In episode 17, Patrick speaks with marketing consultant Marty Gould from The Customer Store.


Listen to this episode to learn

  • How marketing is different from selling
  • How to collect key information about your current customers
  • How to find new customers just like your best customers
  • Why marketing is an investment in relationship building
  • How to jump start your marketing efforts

Be sure to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes… and please let us know what you think! You can leave comments for this show on the StoneTalk Facebook page or on this site.

If you have stories or insights that you’d like to share with other fabricators, please reach out to Patrick.


Patrick: Welcome to StoneTalk, the podcast for countertop fabricators, brought to you by Moraware, makers of JobTracker scheduling software and CounterGo estimating software for countertop fabricators. I’m your host, Patrick Foley. Today, I’m speaking with Martin Gould, author of The Customer Store and a popular speaker at various stone events. Let’s give him a call. Hey there.

Martin: Hey, Patrick.

Patrick: All right. Are you ready to get started?

Martin: I’m ready whenever you are.

Patrick: Okay, let’s dive in then. How did a marketing expert like you develop a focus on the stone industry? What’s your history with stone?

Martin: It all started in Cleveland.

Patrick: Okay.

Martin: Actually, Bill Levy who was the Marketing Director for the Marble Institute of America for many years is an old friend of mine.

Patrick: Okay.

Martin: One day, we were talking about this and that. I’d done work for Bill many, many years ago, and Bill said, “Hey, I think that there’s an opportunity for us to work together.” We put together a thing called The Stone News Channel back in 2007, I think.

Patrick: Okay.

Martin: It was a television show, a television news program that was distributed online quarterly to Marble Institute members. It was a big success until the recession hit and then all the sponsors had to pull out. From there, getting to know Jim Hieb and the rest of the staff at M.I.A., I was asked to speak at a conference that they had put together in Cleveland. I’d worked in Cleveland for many years in television. They asked me to come speak, and I did. Apparently I did well enough that they kept inviting me back. It was from there that I started to learn a little bit about the stone industry and started to speak at Stone Expo and Coverings and other Marble Institute events. One thing led to another and pretty soon, you become an expert although I’m not really an expert in the stone business. I just happen to know a lot about it relative to most marketing people I think.

Patrick: Well, it’s an interesting, specific niche industry in that there are a lot of companies in this business but they tend to be geographically based so there’s a lot of knowledge sharing because you’re not competing with a whole lot of different companies. Obviously every company has competitors but you have a lot more people that seem collaborative. I find that an interesting detail of this industry.

Martin: It is and it’s always, I think, a positive when members of a particular industry are able to collaborate because they learn so much from each other. I’ve seen this in the automobile industry where they put together what were called 20 Groups, which are dealers of similar size in other parts of the country so they could share advice and really get answers to the questions that they’re afraid to ask on a normal basis. They can ask somebody who’s been through the same routine that they’ve been through, seen the same problems, and faced the same challenges. I do see this in the new M.I.A. chapters that have been opened up in the last couple of months. I was just at the Midwest chapter meeting in Minneapolis a few weeks ago and that’s one of the places where those things happen because those people come there to really learn from each other. I think it’s a good thing for the industry, a good thing for the people who are trying to make a go of it in the business. It is interesting how many people there are out there. Of course, there’s this big stratification of types of customers in the stone industry. We go from the very large companies that are really driving the industry narrative to stone fabricators who are in all levels of the business, all the way to these people who drive around in trucks and call themselves stone guys. It’s a very wide range of business operations and business types.

Patrick: Absolutely. Let’s talk marketing. One thing that also seems to be shared by most of those different types of customers in the industry is the certain reluctance about marketing or a certain expectation that treating marketing like a vending machine. I put a quarter in it and I’m going to get a result out, right? I’m going to get a customer back from this vending machine. How should fabricators really be thinking about marketing at a high level?

