Paul Crow, managing director Ripples, suggests that with more and more platforms to put across your brand’s message, and with consumers confused by the choices on the market, it has never been more important to get your marketing right
When you work for a business that is ultimately named after a Genesis song (and in my view not a great tune at that), you inevitably put yourself in a position where you end up having to explain to your customers what you do and how you do it. More importantly, you have to tell them why it is that you do it. And that is not as easy as you think.
Today, the consumer has never been so educated and, as the old saying goes, ‘a little knowledge is dangerous’, which means they have also never been so confused. In the book ‘Paradox of Choice’ by Barry Schwartz, he argues that eliminating consumer choices can greatly reduce anxiety for shoppers.
It’s a brave person that is effectively filtering the customer base, but I would argue that in the interests of the long-term success of your business, now is exactly the time to do it and building your brand is the way.
As markets change, as they have and will because of Covid, the approach needs to change with it. In recent years, we learned quickly that customers were doing all their research online and no longer visiting a showroom as their first port of call. Expensive window displays and exciting showrooms went from number one on their research list to about number five or six compared with the digital windows they were now looking through.
What followed was an army of marketers and manufacturers across the industry pouring their image libraries into Pinterest, Houzz and every other digital platform you could think of. It made a positive difference. Potential customers could actually get a chance to see what they could buy, where they could buy it and in my view, it created a more educated consumer and one that grew more ambitious with their taste. Great news for design-led independent retailers.
But now the digital pool is a little crowded and everyone and everything kind of looks the same. Try covering the logo on the next advert or social media page you see and tell me whether you recognise the company. You might – after all, we all know the industry well, but will the customer? Making sure people understand your proposition and your value and have that associated with you as a brand requires a marketing strategy that takes time and patience tough economies don’t favour.
This is perhaps best summed up by another author Gary Vaynerchuk, who is one of those noisy podcasters, in his book ‘Jab Jab Jab Right Hook’. “Jabs are the value you provide your customers with – the content you put out, the good things you do to convey your appreciation. And the right hook is the ask: it’s when you go in for the sale.” Sounds simple, but it’s not easy to execute across different platforms.
At Ripples, we have a full-time marketing manager and even with their talent and experience, there is always internal debate on whether we are getting this right. One post on Instagram might generate 30 new leads across all our franchises, but the next might generate two. Leads that convert are the ultimate measure of success. The sales team need promotions as footfall increases, sales go up and of course the margin goes down. Success is measured in gross profit pound notes right?
However, at some point you need to be the company the consumer pins to their fridge for that day they want to buy a bathroom because they want what you do. Print adverts, case studies and press features in magazines are all part of that, as people will take you more seriously if it looks like you invested in communicating with them. Average order values and conversion rates will get better the more you have relevant customers in your showroom and these numbers matter as much as footfall.
I am confident most independents’ showrooms reflect the personality of the owners. Fortunately, we are now in the era of marketing those personalities and our industry is rich with them. Getting the tone of voice right in all marketing material is a fine art. Consider the following: you place a nice photo of a member of staff laughing sat at their desk with a design in front of them on social media or even your advert. What does this say about your company? Hopefully, more than words ever could.
The lift pitch test really is as relevant as ever. Imagine you are stuck in a lift for 30 seconds and the only other person in the lift asks you what your company does. What is your answer? Does it clearly define what you do and why you do it? If it does, then share that message in your brand building – everywhere.
The consumer has never needed or wanted the services of an independent retailer more than they do today. Make some noise and let them know who you are and why you do it.