Are You A Speed Or Design First Company?

We are all focused on product speed. Quick, quick, quick design the product, market the product, sell the product and then count the profits!  Why so fast? Is it not better to take the time to do it best? Slowing down is not all bad. Taking the time to design the product best for its target market can create a product that can survive profitably for decades.

No matter what the price point, every product needs to be the best design for its function in the target market.  It is not difficult to understand. Will your target customer buy the second best? Why not be best in market?

I think we can all agree, Apple is a very successful company?  And they take great care in designing their products. They are not working for a price point, they are focused on delivering products that delight the user, and build loyal devotees as a result.  If it delights, sales and profits follow.  

Where do you want to take your brand?  Please do not fall back on the excuse you cannot change.  You can get better.

If you want to play the price game, do so at your own peril.  In the end, only one, or maybe two, companies will win. Is that a good bet?

Aren’t you curious of what will happen if you do take the extra time to do it best?

Make Sure Everyone Knows

As we start out on our grand plans for the new decade.  Can we make sure to take time to thank all those that help us work to succeed.  We cannot improve in a vacuum. 

Over our journey we will encounter many interesting and talented people.  They will assist you in many ways, some of which never crossed your mind.

When you experience that helping hand, take a few seconds to look them straight in the eye and say thank you.  A simple, sincere gesture accented by two words can make another person’s moment a bit better.

P. S.  Even if they only crossed your life path, Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Night or Hello is a nice touch.

Should We Wait Or Should We Go?

There has been a lot of speculation on how AR, VR and AI are going to change the way we do business and no one really knows where theses platforms will affect their business next. So, instead of waiting, let’s turn the tables and decide where we would like AR, VR and AI implemented in our businesses.  Where can these amazing toods help improve and simplify your business right now?

Take a moment and meet with your teams and make a list of where they think theses programs can make you better.  Once you have the list go out and talk to people that work in these worlds. Find out what is available, now or in the immediate future and start planning.

Is it better to reach out to learn or stay in the dark wondering what will hit next?

Photo by Marlene Leppänen from Pexels

Thoughts For The First Day of 2020

Over the last decade brick and mortar retail stores rode an incredible wave, yet by decade end the weak had been smashed on the rocks.  Internet retailers had taken enough market share to expose those that had survived selling low margin commodities, poor management and stores with poor retail locations.  This is the formula for disaster in any market with any viable competition. Might I mention all of the e-commerce websites that have also blown up: Pets.com, etc.? A poor business model in any venue or time is a poor business model.

My focus in 2020 is to stop blaming the other guy, store or system for kicking my B-Hind.  If I did not see a new technology coming or was running a poorly constructed model, so be it.  

So if you are fearful of the next wave of something that will overwhelm your business…Catch Up.  Get to know what is coming and prepare. This means making time to explore and learn. Time to improve yourself and better your company.  

Let’s prepare for what is next make this next decade one of success instead of pointing fingers.

Best to all in 2020 and beyond….  Engage.

I always wanted to write that…

Image created by Hakeem James Hausley from Pexels

It's Holiday Time, Yipee!

Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
I hope everybody had a lovely Thanksgiving.  A wonderful holiday allowing American families to pause for one day to celebrate the passing year’s blessings. Then consume mass quantities of delicious food.   

As Thanksgiving fades into memory, Christmas Day is on its way.  The massive barrage of advertisements for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday have passed and they have been replaced by a consistent torrent of emails, ads and banners telling me that I can only have XX% off if I buy now!  It is all so annoying. 

Outside of that noise, I do enjoy holiday shopping.  I love to discover just the right gift for my family and friends.  Each gift I select has deep logic behind it, and I know it is something they never would purchase for themselves and will treasure for years.  I hope to watch them peel back the shiny paper and see a bit of delight on their faces when they discover what it is.  I love that look!  Then sometimes they unwrap the gift and look at me, what the….?  Off to the return counter.

The important thing is that my time searching, not dealing or discounting, is time that I spend thinking about the wonderful people in my life and in small, very small, way give them a bit of Holiday joy.  
 
Happy Holidays!  
 
Ohh, P.S.  As the 2019 Holidays pass, all will turn to talking about 2020.  Before that happens, find a moment and congratulate yourself, yes you, for all the hard work you did in 2019.  Every once in a while, it is good to look in the mirror and say, great job, well done!  Cheers
A version of this article appeared in the December 20, 2019 issue of DPHA Connections.

Is Everyone Ready for Your Sales Call? Really?

It is the third Tuesday of the month and as usual, this outside salesperson will be visiting account ABC at 9am, DEF at noon for lunch, LMN at 2:30 and finish the day at XYZ at 4:00.  

This looks great. During a full day of outside calls, you have the chance to tell your brand stories to your targeted customers. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s hit the road.  One question: are you prepared?   

Some interesting questions to ask before you schedule any and all outside calls: 

  • Do they know you are coming?
  • What do you want to accomplish at each call?
  • Do you have plenty of samples to share?
  • Have you checked the companies’ websites and social media posts to know what they are working on and promoting?
  • What happened on your last call there?  Did you review your notes?
  • What have been your company’s interactions with each customer since that last call?  Do you need to bring any parts or soothe any ruffled feathers?
  • DO THEY KNOW YOU ARE COMING?