Martin: Well, I think that to start, they’re not unique in thinking that. I think that most small businesses, medium-size businesses and when I talk about that is a business where the owner is in charge of their own marketing or they have a very small marketing department, somebody in the office. I’m talking a business where the business owner’s really making all of these decisions. It is the same. The day to day pressures of running a business and making sure you’ve got enough customers in the pipeline is a challenge. Marketing has been presented to them, in many cases, by the people who sell marketing services as a vending machine of sorts. Advertise in our media and you will get customers. What was left out of that equation and I wasn’t really good at articulating it until recently is the long journey the customers go through to the process of deciding to remodel their kitchen or their bathroom that leads to that countertop fabrication and installation job. In some cases, it could take 15 or 20 years before they make a decision because life gets in the way. We’ve got to have the money. We’ve got to get the kids out of the house. We’ve got all kinds of things we’ve got to do before we’ll actually spend the money. I don’t think that many in this industry in particular have thought of the marketing message in those terms, meaning can I speak to a potential customer a long time before they’re actually going to make a purchase because their mindset is I need work today, I need work tomorrow, and they do but I don’t think they’re marketing on Wednesday is going to drive Thursday’s business. Nobody wakes up and says, “Hey, good idea. Let’s get a countertop, dear.” If they did, they’d go to the Home Depot and pick up a countertop. That’s not the way it works.

Patrick: In your book, and by the way, let me pause and mention I liked your book very much, The Customer Store. Anyone listening, I strongly recommend going to Amazon, search for The Customer Store and get it. Read it and do the basic steps that you say. It’s a very actionable book. One of the things you mention is that marketing is an investment. It’s not something that pays off instantly, even though that’s what most people want. Can you just dig in a little bit deeper to what you just said about selling to someone over potentially 15 years? What might that look like? Let’s say I was a customer, someone thinking about replacing my countertops but not quite there yet. What kinds of messages and where would I receive those messages from a savvy marketer at a countertop fabricator who might be able to reach me?

Martin: Well, I think it starts with understanding the situation from the customer’s point of view. A lot of times, we don’t walk in our customer’s shoes because we’re so busy running our own businesses that we don’t stop and think about what’s going on in the customer’s mind. If you think about it, there’s got to be a triggering event of some point and then, at that point, the triggering event could be anything. There’s no way for us to know for sure but there is a triggering event that says, “Oh, we have to remodel the kitchen.” The research that I’ve seen says that it’s not like you decide to put in countertops. It’s not a separated decision from the cabinetry or the appliances in the kitchen or remodeling the bath. It’s a unit, right?

Patrick: Right.

Martin: It’s just part of it so that’s part of that, is to understand what motivates them to purchase, motivates them to decide it’s time to do this. Then, they go through this long educational process and that’s where the internet has changed so much of everything that customers do. In the old days, they had to go to somebody or have somebody come out to get educated about the materials, about the process, about cost. Now, they just go online and they search all over the planet for all the information they want. At that point, to me, the sharp fabricator, installer is going to be able to provide information on their website that is truly usable to the potential prospect. What are they in need of? That’s where I think our development is very slow in this industry because what we do is we put pictures up of beautiful finished projects and then we also show pictures of little countertop edges. Then we show all the different colors of the different stone that there are but we don’t explain any of that. We did focus groups a couple of years ago for a client in Pennsylvania and one of the things that they talked about, these are customers now, they said that the first time that their designer brought them to the stone distribution facility to look at stone, they were so overwhelmed they literally couldn’t make a decision.

Patrick: Right.

Martin: It was too much for them and they wanted to slow down the process. With this particular customer, what we had suggested to them is you know what you ought to do? You ought to organize little trips to the distributor where people can go and educate not in the process of them actually doing their job but anytime. It’s Saturday. Let’s go have a picnic lunch at the distributor site and go see what the stone looks like. That would make the customer feel much more attached to that particular vendor and it would also put them at ease as they’re going through their buying process. I think that’s what it is. A very long-winded answer and I apologize for that but that really is what it’s all about, is to say how do you actually follow the customer through that process . If they know you’re looking out for their best interests and they’ve had a relationship with you over that period of time, when the buying decision moment comes, they won’t have to call anybody else. They’re going to call their guy, Marty or Patrick because he’s my friend. He’s the one who takes care of me. I think that’s where the difference is in marketing today. The buyer’s in charge of the process and the buyer makes the final choices. We don’t sell very much anymore in marketing. We have to develop an environment where people are willing to buy.

