Original post: September 2011
If your company markets components, melamines, laminates, kitchens, store fixtures or even consumer products, I think you will find this article "THE MARKETING of COLOR" to be of interest. Since we are all in the business of figuring out what consumers want, exploring the history of color, how trends are created and how distribution affects color develop is highly relevant. Its hard to be a predictor of future trends however after you read more of how I analyze past trends, I think you'll see that some predictions can, in fact, be made towards future color trends.
HISTORY OF COLOR
As a fellow human, certainly you can attest to how important color is to our daily lives but think about how important color was to early man. The decision to eat one food over another and the color of poisonous snakes for example could literally determined if you survived to produce offspring. Interpreting color and making predictions could be a life or death situation. As a result, humans have certain innate reactions to color that seem to, in general, be universal across cultures. Lets examine more about the history of colors and how they evoke emotions today.
RED: If you look at the color red it typically has two very different feelings; pleasure and danger. If you look at food, strawberries can be sweet and safe to eat yet Hawthorn's red berries can make you sick. This creates a dual emotion that Red can be a volatile color that could create pleasure or pain. Another example of red, are red lips. Red lips in most cultures signify that a woman is fertile and is therefore loosely translated to passion. Today red lipstick is used not only as a cultural decoration but its origins can be traced far back in various civilizations. Another place red was seen in the history of humans is on the battlefield. Red blood signifies the calamities of war which could be disaster if you were on the loosing side but you might feel elation after winning a war and getting to live another day.
Red is a very common color used by certain consumer products to invoke passion however many companies such as financial companies avoid red entirely as it signifies danger or loss. When companies are loosing money they are known to be "in the red" for example.
GREEN: Green typically signifies "wealth". Imagine all of our years growing crops and living off the green of the land. Land use to be viewed as the single source for survival and hence the color green signifies money and wealth. Starbucks is a successful company that uses Green and a symbol that looks like a coin. Have you ever thought that Starbucks sells the aspiration to wealth rather than only selling coffee. Books have been written on the success of Starbucks and how vital green was to their overall success.
YELLOW: Just like Red, yellow evokes dual emotion. One is of hope, happiness and sunshine and the other is in betray or deceit. We all can understand that the sun represents hope and brightness but why is yellow often seen as the color of deceit or betrayal? For thousands of years the color yellow has signified betrayal in most cultures (but not all ) however some trace the yellow color to certain deseases and illnesses that have plagued humans from the beginning. I won't elaborate too deeply in this short article however I may expand examples in future articles.
BLACK: Black typically signifies power, authority, fear and death. When you take any color to its darkest value it becomes black. If you can imagine ancient mankind and how a decomposed body turned black or how a crop or home might be destroyed by fire would be black. But the most moving evidence that early man might be afraid of black would be from when the sky turns black. Today black also signifies authority such as in a suit or when a judge wears a black robe rather than a yellow one for example.
BLUE: Blue can be most closely related to Water and the sky. Do you ever feel more peaceful simply by looking at water or the sky? I know I do... Ancient humans always felt safe when they lived close to water because we can live for weeks without food but only a few days without drinkable water. Insurance companies, banks and even 3D Laminate companies often use the color blue to make people feel safe in using their product. Do you use a particular company due to their color unknowingly?
HOW WE PERCEIVE COLOR:
In a previous article I wrote called "Understanding the Language of Color", I went into depth about various things that affect how we perceive colors. I won't go too deep in this article however I will say that how we perceive color is not always accurate... For example, think of the "area effect". To understand the area effect, imagine making a match to a large 2' X 2' board and then looking at a small 3" X 3" match to that board. At first glance you may think the larger board is more light however what if you found out that you were in fact looking at the exact same color!? Simply by looking at a larger piece is creates an accumulation of color in your eye (so to speak) that gives you the perception that it is lighter than the other. In summation, there are various situations such as metamerism, the area affect and others that can make human perceive color differently from situation to situation.
The Mirriam Webster dictionary defines a trend as "A general direction in which something is developing or changing". But what is an "Antitheisis Trend"? First I should say this is a Markism or in other words a definition made up by myself... (you're free to laugh at or with me here) Due to my passion for marketing and exploration of marketing trends I often come up with situations in which there does not exist a marketing industry term. Previously I had come up with the term "Gain Leader"; opposite of "Loss Leader" and I've received a lot of positive feedback on this new marketing term and perspective. Getting back to the Antithesis... My definition of an "Antithesis Trend" is "A new trend created by the desire for change away from the current trend". If you ask a music executive or clothing designer if they have ever experienced an "Antithesis Trend" they would first ask you what it meant and then after you gave them the definition they would immediately point at you and say "Yes ! Thats my reality. "
In the Music Industry, lets examine some examples of Antithesis Trends. Before you think I've gone on a tangent, trust that I will tie this in to how color trends can also be affected by this. Next I will take you on a journey from the 1950s music through 2010 and show how a desire for change drove new trends and then give specific examples of musical artists and how they benefited from the trend change.
Early 1950s; This era was made up primarily with Crooners. This romantic singers appealed to love, relationships and courtship. Artist such as Buddy Holley were big in the 1950s and to say that the decade was full of G rated love songs would be an understatement. Whats the opposite of a G rated love ballad by a Crooner? Elvis...
