“If you look really closely, most overnight success took a long time.”
Consumer convenience is the standard of our times. As a kitchen and bath dealer, speed, location, and thorough knowledge of the remodeling process are key components to gaining future, life-long clients. How can you show potential kitchen remodelers that your firm is the one worth sticking with when it comes to design solutions? By thinking like they do, and delivering what they want before they know they want it.
Location is key
If it isn’t already, your goal should be to turn prospects into buyers, and those buyers into long-term, loyal clientele. But how do you convince the internet-informed, drop-in consumer who is considering all kitchen resource options to settle on your brand?
It starts with your showroom location.
Many showrooms used to be in industrial or commercial neighborhoods, away from other retail businesses. While there is plenty of benefit for choosing a non-central location for a kitchen and bath showroom, of course, dealerships today can be found in strip malls, centralized business parks, and stand alone buildings in swanky parts of town.
With this change came the responsibility of carefully choosing the right location, down to the building, to get it just right. Because when everything is said and done, the location you choose for your showroom impacts the future of your business.
So, let’s break it down. To turn prospects into long-term clientele, you first have to get them into your showroom.
Ask yourself: Is my showroom located in a place people want to be? Is it easy and relatively painless to get there and free of bottlenecked traffic during rush hour? Are the other businesses within its vicinity easily accessible to incoming traffic and heavily populated with prospective clientele?
People live, or try to live, in as nice a place as they can. Doesn’t it make sense that the purchasing experience for your newly remodeled kitchen or bathroom should be pleasant too?
Of course it does!
Location is almost everything, but the WOW factor starts with first impressions. And the first thing that’s going to make an impression on a prospect is their experience in getting to that beautiful showroom you’ve designed.
How’s the parking lot by your showroom? Does it have nice, new asphalt, manicured landscaping, and ample parking? These exterior concerns factor into the perceived confidence and affluence of your business that a prospect will have created in their mind before they pass through the front door.
For a buyer, getting to the showroom for the first time is literally the beginning of their shopping process in designing a new kitchen and bath for their home. A positive experience can kick off that process in a meaningful way while enticing them to retain your services and to return to fulfill their future remodeling needs. And let’s not forget about the power of referrals.
The differentiating showroom
What do your prospects see when they enter your showroom? Does it reflect the image you’re trying to portray? Buying a new kitchen or bath can be overwhelming to consumers when there is so much that goes into designing and installing one that is as personal as their signature. How are they supposed to make sense of it all?
So think of your showroom as more than a well-thought out space where product designs are beautifully displayed. Because, most importantly, it should also serve as an education center. That’s how you will differentiate yourself from the competition.
A welcome wall at the entrance to your showroom should display portraiture introductions to, and the credentials of, you and your staff, your firm’s mission statement, and client testimonials from jobs well done. Such an entry speaks volumes about your team’s professionalism and the company’s competence to lead consumers through that which can be a bewildering buying process.
Informal open space is already a multi-decade trend in business. An open conference area immediately in view ought to be a familiar sight to visitors, and should perpetuate confidence in this increasingly transparent business culture. One creative spin on this notion is to use grass cloth wall texture to pin up sketches of design ideas, plans, images, and textile swaths prepared for clients who have just retained the company for their projects.
Imagine entering a showroom and seeing all the hard work of the company’s design team poured into a beautiful spread of ideas for all to see. It’s a warming, inclusive idea that lends itself to the creative side of the sales process, prompting a potential buyer to contemplate: “I wonder what they will do for me?”
A showroom is a place for building trust with prospective clients, and it begins with a clear, well-designed space that’s inviting to the viewer at the moment of entry. This is where a prospect has their “make it or break it” experience, so it has to be spectacular.
This doesn’t mean it can just look great. It has to feel and smell great. It has to prove itself time and time again to everyone who walks through it.
There should be a logical progression to moving traffic through your showroom because you want prospects to see everything in it without being overwhelmed. Visiting a showroom should be an exciting, adventuresome experience for prospective kitchen and bath buyers.
Your prospects should be able to engage and interact with your designs on display in the same way that they would use them in their own home. Countertops could be topped with snack food, the refrigerator stocked with beverages, wine on the occasion of a big contract signing, and a dishwasher housing clean wine glasses that were just washed in it, for just a few, easy-to-implement examples.
Imagine the aroma of freshly baked, chocolate chip cookies emanating from the oven in your live kitchen display – how inviting!
Cabinets are the largest expense of buying a new kitchen. When displaying 18” wide units side by side in a “cabinet comparison wall,” ranking them good, better, and best, you’re making it easy for the prospect to make intelligent first and second choices in cabinetry. Too many options can be confusing and intimidating and may stall the decision-making process. Knowing their selections up front will help you create a realistic project budget range with them, and familiarize them with cabinet lines they like, so they’ll feel good about any possible changes that may end up being made in the end to reduce the overall expense.
