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Monday, June 25, 2007

Welcome To My Home!

This article appearted in the May 7, 2006 issue of Floor Covering Weekly.

Imagine this scenario: A woman enters your flooring store. You greet her with a bland “Can I help you?” You start telling her about your $3 special. You walk her to that display and encourage her to commit to ordering that product. Rather than agree, she walks out and never comes back.

Extreme? Probably not. Familiar? Possibly. Do you wonder why? Sure, she just wasn’t serious about buying anything, right?

WRONG!

Step back and think about that consumer, her life and her options. Consumers are time pressed. I’m sure you are, too. They have a multitude of options available to them for their disposable dollars and most of those options are a lot more fun than a flooring store. So, why do you think that consumer entered your store? Just to pass the time? I suggest that she entered the store to start the flooring purchase process.

Imagine another scenario. Instead, welcome that consumer as if she were entering your home. “Hello. How do you do? My name is Christine. May I take your coat? We have some fresh coffee brewing. May I offer you a cup? Please make yourself at home." You might might explain how the store is laid out, and that your special vignettes showcase new ideas and products, etc.

This approach assumes that you’re as proud of your store as you are of your home: it’s clean, uncluttered, maybe with a glorious bouquet of flowers by the entrance. The store smells good, it showcases a sense of fashion and good taste. Your store windows look engaging -- especially compared to those of the store down the street that only shows the back of carpet racks. Your bathrooms are not only spotless, but also demonstrate some nifty ways of combining textures and surfaces.

This approach also puts the consumer first, not last, so that you truly seek to understand and appreciate what she is looking to achieve in her home – the most emotionally charged place in her life, the one most about self-branding and statements of style, and the one she is most likely to trade up for.

Whether we are aware or not, every one of us engages in ‘trading up’ – the notion that Michael Silverstein and Neil Fiske introduced in their book of the same name – even more so as it relates to the home. So, why do we exert so much effort pushing low-priced products on our consumers before even giving them a chance to explore?

Before rushing to push a product, consider asking her questions. Let her talk. Learn about her, her dreams, the scope of her project [I guarantee that it’s more than the one room she is specifically referring to. Maybe not right now, but definitely soon if you do a good job!], the people in her life, etc.

As you learn more about her, earn her trust and gain her confidence, you start to build a relationship with her. You can then offer her options to consider that have nothing to do with price. Because you’ve demonstrated respect and have listened to her, she will appreciate your recommendations. These will have more to do with style and beauty and bringing those into her home.

In essence, you will facilitate ‘trading up’ on the carpet decision, making your consumer ecstatic in the process, and giving her a reason to refer you to others -- delivering greater profitability to your store.

Isn’t that a better scenario?

So, what are you waiting for? Banish the product focused hard sell and focus instead on developing a relationship with your consumer. Welcome her to your world and focus on learning more about her so you can match her wants and desires to the products you offer.

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To reinforce how important it is to be focused on the needs of women consumers, consider these recent articles:

+ Amy Brown from HGTVPro.com discusses in Marketing to Women differences between men and women.

+ In honor of Father's Day, Joyce Gannon from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes
When it comes to spending, dad gets the hook - Studies show moms still control bulk of purchase decisions in the home [published 6/17/2007].

+ And, in the context of the financial services industry, Andrea Learned from Learned on Women posts Marketing to High Net Worth Women: Educate and Allow for a Longer Decision-making Process. Replace financial services references with flooring [or any other category], and it is totally on target! Note the reference to stories and anecdotes.

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