Patrick: Got it.

Martin: That’s a different mindset.

Patrick: I heard at a stone event and I feel bad that I’m not going to remember who said this, but I heard a gentleman use the strategy of showing up at events in the community with a few slabs and having some picture taking events because people like taking pictures and just having their logo where these people are going to take pictures. I thought that was really brilliant. I didn’t realize. As you were speaking, it reminded me part of the reason that’s so smart is he’s just getting out there and helping educate people about the options, what it means to replace your countertop, how much better they’re going to look with granite than laminate for example and just making it easy for people to interact with his product and learn a little bit about it. Totally low-pressure and then they take a picture. They’re going to have a logo there. Literally even a year later, they might see that picture and say, “Oh yeah, I was thinking about doing my countertops.” I think that was an interesting example of not selling so much as just imposing yourself in customers’ lives and becoming a part of it.

Martin: Sure, I think that makes a lot of sense. It’s clever and that speaks to the whole realm of other types of marketing activities that aren’t directly related to selling but what eventually could lead to customers. A lot of fabricators that I’ve talked to will get involved in community events. They’ll sponsor sports teams because they know that their particular geographic area that they’re marketing in, those parents are going to those games and would see those little banners hanging up. Nothing wrong with that kind of marketing because it builds name awareness and it also builds an impression that the business is involved in a part of the community. People like that. The other thing about it is, we’re aiming at a very specific type of market here. There’s only a certain group of people who are going to be buying granite countertops. They have to be of a certain age. They have to have a certain income. They have to own a home. It’s not like everybody in town is going to be buying countertops. It’s really a fairly select market. Even the age of the home has so much to do with it. A home that’s too new isn’t going to be looking at new countertops. A home that’s too old might already have been remodeled. There’s a pretty sweet spot there that you have to focus on and I don’t think many marketers in general understand that, that their market is not the whole market. Their market is a piece of the market and if they could only identify what that piece is and put their marketing resources against there, what they’d find are two things. One, they’d find more receptive potential prospects because they are real potential prospects. Number 2 is their marketing would be more effective because instead of spreading it out over a big area, they’d be concentrating it on the people who could really use the message and understand it. That’s hard to do. It’s hard to get your arms around the concept. Easy to execute but very hard to do mentally.

Patrick: Let’s say I’m not very clever for thinking of new ideas but I want to find that small slice that you just mentioned, that sweet spot in the market. How do I break it down? How do I go from where I am today? If I have never really thought about marketing or never thought much, how do I go about finding out what the best slice of the market is for me?

Martin: Well, there are a number of ways to do it. The way that I found worked best which I learned about 20 years ago was if you could acquire a list of people who are really kind of pre-wired to be your customers because they have the means and the setup and all the rest, regardless of the industry, that if I could put my hands on those people and then I could find other people who were just like them, I’d have a pretty good marketing plan to start.

Patrick: Should I start with my customers in that? If I already have 100 customers, is that enough to just look at them first?

Martin: Sure, a database of 100 customers while it’s small, what I learned how to do with this product that we talk about in the book which we call lifestyle segmentation research which is just a way of categorizing people into groups so you can market to them. By taking a list of names and addresses and then assigning each of those to one of those lifestyle segmentation clusters or groups, then you would know who they were as a group. That can be done with any size database. We just send it off to the company, they compare the address because they’ve got information on every household in the U.S. and then they append it with a code. Then we say okay, these are the people who I’m attracting. Now, where can I find more just like them so you say okay, I want these zip codes. You get a list back and you say okay, well these are people who match the same profile of the people I already do business with. It could be strictly geographically, meaning I want to work in the same neighborhood or you could take that profile and open up a new showroom across the state or across the country and it would still be the same type of person. It’s kind of remarkably easy. It’s kind of scary because it sounds like mumbo jumbo but it comes from your own data. The customers you’ve done business with provide the best platform of information for who to reach out to to gain new customers. You want ones who look just like your best customers. It’s like cloning your customer.