This call routine was the first thing that was drilled into my head by my mentor, Al Dubin.  If I couldn’t answer all of these questions, Al told me to get back in that chair!  Unprepared salespeople were his number one pet peeve. R-E-S-P-E-C-T your customer and do your homework. You have to give to get.

I am still amazed at how often salespeople, sales managers and local representatives would stop by with no plan, no product samples and no idea of what was going on with our shared interests.  

They would show up when staff was busy selling, purchasing agents purchasing, designers pitching, plumbers fighting inspectors and builders trying to find subcontractors.  They would drop in at 11ish just to say hello and see if there were any issues or questions.  People, time is incredibly valuable for all involved and must be used effectively. Put simply, no one should call on anyone if they do not have an appointment and a beneficial agenda for all parties involved.  

Management has to be on top of this.  Every sales call made should align with your company’s focus and what your marketing team is promoting.  It is amazing what a company can accomplish when all the teams have the same game plan. 

Let’s stop unprepared calls; take that time and generate the quality and additional sales from your showroom visits that you and your clients expect and deserve.
A version of this article appeared in the December 6, 2019 issue of DPHA’s Connections

Amazon is Now Nike-less. Is This The First of Many?

We all know that Nike has parted ways with Amazon.  It was all over the news last week and for a short time people will still go to Amazon to find Nike products and only see what resellers have to offer.  Eventually the world will go to Nike.com for its brilliantly designed and marketed products. So no big deal – click Amazon for Nike wrong, click Nike for Nike.  And so it goes. Heavens No!

Okay hold on to the guard rails.  All of these players would absolutely thump me in any form of intelligence test but it is the age of self publishing, and heck, you read this much.

In the Amazon sales model it relies on the universal knowledge that they have everything and at the best price. And if that branded item’s Amazon price is a bit too high for your budget…well, Amazon offers these perceived lesser brands’ products and if that is still a bit too steep, we have our “in-house” brand.  So Amazon makes money on every sale and the bait, the big brand (Nike) gets zip. This is the exact same path that Home Depot followed. They did not want the residential brands, they wanted the professional brands. The brands your local home center did not have. Then Home Depot beat up every brand for a better price.  Sound familiar?

If brands feel they can do well without Amazon’s web site, and this is very important, their last mile solution, then why do they need this e-store?  Nike now knows they have solved those issues and believes that its customers would rather shop at Nike.com than purchase on Amazon.com. That is the differentiating factor, buy versus shop.  

I believe that people do not shop on Amazon, they hear about, read about, need something and they hit the easy button and buy.  It is just that simple and vulnerable. It is not only easy for the purchaser but also the web site that hosts the article about the book that the reader now wants to buy.  Add a rewarded hyperlink and easy button. If Highsnobiety reviews a new Nike sneaker, they have to think new and link to Nike, not Amazon. So do Adidas, Puma, et al stay with the old answer?  Capitalist Game On. For the big brands.

In the early days, Amazon was it and the brilliant Mr. Bezos got that and started the day 1 flywheel.  One of his moonshots is actually a moon shot, now that is vision. But nothing lasts forever if it stays stagnant.  Yes, Amazon’s web site is stagnant. Its key selling points to brands and manufacturers is its huge following and a culture changing last mile solution.  Big things but not everything.  

So the questions: Can big, well known and respected brands leave Amazon? Can UPS, FedEx and other delivery services effectively pick up the slack? And finally, Has Amazon.com peaked? 

More to come.

I would love to hear your comments on this rant.

Some other interesting articles:

Original Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Websites Only Take my Jobs on Price! Horse Pucky…

Earlier I wrote an article with the opening line, “So why is it that 47% of top interior designers purchase products online?” and most of your comments were that the websites offered free freight and lower prices.  Wake up gang, that isn’t the major reason designers are buying online. We are losing more business to digital savvy designers that are specifying and buying on the Internet. Jobs that we will NEVER know about. Sure, there are top shelf luxury designers that are price obsessed, but most are looking for easy access to information when and where they want it.  

Every time you lose a job to a low-ball bid, you hear about it directly from your customer.  It hurts badly and sticks in your mind! All that time, all that effort, amounted to nothing.  What about the job at that same design house that was completely specified and purchased online?  You knew absolutely nothing about it and were not involved at all. What is worse for your business, losing a job to a low balling #@!*#**, or never getting a whiff of a large job as it was all worked on online?  

After the recession, website companies remained unsophisticated and price was their key advantage.  The surviving sites, and new designer-oriented sites, offer an addictive combination of an easily navigable user interface and anywhere, anytime accessibility with live solid phone and chat support.  This is why talented designers are working on these sites. It has absolutely nothing to do with price. Do not mix these two up. Price competition is not going away, but in the luxury market it is not as big an issue as we portray it.  People will take the easiest path first.

