Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Diversify and add value in tough times

Sales director of Searle & Taylor, Darren Taylor explains how he sought to expand his retail business with a UK agency for kitchen furniture
I would like to shake the hand of the kitchen retailer that has been unaffected by the economic downturn. There are sure to be some, but I believe most of us have had to find new ways to attract business without ‘cheapening’ our brands. While retailing to consumers may still be bearing fruit, at Searle & Taylor we have certainly had to reconsider our business to business proposition to make it work for us.
Before the recession, we regularly partnered with architects, housebuilders and interior designers that came ‘knocking on the door’ to work on their projects. As the economy began to dip, these additional revenue streams that were once a ‘given’ became harder to achieve. As a small, yet forward-thinking company, we knew we had to both diversify and add value to our services in order to incentivise our commercial relationships. By diversifying, we became exclusive agents for premium Intuo by EWE Kitchens and mid-priced EWE Kitchens and set up an initial dealer network throughout the country by offering free displays on set payback targets. Last year, we refurbished our showroom to become the UK Training Centre for the award-winning Austrian brands. We then began to actively market these brands to housebuilders that specialise in chic contemporary living spaces.
As opposed to waiting for their calls, we proactively marketed our business to architects and interior designers. We invested in a special B2B brochure that differs from our consumer prospect in a number of ways. This highlights our planning and design services and focuses on how we work with on-site contractors. We also redeveloped our Searle & Taylor website that now features a B2B link, so we can direct future partners to our proposition. An architect’s offer is always design-led, so we talk about the advantage of using our design and planning service; developers, on the other hand, are mainly cost-based decision makers, so we talk about value for money.
We then invested in a number of CAD packages and we now feature a further service to architects and designers. On a ‘no win, no fee’ basis, they can download their initial plans to us and we will advise on all aspects of the kitchen area. This works especially well with extensions and connected living options, where architects require further know-how for the layout of the new kitchen, including all the technical aspects of where appliances should be sited. After we have devised and returned the best designs for the layout, all we ask for is a recommendation and a referral. This may seem like a lot of advance work for no guaranteed return, but we believe that referrals like these are the way forward in a tough market and we are pleased to say that over 90% of our design options have converted to actual sales on this basis.  We are also prepared to offer a similar service for the right types of major house building projects in order to achieve a realistic referral.
We work with local architects and builders within a 30 mile radius, but because we are agents for Intuo and EWE, we are able extend this offer geographically by passing ‘hot’ leads to our partners. We find that the architects and designers we have already worked with will recommend our services in the same way that they would recommend a great restaurant. They trust we will do a great job; we trust that they will recommend us time and time again.

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