Patrick: If I have a list, even a small list, I can send that to you and you could essentially send me back a bigger list of prospects that are just like those customers?

Martin: Yes. You don’t have to send it to me although I’d certainly like it because that’s the business that I’m in but you can do it directly. Experian has a small business portal where if you’re proficient in your data, which a lot of people aren’t, but if you have a database, you can upload it to their file, you give them your credit card and they’ll come back with a list. They’ll take your data and give it right back to you but only with this code on the side. From that code, you could then say, “Give me more people like this in these zip codes.” They’ll sell them to you as a list. Now, what we do which is different and the reason why I got involved in this many, many years ago was that most business owners didn’t want to sort through the data because it’s just big piles of data. What they needed to do was to have somebody interpret it and give them an overview report that was simple, that they could understand. That’s what I started doing. We just took these big, hairy piles of numbers and fields and made some sense out of them and presented them then to our clients in a way and we do this for all industries by the way, not just the stone business, but I think it’s very good for the stone business because of the need to target market. Then we say here’s six or seven pages, here’s your best customers, here’s some maps of where those customers are located, here are areas of opportunity where you could explore. When people see it that easily, then they can start making really smart decisions about their marketing and they can have confidence in those decisions. That’s really what my ultimate goal is and why I wrote the book was to say I want a local business owner to feel confident that they can make marketing decisions that make sense. They may not always work. You may not always get the response but if you’re committed to an ongoing marketing program, even if it’s nothing more than hauling three slabs of stone out to the park every month, that’s a marketing plan because you know you’re reaching the right people, then your marketing will work. What we need is to overcome this terrible fear and lack of confidence that most small business owners have and it’s because they don’t have any information that they can feel comfortable with. That’s what we have to do is to give them more information. I thought this was the best place to start after so many years of trying all kinds of different things. I want them to be less worried about which media they choose and a lot more worried about which customers they choose to go after because that has a lot more to do with whether or not their business is going to be successful.

Patrick: Nice. Once I get a list of good prospects, prospects that match my best customers and prospects that I want, what’s the difference between marketing and sales? If I have a list of 1000 prospects that are good, why don’t I just dial down that list and call each one and say, “You want to buy a countertop?”

Martin: You absolutely could and many businesses do and they should. It depends on whether your organization has a good sales structure and you have a process that works. The only thing that’s bad about it is, is that when a salesperson calls and says, “We’d like to do a free quote for you or a free estimate,” the customer’s not an idiot. The customer is your wife. She’s smart and she’s not letting you into the house until she’s ready to buy. She’s not going to get bullied and I think that the time of door-to-door selling of remodeling services of all kinds, and I’ve spoken to the window replacement meetings and the aluminum sidings, roofers, I’ve talked to them all. They have all done this with certain degrees of success but they’ve come also at a great cost. The cost is in credibility. The cost is in customers feeling pressure and not reacting properly. It’s an individual business’s choice but you certainly can use telemarketing or use direct door-to-door sales because you would know this certainly is a good tool for that. But if we want to carry on a dialogue, a discussion, we want to build a relationship, we have to use other tools as well. The thing about marketing of course is that it’s really multiplied salesmanship. That’s what Claude Hopkins said in the early 1900’s. Marketing is supposed to take the place of sales. Marketing is more efficient than salesmen. Ultimately, when you look at the cost of marketing versus the cost of sales, I’ll take you all the way back to the question you asked about marketing being an investment and not an expense. That was not my quote but it was Peter Drucker, the great business leadership, management leadership innovator who said that there are only two things that can cause profit in a business. One is the product that you make and the other is the marketing of that product. What Drucker said was, marketing should be so successful that it will eliminate the need for sales staff because people will be calling you instead of you having to go out and reach out to them. That’s the goal of any marketing program, is that ultimately, we want to be known so well and our reputation be so good that people will just simply call us when they’re ready to do business.

