I recently connected with Angela (Mullins) Boggs, Asst. Mgr. Rite Rug/Writer/Diva from the Louisville, Kentucky area. She is very active on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media outlets and online discussion groups. Angela talks about how she is building her businesses at Rite Rug. One of the things that is very evident is Angela’s willingness to partner with other professionals in similar fields. No doubt this is one of the secrets to her success. We love the fact that she gives a copy of Fabulous Floors Magazine as a gift to her customers. (Angela is also the author of the blog: Derby City Darlings.)
I recently reviewed my ten most recurrent orders to see how customers found Rite Rug. Five came from referrals from networking groups or past customers. One from on-line, one from a newspaper ad, and three were walk-ins at our showroom.
If that’s not an endorsement for networking, I’m not sure what is! I’m a member of both Business Network International and Women in Networking, both categories exclusive groups that meet once per week (BNI) or once per month (WIN).
Home Expo Shows and other events are great places to connect to. That’s how I met my friends Marybeth and Vanessa, who design window treatments. Now I have someone to refer for draperies, and they know someone for flooring!
I love getting repeat business from past customers and referrals from them also. To stay in touch, I follow up every installation with a phone call and handwritten thank-you note. I also send holiday cards.
My realtor friend Barbara uses a mail service that sends a coupon to a local restaurant to all of her customers every month – it’s a fun little thank you, and keeps her name in front of them. Another realtor friend, Jessica, does an email newsletter every month with market updates, home-care tips, and photos of her really cute Cocker Spaniel puppy, Joe. (Jessica tells me people always remember Joe Cocker!)
Find ways to get involved in your community. I’m a pet person too, so I enjoy donating Rite Rug’s discontinued carpet samples to a local animal shelter, and I always leave a stack of my business cards. People adopting dogs and cats may need new flooring!
A furniture store I worked for hosted Open Houses and other events at the store to bring in new business. My friend Tracy at Porter Paints hosts free color trend classes, for example.
I also visit other local businesses and take them copies of our ads, along with candy or even a copy of “Fabulous Floors.” I get leads from one of our nearby competitors this way – they don’t sell carpet, so they send me their customers who need carpet, and I give their name to customers who need products we don’t offer.
Social media is another quick and inexpensive way to promote your products. I’m a huge fan of Facebook. I try not to overwhelm friends with work stuff, but I do post sale info or photos of new products periodically, and I always get a lead or two when I do.
I use Linked In to keep track of networking friends. I haven’t used Twitter or Pinterest as much, but I just discovered Houzz, and am quickly becoming addicted! It’s similar to Pinterest in that users keep online files of design ideas, and can look for local contractors and photos of their work. I also write design features occasionally for my friend Tre’s blog, Louisville Homes.
These are just some ideas. Remember, everyone you meet is a potential customer. When I worked in furniture, I once sold a sofa to our mailman.
Lisbeth Calandrino helps business build lasting loyal relationships with their customers. She does this through, customer service/sales training and social media marketing. She can be reached at email@example.com.