Cost Effective Creativity
When it comes to maximizing your marketing dollars, proper
planning and professional help are a must; while amortizing costs
across many projects can create economies of scale.
By Philip D. Zaleon
Have you ever sat with a client when discussing the cost of a new
kitchen and explained that there are two kinds of charges: those
for the tangible items cabinetry, appliances, fixtures, etc., and
those for the intangibles your expertise, your knowledge and your
creativity? As a professional, you’re entitled to be paid for your
intellectual input; that’s what separates you from the kid selling
cabinets in an orange apron. But, how do you convey this concept to
the client, who thinks it’s “just about cabinets?”
Now, let’s put you in the role of the customer. What are you
buying when you go shopping for creative services to market your
own showroom? Despite having been on the other end of it, many
showroom owners investing in creative services experience the same
“sticker shock” they see in their clients. However, unlike the
consumer’s purchase of a kitchen or bath, where cost cutting
typically involves downgraded tangibles, when you purchase
creativity, there are steps you can take to get better value from
the dollars you spend without sacrificing quality. Proper planning
and the use of professionals can help you purchase the best
creative products for your dollar.
High-quality photography is the single most important building
block to marketing your business. Without photography, your print
ads would be empty and your Web site boring. Even before price,
there are two reasons your clients have chosen to talk to you:
1. They feel comfortable with you. They have checked you out;
your background, your Web site and your references.
2. They liked the work you’ve done. Having looked at your portfolio
of jobs online, in magazines or showcased in a binder at your
showroom, they felt comfortable that your taste and theirs would
mesh in a beautiful new kitchen.
As kitchen and bath dealers, you are selling a subjective,
visual product. That means potential clients need to see a variety
of examples of your work in the best possible light. Photography is
essential, and many kitchen and bath dealers have looked into
investing in digital cameras to save money on professional
photography. Bad choice. The fact is, you can’t afford not to hire
a professional architectural (preferably kitchen and bath focused)
Steve Whitsitt of Steven Paul Whitsitt Photography believes that
digital cameras have their place in the industry. “The digital
camera is an excellent tool for keeping in constant touch with the
client on the progress of an out-of-town job, estimating, or for a
Web site page that shows the progression of a remodel job. However,
when the job is finished and you’re ready for a portfolio piece, a
kitchen and bath photography professional brings a level of
knowledge and expertise that Sony didn’t put into their digital
camera.” Whitsitt lists the following things a professional
photographer considers with each shutter release:
- Lighting This can be used to set the proper
mood, and to highlight areas that would normally be in
- Props To make the kitchen more
interesting, a photographer adds splashes of color using fruit,
food or wine to accent elements of your design.
- Composition It’s important to make sure you
have enough space around the main subject to be able to crop the
shot for a variety of uses.
- Angles There’s an art to ensuring the oblique
angles you can get photographing in cramped quarters don’t become
the center of attention and distract from the beauty of the
- Color You chose colors, subtle or bold, for a
reason, but a digital camera will almost certainly distort
- Format Many of the high-end magazines only
accept 4″x5″ transparencies that you get from a professional.
Whitsitt adds, “Once you’ve determined that professional
photography is the way you want to go, and you’ve had your kitchens
shot, be sure to get high resolution scans burned to a CD.”
So, how can that money be amortized across projects to give us
an economy of scale? Consider the following:
n Print Ads You can use a single shot, different views of a single
kitchen or multiple shots. And, you can run the same ad (for
consistency) in all of your scheduled media.
- Television Commercials If you run TV ads, a
30-second montage of the photos with a voice over and some music
makes a great spot, and saves you money on shooting video.
- Web Site You should immediately place all of
these new images on your Web site on your home page, as well in
your showroom pages.
- Collateral Materials These photographs should
be included in your brochure, pocket folder, post cards, direct
mail pieces and other printed materials, as possible.
- Vehicle Signage Today’s technology allows for
full-color, photographic designs to be used your truck.
- Public Relations To enhance the potential of
getting published in local or national magazines, you need
high-quality shots, along with a great story.
- New Technology CD portfolios, like Web sites,
will benefit from well-lit, well-shot photography.
- In-Showroom Displays Have framed prints
throughout your showroom.
Paul McDonald of Royal Cabinet Company in Hillsborough, NJ has
found a broad use for the library of high-quality photography of
the firm’s jobs. “We always needed high-quality photography for
8×10 glossy prints, but now we use the same pictures for brochures,
magazine placements, and on our Web site (www.royalcabinet.com).
Some people think that showing pictures on the Web means limited
resolution, however, with some clever software from Viewpoint Media
Technology, our Web visitors not only see the full picture of a
kitchen, but they can also zoom in and see close-up details of any
area of interest for example a corbel, crown moulding detail, or a
“Our cabinets are all about the details, and the ‘Zoom’
technology provides the solution for showing what makes our
finished product special. We only use professional photos, and our
photographer is not cheap, but we now spread the cost across
different mediums. Our marketing agency uses the images on our Web
site, an interactive marketing CD, print ads and brochures,” he
Rich Ryan, who keeps his eye on the spending at Kitchen Concepts
in Cincinnati, while his brother Pat Ryan, CKD, maintains
responsibility for the sales and design aspects, understands how to
put this into practice. “When we get new photography, it
immediately becomes a part of our Web site and when possible, our
overall marketing effort. When we brought the photographer in, we
had him shoot professional shots of our showroom and the outside of
our building. He used standard slide film and a 35mm camera, which
kept the cost down, but his expertise kept the quality high. Our
agency is using an outside shot in our brochure to help visitors
recognize us from the street. Getting these images ‘out there’
through our marketing is showing a definite return on our
Kitchen and bath professionals are
often torn between advertising on television and in print. Both
work. Both can be expensive. And both have economies of scale. So,
make your decision for reasons other than price.
