In today’s digital age, it’s easy to get caught up in the convenience and efficiency of virtual networking and Zoom meetings galore. However, in-person networking and relationship-building are still essential components of success in luxury industries. In an industry that spans the globe, and during a time when everyone seems to be completely overscheduled, how can we make the most of our face time?
Many of us experienced virtual conferences and trade shows during COVID. At a time when meeting in person was impossible, this gave many of us the only opportunity to connect and learn about new products. What we didn’t have was the human connection that we were so desperately needing.
In-person shows are now back with a vengeance, as evidenced by the record-breaking attendance at both the DPHA Conference in October 2022 and KBIS 2023. Attending industry events, conferences and trade shows allows manufacturers to showcase products and services in a better light. In-person events also provide opportunities to meet potential clients and partners, and everyone can learn about industry trends and innovations without those online distractions. And nothing beats those in-person conversations, the feel of the products in hand, and really getting that in-depth training on the newest and hottest products! Who doesn’t want to stay ahead of the competition and position themselves as an industry leader?
The industry is constantly evolving, with new products and technologies emerging all the time. Meeting with industry professionals several times throughout the year provides the opportunity to share knowledge and learn from others, and is essential for staying up to date with the latest developments and troubleshooting issues from the field. For showrooms, building relationships with suppliers and manufacturers can also provide insight into the production process and help you understand the quality, price points and craftsmanship of the products you’re selling.
Success in Luxury Plumbing
The luxury decorative plumbing and hardware industry is a highly competitive and extremely niche market, and relationships are critical to the success of all parties. Many of the high-end products sold in the industry require customization and key details to make the projects stand out, and that’s even before we start talking about design styles and user preferences. Developing personal relationships with clients and suppliers is vital for meeting all their requirements and exceeding these expectations, and you simply need face time for that relationship development. Our industry has proven that getting on job sites, visiting design firms and helping in the selection process upfront aids in the trust of knowing someone will go the extra mile for your jobs and your clients.
As we keep looking for the “easy button” to get our day-to-day tasks done more efficiently, digital won’t always prove to be better. At DPHA, hybrid offerings allow us to create a microdose of connection amongst our 300-plus manufacturers, dealers and rep firms. However, in-person meetings will continue to allow for more detailed and nuanced discussions, allowing for a better understanding of clients’ needs and providing tailored solutions.
Tips for In-Person Events
The following suggestions can help increase your return on investment when attending events.
Attend Lots of Industry Events: Trade shows, conferences and other industry events provide opportunities to meet with industry professionals and for manufacturers to showcase their products and services while networking with best-in-class clientele. Research the events in your area and plan to attend. Local industry chapters, showrooms and rep firms are always looking to get in front of an audience and talk shop. The more face-to-face events, the better your brand recognition, product knowledge and industry relationships will be.
Build Personal Connections: Take the time to get to know clients, suppliers and competitors on a personal level. Ask about their interests, hobbies and families. Building a personal connection can help establish trust and foster long-term relationships.
Listen and Learn: In-person meetings and trainings provide opportunities to listen to clients and learn about their needs and preferences. Setting up in-person meetings allows you to pick up on social queues and the ability to read the partnership better through your professional lens. Use this information to provide tailored solutions that meet their specific requirements and become a trusted source of knowledge and inspiration.
Follow Up: After meeting with clients and suppliers in person, be sure to follow up with a thank you note or email. This can help strengthen the relationship and demonstrate your commitment to exceptional customer service. Follow-up has become a lost art in the business world. With everyone feeling that burnout and playing catch up, this is a place where you can make work become personal with added touches of connection and consideration.
Be Professional: While building personal connections is important, it’s also essential to maintain a professional demeanor. Be respectful of everyone’s time and be prepared with any necessary materials and information. If you don’t have quality updates or material that is worthy of your client’s time, wait until you do and trickle in some extra time for niceties with those pertinent client updates.
Be Authentic: Authenticity is key to building strong relationships. Be yourself and let your personality shine through. People like to do business with someone they like and trust. Find that associate or client to connect with and help build your brand and trust with others. You can’t do this through a computer screen as easily as you can face-to-face. So, get your authentic self out there and network the day away.
While virtual networking can be a great add-on to in-person connections, it is not equal in the value offered. The true growth in this industry has always taken place using the tools we have honed to provide our clientele exceptional service, personalized business relationships and working with one another to provide the products, quality and designs that many have come to expect from our companies over the years. The real work happens face to face, and while the COVID-19 years may have tricked us into thinking everything can be done virtually, alas true connection can only happen in person.
Get involved and register for your next industry networking function. You will see throughout the smiles, laughter and industry storytelling we all simply want the best in design and to make the world a better place, one room and one meeting at a time. ▪
Rebekah Covay provides 20+ years of industry experience, having served luxury-brand kitchen and bath showrooms, manufacturers and representative agencies throughout the U.S. and Europe, including running Forte Buying Group and representing Dornbracht and Elkay, among many others.