the show for the sole purpose of finding employment.” I handed out my old business cards and was asked by four businesses to email my resume. That was how I found a job where I knew no one.

Part 5: The Message

1.) Prepare.

2.) Show up. Be present.

3.) Present yourself as well as possible.

4.) Be authentic.

- Monica Aur is a kitchen and bath designer at Southern Cabinets & Lighting in Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Nov 11 2013

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Working the Booth: Seven Ways to Improve your Trade Show ROI

PWP Studio photographers specialize in corporate event photography, decor, details, incentive travel, conventions, and on-location photography in Atlanta, Georgia

By Bob McCarthy

When it comes to selling your K+B design services, nothing beats a “face-to-face.” It’s true, the personal connection you make with a one-on-one exchange far exceeds any other communication method. And one way to get more face-to-face meetings is through exhibiting at trade shows and home shows.

Kitchen and bath designers have long used trade and home shows to market their services. As an exhibitor, you cannot only display your products or expertise, but also engage with prospects and generate new sales leads.

However, these marketing opportunities require time and money – and like all other marketing activities, your challenge is to get the most from your investment. Here are seven ways to improve your trade show marketing ROI.

1. Know your costs. Trade shows and home shows aren’t cheap. Aside from the exhibitor fee, you need to factor in the cost of the display itself, the delivery and set up of the display and the marketing handouts – not to mention employee time away from the office, and in some cases, travel and lodging. So take a few minutes to add up your costs. This is essential if you are going to later try to calculate your return on investment.

2. Choose your staff strategically. How many people you use to staff the booth will depend on the size of the show, but in general, try to have at least two people at your booth at all times. One person should be the greeter – someone who is friendly and is able to get people to stop and learn more about your business. The second person should be the demonstrator/presenter – someone who can demonstrate your expertise and answer questions.

As a kitchen and bath designer, you should try to have an area in your booth where you can give prospects a closer look at what you do. This may be an online or physical presentation of your portfolio, some interesting design ideas or some other engaging activity.

3. Invite prospects before the show. Some shows make their attendee lists available to exhibitors before the show. This would provide a good opportunity for you to reach out and invite attendees to stop by your booth or even schedule an appointment for a demonstration or presentation. You may need to offer incentives to respond. Appointment responses will be few and far between, but they will be very good prospects.

If the show does not provide an attendee list, you should at least contact your own list and let them know you’ll be exhibiting and where you can be found. Again, you may need to use incentives.

4. Use giveaways as motivators. Trade shows are famous for giveaways – mugs, key chains, tote bags, etc. – to build brand-name exposure. But how much do they contribute to your sales process? And how much do they cost? Giveaways should be motivational and should encourage specific action. For example, give out a coffee mug only to prospects who fill out a short questionnaire.

5. Ask qualifying questions. It’s easy to collect contact information at trade shows. You either collect business cards or scan trade show badges of everyone who stops at your booth. That’s a good start, but wouldn’t it be better if you also knew of their level of interest in having a kitchen or bathroom designed? Ask them to fill out a short questionnaire or lead qualification card. These same questions should be asked face to face with visitors to your booth.

6. Differentiate your leads. Not all leads have equal value. Some are tire kickers, some have long-term interest, and some are ready to start a project today. When you collect leads at your booth, try to find out who’s who.

Beyond interest level and timing, also try to determine the potential size of a sale. Are they looking for high-end solutions or something more modest? Are they looking for a complete makeover or just a few tweaks? At the end of the show, this information will be very helpful to you as your prioritize your follow up.

7. Follow up immediately. When you get back to the office, make it a priority to follow up immediately.  You don’t have to call everyone, but you should call the leads that showed some interest in what you offer. For the remaining leads, send a short email thanking them for stopping by your booth and then keep them on a regularly scheduled email sequence.

In all of your emails, give them an opportunity to show more interest and become a qualified lead. Offer them your Kitchen & Bath Design Guide (or something similar). Or offer a free design consultation – not your complete design, but some type of engagement to get things started.

Bob McCarthy is a creative marketing consultant and president of McCarthy & King Marketing.  He can be reached at 508-473-8643. If you visit his website www.mccarthyandking.com/kitchen-and-bath-marketing, you can download a FREE copy of The Kitchen & Bath Marketing Handbook.

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Oct 28 2013

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Digital Assets Keep Manufacturers up to Speed with Designer Demands

ID-10046415By David P. Warren

Dog-eared pages, tear sheets and snail mail sample requests don’t tuck neatly into the “virtual office” we all work and play in these days. Manufacturers are churning out new digital resources to drive inspiration and product selection as fast as product is coming off the factory line – to fit the new digital-based, on-the-go lifestyle you and your customers have come to expect. From revamped websites to virtual catalogs, inspiration apps, in-store integrations and real-time social media updates, brands want to be available where, when and on whatever device you need them most.