1956/1960s; When Elvis first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show on September 9th, 1956 with his sexual innuendos and gyrating hips he put a nail in the coffin of the days of the Crooner. Elvis was extremely talented but he was also at the right place at the right time. Elvis mixed the Blues with Crooners and became the Antithesis of the Crooner trend. That is until.
1970s; Disco and the Bee Gees.. Disco brought in an era of excess, drug use, disco balls and dance. Although Elvis had smooth moves of his own, Disco brought in an error of the individual dancing. It is a bit difficult to draw an exact correlation of how Disco was the opposite of Elvis however one can certainly argue that Disco dominated the 70s and that it was very different to say the least.
1980s; Hair Bands. Motley Crew. When the 80s music scene came it as if someone turned out the lights and took the disco ball home. "No more disco for you" they probably grumbled as they exited out the back door of Studio 54. Bands such as Motley Crew and Warrant wore make up, teased their hair and did not come close to breaking out into dance as in the days of disco. It is easy to see how the Hair Bands were the Antithesis of Disco until...
1990s Grunge Rock. Nirvana. From the moment I saw the video "Smells like Team Spirit" and cought wind of the growing Seattle Grunge movement I knew that Hair Bands were simply uncool. Think of how Grunge is actually the opposite of hair bands and make up. Many in the Grunge music scene avoided showers and there were no sequins or makeup to be found. Is it possible that Grunge became popular BECAUSE it was the opposite of Hair bands?
2000s Rap/Bling. Tupac. What is the opposite of a white guy from Seattle who believes in minamalism? Hmmm. Well certainly the opposite of Grunge Rock is Rap featuring videos with gold chains, cars and excess. Rappers are the new rock stars....they say...
ANTITHESIS TRENDS can be witnessed in the music industry over the past 60 years and one could argue that no new fad would have quite the impact if people weren't so darn tired of the past trend. It could be argued that if you want to know whats going to be big, just figure out whats the opposite of whats hot now.
Color Trends Antithesis: Many laminate colorists often discuss how when an economic market declines that darker colors become more popular. Our best seller for the past four years has been Wenge which is a dark woodgrain and certainly one can argue that its in line with what colorists have been saying. On the flip side, colorists also say that lighter colors tend to become more popular during economic growth. This has been applied to laminates however it becomes more complicated when we look at cars or fashion. But in a bigger sense, its important to understand how trends can be created based upon using a feeling for the bigger world around you.
MASS THOUGHT'S EFFECT on COLOR TRENDS
Mass Thought or Mass Consciousness essentially means that there are common thoughts shared by your community that are influenced by religion, culture and socio-economics. As a human you share many common thoughts and each person influences mass opinion through his or her vote or opinion towards a given subject. We have all heard of the "butterfly affect" however mass thought is much more easy to describe and understand. Above I mentioned how trends can be created by the general public desire for change (Antithesis) away from a current trend and I've also given a history of color and how our emotions are influenced by our preconceptions about what colors mean to us. What if I gave a test and where I had a picture of a red ball and a blue ball and then asked the general public "Which ball do you desire more". Wouldn't logic tell you that it would be 50/50? What if you found that the 70% desired the red ball? How would explain it? What if you had a society who was sick and tired of taking chances and dealing with products that did not work and then gave them the test whereby 70% then chose the blue ball? This is a theoretical question and no such study has been done however if you understand color more deeply and if you have spent much time studying consumer trends then you can start to see that such a result may be possible.
The DISTRIBUTOR EFFECT.... on COlOR TRENDS
The next area that can affect a color's success is the Distribution of that product. Imagine that you are a colorist for a melamine board producer and your job is to select colors that will be a hit in the market. Of course you will consider the following:
1. What you are seeing at trade shows. Example: textures
2. What has been selling more in the recent past. Ex: dark colors, warm tones
3. What has not been selling in the recent past. Ex: Items with knots
4. What the market is asking for. Ex: Less movement in the wood speciesand more linear
5. What you believe your distributors will buy into
What would you add?
So you start to ask yourself questions such as "Will the market like it?" "Whats in my line now?", "What trends are coming?", "What trends are going?" and then finally "What items can I get my distributing customers to buy into?" Now imagine that the distributors make a comment such as "I don't have anything in a warm honey shade ..." Bingo. Now if you find a wood species that is linear, warm in tone, looks good with that new ticking texturing you just launched, doesnt have knots and one of your key distributors thinks it will fill his line. Now you've got something.
Now of course I've just simplified the process for the sake of this article but think about the importance of a Distributor for any product line. Do you think that Ford considers their dealerships when creating new cars? Of course its a consideration since they will be preordering the inventory.
In addition, imagine that you are going to buy a sedan and you really want a black Camry and then you go to a few Toyota dealers in your town but they are all out of black Camrys but they do have black Avalons which cost more. It could be that the Distributor might have known that there is a demand for black sedans and so he intentionally stocked more black Avalons since they were a higher margin car. Now imagine deciding to go ahead and buy an Avalon because you really really wanted a black Toyota sedan. Now imagine that simply by Toyota allowing the Avalon to be a higher margin car and then knowing that black luxury sedans sell better than gold ones and then mysteriously black Avalons outsell black Camry's 2 to 1 yet Camrys outsell Avalons. I call this the Distributor Effect...A truly powerful persuasion on the outcome of color sales.
