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Double the Appeal of Your Portfolio Pics By Following this One Rule

Nothing beats professional photography when it comes to putting together a portfolio of your countertop projects. Sometimes, however, either the budget or the timing make it difficult to get a pro on the jobsite for some really great photos. Which means you just have to do the best you can with what you have.

So here’s one trick that will dramatically improve the quality of your shots: Open the doors and windows, turn off the lights and throw away your flash. In other words, Go Natural.

As a general rule for non-professional photographers, incandescent and fluorescent lighting will change the color of the countertops and make the scene look dull and drab. Flashes create hot spots in the image, which are very distracting and make the photo look amateurish. By contrast (pardon the pun), indirect natural light helps make the colors pop.

In Figure A, the blinds were closed and an overhead incandescent light was used to illuminate the scene. Notice how everything looks yellow and there are shadows everywhere. The leaves of the plant look lifeless and subtle textures in the plant and tabletop disappear.

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Figure A

The image in Figure B is the same scene using identical camera settings, but this time the lights are turned off and the blinds in a nearby window are opened half way. Suddenly the plant seems to come to life. The colors are more natural, and the patterns in the tabletop are well-defined. Everything about the photo is more appealing – and it looks more professional.

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Figure B

One more thing: it’s always good to experiment with the amount of natural light you use in a photo. Figure C, for example is shot with roughly twice the amount of natural light as in Figure B. While the overall shot is pretty good, there are more shadows than in Figure B and the colors are somewhat starker.

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Figure C

So, try experimenting with your lighting and remember to go natural. It’s an aspect of going Green that I’ll bet you never even thought about.

Become THE Authority

Become THE Authority

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Would you like more customers visiting your website who are actually in the market for a new countertop?

Of course you would.

The good news is it doesn’t have to take thousands of dollars or a vast knowledge of the inner workings of the Internet to significantly raise the quality of visitor experiences, while increasing traffic to your site. It does, however, take some thought, time and effort. The tool? A company blog.

I know what you are thinking: “I don’t have time to get everything done as it is, how could I ever write a blog? AND WHAT WOULD I SAY!?!?!”

Let’s start with the second question first. As a business owner you have spent many hours thinking about the features and benefits of the products you offer. No doubt you could hold forth for hours about staining, heat resistance, durability, care and maintenance, aesthetics, etc., etc., etc . When you think about it, the reason you care so deeply about those topics is because your customers care about them.

So, write about what your customers care about, do it on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and post it in your blog. A quick poll of your sales staff should net dozens of questions your potential customers ask on a regular basis. That translates into a wealth of topics, which you turn into blog posts. The key is to keep your posts short (no more than 500 words) and add a picture or two. Be sure to include key words, such as the name and brand of the product, your city, the word “countertops”, and so forth.

Now, the first question, “How do I find time to write a blog?” The short answer is, YOU don’t. Let us do it for you. We will provide you with professionally written, countertop-relevant posts on a weekly basis for a low monthly fee. Each post focuses on questions your prospects care about. The articles are written so that you can customize each post with your own photos and company information. It’s win/win/win . . . and . . . win.

– Want to learn more? Send us an email, or call us at 801.735.7606 –

Behind the scenes, this is what happens when you host a blog: Mrs. Jones wants to get a new countertop, so she hops on the Web to do her research. Keep in mind, this is before approaching a vendor for a quote. If your company already has content out there providing answers to her questions, and you are within her geographic area, chances are very good the search engines will put your articles in front of her. That is because your posts are relevant in two ways: the topical nature of the content and your geographic proximity.

The net result: Just by publishing some useful content for Mrs. Jones to do her research, you are automatically positioned as the AUTHORITY on the subject. Who wouldn’t want to walk into a sales call with that kind of background?

There are, of course, certain guidelines you should follow when putting together your blog posts, but the learning curve is minimal. And keep in mind that even though Rome wasn’t built in a day, virtual Rome routinely goes up in a matter of weeks all over the Web. So, too, could the credibility and ranking of your website.

Make Them An Offer

Make Them An Offer

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Whether it’s a print ad in the newspaper or a special featured on your website, you get better results when you include a compelling offer that induces potential customers to take action now. And, no, “Call us for a free estimate,” is not a compelling offer.

To induce someone to act, there must be (1) a perceived benefit, (2) timeliness, and (3) a sense of urgency. Let’s take a closer look at what that means.

