Countertops Magazine Archive

How to Create Marketing and Sales Systems for Highly Profitable Stone Companies

Like most of America, I am a self-confessed coffee lover. At least one or two days a week you will find me standing in line at Starbucks waiting for my Cinnamon Dolce Latte or Iced Americano with cream.

Several weeks ago, while it was still hot out, I received my grande Iced Americano like any other day. However, on this occasion I was asked by the barista which line on my cup I wanted to fill to with cream.

I had never paid much attention to the two green lines on my clear Starbucks cup before. The barista kindly informed me that the lines were markers for measuring how much milk and ice to add to a drink to ensure each drink is made consistently. Now, I catch myself looking for these little markers everywhere I go.

Take notice the next time you are at a large fast-food chain. Whether there are small lines on the outside of cups, dotted lines inside sandwich wrappers or markers on food containers, these printed guidelines reduce the time it takes to get the order out, ensure a consistent customer experience and make training new employees much easier.

You see, the executives at fast-food franchises are faced with a challenge similar to yours when running a stone business. They are trying to build a brand, increase sales and create an efficient workflow to increase productivity. But, their employee turnover is so high that this is almost impossible without impeccable systems for the smallest things…like how much ice to put in cups and where to place the burger on the wrapper.

Without these systems, the franchise business model would not be nearly as successful as it is.

If you have a stone business or are planning on taking the next step towards one, building solid systems is vital to your success. There are marketing and sales systems you need to make your stone company profitable and highly competitive.

Too many businesses have no direction when it comes to sales and marketing strategies. Rather than proactively creating systems that are profitable and fit into their business model, I see many stone companies reacting to something an advertising representative told them or what they heard a competitor is doing.

There are five basic marketing and sales systems that you should focus on. They are:

Lead Generation Systems. How is it that you make your phone ring? How do you generate walk-in traffic? How do you put your website in front of the right people to generate an email inquiry? How much should you expect to pay for a lead from each advertising medium you use?

Each of those questions should be answered as a part of your lead generation system. Every market is different in the stone industry. Some companies thrive by paying less than $20 per lead. Some are forced to pay upwards of $2,000. In some markets, yellow page advertising works exceptionally well. In others it doesn’t even come close to paying for itself.

To establish answers to these questions, you need a combination of good management software and marketing tracking efforts. Call your phone company and inquire about marketing tracking phone numbers. This type of system assigns unique phone numbers to each marketing campaign and when your staff answers the phone, the source is announced prior to connecting the call. They give you an unbiased look at advertising mediums and will help you determine what works for you and what doesn’t.

Creating this system will help you and your managers understand your marketing efforts much better and – as an added benefit – help you sleep better at night because you have a proven system to follow for success.

Lead Capturing Systems. Generating a lead is one thing, effectively capturing it is another. If you follow my earlier advice about using tracking phone numbers, you will see what I mean. Many stone businesses are missing a large percentage of the leads they pay good money to generate.

If you miss a phone call because your office manager is out to lunch or busy with another customer, you’ve missed an opportunity. If you don’t have your manager check, and appropriately respond to email inquiries every day, you’re missing opportunities.

Create systems to capture every lead you pay to generate. This means considering using a call center to answer your after hours and roll over phone calls.

If you pay $100 or more to generate a lead that is possibly worth up to $7,000 or even greater, missing more than a few per month is a costly mistake. Make sure your staff knows to check the email inbox every day at lunch and before going home. Create a standard response template that your staff can use for each inquiry that will help drive the sale. This saves them time and will give you control over what is said to prospects inquiring via email.

Before spending another penny trying to increase your leads, make sure you’re capitalizing on all of your existing leads first. Do this by creating a lead capturing system. Designate phone answering systems, email reply systems and walk-in traffic systems.

Make sure you capture as much information about people that inquire. Get their contact information so you can appropriately follow up if necessary.

Lead Conversion Systems. So, you’ve generated a lead and captured it effectively. Now you need to turn it into a paying customer! What you say and how you say it are critical at this point.