Patrick: Let’s look at that list of 1000 good prospects another way. Should I be focusing my marketing efforts on a city-level or a part of a city-level or even as low as a neighborhood-level? If it’s as low as a neighborhood-level, how do I reach a neighborhood other than just calling them directly?

Martin: Good question. I learned this the hard way, by sending out direct mail for my own business and failing miserably at it. I went to school, to the local college that was in our town in Ohio and studied with a demographics expert who explained to me how subtle differences make a huge difference in behavior patterns and buying habits, and how people drive, their natural barriers. Some people won’t cross underneath a highway overpass to get to a store that’s on the other side of a street. There’s all kinds of behavioral issues here. What the marketing research people did was they dug down into data that already existed, things like the U.S. census. The U.S. census, which is the basis of all marketing research data, had to be organized in such a way and they worked with the post office to figure out a way to break zip codes which are very unorganized, non-homogeneous areas, down into smaller groups, neighborhood groups. They’re called block groups but they’re basically neighborhoods because they’re standardized for the number of people who live in that block group, anywhere from 300 to 1000 people. There would be no more than about 1000 people in any one block group no matter where it is. That starts to show us what’s homogeneous and what we know intrinsically when we drive into a neighborhood and we see all the houses are very similar sized, they were built around the same time. Because if those houses are homogeneous, they probably all cost about the same; therefore, the people who live in those houses have to earn roughly the same amount of money and they’re very similar lifestyles. You move into a neighborhood with kids or you move into a neighborhood that’s 55 and over. You can see how neighborhoods become homogeneous but it’s very simple that if you know the neighborhood you want to target, and again, you can do this on your own, you just go to the post office and say, “I want all the block group numbers for this particular zip code or this area on a map.” You can use their online maps where you can actually click on them and you’ll get the block group number. There, you could actually order up a list and say I want to mail to these people.

Patrick: Okay so direct mail is one tried and true way of reaching out to a specific neighborhood then is what you’re telling me.

Martin: Yes, it is. For some types of people, direct mail is still very effective as long as people understand what it’s use is. It’s kind of like a 30 second T.V. commercial coming into your mailbox however often you do it. If you notice, the good direct mail people mail the same things over and over and over again because they know what works.

Patrick: If I want to get into direct mail, I would be better off looking at the address including the zip code and ultimately getting to that block group of existing customers. Those are the places I’d probably want to reach out to for direct mail if I’m going to take that approach.

Martin: Yeah, I would say if you did a number of jobs in a particular area, and you’d like to reach other people in that area, that’s how you would do it. What’s beautiful about that and we’ve done this a number of times and it’s worked very well is, if you’re working in the same neighborhood, what a lot of people will do is they’ll put up a sign where they’re working and that’s great. But what’s better is, if I made a postcard that had Mary and Bob Smith whose house we just remodeled and I mailed it to everybody else just in the neighborhood, with their testimonials and their pictures of them and their family in their kitchen eating by the way, not just looking at the kitchen as if it was a shrine. I call this kitchen porn. We’ve done this for so long. We love those pictures. We figure if we show a picture of a kitchen without a human breath anywhere inside. It’s perfect, it’s never been used, its never eaten in, it’s never cooked upon, that’s how we represent, in the stone industry, that’s how we represent kitchens. It’s our own version of pornography because we love it. But that’s not the way people live their lives. If we sent that postcard to the neighbors that have that family in there with that testimonial, you know what those neighbors are going to say? “I know Bob and Mary. What a wonderful job.” Next thing you know, they’re down at the house looking at the kitchen.

Patrick: Yeah and also, then you get positive jealousy at play there as well.

Martin: Sure.

Patrick: We can’t have our nasty old laminate countertops if these guys have brand new stonework.

Martin: Yes.