If a customer comes in and says they want to order a $6,000 list bathtub from lowestofthelow.com, just let them.  Make a note on your calendar to check back when the job is trimming out and ask how that worked out.  I think you will remind them not to do that again. I suggest not fighting individual pricing debates, unless it happens often.  There will always be sites and stores that offer silly pricing. It is really not worth your team’s time, and you are worth your profit.  Take the energy and focus it on the future.

I was not aware how many talented designers were specifying products online until we started to receive RFQs that were 100% built on websites.  When we reached out to these good clients, they told us it was nothing against our team or showrooms, it was that our website was hard to work. So they matriculated their favorite brands’ websites that offered them the intuitive interface they craved.  Now that hurt. We did everything right except offer our good customers the tools they wanted.

We have to believe and think big.  Big like when you opened our business.  We knew everyone would come because our look was so damn good. Let’s take that same attitude and build magnetic web sites. 

Note: Please take another look at the proposed strategy in an earlier post.  “So why is it that 47% of top interior designers purchase products online?” It offers a few tips.

A version of this article appeared in the November 256 issue of DPHA Connections.

If It’s New, Display it!

Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

If a solid vendor releases a new product, put it on display. No debate. Get it on the floor ASAP!

It is not about your taste, your style or what you think is hot. How many times have you heard the phrase, “I cannot believe they bought that!” There are fabulous tightly-focused luxury showrooms that are directly reflective of its owners’ style.

Roman and Williams Guild is directly derivative of the design style of the Robin Standefer and Stephen Aleshch. They curate the store’s collection of just about everything for the home with their style filter. This curation is also seen at stores such as Room & Board, Rejuvenation Hardware and Blu Dot Design.

They all have their design niche and stick to it. However, if you are to succeed in one or two home product groups, such as luxury plumbing and hardware, be known to have all the latest and greatest. How many times have I heard a showroom saying, “No one will buy that,” and it ends up being the hot look for the year. The truth is we do not have any idea what Mr. and Mrs. Smith will fancy, but it is up to us to make sure we can find it.

Sure some of the new designs die ugly deaths, but that is not the point. If you think every brand always hits the right note, think again. I am not going to dig deep here, but I would postulate that if a designer or go-to vendor hits one out of four, they are in rarified air. 

Our market is too small to only show Euro-modern or transitional. At Phylrich, the great dolphin and swan series only accounted for 2% of product sales, but 7% of dollar sales. We never know what look will ignite a passion in a client. Show the new as long as you can. If it is only a fabulous dust collector, then move on. But if it hits a certain cord, Wahoo.

If I am a successful distributor of a quality company and they invest all the money and time to create a new product line, I will put it on display. In fact, we had the rule with our good representatives that if this brand introduces a new product, get it on order. We wanted to be the first in town to display its new look.

P.S. Vendors: If your good distributors follow this path, you should make sure they are supported in their willingness to get your new products on display. A DPH vendor’s best marketing is making sure the best salespeople in the best showrooms have its latest and greatest on display. Without the display, sales are tough.

Except for a few heavyweights, luxury DPH showrooms are poor marketers. Yell and scream all you want, but it is true. It’s not that we cannot market. We do not have the funds to do so. Five percent of $15 million is a lot less than 5% of $100 million. Heck, running a basic digital marketing package runs between $7,000 to $10,000 a month, not including website maintenance. To reach the design and building trade along with the interested homeowner takes coordination between factory and showroom. Both need to work together to get the word out.

Our strong calling card to our design and trade accounts is our function and deep product knowledge. If the Smiths want a faucet they saw in Domus magazine that is manufactured in Denmark and not yet available in North America, we get it. 

If it is out there, we will find it and make sure it will work as specified.

If it is new, show it and share the story with anyone and everyone.

Anonter version of this post appeared in the November issue of Supply House Times.

Your Customer Needs To Remember You So They Come Back. How About a Postcard?

Image by Brian Merrill from Pixabay

Everyday your showroom sends out products to finish up a job.  They range from the final 3 cabinet knobs on a simple kitchen upgrade to finally delivering the wall accessories on a wonderfully large home.  But once those products are installed, your showrooms starts to fade from your client’s memory.  They will not be visiting your showroom next week or next month.  In fact, the homeowner might not need your expertise for a year or two or even longer.  Your challenge is to make sure you remain front and center in their mind for years to come when it comes to all things decorative plumbing and hardware.  They may remember your business, but if some new “shiny new” company pops up or a friend works with a competitor, your brand will likely slip their mind. 

Sixty days after the job has been completed, I suggest mailing the homeowners a simple thank you postcard from the point sales person.  Nothing elaborates, just your brand on the front and a handwritten thank you on the back with an image of the salesperson. Then every quarter, send a simple postcard with four images of new products recently added to your showroom along with your logo to their home address.  On the back, add a handwritten commentary on those new products, an image of the point salesperson and an invitation to stop by any time. That’s it.  Don’t over think it.  The recipient will probably quickly look at one side, flip to the other side and then spin it into the trash, but they will see a familiar face and a brand they know.  

“Snail-mail” is not what it used to be, but it still offers communication opportunities that the digital world cannot match.

P.S. Only send postcards, since thank you cards in envelopes have to opened and read.  That might not happen.  Keep-It-Simple.