Create Your Viral Victory

We are in a unique time in our country. What can I say that has not already been repeated to the point of being ineffective?

The actions we take will be a defining moment for retail showrooms. For some, this is the straw that pushes them over the cliff into bankruptcy; for others, the lucky ones that survive while their clients are staying at home will discover the real efficacy of their digital efforts.

Now is the time to scrutinize your website, social media pages, your email strategy, and the most laborious task, impacting your sales team’s mindset that the functionality of their jobs has changed.

As I travel around the country, one of the biggest obstacles I find to operating a successful showroom in 2020 is the inability of owners, management, and staff to give up the familiarity and comfort of old analog processes. The Coronavirus has fast-forwarded the requirement for change, and it starts with getting rid of old analog thinking and systems. Analog and digital business models cannot operate effectively in the same space.

These models are too different from each other. Many times, a showroom’s first foray into the digital selling and marketing world was taking analog advertising ideas and promoting them digitally. We see that take place right in front of our eyes today with all the image ads on Facebook & Instagram.

I want to congratulate you if you were assertive enough to be doing this type of marketing in 2005 -2010. But in 2010, the real world changed, and the worldwide web became a consumer research tool.

And now you have time to learn and experiment.

We have heard about the GenZ, Millennial, Gen X, Boomer, and the latest luxury shopper, the HENRY. These are the people that buy what we sell; this is whom we are trying to attract!

We know these shoppers are starting their buying journey online before we ever know they may have an interest in our products or us. This contingent is a melded buying group that is willing to spend hours researching and shopping around the internet before hitting the buy button. This means that achieving recognition and then brand loyalty is increasingly tricky among these shoppers.

When you engage with 94% of these targeted clients, they will purchase in a local showroom.

Social media plays a vital role in attracting this group of buyers when they start their shopping journey, but most digital marketing done by showrooms has not been social. It is just pumping out analog-style “buy me, product” ads.

The switch must be made. Your strategy must focus on Social Validation; this is significantly important to today’s shoppers. Currently, 50 percent of this buying segment’s group says Facebook & Instagram are the biggest influences on their luxury purchases. And guess what? We sell luxury!

As interactive social platforms change, staying on top of these platform changes is critical when putting your budgeted ad dollars to work.

The exciting thing is that 44% of the shoppers are looking for social proof, and that is ahead of the price-focused research of discounts and deals.

So my first question is, “How do showrooms build social proof?”

According to Robert Cialdini, who studied the principle of social proof in-depth in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,

“We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”

When clients are unsure about what to do, what to buy, and whom to work with, they assume that the people around them (experts, celebrities, friends, etc.) are knowledgeable about what’s going on and what should be done.

On top of that, we often make judgments based on our overall impression of someone — A.K.A. the HALO Effect (named by psychologist Edward Thorndike).

The HALO Effect is the tendency for positive impressions of a person, company, brand, or product in one area to positively influence one’s opinion or feelings in other areas associated with your brand. There are six ways to build your social proof:

Expert: Expert social proof is when you are known as an expert in the industry. In my opinion, this is the most crucial marketing a showroom can do. Demonstrate and promote why you are the local experts that the client wants to work with.

Celebrity: Celebrity social proof is when a celebrity endorses your products. Examples are an Instagram post about your product by a known celebrity or influencer. These can be local celebrities or national. You can also leverage vendors that use celebrities, but there is some finesse required in doing that to reap the benefit for the showroom.

User: User social proof is when your current clients directly recommend your products and services based on their recent experiences with your showroom. Look at your online reviews. What are the dates? If the reviews are greater than three months old, start asking clients for reviews; 68% will leave a review when asked. You can also ask for praises on social media or positive ratings on review sites. Remember, 93% of consumers say online reviews impact their buying decision.

The Wisdom of the Crowd: This type of social proof is when a large group of people is seen to be endorsing your brand. An example would be having lots and lots of customers or followers on your social media profiles. This is one of the first things I look for in a company audit is the number of followers and fans a showroom has. And how many fans should your showroom have? Well, it depends on your market, but the minimum is 1000 followers in a small market, and 3000 is good to shoot for in a bigger market.

Similar is the Wisdom of FRIENDS: This type of social proof is when people see their friends supporting and visiting your showroom. When the client is in the showroom, don’t just invite them to follow you, ask and show them how to follow you on social media – really demonstrate it. I know one business that followed this strategy to build their followers to over 4000 in less than a year!

Certification: This type of social proof is when you are given a stamp of approval by an authoritative figure in your industry. Now is the time to brag about your knowledge. Share the certificates your team has earned, think how vital those credentials are when it comes to selecting a showroom. Promote your knowledge!

The initial objective at this time is to build trust with the client and send all their fear away. With all this research that customers do, the new hurdle showrooms must address is BRAND TRUST. Social proof can absolutely help you do this.

As I mentioned, there is just so much BUY ME noise out there, and it is hard for the client to distinguish who is trustworthy and who is trading boxes for dollars. Showrooms must decide whom they want to attract COST-conscience clients or VALUE-conscience clients?

COST-conscience clients care first and foremost about the price. They want the best quality at the lowest price, and they want it quickly too.  But the primary driver for deciding who gets their business is the retailer who can provide the cheapest product the quickest. There is no loyalty from price-focused clients.

In the long run, it is best to identify and market to VALUE-conscience clients. They care first and foremost about their project; the desire for a perfect result is what drives them. The value-based client wants speed and a fair price too, but they won’t sacrifice quality for it.

That means the quality of the product, the quality of the showroom, and the quality of the service are the main attributes that count for them. Doing a good job promoting the differences in the quality that is available at the local showroom is message number 1.

All people have mostly both cost & value personas, but one of them is dominant. But the other can be made dominant based on the interactions they have with the showroom staff from the beginning of the sales process. And that process begins online.

Conventional wisdom thinks that marketing leads the online buying process. While it was somewhat true, marketing has morphed to SMARKETING the blend of sales and marketing activities.

Your targeted client groups will start their discovery process online, and we know that. They want to learn as much as they can about the items they want to buy and also whom they may purchase them from.

Today shoppers use physical retail locations as their personal showrooms. They find an item online that interests them, and then they will visit the showroom to confirm the fit and finish of the piece.

Visiting the showroom is considered a standard part of the buying process for plumbing, lighting, furniture, décor accessories, wall art, appliances, and many other associated products.

Once they verify the quality, fit, and finish of a product, this buyer group will compare the price in the showroom to the online resource. Sometimes right in front of you.

Your job is to discover where your customer lives online. Thinking of your targeted customers, “identify those places where they are likely to be found or contacted (social media, other places online, offline, direct mail, email, etc.), and then create specific messages and questions for them.”

The online locations where you can find your ideal customers will vary based on your business goals. These places include forums and social media group pages, post your showroom advantages on your blogs, and share them look at the social pages of similar or complementary businesses for leads. This is the new world of digital prospecting and don’t get sidelined.

Don’t let this disruption of business sideline you. Being sidelined in commerce is not like having a bad day on the sports field to return to play another day. Being a showroom that gets sidelined by clients in 2020 can spell disaster for its future.

Instead of dipping your toe in the digital pool, look into the facts that will help you jump in with both feet.

In this time that is made for the movies, invest in some new and different tools and techniques to build your social proof so when commerce begins it begins with a bang.

Happy Selling,

Mark

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