Your Action Plan For 2018

Showrooms wishing to remain viable in the new year must act quickly to stay relevant in this new market landscape and continue to prosper in 2020.

[dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#dd3333″]T[/dropcap]he goal for this month’s column is to cause thought and provoke some necessary actions that may have yet to be taken.

While the media continues to be consumed with negative articles on the state of retail – after all, bad news sells – the entire focus of this calamity is on “big box” retailers that are way overstored, understaffed, and with a future outlook that is overall pretty gloomy.

To survive, these behemoths shed locations and staff in effort to reinvent themselves. The good news is that there is still an opportunity for niche and specialty retailers like lighting showrooms.

“Will You Do What It Takes to Survive the Changes?”

According to various research organizations, customers walking into mass market retail showrooms are disappointed that the store did not deliver an experience that met their current level of expectation. Often this level of expectation is the result of a digital marketing effort that is in contrast to the real occurrences that happen in the showroom.

Lighting showrooms – along with their sales teams – that can meet the challenge of creating, promoting and then exceeding client expectations will become the victors. This requires actions be taken that simultaneously define “who” you are and “why” you are in business.

1. Who Are You?

To be attractive to clients in your marketplace, define precisely who and what the showroom represents to the community that is your market. Determining “who you are” is first and foremost a self-awareness exercise that requires specific answers regarding products, services, quality of client experience, and staff performance. This self-administered exercise is only successful when the answers are thought-out and not off the cuff.

Companies that continue to focus only on efficiently trading boxes for dollars will slowly but surely fall from the ranks of customer approval. This self-destructive activity is placing you in head-to-head competition against various distribution goliaths.

To win at the new retail game, you must promote your dissimilarities. Concentrating on promoting the unique qualities your showroom brings to the table is the communication that will increase your traffic and separate you from all the competition brick and mortar as well as digital.

Begin your self-assessment by carefully and thoroughly answering these refined questions that define your distinctive talents. For every answer, ask yourself “Why?” five times; this is called the 5 Whys and is used in many activities from goal setting, defining cause and product selection to various types of decision-making. Developed by Sakichi Toyoda and utilized at Toyota Motors, the “5 Whys” is a system that effectively gets to the heart of any matter.

Schedule some time away to work on your self-assessment and think in-depth about these foundational questions. Change “We” to “I” if you are a solopreneur or a salesperson working independently on your professional development:

“Why are we in the lighting business?”

“What is the value that our showroom brings as a business to our clients and our community?”

“What do we do better than all of our competition?”

“Who is our perfect (Primal Client) client?”

What experiences do we offer that will create raving fans that want to share the wonder of our showroom?”

Remember to get the answer to each and then ask yourself the “Why” five times.

2. Who You Are Not!

The other side of the coin that is equally important to know is who you are not. Sometimes this is a more natural place to start since we all know what we do not like or don’t want to do.

By acknowledging what your business is not, let’s identify and then put aside all the things we are not or do not do well. The result will be an honest self-appraisal that will foster clear communication, limit, or eliminate time spent on activities that are not our strengths and assures that sales and marketing efforts are congruent.   

3. Join the Branding Dance

Now that you have learned who you are, you can take action to be successful at connecting with your customer base. The marketplace wants to know as much about you as you want to know about them. Is the store the leader in lighting design? Maybe the store is a boutique shop for those who want something unique or special. Is the company an involved member in the community supporting local causes?

Marketing your unique strengths and activities will constitute a significant part of your brand and are the tools of attraction and retention while appealing to your “Primal Client.” The personality of the showroom is the brand. It is not one individual’s personality that stands out, but a reflection of the personality of your company that resonates with your “Primal Client” who you are working hard to attract. Building and promoting your brand is, in my opinion, an essential focus for 2018.

Many seem to think that branding is about making a sale, but it is not. Branding is about the long-term. Branding can be about promoting trust, your status as lighting experts, and how current and future clients perceive you in the marketplace. Your showroom or personal brand is the narrative that will focus on the unique and positive experiences provided while continually developing the legacy of the brand. 

4. Identify Your Primal Client

The new world of marketing and sales must be built around a “Primal Client.” This is the customer who is the foundational persona of your specific business. It may be a retail client, a designer or specifier base, electricians, or builders. While we all can – and will – work with each of these various clients, only one is primal, and it will take some investigation and number-crunching to find out which one is.

The “Primal Client” is the customer that every process, policy, and interaction in the business is tailored around. The days of being a middle-of-the-road generalist are over. This is the realm of the big box retailers and their digital counterparts. There is an old saying that applies here: “You can’t be everything to everybody, so stop trying!”

The changes that happen will affect both processes and policies. The modifications to these client-impact areas are predicated on the expectations and behaviors of the empowered shoppers that you have targeted. 

No matter which persona you have identified as your “Primal Client,” they will all continually be influenced by the ongoing digital acclimation they experience, including the transparency that the Internet provides.

5. Less Foot Traffic = Better Selling

Only the ostrich believes that in-store traffic has not changed or will bounce back. With about 10 percent of all retail being conducted online now and about 15 percent predicted for 2020, you must have and also express tremendous gratitude and appreciation for the people who walk into your showroom.

To succeed, we must believe that the digitally inclined customer is in the showroom only to validate the research they have done online, and only then they will determine if we are a credible resource and what the buying experience would be like from this salesperson and showroom. It is our job to do all we can to sell this customer on working with us and not making a purchase elsewhere.

More than ever before, the success of a showroom goes beyond price-matching the digital discounters and is the result of superior sales talent. Preparing our sales teams for success is a blend of cutting-edge product knowledge and interpersonal selling skills, sprinkled with digital proficiency.

If you do not have a formal process for developing and coaching your team’s skills, it is time to put one in place. This will be critical to both the sales team’s and the showroom’s continued success. The objective is about maximizing the client experience while reinforcing creditability and all of that is done by the salesperson who is in front of them.

Final Thought

All in all, digital formats let us enter the market most efficiently against our competition and places showrooms on the same playing field as all of their opponents. Communicating our uniqueness is the imperative ante that is a requirement for attracting customers into the showroom, not just screaming about product, discount, or a sale.

When the hard work is fruitful and the client arrives, the showroom team must exceed the digital expectations in a way only a human-to-human interaction can. While exceptional product knowledge and customer service will do a lot to help increase sales, the sales team must also utilize these effective skills in order to close sales and be the winners in 2018. 

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