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Nov 18 2013

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How Presence and Presentability Helped Me Find Employment (Twice)

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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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Nov 07 2013

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Social Media For Interior Designers, Architects and Kitchen and Bath Manufacturers: Part Two: Selecting Social Media Platforms

When selecting which social media to use the most and how to use it best, look at your goals and where your potential clients and/or peers for education are going. The best rule of thumb is to use social media sites that are highly visual and are used by your market. We’ll be looking directly at individual sites in future articles, so this is a very brief highlight.

When advising designers, architects and brands, I choose Pinterest first. Pinterest is a series of literal boards of pictures. It is most heavily used by a good market for design: 45+ educated and affluent women who spend much more time there than on other sites. Pinterest is highly visible, brings many people to your website and has a high search engine optimization.

How to use pinterest screen shot Gail Zahtz

With 67 percent of internet users going to Facebook throughout their day, some designers and architects are using their Facebook business page in place of a website. You have your own profile, then you can have a page for your business, and there are “groups” that are public or private communities for excellent interactions with people. Your Facebook pages can also be embedded onto your website.

Twitter and LinkedIn are the two best sites for connecting with others in the industry. Twitter has the benefit of keeping you quickly up on top trends and industry news. “Tweetchats” enable you to learn from other members of the industry. The oldest maintained design industry chat is #IntDesignerChat Tuesdays 6 ET: http://interiordesignerchat.com/how-to-chat/, #KBTribeChat Wednesdays 2 ET is specifically for the kitchen and bath professionals: http://kbtribechat.com/category/how-to-chat-with-us/. Both links explain tips on how to manage a tweetchat in general and within that group.

Pay attention to video. More people load a video on YouTube every day than use a search. Search with-in YouTube is the biggest search engine. Good video length is one to three minutes, as most people decide in less than 30 seconds if they will watch. To create videos on your own, you can use your webcam from your desk and/or a video camera, use an external microphone like Yeti if possible, have a background that is clean and simple and/or light with three separate lights. If you can, hire a video editing and/or production person.

KBIS2014 has its own channel on YouTube and will have pre-show presenter videos to help you choose and keeps videos online from live at KBIS each year:

Seventy-eight percent of American adults watch or download online videos from sites like YouTube and Vimeo – their favorite types after comedy are educational and how-to – both terrific opportunities for design. YouTube Networks like The Design Network http://www.thedesignnetwork.com/ are now setting themselves to replace traditional television with fully produced 20-30 minute segments of designers.

Don’t discount podcasts. Podcasts are set to have a FIVE-FOLD growth this year alone! BlogTalkRadio.com is one popular option for doing “Internet Radio” and “Podcasts.” You can embed each interview and links of recent recorded interviews directly onto your site. Interviews enable you to get to know people as well as show your expertise.

G+ has smaller use for your market currently, but is growing for the industry. Hangouts create live video for one to nine onscreen participants, which airs directly to YouTube. In addition, G+ has communities that bring together people of similar interests. The largest number may currently be about G+ or related social media, but Google is investing a lot into trying to build G+ into the mainstream. Popular communities are visual – the architecture and photography communities, for example, have tens of thousands of active users. The short answer: Pay attention to G+ as it grows, and make sure you claim your “authorship” now to increase every post getting into Google search.

LinkedIn is your professional resume and should be kept updated at all times. LinkedIn enables you to identify all of your contacts by what they do and reach out to them in groups with their full contact information. Groups are open or you have to request an invitation and can be significant networking opportunities. Speaking engagements, for example, are often announced on LinkedIn as are jobs.

Linked In for Designers by Gail Zahtz

In short, all of social media is now your resume. Take the time, learn the best platforms for you, and plan on social media becoming a part of your everyday time of running a kitchen and bath business.

- Through Demand Design and its sister companies, Gail Zahtz solves similar challenges for the design and healthcare industries by enabling them to meet the needs of baby boomers. Specializing in all areas of experience design, Zahtz is the first leader to combine the best of universal, accessible, sensory, sustainable and evidence-based design. She will be speaking at KBIS on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 12:30 p.m. on “Reaching and Designing for Baby Boomers.”

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Oct 29 2013

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Social Media for Interior Designers, Architects and Kitchen and Bath Manufacturers: Part One

Social media done well can be the most important toolkit for kitchen and bath professionals to develop their competitive edge. Show their expertise, value and thought leadership to potential and repeat clients. Continually improve their knowledge in any area including trends, products, news, business management and innovations. Create relationships within the industry and for new clients with an ease and international distance that would have been impossible at first.

Why You Should Prioritize Social Media
Why should social media be a priority in your kitchen and bath business? Simply put, your goals can be divided into business development, continuing education, relationship building and thought leadership with peers and customers.

Design is visual, and we are a more visual society. Social media, chosen correctly, is heavily dependent on pictures, infographics and graphs that reach the audience you seek. Your work will often sell itself. Think of many social networking sites as today’s version of when customers would clip magazine pictures for their idea books. Houzz.com, for example, does exactly that:  enables consumers to create Ideabooks out of photographs uploaded by industry professionals and then search for and contact professionals in their area.

