Survey Shows Cause for Concern

"Design pros must give serious thought to stepping up their game when it comes to implementing strategic marketing plans."

authors Eliot Sefrin | April 29, 2016

Kitchen and bath design professionals, competing for younger, more demanding, tech-savvy consumers in a fast-changing market, are seemingly exhibiting some alarming tendencies when it comes to marketing their products and services.

That inescapable conclusion can be drawn from the findings of a recent survey conducted for Kitchen & Bath Design News by the Charlotte, NC-based Research Institute for Kitchen & Cooking Intelligence (RICKI). The survey, conducted among some 350 dealers and designers, was aimed at determining how kitchen/bath professionals are marketing their companies, and how strategies, tactics and budgets are evolving (see story, Marketing Plans).

First, the positive findings:

While a majority of surveyed dealers and designers say their marketing budget is unchanged compared to the past year, about three in 10 say their marketing expenditures have increased in the past year, while four in 10 report their marketing expenditures are likely to increase in the coming year. In contrast, only 1% report they anticipate a decline in marketing activities. At the same time, a healthy percentage of survey respondents say they plan to do more with their company’s website, as well as with Facebook, online advertising, home shows and broadcast advertising in the coming year.

All very encouraging.

But now for the alarming news:

According to RICKI’s findings, very few designers and dealers say they plan ahead when it comes to marketing. In fact, according to the nationwide poll, a scant one in three report that they even have a formal marketing plan in place, while two-thirds say they essentially make marketing decisions on the fly. And even those who say they have marketing strategies in place are apparently not forward-thinking. As evidence, the typical dealer/designer marketing plan covers only one year, and a sizable number cover less than that.

And there’s more.

Surveyed dealers and designers report they spend an average of a mere 2.6% of their annual revenue on marketing activities, while a whopping 41% spend less than 2%. And, as if the lack of a specific marketing plan isn’t ill-advised enough, half of the surveyed design pros say they don’t target any specific consumer groups with their marketing efforts, while the percentage of those targeting Millennial consumers is currently in the single digits, despite the fact that this demographic cohort is clearly becoming a major factor in the market.

Lastly, while half of the surveyed dealers and designers say they’re highly involved in digital-focused marketing, two in five report that they either do not use digital marketing at all, or that their use of digital marketing is minimal, mostly ad hoc, and not at all mixed into their overall marketing plans. Among the reasons cited are a perceived lack of digital knowledge coupled with a widespread belief that digital initiatives take too much time to implement, while their benefit remains unclear.

All of this, taken collectively, paints a less-than-encouraging portrait.

While word-of-mouth referrals remain the tried-and-true means for generating new business, dealers and designers should give serious consideration to stepping up their game when it comes to implementing strategic marketing plans that are targeted, professional, concerted and in tune with the way today’s consumers shop. Anything less than that leaves too much to chance and will almost assure that revenue and profit will not achieve the level they otherwise might. KBDN

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