Sell yourself

A good marketing strategy can really help your business stand head and shoulders above the rest. Print and radio ads and traditional POS are joined by a host of online options. More retailers are making use of their websites and engaging customers with in-store events. But let’s not forget the ever-growing number of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Houzz. We spoke to some leading KBB retailers to find out what has really worked for them

Social shakers

Social media is now a ubiquitous part of modern life. But when it comes to using this tool for marketing, it can be bewildering, particularly with the array of platforms available including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. Then there’s online optimisation with Google Adwords to potentially consider. So, where do you start?

Zoe Marshall-McKay, marketing manager at Henley McKay Kitchens in Worcester, recommends taking the DIY approach. “Do as much as you can online, yourself, for free,” she advises. “You can build a website yourself and it does take time, but when you’re first starting out, you do have more time. We did our own website and then put it on all the online directories. We then set up a Facebook page, which is obviously also free. Do whatever you can for nothing to get your name out there.”

Emma Mcloughlin, marketing director at Regal Kitchens in Essex, recommends getting your brand on as many social media sites as possible to maximise your online presence, and try to appeal not only to those in the market for buying a kitchen. “Regal Kitchens currently appears on nine different social media platforms, which I update myself regularly to give the Regal brand a good web presence. We use these to advertise our services and success stories, as well as sharing kitchen hacks, tips and recipes that we believe the public will find useful, regardless of whether they are looking at updating their kitchen or not.”

Claire Horgan, accounts manager at the Cardiff Bathroom Centre, adds: “We have embraced Facebook and Twitter over the past four years. We make occasional posts, generally when we have something new to say. We plan to make more use of it over the coming months to advertise end-of-line and ex-display items. It’s definitely important to have a presence – it’s part of the future.”

Gareth Pendleton, managing director at NBK Bathrooms and Kitchens in Norwich, says you must be consistent. “There’s no point in putting one or two ads in a year. Same as social media – little and often is what helps establish the business as a brand potential customers can trust”

Be savvy with suppliers

High-quality photography, display materials and informative videos can really help to make your posts more visually appealing, according to co-owner of Dorchester-based showroom Bathroom Inspirations, Paul Ackerman.

The company can share these with its customers – in newsletters, and on social media and advertising. “Not everyone does this, but as our world becomes more visual and instant, this kind of resource is invaluable for us. A large number of our suppliers are happy to support our events financially,” Ackerman adds.

Mcloughlin at Regal agrees: “It would be good to have more approved artwork to use in adverts and social media. Suppliers could also help by giving us a stronger presence on their websites, more help with cost of jointly-branded marketing, and bigger discounts on displays”.

NBK’s Pendleton adds that it’s often a struggle even to get distributors and manufacturers to list them on their websites as a dealer. “You would have thought they’d make this a priority,” he says. “But it’s us that has to chase for the listings. On this basis, and the fact most showrooms still have to purchase display products, albeit at heavily discounted rates, I think room for improvement is apparent.”

Help from manufacturers to promote your brand is arguably only possible, or at least most effective, when you have a ‘brand’ to promote, and each of the retailers we spoke to says that creating brand awareness is of crucial importance.

Mcloughlin comments: “Brand awareness is key. We have invested funds in uniforms for our staff and graphics for our installers’ vehicles to help with this. We believe that people need to see our brand and logo at least five times before they would consider asking us for an appointment.”

In addition to uniforms, having branded livery is also a great marketing tool. Cardiff Bathroom Centre’s Horgan adds: “We have a new Sprinter van [pictured left] for our deliveries and have chosen to have a very effective full-body wrap on the vehicle to get it noticed. No longer is it just a delivery vehicle, it’s a travelling billboard.”

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Finally, with some words of advice for retailers wanting to kick-start a marketing strategy, our retailers agree that you should play to your strengths and start small and simple.

Bathroom Inspirations’ Ackerman comments: “We really emphasise the family aspect of the business. Patrick and I are identical twin brothers and we employ Patrick’s daughter Dani. We find the family aspect of the business gives us a lot of credibility locally. People like to deal with and buy from local family people. It’s all about trust.”

NBK’s Pendleton adds: “Go with your instinct. Start off with the basics and build from there. As a one- or two-man band, you may not need to advertise. But to grow, you will need to carefully plan your marketing strategy. Half the time, opportunities will present themselves and you will need to move quickly. Other times, you’ll have longer to plan and consider a more thorough campaign.”

Regal’s Mcloughlin advises retailers to use their strengths. “Encourage other people to bang your drum with incentives, so you don’t have to. Don’t pay thousands for new marketing without testing it out first.”

Get physical

Physical, more traditional advertising methods should also be used as part of a holistic marketing strategy. Things like roundabout billboards and ads in local glossy magazines can be particularly helpful, according to the retailers we spoke to.

Cardiff Bathroom Centre’s Horgan says the brand has been advertising on several roundabouts over the past year. “The roundabouts that we’ve chosen have very clear signs that cannot be missed,” she says. “We’ve been very pleased with the results, which we’ve monitored from our customer feedback. We’ve used billboards and although it’s for short lengths, and is expensive, it can be helpful if running a promotion for a certain length of time.”

Marshall-McKay at Henley McKay agrees that roundabout advertising can be fruitful, and the company also links its events with local advertising campaigns. “Every time we have something social happening in-store, we get the event put in the calendars of local magazines.”

Excel at events

When it comes to creating in-store theatre and enriching customer experience, special events are invariably effective. They are also a good way to bring existing clients back into the store who may not necessarily currently be considering a new purchase.

One of the recent events hosted by Regal Kitchens

One of the recent events hosted by Regal Kitchens

Marshall-McKay at Henley McKay agrees. She says: “We recently held a special Red Nose Day Bake Off. We invited people in to cook using our ovens, and then broadcast it live on Facebook.”

In another novel marketing tactic, Marshall-McKay adds that when the company is fitting a kitchen in a property, they will take photographs that they put on boards outside the property. “This way, people know there’s something happening, and they know who’s doing it. We’ll also put cards through the neighbours’ doors, apologising for any inconvenience. We’ve had a few kitchen sales from that.”

As touched on by Marshall-McKay, events can be very important to drive footfall into the showroom and create a buzz around your brand. And although not all retailers like running them, sales can help too.

Another Regal Kitchens event

Another Regal Kitchens event

Paul Ackerman, who runs Bathroom Inspirations in Dorchester with his brother Patrick, comments: “We run three sales a year (spring, autumn and winter), under the Big Sale headline (with up to 50% off), we also set a specific end date for each sale. This has proven extremely successful, especially entering the New Year. We find it drives foot traffic and telephone enquiries into the showroom, especially as sales draw to their end.

“We annually host trade events to build rapport and relationships with existing and new customers, including manufacturer representatives. Our most recent event was Casino-themed, including roulette tables, live music, cocktails and a hog roast. We found this was hugely effective.”

Retailers looking to hold events in their showrooms should also try and use their suppliers, as appliance brands such as Neff will promote and help facilitate special events.

Adds Regal’s Mcloughlin: “We are one of only five retailers across the UK participating in the pilot of the Neff Cookaholics club, which started in the autumn. The aim of this club is to bring local food experts together with members of the public.

“So far we’ve held a bread-baking masterclass, gluten-free curry cooking workshop, Italian cheese and wine evening, gluten-free muffin baking as well as a butchery workshop. All of these events have brought new people to the showroom and boosted brand awareness locally.”

As well as marketing cookery events, there are lots of other ways that manufacturers can help their retailers. So be sure that you get them involved when you are planning your next event.

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