Everyone wants new business, but some lighting showrooms have discovered that paying special attention to their loyal customers can yield even better dividends. Developing compelling reasons for repeat customers to keep coming back to your store is a guaranteed recipe for profitability. enLIGHTenment Magazine asked several highly successful lighting showrooms to share their strategies.
Independent retailing is a loyalty game played in a social media world. Although lighting showrooms are streamlining operations to do more with less while keeping up with trends, tweets, likes, and apps, it’s the face-to-face experiences that your A-list clients enjoy the most.
According to Loyalty360 – a Cincinnati-based loyalty marketers association that offers data and resources to businesses on developing customer engagement for independent retailers – building customer loyalty marketing programs is more important than even developing new business.
Content editor Jim Tierney cited several statistics from recent research by San Francisco-based Fivestars Loyalty to underscore that point: Over their lifetime, loyal customers spend 10 times more; new customers are more price-conscious; the probability of getting a sale from a new customer is 5-20 percent; and because loyal customers know a business so well, the probability for making an additional sale or upselling is 60-70 percent.
Some may call those loyal or key customers who are responsible for significant revenues the select 20 percent. With a nod to Pareto’s Principle or the 80/20 ratio (basically that the bulk of the sales come from a vital few), the basics of retailing dictate that stores offer incentives to their loyal and volume customers. For independent showrooms, however, it’s also the personal touch that grows and retains those A-listers.
Most store managers and owners admit they would like to treat every customer like a celebrity, but practicality and limited staff create another reality when maintaining one-on-one contact with builders and their clients plus implementing practical logistics to complete projects for contractors and designers.
“We try to treat every customer as though they were in that special 10 percent,” admits Frank Capasso of Valley Lighting & Home Décor in Ansonia, Connecticut. “For us, builders make up that 10 percent. We do a lot of design work for another 30 percent of purchases by designers, or for designers who have their clients make the purchase.” For Capasso that means assuring that each order is perfect — the warehouse opens every box to make sure all parts are included and that there is no breakage before delivery to a job site.
“We may even make multiple deliveries to some sites during the day. We are also there if a builder reports any damages at the site,” Capasso states.
Ron Dumais, store manager of Lighting Concepts in Lewiston, Me., characterizes his A-listers as builders and electricians and says the personal touch is key to their relationships. “We work with them zonally,” he explains. “We’re centrally located in the state and have someone who is on the road to visit accounts on-site. In addition, we are constantly emailing and providing cut sheets to clients.”
Builders and interior designers are also the A-listers at Meletio Lighting & Electric Supply in Dallas. “Our associates are each assigned to a client to ensure a more personal experience,” says Tim Stumm, vp/ showroom operations. “Our lighting specialists make contact at least once every 60 days, whether it is stopping by to update them with catalogs or to show them a new product. This type of contact makes the client know they are very important to us.”
Some showrooms never pass up an opportunity to interact with key customers and potential ones and generally do so through special events and contractor days. “Local chapters of builder and designer associations are always looking for a place to hold their meetings, and we’re glad to offer our showroom,” Capasso says. Similarly, Dumais sponsors three or four events throughout the year for the local chapter of NKBA.
To create valuable content for these events, dealers have always relied on the talent of their lighting reps who can give presentations on the latest products or share problem-solving techniques. However, more showrooms are now offering educational experiences on more frequent basis by utilizing their investments in lighting labs to provide hands-on experiences.
“Being a five-star Lutron showroom, we also host control seminars for architects,” Dumais explains. “Each session is targeted to a specific group to maximize their time and answer their specific questions; anywhere from 6 to 20 people attend.”
In particular, Meletio’s A-listers look forward to the showroom’s annual Green Summit, which often features five or six vendors or reps who set up product demonstrations trade show-style in the store. One of the most popular demos is American Lighting’s mobile LED lab on wheels.
“During our Green Summit, we have a full day of seminars targeted to better green living through lighting,” Stumm notes. “The morning sessions are geared towards the custom builder while the afternoon seminars are for the designers. We even get some retail customers in attendance through word of mouth!”
Use Social Media
Many of the showrooms rely on social media to stay in touch with their best customers, and most have schedules for sending e-blasts of news to key accounts. Valley Lighting has retained an ad agency to handle those duties along with monitoring comments on Yelp.
Meletio uses Constant Contact to send monthly articles on the latest trends in lighting or on LEDs. “We try to stay away from too many sale ads and keep our customers engaged with timely information,” Stumm remarks. “We do our own entries on Facebook, updating our page at least every three days.” Posts may cover the latest models to enter the showroom or the staff’s efforts in the community, such as helping Habitat for Humanity or completing a project for one of Dallas’s custom builders.
Lighting Concepts recently redesigned its Web site to include “partners” for consumers to review and contact. The category includes builders, electricians, contractors, and kitchen and bath designers.
“We have several levels of ‘partners,’ as we refer to them,” Dumais clarifies. “We have some incentive referral partners who merely recommend their customers purchase from us. In return, they receive a referral incentive. On the other end of the spectrum is the Affiliate Partner, which receives the highest level of support. This includes free on-site visits and consultations from the beginning of the project to completion. Partners are invited to be part of our process to make it as easy on the end-user as possible. We strive to select our partners with like-minded thinking.” Lighting Concepts’ Web site is maintained by Peggy DeBlois, one of the store’s owners and marketing manager and another staffer.
Like most businesses, showrooms are always trying to improve relationships, particularly face-to-face time. Independent showrooms feel they have talented and well-educated staff in place, but know finding additional personnel is a challenge.
“We like to make every customer feel they are the only customer, but it is difficult,” Dumais says. To help meet that goal, his showroom has recently hired three part-time staffers. “They are also able to tend to walk-in customers and are instrumental in support for more time-consuming projects. With the addition of our new hires, we can improve the timeliness of quotes and responses. They join two interior designers and an architect for our clients for a team approach to projects.”
Customer loyalty programs run the gamut – from referral incentives to special “Best Customer” sales and anything in between. The important thing for lighting showroom owners to realize is that service doesn’t stop once a sale is made. Keeping your faithful customers feeling like they are VIPs with your business is crucial for maintaining that loyalty and often leads to increased sales from word of mouth.
Ron Dumais of Lighting Concepts in Lewiston, Me. has added three part-time staffers to help improve face-to-face interactions with A-list customers.
Tim Stumm of Meletio Lighting in Dallas assigns an associate to each loyal client for a more personal experience.
The American Lighting mobile LED lab is a big hit during Meletio’s annual Green Summit, a day of learning and fun for top customers and their clients.