Scouting Report (May/June 2014)

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Where to go from here, branding your business, The Color House - growing their online presence, reasons why your store should blog, company profiles, FYI, and news and views.

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  • An ALLPRO Publication VOL. 23, ISSUE 9 MAY / JUNE 2014

    By: Scott Morath

    From a strategic standpoint that means taking astep back and looking at the big picture. What areyour goals and do you have the assets or resourcesto achieve those goals? Do you have a plan inplace? If so, do you need to adjust that plan? Whatare some things you could do differently to betterposition yourself? In this issue we try to offer up a

    few things to help spurnew ideas or reconsiderthings you may havedismissed in the past.

    Matt Docherty of HEROProducts has contributed ashort article on how toassess your overallbusiness and develop aroadmap for it. We alsolook at ALLPRO memberThe Color House. Theyverevamped their digitalpresence and are beginningto see the fruits of their

    efforts with increased website traffic and greaterengagement with their customers.

    We re-introduce you to blogging and our initiativewith ALLPRO member Hirshfields to facilitate anALLPRO blog that members can use as a resourceto build a larger online presence. In the CompanyProfiles section we introduce you to new supplierpartners Epoxi-Tech, Jotun Paints, and PlutoniumPaint. You probably saw each at the show but maynot have been able to spend as much time as youwouldve liked learning about who they are. Eachbrings something different to the table that mayprovide you with a distinct opportunity in yourmarket.

    In conclusion, I hope youll take the time to readthrough this issue and carefully consider thematerial presented. While there is no guaranteedformula for success, there are helpful ideas andsuccess stories. Each may inspire and help youfigure out where to go from here.

    Where to Go From HereYou wont hear it from politicians or pundits (atleast not in a mid-term election year) and youprobably wont hear it espoused by businessanalysts for fear of speaking too soon. However, ifyou take a moment to look at the indicators, or atleast the ones our industry measures, you maybegin to recognize the signs of an economy that isstable and growing again.

    Reports from Kiplinger, theNational Association ofHome Builders, the USCensus Bureau, and Dept.of Housing and UrbanDevelopment all speak ofcontinued confidence andstability. Now, by stableand growing I dont meanthe kind of stable andgrowing our industryexperienced during thehousing boom. If yourewaiting for those days toreturn dont hold your breath. We are stable andgrowing incrementally at a much more measuredpace but its growth nonetheless.

    That incremental growth will, of course, betempered by the opportunities that lie ahead.Meaning todays post recession consumers aremuch more conscientious about spending money.Theyre more apt to live within their means ratherthan make large purchases on credit or financelarge home projects. Likewise, business owners ingeneral are much leaner, operating with a greaterfocus on being efficient and also less willing toincur debt. In short, consumers arent willing tospend as much as they once were which meanstheres not as much meat on the proverbial bone.And retailers are still just as hungry as ever buttheres less to go around, so the competition isparticularly intense. That means you have to besmarter, work harder, and maximize resources evenmore so than before to continue to compete.

  • branding is typically mistaken for company identity,naming or logos. When developing your brand,start by asking yourself these questions;

    Does your brand accurately reflect what youwant you to be?

    Does your brand create a compelling point ofdistinction that gives you a competitive edge?

    What are you doing about the gaps that existbetween what you are and what you could be?

    It is a common myth that simple BrandManagement breeds success - whereas quiteoften, this is not the case. Many businesses forgetto manage their brand, while others believe theydo, when in fact they are only focusing oncompany identity. By contrast, the most successfulcompanies focus on strategic brand maintenanceas it relates to every aspect of their business. Thesecompanies understand that logos and messagesare mere tools that are used in conjunction withmeaningful touch points, toward creating emotionalconnections with your customers. Thesecompanies forge brand loyalty and this branddevelopment / management is not a one-timeevent, but rather a forever EARN, and an ongoingprocess toward driving business results as yourBrand is continually evolving or dying.