  1. A Perceived Benefit: You have something your customers want, or you wouldn’t be in business. Fact is, you have lots of things your customers want. For the purpose of your ad, focus on one overriding benefit and tie your offer to that benefit. If, for example, you know from your research that a large segment of the demographic in your market is middle-aged, higher-income couples, then you might want to tap into their desire to entertain at home – and in style – by offering a set of knives and a granite cutting board with the purchase of a set of kitchen tops. Alternately, the offer might be a set of wine glasses, or a catered assortment of cheeses – anything that reinforces the perception that your customers are joining an elite group when they purchase a granite countertop from your company. Benefit: Improved Self Esteem.
  2. Timeliness: Ideally, your offer should be something your customers can enjoy the moment they purchase their new countertop. If it’s Spring and people are thinking of getting outside to enjoy the weather, a complimentary selection of meats for a celebratory barbeque just might be the thing. Tickets to a coveted cultural or sports event could also be a great inducement. Use your creativity – it’s okay to think outside the box. On the other hand, it’s perfectly acceptable to use mundane inducements, such as a discount off the price of the countertop. Last time I checked, money is always in season.
  3. A Sense of Urgency: This is where you want to envision the end result of your offer and then think backwards. In the case of concert tickets, for example, start your promotion a month in advance and count down to the cut-off date with a series of weekly ads. It’s amazing how such a tactic builds energy and enthusiasm on the part of your customers.

Back in my fabricator days, we were able to use the yearly price increases from sheet goods manufacturers to our advantage, even though we hated paying more money for our material. We let our customers know that, as of such-and-such a date, the price for their new kitchen would increase by a certain rate. That always generated a lot of interest. Suddenly our customers were motivated to make their selections and get their deposits in before the cut-off date so as to take advantage of the lower pricing. Often, our biggest sales season of the year coincided exactly with the annual price increases from our suppliers. In today’s hyper-competitive environment that tactic may need some serious tweaking, but the take home message is clear: people are motivated by deadlines. So use them to your advantage.

Where Do I Put My Money?

Where Do I Put My Money?

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This article appears on the NueMedia Countertop IQ blog

You are smart if you have a marketing budget. Marketing generates sales, and sales are what drive any business. But you need a strategy when it comes to spending those marketing dollars because, in these days of ever tightening margins, you can’t afford to make too many mistakes. As a consultant to the industry I have the opportunity to speak with lots of fabricators across the country every week and, recently, I’ve made a point of asking them where they get their business. It’s nothing formal, of course, but I have noticed what I think is a pattern successful fabricators follow when spending their marketing dollars.

Ya wanna know what I learned? OK, here goes. Just keep in mind that every business is different, and what may work for a company in Oshkosh may not necessarily work for another in the Bronx.

  1. Print advertising is not as effective anymore. We’re talking Yellow Pages, newspaper, magazines, direct mail, flyers, etc. One fabricator summed it up pretty nicely, “They just don’t produce the jobs.”
  2. Companies are investing in the Internet, specifically in websites and social marketing. I hear this over and over, and it’s always from the really successful fabricators: “Most of our leads come from our website.” Do I hear gnashing of teeth in the background? Yes, there is method to the online madness, you just need to work with an experienced professional to get the results you are looking for.
  3. If you have a website (and you should), you really need to invest in Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. Why? Because, as noted above, the successful fabrication companies are getting most of their leads over the Internet. SEO gets you seen by the people you are trying to reach. A recent study found that 80% of consumers research purchases online BEFORE contacting a potential vendor. But, they can’t evaluate your company IF THEY CAN’T EVEN FIND YOU.
  4. Ever heard of Inbound Marketing? Consumers today don’t respond well to getting beaten over the head with blatant advertising. TiVo was one of the first to pioneer that concept when they made it possible for viewers to record programs and skip past commercials. People rely more and more today on recommendations from trusted sources to help them make purchasing decisions. We all belong to networks these days, and networks help sell product by word of mouth (the best kind of advertising). Get your business active on Facebook – now.
  5. Profile the demographic of your typical customer and concentrate your marketing efforts ONLY on reaching that demographic. One very successful fabricator told me he is extremely rigid when it comes to deciding which radio or cable station to advertise with. If the station’s audience doesn’t match his company’s demographic, he moves on to the next until he finds one that does. It’s not a question of personal taste, it’s all about reaching the right people.

So there you have it, my own personal Top 5 list of successful fabricator marketing tactics. I encourage you to noodle it a bit and give one or two a try. If you need some encouragement or even some advice, call me or email (russ@sitesnsolutions.com). I’d be happy to give you my two cents’ worth.