The more tactile a prospect’s experience in your showroom is, the more likely they are to become attached to something in it and feel the need to have that product or detail planned into their design concept.
Your showroom should be a space visitors want to spend time inside. Since those in the market for redesigning their kitchens and baths are agenda-driven, your designs and product ought to speak to the hearts and ambitions of the people who enter your showroom. Indeed, think of your displays in terms of creating room environments with distinct, enduring themes, where the mix of finishes, colors, and textures are inspirational
Whatever its overall layout, there should be a “Great Kitchen” display area where your team’s design talents, most desirable cabinetry lines, and most aesthetically appealing mix of product selections are all on display in one place. This is an area of congregation and it should be your singular biggest display investment.
It bears repeating: Does your showroom reflect the image you’re trying to portray to prospects? Do you have a master showroom plan? If not, it should be a priority! Break your plan down display by display, and then dedicate the resources, budget and design time to execute your master plan over the next year or two. And remember, the best plans have change and growth factored into them.
Vignettes are an art form
Thinking like a customer and thinking like your customers are two very different perspectives. While it takes a moment to step into that role of really thinking like a buyer, you know your own tastes, while the latter requires understanding the interests of people you don’t know.
Or does it? Look into your local market. What are people interested in? Are professional or collegiate sports popular? Is your region known for a certain genre of music, cuisine, or industry? How about its landscapes? Where do locals like to vacation? When putting together vignettes to complement your live “Great Room” kitchen display, draw from the collective tastes of the people around you to produce designs that will resonate most deeply with them.
Vignettes should be practical, relevant, attractive and should thoroughly appeal to classic senses of beauty and intrigue while giving the nod to local culture and aesthetic taste.
You want to have a wide variety of functional vignettes on display, such as a cleanup center, food preparation area, baking center, cooking and serving area, a hospitality center, and so forth.
Give your vignettes catchy titles. They should be clever and follow a single theme such as Key West, Big Sky, Old Cape Cod, or Soho. Choose materials for these vignettes that bring out the authentic look of these favorite vacation destinations.
Lighting will navigate visitors through the showroom. Great lighting attracts people to a display and creates movement. Getting the right lighting is critical. It can turn a viewer off of a display before they’ve even looked at it, or draw them into it to stare. Use floor and ceiling track lighting to play around with the tones and levels of light you use to eliminate shadowing and show the beauty of the products on display. Don’t use spotlights.
Illustrate the buying process with a storyboard
Storyboards are a convenient, educational tool to use with prospects to illustrate the process undertaken when buying a new kitchen or bath. Indeed, it teaches them the right way to make that big investment. And, whether in wall panels or video format, your company storyboard should be presented in a central location – like in the comfortable family room area of your “Great Kitchen” display.
From their initial meeting with a designer through the installation phase, the entire step by step process is mapped out for prospects:
- What to expect in a 2-hour showroom meeting where they’ll learn about the company, its product, its process, and interactively develop a realistic project budget
- An in-home consultation with a designer who will complete project scoping, collect measurements, and take photos
- Preliminary plans and product selections
- Client sign-off on plans and specifications
- Company purchase orders and project scheduling
- The installation phase
Storyboards also lay a foundation of trust and confidence for the designer-client relationship to develop. By breaking down the complexity of doing a kitchen design project, you’re showing the prospect that your firm is thorough, transparent, and professional. People will take notice of seeing the details laid out for them. If you’re educating prospects more effectively than other companies, you can bet those prospects are going to feel more comfortable doing business with your firm than with a competitor.
On-boarding with next steps
Imagine a walk-in couple has just had an exciting time experiencing your showroom. They have much to say about what they loved and lots of questions about their options. Now, sitting down with a designer, they would like to know what comes next.
Your designer will give them some homework in advance of the 2-hour showroom appointment to be scheduled. The couple will be asked to bring in photo representations of layouts or color schemes they admire as well as rough, overall measurements of the area of their home they are planning to redesign. They will also be asked how much they are planning to invest.
This upcoming 2-hour appointment will be the moment for your designer to tie it all together and bring cohesion to the couple’s exciting plans by interactively developing a project budget. After being retained, they’ll schedule an in-home consultation to iron-out the initial specifics of the emerging project. From the showroom sitting area, the couple’s dream plans are already underway.
When you WOW them in the showroom, they’ll fall in love with the project you develop for them before the first sketch is even made.
—Jenny Catalano, SEN Design Group