    We must remember that everyday markets change,and so do customer perceptions, consequently,Brand Assessment requires continual reevaluationand a commitment to brand validation in every partof your company. Brand management helps youand your staff re-commit to the vision and goals ofyour business, ensuring consistent and accurateapplication of your brand across the organization.Remember the only thing constant is change, andwe operate in a changing marketplace. Competitorschange; consumer perceptions change; yourcustomers values change; and your products andservices change. Thats why all successfulorganizations periodically reassess and refresh theirbrands. A brand assessment provides anopportunity to evaluate the strength of your brand,to underscore the value of your brand withcustomers, and to reposition the brand, ifnecessary, to reflect changes in your market.Finally, it ensures accurate application across theorganization. Evaluate your brand, both internallyand externally, identifying the gaps between whatyou want your brand to be represented and howyour customers perceive your brand in themarketplace. This continual focus enables yourbusiness to grow and prosper as successfulbrands stem from solid brand strategies.

    Now its time to put your brand into action, and

    Branding Your BusinessBy: Matt Docherty, VP of Sales HERO Products

    Every business whether an individual retaillocation, multiple outlet retailer or a largecorporation, needs a plan to market its business.This plan should include all of the following; aDefined marketing strategy, a roadmap allowingpath toward Implementation and a timelinemeasuring the Executables toward yourobjectives. Without these three criticalcomponents, your company will not survive &D.I.E. in the business world, as it would be virtuallyimpossible to inform your community about theessential reason for the existence of your businessand about all the products you offer & that areavailable to them.

    The foundation of any successful business beginswith how you, as an independent retailer, chooseto market & advertise your company and products.This may be accomplished in different methods,but should always begin with a Brand Assessment.The 1st step in this process is to conduct anoverview of where your company currently fitsinto the marketplace. This is typicallyaccomplished by reviewing your product categorysegments along with current market share.

    Brand Overview - if youre in business, believe itor not you have a brand. Chances are, you dontthink about it very often. In fact you may not evenknow what it is, but one thing is definite: Yourbrand is all your customers know about you. Itsnot the products you sell; its not the services youoffer. Your brand doesnt even exist in materialform. Rather your brand is a perception aconcept that exists in the mind of your customer.Brands tap into all aspects of your customersdecision-making process, and create a point ofdistinction between you and your competitors. Infact, your brand is the most influential thing yourcustomer will ever know about you. The beauty ofbrand is that you can control it. Better yet, you getto choose it. And if you take a proactive approachto managing your brand, youll be well on yourway to controlling your success. And yet all thewhile, your brand singularly determines the futureof your business.

    Brand Development isnt about your logo. In fact

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  • ALLPRO member Color House, with three stores in Providence, RI, recently underwent a completeredesign of their company website and onlinepresence in general. We sat down with ownersDoug and Jean Hauser to get the skinny on theirdigital transformation and how its benefited their business.

    SR: What first made you decide to design a newwebsite and how does it differ from your old one?

    CH: We wanted a fresh and innovative web site thatwould let our customers understand more aboutwho The Color House is versus what The ColorHouse sells, whileattracting a youngerclientele. Previouslywe used amanufacturerprovided host sitebut our goal is reallyto brand ColorHouse and connectwith the localcommunity. Wewerent able to dothat with the formatof the old site.

    What was yourprocess fordesigning the newwebsite? Did youhave certainattributes in mindwhen developing it?

    We interviewednumerous web designers before settling on the onewe felt would be the best for us. We spent a lot oftime looking at all sorts of web sites, not only paintand design related, to get ideas of how we wantedours to look. It was important to us that our site wasuser friendly but also informative and edgy.

    How did you decide on adding a designconsultation appointment sign up? What successhave you seen from this feature so far?

    When reviewing other sites we noticed that they hadthe design appointment sign up as a feature. It hasbeen very successful for us! We are still working outsome of the kinks but it allows you to immediatelycontact customers who are interested in our services.

    What made you decide to add a news board? Whatkind of news do you usually feature on this forumand do you think it benefits users?

    We use our news board for our blog and also to postany prevalent information on paint and design. We

    have been getting a lot of positive feedback soapparently people are reading and benefiting from it!We plan to create How-To videos and post themhere in the future as well.

    In reference to your team page, do you think addingprofiles about your employees benefits first timecustomers visiting the store?