Patrick: That is absolutely brilliant to me and one of the things I like about it is, it’s simple and repeatable. I’ve only thought of direct mail as, I thought there was some rule, essentially in my head, I thought there was a rule that said I have to send the same postcard everywhere. But why? It’s so easy to create a new postcard. Just slap a different picture on there and send that out.

Martin: You can do even better than that these days with what they call variable imprint on direct mail on postcards, on printing where it’s all done by computer and it’s all done by database. If you had that list of names of everybody else in the neighborhood, the postcard would go to them, “Hi Bob and Sue. Did you know your neighbors, Mary and Jim just remodeled their kitchen. You should go down and see it. It’s really nice.”

Patrick: That’s simple and awesome. That reminds me, we need to do more about that. Our job at Moraware, we see our job as helping our customers get more customers ultimately. That’s why we’ve been focusing on a tool, CounterGo that makes it easier to quote because that helps you get more customers. We want to focus on getting more customers more than helping you save costs. That’s just something that we find a little more interesting. But before we wrap up, can you give some advice to our customers about what customer data they should be storing. I know a lot of our customers save their customer data in our software but I don’t know exactly what pieces they should be saving. What is enough? Is the address enough?

Martin: If they have the name and the address of where the job was done those are the only two things that they would absolutely need. They could do an analysis of their customer database. But if they’ve added additional information to that job record such as what was installed, the type of product, if they put in what the job gross was, if they were doing contracting work as a sub for somebody else, like we know a lot of fabricators and installers are working for Home Depot and Lowes, if there was a field that they use that said this lead came from Home Depot or this sale came from Home Depot, now they could very simply on an Excel spreadsheet, if they know how to use that pivot table, if they use the little pivot table, exported the file out of your software into Excel, they could run all kinds of reports that would tell them amazing amounts of information about their business, amazing amounts that cost them nothing, just the time it takes to be able to fiddle with an Excel spreadsheet. We’ve worked with customers of ours who have your software and they’ve used your platform in just that way. When they were able to give us that information, we were able to analyze it and give them information back that stunned them about their own business, that they thought they knew but they really didn’t know because we sort of looked at the data differently. That’s our job, is to look at the data and interpret it so we could tell them where they were making the most money, who was grossing the most, which kinds of people were buying the most expensive products and where were they buying them from. That’s powerful stuff. That’s what you do before you decide you’re going to buy a million clipper coupon magazine ads which I’ve got plenty of clients of mine who do that. Let me get into every household in the territory and then they wonder why it doesn’t work or why they’re spending too much money. What’s the first thing they do? They cancel that and they say, “It didn’t work enough and I didn’t get a big enough return.” That’s bad for everybody but I can’t stress enough to people the need to use their data. The information they get on every customer is vital and it should be put someplace where you can analyze it. It’s not going to work in a file drawer anymore. It’s not going to work in a ticket box. You write that hand ticket and you stick it in a box or drawer or something. It’s got to go into something that can be preserved and then analyzed. I think your software does the trick. It’s like two for one for them. They get their project management software and at the same time, they can start collecting data on their customers. Part of it also is that the management and ownership of the business has to be diligent about saying to everybody, “Look, an accurate address typed into our system is important. The zip code is important. The street address is important.” Because if we make a mistake on that which people do all the time, the better and cleaner the data is, the more accurate it will be and the more you’ll be able to learn from it.

Patrick: I feel a little bit silly but until this conversation, I never knew that an address was such a key piece of marketing information. I very much thought that the job address was simply what I needed to show up and deliver the work. I didn’t realize how critical it was for my future marketing so that’s really cool.

Martin: It’s true but in our industry, the address is everything because people move but the houses tend to stay in the same place.

Patrick: True.

Martin: What we want is to know enough about about the house. Knowing about the house tells us so much about their ability to be a prospect. What we found out, we did research with an other big customer and we saw that the average, 57% of all the jobs that they did and we analyzed almost 200,000 job records, it was a major national company, that 57% of all the jobs they did were on houses that were between eight and 28 years old, and another 23% came from the houses that were 29 to 40 years old so we knew it was in a range. That helped everybody figure out okay, now I know which neighborhoods to go to. Oh by the way, there is one other trick which I thought was really good if you have time for it, Patrick.