Despite the availability of high-quality, low-cost video
equipment, you should let a professional shoot for you. Before you
let your local cable company or TV station shoot your spot, sit
down and create a potential list of video-based projects that will
add value to your showroom, your business and your bottom line.
- TV Commercials Rather than a single
commercial, consider a series of spots that may highlight different
aspects of your business or different projects.
- Sales Tools Create a videotape or DVD that
your sales team can leave behind with a potential client explaining
how you do business, testimonials, project shots, biographies,
- Showroom Video Use the same sales tool in your
showroom to catch the attention of the drop-ins while they’re
waiting to talk with someone.
- Home and Garden Shows A video showing
beautiful kitchens being described by satisfied customers will
attract homeowners to your booth.
- Direct Mail A video will increase the chance
someone will “open” your direct mail.
- Web Content Video will add to your Web site,
keeping visitors longer.
- Interactive CDs Add video to your CD business
cards or the interactive CDs you give potential clients.
With video, determining your projects is only part of the
process to maintaining cost-effectiveness. The real work is in
crafting your message, writing your scripts and planning your
shots. It’s a time-consuming operation, but pre-production planning
can keep your costs in line.
Let’s look at a sample scenario. You want to run a series of
three testimonial-based commercials on your local cable
The following is part of the planning that will help keep your
costs in line:
- Determine your clients To get three good
testimonials for the TV spots, you may want to actually set up
interviews with five or six clients. Be sure to get their
- Scheduling Typically, you hire a camera crew
by the day. Be sure to schedule as much as you can. Your
producer/director will be able to help you determine how much is
- Scripting Although you want natural responses,
you need to script the spots. Your clients will be happy if you
tell them what you want to hearonly in their words. Remember, you
only have 30 seconds for your commercial, and probably only 15 or
20 seconds for the testimonial portion.
- Shoot the interviews and more You should
videotape your clients in their new kitchens. Ask your questions,
but also ask open-ended questions you’ll love the extra they tell
you! Be sure to shoot all areas of the kitchen, include family
activity and interactions, if possible.
- Other shots While you have the crew, begin or
end your day at your showroom and let them interview you and your
staff. Shoot the showroom inside and out, plus signage.
- Graphics Your logo and the other elements of
your image need to be gathered for inclusion in the
- Music Music copyright is a huge issue right
now, so it’s best to rely on the TV station or production facility
coordinating your project to help you find music you like from
their library of licensed music.
The edit is your next step. According to JD Price, president of
JD Price Editorial, a post production company in Pittsburgh, “Once
an editor has organized the video clips, it’s not going to cost you
much more to create five 30-second spots than it is to create one.
Tie those together with graphics, photos or video clips and you
have a nice 3-4 minute sales piece.”
The Internet has changed the way kitchen and bath designers market
themselves. Your clients are shopping online, they are looking for
examples of what you’ve done, as well as testimonials and
biographies. In short, they’re looking for a comfort level. Be sure
your Web site gives them that.
From a content and design perspective, consider that many
elements of Web design are part of an overall economy of scale that
comes with effective integrated marketing. For example:
- Look and Feel The look and feel of your Web
site should reflect your image logo, print ads, TV spots,
- Images Professionally shot, high-quality
photography included in your site will better represent your jobs,
as they will show more detail, truer color and better composition
than non-professionally shot photos.
- Text What you say online should be an
extension of what you would say in your brochures, print ads and
other marketing materials.
- Video You shot it, you edited it so don’t
leave the production facility without a Web-based version.
Once the site is done, consider moving elements to a CD business
card, or full size CD to distribute as a sales tool. The cost to
retool should be less than if you did either independently.
Look at your outsource partners. Do you have one for your Web,
another for print ads? Do you let the newspaper design your ads?
Attempt to move it all under one roof. If the same company does the
creative for your print ads, Web site, TV commercials, interactive
CDs, etc., you will not be “reinventing the wheel” with each
project. There’s a definite economy of scale when you can build
from one project to the next, plus you will develop a consistent
image your community will grow to identify with you.
The key to keeping tabs on your creative costs literally hinges
on planning and professionalism. By knowing in advance what your
goals are and how you intend to reach those goals, you can develop
your creative with an eye toward cost effectiveness.
As for working with professionals, remember the old adage you
get what you pay for. If it works to your advantage when you sell,
it will work to your advantage when you buy.
Philip D. Zaleon is founder and president of Chapel Hill-based Z
promotion & design a full-service integrated marketing and
creative agency focusing on the kitchen and bath industry.
He can be reached at Z promotion & design, PO Box 17291,
Chapel Hill, NC 27516; Phone: 919-932-4600; Fax: 919-932-4447;
Email: [email protected]; Web Site: