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Archive for Business

Oct 11 2016

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Hey Siri – How Do I Use You to My Advantage?

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Business is booming in the kitchen and bath industry, as new construction and residential remodeling continue to surge. Because of the Internet and websites like Houzz and Pinterest, clients know more about kitchen and bath design and the latest trends than they ever have. New products and technology are being manufactured globally and getting to our market at a faster pace than ever before. Deloitte Global predicts that in 2016, 2.5 trillion photos will be shared or stored online.

We’re all accustomed to getting more, better and faster information, and we’re getting it when we want it and with our own preferred mode of communication – whether it’s online via chat, email, text, social media or by phone. The amount of information we are creating and sharing is astounding. One solution for swamped kitchen and bath professionals is to add staff to keep pace, and another is to automate menial tasks using Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) like Siri, Cortina, Google and Alexa.

Siri takes dictation faster than a professional typist can type; 100 words per minute versus 60-80 words per minute. I can’t even speak 100 words per minute. Siri’s speech recognition is an amazing 95 percent, and those capabilities get even better as Siri learns your language patterns, phrases and jargon.

This learning capability comes from Artificial Intelligence (AI). In 2014, Siri had a brain transplant when Apple baked AI into the iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple TV operating systems. You are walking around with a supercomputer in your pocket that uses AI to act on your voice commands and has the ability to help you interact in new and better ways and to navigate the many aspects of life including how, when and where you do business.

Three Siri Productivity Hacks for Kitchen and Bath Professionals:

1. Search everything with Siri. You can search online: “Hey Siri, search Kohler.com for Dickinson farm sink.” You can also search the App Store, your email, your photos and your notes.

2. Use Siri to dictate to Notes and Mail. Use the Dragon Dictation App for everything else that’s at least a paragraph long.

3. Use Siri with Calendar to schedule meetings, change meetings, email people about meetings and cancel appointments all by voice:

Considering all the computer technology for business that’s now available, speech recognition and voice input might just be the most significant since game-changing computer input methods only occur about once every 40 years. The mouse and touch-screen input methods of the 80s overtook the keyboard input method that’s been around since the 1940s. The voice-input era is still in its infancy, but it’s already providing businesses with competitive advantages – especially to those folks who are very mobile like many of us in the kitchen and bath industry.

– Scott Koehler is a 27-year veteran of the kitchen and bath industry and owner of Dream Kitchen Builders, a design-build firm doing business in the state of North Carolina. Image courtesy of pannawat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Sep 15 2016

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To Advertise or Not to Advertise

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KBB recently asked our KBB Designers Network on LinkedIn about using social media and other advertising techniques to draw customers.

The following is a constructive conversation among three members of our group with some useful input and tips to succeed:

Paul McAlary, Main Line Kitchen Design, Narberth, Pa.

We post and use paid advertising on Houzz, Facebook and YouTube. We pay money to belong and advertise on Angie’s List and pay for review updates and listings on Customer Lobby. We post on our Twitter and Instagram accounts and have a listing on Yelp and dozens of other listing sites. We post and maintain a LinkedIn profile and company profile and participate in the groups we belong to.

The list goes on and on and includes Google+, Klout, Pinterest, Scoopit, Median, The Garden Web and Home and Garden. Add to the social media sites the money we spend on PPC advertising on Google and Yahoo and what we spend on SEO and our website and the “chat box” on our website, and you are talking a huge financial and time-consuming undertaking. And we haven’t even mentioned the organizations we pay to belong to like multiple NARI chapters, the NKBA, the BBB, etc. All these thing make your business visible and findable on the web.

Anne Harvey, AKBD, Fresh Kitchen & Bath Design, Cary, N.C.

Of all these avenues, which ones have brought you the most business?

Paul McAlary: Besides referrals, the best investment to least:
The chat box on our website, our website itself, Houzz free listing, Houzz paid listing, blogs, Facebook dark posts, Youtube, Customer Lobby, PPC Google ads, PPC Yahoo ads, Remarketing Ads, Home Adviser, NARI Memberships, Yelp, Angies List.
After these there is little determinable ROI on our other efforts, but even so our efforts on Twitter, Instagram, Linkedin, etc., help us come up better on internet searches. In comparison, we monitored a large Yellow Page ad for a year and received zero leads.

Anne Harvey: Being a natural skeptic, I have come to some conclusions regarding social media; mainly that their main objective is to make money, not help me be successful – although they are more than happy to take my money and make empty promises about how paying for their service will get me more clients.

We have a society of window shoppers and DIYers. Many users of social media are not out there looking for professionals no matter what the “pros” tell us. They want free ideas they can execute themselves or as cheaply as possible.
I don’t answer the phone when I see Houzz, Home Advisor, etc., on my caller ID. The most successful designers and trade professionals get all their new business via referrals and stay booked months in advance.

Paul McAlary: There is no question that referral business is the best, but no business can grow or even remain static without non-referral customers added to their pool of customers. Getting fresh customers from varied sources also makes a business more sustainable during tough economic times. Advertising – even if it’s simply putting out flyers or signs on lawns – is essential. And the best ways to advertise change yearly.

I am the biggest of skeptics but also try to be open to new ideas, products and advertising trends. Mastering using social media to create business is difficult, and most people selling their services to help you do it won’t succeed unless your business is a very common type that there are known techniques for. And you must excel at any type of advertising to make it work. I know business owners that do incredibly well using Houzz, Home Advisor or Angie’s list, but they put a huge effort into making it work for them,

Denise Butchko, Butchko & Co., Chicago

Not having a presence on social platforms is equivalent to not having a website in today’s market. Your online presence and image are researched by customers to develop trust before they contact you. These platforms are not created to help fill the top of your sales funnel, and you can’t “spend your way” to leads. You can, however, support your organic efforts with paid efforts to increase the qualified leads that can come to your business.
Yes, all platforms will accept your money. That doesn’t guarantee business any more than a Yellow Page ad or even a print or TV campaign guarantees leads.

Anne Harvey: I may not be a fan, but it is a necessary component in today’s world. I have a website, Facebook page, etc., write a blog, create customized flyers and have lawn signs. I didn’t mean to imply that I don’t use social media.

Paul McAlary: Here’s a funny story of how bad advertising won’t help you.
Thirty years ago there was a tool company that advertised in the Yellow Pages across from my ad as a general contractor. I know from the size of the ad that it cost $500 per month in 1986. The advertisement should have read:
Whatever your needs may be, we have what you are looking for. Unfortunately, for five years before they went out of business, it read:
Whatever your needs, maybe we have what you are looking for.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Aug 31 2016

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Social Media and the K&B Industry

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We love joining in on #KBTribeChat, which takes place every Wednesday from 2-3 pm EST across Twitter. Every week a topic is discussed and manufacturers and designers alike all jump in with opinion, advice and facts. This week we discussed the importance of social media in our industry, with #KBTribeChat supplying the questions. Even though I’m a millennial, I still have quite a lot to learn when it comes to social media, and these folks really showed me.

  1. Is Twitter useful to you beyond #KBTribechat?
    Twitter is like real-time dialogue – you could get drawn into it all day chatting with others in the business and clients if you could. It also allows you to post links, whereas Instragram doesn’t.
  2. What social platforms are musts? For what reasons?
    This one is pretty clear: Twitter, Instram, and Facebook. GooglePlus is a must for SEO users, and Houzz and PInterest are also helpful for reaching new clients.
  3. What advice do you have for the design pro who is skeptic about social media?
    Although it’s doubtful that anyone really has skepticism, we all agreed that you need to figure out who your target audience is and what platform they use. Several designers also pointed out that social media in itself is a great outlet for showing off design skills.
  4. How has social media benefited your business?
    Everyone agreed that social media is crucial. It allows a new group of users to engage and provide real-time feedback, is a great networking tool and is marketing without physically going door-to-door.
  5. Do you have a strategy for when to like a tweet and when to retweet?
    Retweets show up as “repeats” of what someone else tweeted, while likes just add up little hearts next to the tweets. Basically, if you want to share with your audience someone else’s tweet, then retweet it. If you just want to show appreciation for a tweet, but it’s not applicable to you business, then like it.

If you want to join in next week, just follow @KBTribeChat on twitter, and when it comes time for the talk, find #KBTribeChat. You can participate by adding #KBTribechat to the end of your tweets. See you next time!

Jul 07 2016

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Designing for Athletes

We talk a lot about universal design and aging-in-place, but what about the busy, hyper-scheduled millennial client? Working with one of us is probably frustrating- we’re all over the place, we won’t have time for meetings and we usually know exactly what we want, and you can’t do much about it.

One aspect of our generation that designers – particularly ones trained for aging-in-place designs – can speak to is our concentrated (not always, of course) focus on fitness and health. Some of the design requirements for aging-in-place clients can actually help protect us and help us stay healthier longer.

I know I’m in the extreme range of this group. I wake up at 4 or 5 a.m. most weekdays to train for two or three hours before work, either running up and down Buckhead or cycling and swimming indoors. I run trial half-marathons usually twice a week. As I’ve gotten into my late twenties, I have to keep doing more to keep myself from getting hurt, and that’s where my bathtub comes in.

10623374_10202288078899649_912448506195404287_o                                         My mom and I before a recent race

For any type of athlete, hydrotherapy is one major part of recovery. The horrible ice bath after a hard workout decreases swelling and pain, and then a hot bath later on increases circulation and promotes healing. It also decreases tension in the muscles and joints.

And of course, getting in and out of my tub I’ve had to grab at the wall a couple of times to keep myself from falling – hence the universal need for grab bars.

Even if the client isn’t athletic, we as a generation are stressed. That’s where the growing trend for an in-home sauna comes in. Saunas promote sweating, which flushes out toxins. It increases blood flow, like the hot tub, helping tired, stressed bodies recover faster. Plus, apparently saunas improve blood flow to skin and keep us looking younger longer.

So as designers, you can help make our lives less stressed with suggestions like these, and hopefully we won’t stress you out with our tricky schedules!