    Our team page is one of our favorite pages. I think itpersonalizes The Color House to our customers andalso puts a face to a name when either first timecustomers visit our stores or someone calls onthe telephone.

    You have integrated linksto your Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest and other socialmedia pages directly intoyour site. Have you seenan increase in site visitorssince adding these links?

    Our website is still veryfresh and we are currentlyworking on making oursocial media more effectivefor us, so we cant saydefinitively that increases insite traffic are due to that.

    Overall what success haveyou seen with the newwebsite?

    We have seen animpressive leap in trafficsince we launched our newwebsite. Aside from all of

    the online appointments we are receiving, the overallfoot traffic in our stores has greatly increased.

    How important do you feel having a companywebsite is to a business?

    In this day and age is it vital to have a companywebsite.

    Do you have any advice to member companies whodo not yet have a company website and areinterested in starting this endeavor?

    I think it is important to do your research and takeyour time when launching a new website. It took usa full year before we were ready to go live.

    With that, were sure Color Houses efforts to builda larger digital presence will continue to pay dividends in the long run. Be sure to visitwww.thecolorhouse.com and see for yourself someof the features and tools Color House has integratedinto their new website.

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    The Color House - Growing Their Online Presence

  • Reasons Why Your Store Should BlogYou may have heard the word "blog" thrown aroundhere and there in meetings and on the Internet.You've no doubt heard that your business shouldhave one of these blogs and that it's very important.It's understood that a blog is a valuable tool for yourbusiness, but is it powerful enough to be worth yourtime and effort?

    The Stats on Blogging

    According to website Socialmediatoday.com, thereare a number of stats that support the notion thatblogging is good for your business:

    77% of internet users (thats everyone) read blogs.

    53% of blog readers are age 21 35-year olds. A much sought after demographic in any industry.

    Small businesses with blogs generate 126% more leads.

    Interesting content is one of the top 3 reasons thatpeople follow a brand on social media.

    97% of companies that blog have 97% moreinbound links.

    Websites with blogs have 434% more indexed pages.

    Websites with blogs have 97% more indexed links.

    61% of US consumers have made a purchase based on a blog post.

    90% of consumers find customer content useful.

    82% enjoy reading relevant content from brands.

    70% of consumers learn about a company through articles rather than ads.

    As you can see from the above there are some verycompelling stats that may help you decide if itsworth your time and energy. If you decide it issomething you want to explore and learn moreabout, here is the what, why, and how of bloggingfor your business.

    What is a blog?

    A blog is short for weblog. AKA a blog is an onlineplatform for sharing information and supporting yourbusiness. The person who writes to the blog (you!),is called a blogger. Your role as blogger is to addcontent known as "post", to the blog. Simply put, ablog is a place for your company to shareinformation and expertise!

    How do I set up a blog?

    Setting up a blog with Wordpress does not take along time. Fill in the basics, and customize later. Ifyou need step-by-step directions on how to set up aWordPress account there's a link listed below.

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    What is blogging?

    Blogging means to give your company a voice. Ablog is a place to talk about new products, orservices, discuss timely topics or market trends, andshare expert advice. This is where you can let yourbrands personality shine. Blogging is meant toshow your audience what you're all about!

    The ALLPRO blog provides content for membersto customize and use on their own blogs. Check outThe Color House and see how they personalized apost on Window Treatments for the Nursery withquotes from their designers. Blog content shouldfeature tutorials, tricks and tips of the trade, andvideo. One helpful hint - don't make every blog postabout a sale or promotion happening in your store.In real life, would you want to spend your daytalking to someone who constantly bragged aboutthemselves? Nope, didn't think so!

    Why is it important to my business?

    Aside from the stats already mentioned, a bloggives you a greater online presence and allows youto share valuable insight and information about yourbusiness. You are establishing yourself as a localexpert in your field and a trusted source for yourcustomers. Think about it this way; your blog isyour PR, customer service, and newsletter all rolledinto one!

    What a blog does is create those importantrelationships that build loyalty and ultimately lead tosales. You'll become a reliable resource forinformation on your industry and be top-of-mind forcustomers when they are ready to buy.

    According to Al Ki...