How to attract business in tough times

Trevor Scott, chief executive of RFK Kitchens, explains how to keep a flow of customers coming through the door

More years ago than I care to recall, my old marketing lecturer told his assembled students: “The trouble with advertising is that 50% of it is a waste of time and money – the clever bit is knowing which 50%!”

When times are hard, making sure your marketing is hitting the spot is more important than ever. Fortunately, with the wealth of analytic information available to us today, our e-marketing can, and should, be so much more targeted, and therefore less of a waste of time and money. 

I would suggest that now more than ever it’s so important that every penny you spend on advertising is very specifically targeted at your ideal client demographic. Question is, do you know who these people are?

Customer confirmed

Well you really should, and an analysis of your past few years of clients will give you this information, so make sure you collect it and are using it. The current economic crisis is making our target market much more cautious as to how and where they spend their money, so if you want them to spend it with you rather than your competition then how do you attract them?

Trevor Scott
Trevor Scott

By ‘competition’, I’m not just talking about the retailer down the road, but the myriad of other draws on restricted consumer spending, such as a new ULEZ-compliant EV, double glazing, energy- and cost-efficient heating systems, just to name a few.

We need to engage with our public and keep them interested not just in a new kitchen, bedroom or bathroom, but in us specifically. Our websites are usually the first point of contact, so make sure yours is current and that promotions are clearly time-limited direct ‘calls to action’. Case studies and news blogs have to be kept up-to-date as a matter of course.

Your e-marketing and social media posting must not only be targeted, but also reflect your website’s promotional activity. There’s nothing worse than reading a website ad for a promotion that ended months ago.

Introduce time-limited promotions such as a manufacturers cash-back or heavily discounted products such as a dishwasher, induction hob, or even a boiling water tap. Remember, to work, it has to have a high perceived value for the consumer to commit.

Talk to your furniture suppliers and ask them to support a promotion with an additional discount on specific ranges over the next quarter that you match, and run a ‘Genuine Manufacturers Offer’ that costs you a little in the way of reduced margin but gains you a lot in increased orders.

Run events such as cookery demonstrations or be more specific and offer bread making or baking masterclasses, or cheese and wine tastings. Try doing nibbles on a weekend – there’s nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread or pigs in blankets to put people in the right mood to make a purchase!

Make sure your website is current and that promotions are clearly time-limited direct calls to action


Perhaps invite the local bike or running club to take a coffee and cake break in your showroom? In fact, anything goes, but keep it going as engagement is the name of the game. That way, when consumers are ready to place an order, you’re the one they’ll think of and go to. 

If your business is anything like ours, a high percentage of new clients come by way of referrals, so incentivise your recent customer base to recommend you to their friends and family. This could be as simple as giving them a voucher for a local restaurant.

If an area in your showroom is in need of a refresh, but money is tight, then put up a board saying, ‘Watch this space – new display coming soon!’ It may make them want to know just what the latest trend is.

The skills shortage in the trades is affecting us all, as clients struggle to appoint builders or confirm start dates for projects, so their unwillingness to commit to us increases. They will be looking to you to manage their entire project. 

Sadly there will likely be failures this year – make sure you’re not one of them.

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