Architects, interior designers, and more ∨

Before starting a bathroom remodel, search for bathroom ideas and interesting products, including a one-of-a-kind tub, vanity and bathroom sink.
For small bathroom ideas, browse photos of space-saving bathroom vanities and clever hidden recessed medicine cabinets.

First, your customers are online. While just seven years ago only eight percent of America’s adults were online, now 85 percent of them are online, and 72 percent use social networking sites (Pew Internet August 2013). While you should look at the population of particular social media when choosing where to spend your time and energy, in general at least an equal amount of people using social networking are women who make decisions and buy online and are college educated and within the highest income brackets. The 70 million baby boomers – 80 percent of whom own their homes and spend money on home improvement – are actually the fastest-growing segment on social media.

Secondly, social media increases traffic to your website. Some sites are very good at directly bringing people to your website, and others help increase your SEO (search engine optimization – how likely that your information will rank highly on the first page of the big search engine sites like Google and Bing). Social media can do more than tags and other optimization programs because they are built naturally to take what you post and attach it to your rank.

Create a Website that Sells Your Expertise
I am constantly surprised at how many designers, architects and some of the smaller manufacturers neglect their websites. In today’s day and age, especially in an industry that is so visual, your website should be your absolute best foot forward. Having a good online presence and using a lot of pictures and videos significantly sets you apart, and without it, many buyers will just never even give you a chance because they have learned to go online when looking for recommendations and when doing research about firms, services and products.

In brief, your website in a “must do” in any social media plan. It should have a combination of corporate brochures and a more interactive blog that includes news, events, trends – something that shows off your personal work and your expertise by educating people for free.  While WordPress and Blogger make it increasingly easy to create and/or maintain your own website for free, and if you are heavily involved in social media, your site can be a “landing page” website that points to all of your social media sites, your blog and other social media sites.

How to Be Successful on Social Media
It’s crucial in social media that you follow some basic “rules of engagement” to be successful. A good website for the kitchen and bath professional must:

- Be easy to navigate and read
- Provide a reason for users to visit repeatedly
- Collect emails and post new information consistently
- Have the ability for the user to engage through commenting
- Feature easily “Pinnable” photographs

If you ever have a question on how to engage in social media, think of the online world as the largest host of industry and consumer events. If all the opportunities for connecting and engaging with your peers, new products, consumers and continuing education were under the same massive convention center roof that was hosting events for fraternity gatherings and class reunions, you’ve entered the first page of any social media.

After you have defined your goals for social media, find and engage in the “right rooms” like you would at a convention center. This includes selecting the best platforms for you and then surrounding yourself with the people in your plan. Interact with people as you would at a cocktail party. At an industry after-hours event for professionals or consumers, would you wear a banner around your neck that read, “Read my Book!” “Visit my Website!” See what I have done!” and start conversations with a sales pitch? Of course not! The easiest rule for engaging in social media is to use the same manners and behavior that represent the transparent, authentic you.

In terms of your time and content, a good guideline is sharing in thirds: No more than 30 percent of your content should be about you, your projects, your skills, your awards, your clients, your posts and…well YOU. And when you are sharing your own “great stuff” directly, remember to please not post advertisements or even advertorials. When sharing about you, present your skills and expertise in ways that help those you want to reach such as case studies, before-and-after photos, teaching points for peers, etc.

The rest of your content sharing should be about others. Spend about half of this time sharing what others are doing – from industry trends to articles by colleagues and sites like www.kbbonline.com where you help others, establish your thought leadership and build relationships. Sites like bit.ly and scoop.it allow you to curate and save sites and share them with multiple social networks at the same time. Hootsuite enables you to schedule your messages so they go out at prime times for your market at a regular pace and so you don’t have to be online for the sharing of the first two kinds of content. A full third of your time should be direct engagement (not automated messages) with others through places like twitter chats, communities on Facebook, G+ and the new wave of industry-specific offerings online.

Social media is not broadcast media. It is first and foremost about building engagement, interaction and relationships. Say please and thank you. Recognize what others are doing. Develop relationships where the conversation doesn’t always have to be about work. Share. Share. Share. Give more than you ask or show about yourself. Be helpful. Be a valuable resource. Create and share resources of interest to your peers and consumers. Be a friend, colleague, expert – be REAL. Don’t be afraid to – in fact it’s expected that you do – share the personal you, your interests, family and day-to-day life conversations.

Through Demand Design and its sister companies, Gail Zahtz solves similar challenges for the design and healthcare industries by enabling them to meet the needs of baby boomers. Specializing in all areas of experience design, Zahtz is the first leader to combine the best of universal, accessible, sensory, sustainable and evidence-based design. She will be speaking at KBIS on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at 12:30 p.m. on “Reaching and Designing for Baby Boomers.”

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