KBDN

Best Practices for the New Year

To grow your business, focus on incorporating video into your digital offerings, upgrading your website regularly with fresh content, valuing talented employees and capitalizing on networking opportunities.

authors Jamie Gold | January 6, 2018

Another January rolls around, with a new digit to record on your checks, thank-you notes to write and another set of goals to achieve. Happy New Year, everyone! What you do this month, and the trends you track, can set the stage for your success in 2018. Three industry pros – one in recruiting, one in design management, and one in marketing and communications – share their expert tips for what to do and what to watch this year.

FOR MANUFACTURERS AND RETAILERS

You have products to develop, market and sell, as well as employees to manage and recruit. What should you be doing in 2018?

“Clearly, the world is shifting more and more toward the digital landscape, and all manufacturers have to continue to evolve their digital platforms and initiatives,” advises Chris Abbate, president of Novità, a marketing and communications agency specializing in the design community. Incorporating video into those platforms, websites and events is trending strongly, she notes.

Reaching influencers is another major trend. “Influencers command big numbers and can be strong drivers to websites and social platforms,” she says. Which platforms you choose depends on your target audience and resources. “Instagram is number one for many,” Abbate adds. “Pinterest seems to be a strong driver for sales. Facebook is still relevant, particularly with older targets. The jury seems to be out on Snapchat – but the more relevant tool of its kind would be Instagram Stories. LinkedIn has gained importance beyond the job search arena, as many are leveraging its connections to professional organizations and individuals,” she observes. Houzz is another popular design site. “It is a great way to showcase projects and products, and engage with the community,” Abbate says.

Offline matters, too, the marketing pro shares. “Trade shows are stronger than ever, with many of the key shows selling out their exhibitor spaces.” She also cautions marketers to not ignore magazines. “Print remains an important counterbalance that is still appreciated by design professionals. This is especially important for targets in the baby boomer generation.”

Studies are showing large differences in media consumption across generational lines, she reveals. “Generation Y (ages 17 to 34) is highly affected by social media research, while Gen Xers (ages 35 to 54) place a high value on in-store experience and service.”

Societal trends also impact product development, sales and marketing, she says. These are some to track: “More adults than ever are living alone and multi-generational households are on the rise. Technology, the desire for creative use of space and environmental sustainability, as well as demands for healthy living, all require 21st-century solutions. Phenomena like tiny houses and co-housing communities are also on the rise,” Abbate shares. “Manufacturers have to stay informed and bear these shifts in mind as they plan for new products in the years ahead.”

FOR DEALERS, CONTRACTORS AND DESIGNERS

Dealers, contractors and designers – as well as those looking for employment in the industry – should also be keeping up with societal shifts, trade shows, publications, blogs and sites. “With the increased use of social media, where, when and how customers engage and research must be at the forefront of our members’ businesses,” declares Tom Cohn, executive v.p. of the Bath & Kitchen Buying Group. “It is critical to generate more leads for members’ businesses, and implement systems to capitalize on as many of those leads as possible.”

BKBG works with its independent showroom members to move them onto first page search results. “Every new kitchen and bath project starts on Google. That’s why BKBG produces a weekly blog for members,” he offers. Using fresh, strategic content frequently – personalized or not – can potentially upgrade a firm’s site rankings.

Cohn also suggests that each of a member firm’s designers have an individual Houzz page, and that the firm be posting its work to Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest, just as manufacturers and retailers do. Another tech trend he’s following closely is virtual reality. “Be ahead of the game and learn how it works,” he advises. The same can be said for augmented reality. You’ll want to know what both can do for your business and how to maximize their potential for increasing your sales.

“There has never been a time in our industry when customers have been as knowledgeable and demanding as they are now,” the BKBG executive adds. “We need to ensure the showroom operates as a finely-tuned machine when it comes to communicating. Those who streamline their processes and over-communicate will ultimately be the most successful.”

That applies to your suppliers and trades, as well, he recommends. “Fantastic subs are worth their weight in gold. When you have them on your team, be sure to treat them like a precious asset. Send thank-you cards or a small gift occasionally to show your appreciation.” With fewer and fewer millennials opting for trade careers these days, holding on to the ones you have and work well with becomes increasingly important to your business.

Cohn also recognizes the importance of taking care of employees. “Make work a place where people want to be,” he stresses. It’s much easier and more profitable to take care of a good employee than training a new one, he points out.

FOR EMPLOYERS AND JOB SEEKERS

It’s Joe McElmeel’s job to help you find key employees. The chairman and CEO of Brooke Chase Associates is an industry recruiter whose clients include showrooms, distributors, buying groups and manufacturers.

“Contact names are easier to obtain than ever before with the plethora of internet sites available today,” he observes, but this has generated a trend of more unqualified respondents. Finding and attracting qualified talent actually becomes much more time-consuming, and hiring the wrong candidate can have far greater consequences.

It’s important to know what you want and need, and to measure “cultural fit,” he says. “Most hires fail because of this factor,” he reports. It’s especially crucial when there’s a relocation involved. Several societal and demographic trends make those more challenging to get right: “Relocation has become a serious issue because of the dual-income family; a spouse who is a licensed professional in one state and the license is not reciprocal in the state to which they are to move; a spouse that is the caregiver of an older parent; children at a certain point in school, especially the senior year of high school; and the actual cost of relocation to the employer.” If the move isn’t good for the whole family, the candidate will decline, he notes.

Employment searching is not easier today from the job seeker’s side either, he comments. “Ten years ago, responding to a job posting was a practical way to find your next position. Recently, I have heard [of] individuals answering hundreds of postings without a single call or email.” You may have experienced some of that frustration yourself. “Job seekers who answer ads and wait for the phone to ring are in for a very long gap in employment,” McElmeel cautions. So what’s the answer?

“Professionals need to use their network more effectively than ever,” the recruiter advises. “I recommend making a list of organizations for whom you would be excited to be an employee,” he suggests. Then use your network and online tools to connect with people who can refer you to the hiring executives within each organization. “Focus on the company leadership; they will send you to HR eventually. However, when they do, you are more likely to be called for an interview.”

If you’re new to the field, McElmeel recommends joining local and national industry associations; join the local Chamber of Commerce or Economic Development Commission; get involved in charitable organizations as a great networking (and good deeds) opportunity; and get your work published (there are numerous student competitions if you’re just graduating this year). “Facebook and LinkedIn are overused,” he states.

Once you get an interview, he advises, “Be aware of market trends, style trends in design and finishes, and new and innovative trends in product technology.” He suggests putting together a presentation piece for the interviewers, and being prepared for more committee or group interviews by clients.

LAST WORDS

Whether you’re looking for a new job, new promotion or new business, tracking trends will enhance your success. Look for a year’s worth of them in KBDN throughout 2018. ▪

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS is an independent designer in San Diego, the author of New Kitchen Ideas That Work and the New Bathroom Idea Book (Taunton Press), and a design journalist, NKBA Chapter Presenter and industry consultant. Her website is jgkitchens.com. She was just named one of Kitchen & Bath Design News’ 50 top innovators.

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