Patrick: Sure, please.

Martin: You know those new houses? The ones that are too new to remodel?

Patrick: Yeah, yeah.

Martin: Well, they’re going to get older. One day, they’re going to be remodelable.

Patrick: Right.

Martin: Wouldn’t it be great to start early? We know the house is eight, nine, ten years old starting to get there. Maybe they had builder-grade cabinets and they’re not so good, maybe they bought the house, they had little kids and now they’re getting older and they won’t bang into them and damage everything.

Patrick: Sure.

Martin: Wouldn’t you like to start a campaign, when you’re ready, we’ll be there for you. You’re going to want to replace your countertops pretty soon here. We can actually just coach that house along to the point where somebody says it’s time for me to move or it’s time for me to update or whatever it is. You’re in their field of vision. They think of you because you’ve been talking to them. You’ve been speaking their language. I think that what the house is, is crucially important to the marketing of our product and therefore keeping addresses is about the most important thing you can do to be able to execute a marketing plan that has a better than average chance of working. I think that’s what everybody really wants. They’d like to market but they’d like to also know that the marketing is going to work and most times, it hasn’t worked. Sometimes it’s the marketers fault and sometimes it’s the business owner’s fault but it doesn’t matter. It just didn’t work and that discourages people from doing it again. This is one way to make that better.

Patrick: Quick followup question to what you just mentioned. If I sell both natural and engineered stone in solid surface and laminate, how many best customers do I have? It’s somewhere between one and four. I’m pretty sure it’s not one but I would imagine laminate is, that I have a different set of houses that I’m going to be marketing to and probably again, different time frames, different age of house, etc. In your experience, are engineered stone, natural stone and solid surface, are they kind of all lumped together or do they have nuances that tend to have different best customers for each of them as well?

Martin: The data that I’ve personally been involved in analyzing do show differences in who’s the laminate buyer versus who’s a granite buyer. Of course, there’s been such a wide range of pricing with natural stone that it’s hard to quantify. I think that there are generally five to seven groups, types of people who are primarily buying the higher end products. Then, many of those same groups are also buying mid-line products. There’s a lot of motivation for saying why did I switch from granite to engineered stone or what am I looking at for both? A lot of times, it comes down to decisions as simple as decor. It’s to say I needed a color that was going to be cooperative with the rest of my project. I think that there is a mid-line and there’s a high line. I don’t know that within the big category of granite that we’ve been able to break down specific, what types of stone would these people like but I think that a smart fabricator or forward-thinking fabricator will start to track that in a much more detailed way, then they’d know. If they put into the records in the field that it’s not just granite that we put in but we put in a particular type of granite and most of the suppliers are keeping very close track on how many slabs they’re ordering in various types of stone so they actually know what they’re installing a lot of. If they knew that they were installing a lot of a certain type of stone, they know what the price point is then they would be able to say okay, well here are the types of people, these are the groups they come from. Now, what kind of business are you getting out of them. Most times, it correlates. We saw the people who were buying laminate products, were spending less money than the people who were buying granite products.

Patrick: I think that I’m beginning to see again, if marketing is more customizable than I realized, so you mentioned postcards. Obviously, I’m going to show a picture ideally of the actual countertops with actual neighborhood people in them if I’m sending to a local area. If I’m putting an ad in the newspaper, I’m probably going to want to show countertops that are the most that I sell not the fewest that I sell as well, right?

Martin: Right, and the reason why you do that is because you’d be in the newspaper because you already know your best customers are newspaper readers.

Patrick: Sure.

Martin: You make that decision first. You follow the media choice based on what your customers are doing rather than saying, “I’ll let the media give me the customers,” you’re saying, “No, I’ve identified my customers. They read the newspaper.” And we’ve seen this with clients that we’ve had that are within the same company franchises where one is doing all television and another is doing all radio and another one’s doing all direct mail because that’s what their customers are responding to.