Some stone businesses will turn to scripts for this. How do you like it when you’re talking to somebody who is clearly reading a script? If you’re like most people, you hate it. Scripts are impersonal and not very effective.

Rather than using a script, give those who interface with prospects an outline that covers your objectives for the call and a process to follow. Then instruct them to “make it their own” so they’re comfortable with the language and can talk to people the way they deserve to be talked to.

If you do this, I guarantee your lead to sale conversion ratio will go up, and you’ll end up diffusing the sales pressure that your manager AND prospective customer feels.

If the lead comes in via email, have a template that has variable fields ready for installation inquiries, billing inquiries, alliance inquiries and even complaints.

Instruct your manger that it’s okay to modify it if needed, but to make sure that the important elements remain unchanged.

Again, consider testing a call center. These companies know what works and usually have a higher sales ratio than stone businesses have on their own.

Lead Follow-Up Systems. A follow up system for those leads that don’t convert is crucial. It’s a proven fact that following up with people results in installs. However, you must have systems in place to make this both effective and efficient for your staff. After you talk to a lead, have a multi-step system in place for following up with that person. If you are able to capture their mailing address, phone number and email address, I highly recommend having marketing materials prepared for all three mediums.

You should send them a letter the same day. They’ll get it within three days so the timing will be just about perfect. Let them know that you appreciate them stopping by and that you are there to serve them and help them with any stone related needs. Give them incentive to buy within 30 days.

Seven days after the visit, make a phone call if you have their phone number. Again, don’t use a script. Have your sales manager say whatever sounds natural, but tell them the objective is to say thank you and give them a special offer to make a decision within the 30 day window. If you sent a letter, have them mention the letter.

Have an email slated for 14 days after the visit with remodeling and stone selection tips included so you’re not being pesky, but helpful. And finally, have another letter go out four weeks after the visit letting them know that you’ll extend the discount offer for another two weeks and that you hope to see them soon.

To do this you will need good management software with calendar and letter capabilities. The more you can automate this, the better.

By doing this, you’re doing everything you can to capitalize on the investment you made to generate a customer.

Database Marketing Systems. Your biggest source of added revenue is going to come by increasing the lifetime value of each customer.

You can increase the value of each customer by up-selling and cross-selling related products and services. Very few stone companies market to their database of customers frequently enough. You should be mailing your existing customers at least every 30 days.

With a little creativity, there are hundreds of things you can promote to an existing customer, and the easiest sale to make is to someone who has already done business with you in the past. Consider producing your own newsletter that includes interesting stories and your advertisements. If you mail out invoices or statements to your customers, be sure to include marketing materials in the envelope.

Every customer should be told about and reminded of your customer referral program and given the materials they need to fulfill it.

As part of your marketing and sales system, include a section on database marketing. Tell your staff that letters need to go out to customers every three or four weeks and give them the letters and materials they need to do this. Take all of the guess work out of this and you’ll love the results.

If you have email addresses, invest in an automated email auto-responder that automatically sends your customers messages thanking them for their business and offering them something else of value.

No matter what, you should have these systems in place for your business. Even if you only have one employee, systems will make you more money and save you a lot of stress. However, when you have a larger company they become even more important.

Take the time to write out every last detail of these systems. Include details like what kind of postage to use, what time to check email, what kind of paper to use, who is authorized to contact advertising reps, and so on.

After you’re happy with the result, spend the time and money to have your written systems printed out and placed in a nice binder. Your managers should study the systems closely and follow them perfectly when running your business.

Michael Gerber, the world renowned author of The E-Myth put it best when he said, “If your thinking is sloppy, your business will be sloppy. If you are disorganized, your business will be disorganized.”

I promise you this – if you think accurately and critically about each of these systems, your stone business will be better run, more organized and, most of all, make you more money with less stress.

About the Author

Aileen Davis is the president of Stone Marketing Systems (SMS), which is dedicated to helping stone businesses increase their profits through innovative sales and marketing strategies. To subscribe to Aileen's e-newsletter for free tips or schedule a 30-minute ‘Marketing Tune-Up,’ visit or call (888) 813-9658.