In our industry, many manufacturers do not have the luxury of e-commerce direct sales, as their dealers, showrooms and wholesalers deliver the physical product. Instead, they have learned to position their websites not as a shopping aisle, but a showroom of their product offerings and a resource for designers to draw inspiration.

Highly visual, sharable content like that found on Pinterest and Houzz provides a familiar format for browsing. Thanks to these social sharing sites, clients are becoming more involved in the design conversation from the outset, pulling inspiration from sites and coming to you with ideas before you put pen to sketch paper. With the help of direct links to product sites and brands tagging themselves on boards and images, you can more easily find resources to make a client’s pinned dream become a reality.

Virtual Catalogs
To keep the latest and greatest products at your fingertips, some manufacturers have converted their traditional print catalogs to virtual catalogs that can be easily accessed online, offline and on various devices such as smartphones and tablets through Apple and Android Apps, as well as on laptops. With updates in real time, you and your clients can have access to the latest and greatest products, images and specs so you know what to ask for when you go into a store.

These catalogs also incorporate intuitive search functions that provide suggestions based on your search query. You may be looking for one specific product, but the catalog can show you a handful of other options that may also work.

Find something you love? Catalog pages can be shared via email, social channels or even stored offline for later reference. These online applications even allow you to take notes on pages – no need for old-fashioned dog-earing or sticky notes.

Syncing up with Showrooming
Retailers and manufacturers have come to expect and encourage designers to use both online and in-store resources to inform purchases. As noted previously, many manufacturers do not sell directly to customers. When someone finds inspiration online, they may not know where to go to make that inspiration a reality.

Retailers and manufacturers also offer more interactive point-of-purchase displays, provide in-store Wi-Fi and create applications that provide on-demand information to make design decisions easier. For example, Electrolux recently launched a mobile app called Electrolux Concierge that can provide product information by scanning images off of in-store, point-of-purchase material.

Armed with an arsenal of products in the palm of your hand, you can work and collaborate more efficiently in the office or on the go. What to do with those old catalogs? They work nicely as a handy step stool.

 - David P. Warren, Digital Marketing Manager, Dal-Tile

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Oct 25 2013

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The New Face of Luxury

The New Face of Luxury

There is a difference between writing and hearing about innovative products and actually experiencing them. At the Kohler Editors Conference last week, I had a first-hand look at the glamour and invention behind some of these luxury kitchen and bathroom amenities.


My shower in the American Club Resort

As this was my first press conference and my first time to Wisconsin, I had little experience to draw on. I certainly did not expect to pull up to a historic hotel in a tiny, picturesque town and unlock the door to a gorgeous suite with an even more beautiful bathroom. Glass, above-counter Briolette vessels hovered above a dark, open-face vanity. Adjacent was a large, rather intimidating looking tub that I knew would get good use from me. And lastly, I found myself staring agog at the shower, which sported five different sprays, including a rainhead, which I had never actually used before.

Still overcome with glee, I used the spare hours I had the first afternoon to explore the town of Kohler.

Created in 1912 by the company, the little town looked like a live version of Monopoly complete with perfect lawns, a picturesque police and fire station and of


The Village of Kohler

course, the massive and historic Kohler factory.

On our three-hour walking tour of the factory, I learned more than I could take in but took away a few key understandings. The factory, housed in several buildings, creates Kohler’s products in a systematic, sustainable and artistic manner. Time is of the essence, and there was no standing around for any worker. I saw the both the integration of robotic technology, as well as the prevailing usefulness of people.

My favorite part was visiting the Arts/Industry building, where Kohler commissions arts to spend several months creating art using the

materials and equipment Kohler provides. Artists are only then required to donate a piece of art to Kohler by the end of their residency, which I saw evidenced throughout the town. I got to try my own hand at making a ceramic pot, but I’m doubtful Kohler will be taking me on anytime soon.

I got immersed even more in the products I had seen being made at the Kohler Waters Spa. I received a Riverbath and massage, and even as I went into the treatment having no clue what a riverbath was, I wasn’t too surprised to see a much larger, more intricate version of the bathtub in my suite. In the treatment, I was of course instructed to relax and enjoy the various settings in the tub, which included everything from a waterfall, different jets, heating, and colored lights. Instead of sitting calmly in the huge bath, I turned back into my six-year-old self–changing the colors, playing with the jet combinations and seeing how many different things I could make the tub too. It was by far the most fun I’ve ever had taking a bath.

The Kohler Design Center

The Kohler Design Center



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