Patrick: If I’m not good at doing this analysis, I can contact you and you’ll help me do this kind of analysis, right?

Martin: Absolutely. We automate the whole process. All we ask is that if somebody gives us their data so for example, one of your customers says I want to export my data that’s in Moraware, then we just simply get it exported. It comes to us in a file. We get it appended. We add all of the bells and whistles to the report and then we actually meet with them by telephone or Skype or GoToMeeting and walk them through page by page so they can see what’s up. We make it so they can really use it and we talk about tactics and strategy. Then, they can go off and start making plans or they can ask for help. That’s when they can turn to a local marketing company and get postcards made and get other types of materials done, make changes to their websites, getting their stuff adaptable to a mobile platform which we all know is so crucially important, and I bet less than 10% of the fabricators in the U.S. have websites that are mobile responsive.

Patrick: Sure, yeah.

Martin: All that kind of stuff is really, really important.

Patrick: We haven’t even mentioned social media.

Martin: That’s a whole other thing but again, it has a lot to do with saying to the fabricator who says “I can’t do everything. I’ve got to do something.” Well, if you have something in your hands that tells you who these people are, what their habits and preferences are, what their media preferences are, where they’re located and where you can find other people just like them, that’s a good start. You don’t have to do much more than that to start.

Patrick: Well, I will make sure I have your contact information in the show notes so that people can reach out to you. Again, I really enjoyed your book. I recommend everyone to read it. I’ll even give a couple away so pay attention to our Facebook page for that. With that said, other than going out and getting the book, what is a good first thing that a fabricator listening to the show should do today? What is the one thing that someone who hasn’t been doing marketing, what should they start today?

Martin: If they don’t have any data in a database, their customers, they should institute a program of saying starting next Monday, we’re going to put every customer that we have into some sort of electronic file, even if that’s just an Excel spreadsheet or is Moraware. That’s what they should be doing. It should be in their Moraware software. If your customers are in a database, I think one of the first things that you should do, a simple thing to do is to just take the field of your zip codes and find out how many jobs you’re doing in each zip code.

Patrick: Okay.

Martin: If you do that, then you’re going to get a sense of where the center is on your business and most businesses find that most of their customers are coming fairly close to where they’re located, where they’re shop is located or their showroom if they have one. Just by doing a simple count, I think what most people find out when they look at that is, “Oh my goodness. I’ve been traveling hundreds of miles to do one job in zip code 99999 or one other job 300 miles in the other direction in zip code 88888. I better rethink whether or not this is profitable or if it makes any sense for me to market.” Knowing where the concentrations are is the best place to start because you just want to get more from where there’s more. The more, the more. The more there is, the more you’re going to get so I would do that and then I’d say call me. We’ll help you get the rest of the stuff out of your database or call your rep at Moraware and say, “How do I export a file?”

Patrick: We can help you with that.

Martin: Then, do a report so you understand what’s going on without being too sales pitch-y. But doing the zip code analysis is pretty easy. That’s just one field, one column of numbers. You do the pivot table and off you go.

Patrick: Well again, I feel a little silly but I didn’t know that was marketing. Seriously so thank you for teaching me something today and hopefully our customers will get more focused on looking at where they’re selling currently and try to sell more there.

Martin: Patrick, it was a pleasure. Thanks so much for the time. I enjoyed it.

Patrick: Thank you, Marty. I hope to see you in person soon.

Martin: Absolutely.

Patrick: Thanks for listening to StoneTalk, the podcast for countertop fabricators. If you liked this episode, be sure to visit or subscribe to StoneTalk in iTunes for more. Visit the StoneTalk show Facebook page to join in the conversation and follow @StoneTalkShow on Twitter. StoneTalk is brought to you by Moraware, makers of JobTracker scheduling software and CounterGo estimating software for countertop fabricators. I’m your host, Patrick Foley and I look forward to spending time with you again on the next episode of StoneTalk.