As we examine the MARKETING of COLOR we can clearly see that how humans interact with color can be based upon our preconceived feelings that are on a primal level, based upon trends , Antithesis trends, Mass Thought and even based upon the Distributor Effect. The Marketing of Color sounds like a crap shoot but the more you examine humans, the market and human behavior you will find that its not only possible to predict color trends but to actually create color trends.
Language is required for humans to communicate, learn and grow but what are the origins of a particular language? In reality there is a linear progression in language whereby as a society new words are created out of necessity and they either thrive or die.
One interesting thing about learning foreign languages is that you occasionally learn a new word in which there is no exact equivalent in your native tongue. These terms can range from tastes, circumstances and even emotions. What does it mean if your society doesn't have a word for a thing, does it mean it does not exist or are we just lost for words and move on in the conversation stumbling around with our limited vocabularies speaking to others who are not even understanding the majority of what we say?
As a student of marketing occasionally I run across situations in which there is no word to describe the subject so I create a marketing term and speak about it at a conference or write about it in a blog. Occasionally I've been emailed or called about marketing terms or concepts I've created to site for a paper or even from professors utilizing the term. One of the most popular marketing concepts I've created is called the Antithesis Theory and can be read about in my post "the Marketing of Color".
The second most common marketing term I've created is called "the Gain Leader". We've all heard of the term "Loss Leader" as its a very common marketing determine that describes when a product is sold at a loss in order to attract customers. If you imagine a gas station selling either gas at a lower price to attract people to shop in their store before credit cards were as prevalent or a convenience store selling milk at a lower price to bring people in to buy the other products then you are familiar with the term. But what is a Gain Leader?
If a consumer is attracted to a product or service which stands out in some manner from the rest then that product or service becomes a magnet for either purchase or from investigation. Consumers may purchase at a place ongoing out of convenience or because their needs are being met or exceeded at their particular level of expectation. But consumers also look for anomalies for a bargain OR as a novelty. So if a Loss Leader attracts consumers to your standard offering whilst they seek out a bargain what is the marketing term for attracting consumers to your standard offering when they are seeking novelty? It doesn't exit.... Years ago I had created the marketing term Gain Leader so let me break down the definition.
Loss Leader: Loss means lower profit, Leader means it is put front and center to garner attention from consumers with the intent of them also buying the standard or slightly above standard priced products
Gain Leader: Gain means lower profit, Leader means it is put front and center to garner attention from consumers with the intent of them also buying the standard or slightly above standard priced products
But why offer Gain Leaders? Isn't that greedy?
With Loss Leaders there is additional value being given to the consumer that is greater than the market price for that product. By its very nature of selling more volume it also enables the company to buy more volume and drive down costs. In a Gain Leader its a novel product which may actually not sell as well because of its novelty. By definition a Gain Leader would be sold at a higher cost due to its lower production efficiency of smaller volume or buy the unique attributes that make that product cost more.
What is the goal of a Gain Leader?
The goal of a Gain Leader is to attract customers to your standard offering while selling a product at a higher margin.
I hope that as you've read this article that you think of ways to offer new and exciting products which are beyond the norm and that you assign internal value to how those exciting products create attention for your standard offerings. Its my goal to someday publish a book that collaborates my various marketing terms, anecdotes and observations. Although I do not consider myself a writer per se, I do feel that my observations can be useful to others in helping them grow their businesses. I hope you have enjoyed this article and be sure to send me a message.
Too often sales people push their products, feature dump or talk ill of their competitors. The ideal sales person is a Sales Consultant. The term Sales Consultant refers to a sales person who asks detailed probing questions and listens carefully to their clients needs. A Sales Consultant helps their clients grow their business so that the two companies can both grow together. A basic or simple sales person simply tries to take business that already exists.
So how can you be a Sales Consultant?
1. Be prepared. Go to your client’s website , linked in or google their company to learn as much as you can before calling. Failing to do so is lazy and disrespectful.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”. Alexander Graham Bell
2. Build Rapport. Build a connection with your customer by being personable, neatly dressed if in person and be sincere. Looking around their office for something to pose a connection to is disingenuous and fake.
It is important to respect your customers time and space. Use a public restroom before visiting their office, do not read any names on the paperwork on their desk. Give sincere compliments on their knowledge and give your customer the ability to educate you. To build rapport, remember the following quotes:
“Rapport equals trust plus comfort” Neil Strauss
“Rapport is the ultimate tool for producing results with other people. No matter what you want in life, if you can develop rapport with the right people, you’ll be able to fill their needs and they will be able to fill yours” Tony Robbins
3. Ask open-ended questions. Ask the most broad questions as possible to start
“When you talk you are repeating what you already know. But if you listen you may learn something new.” Dalai Lama
“One of the most sincere forms of respect is listening to what another has to say” Bryant McGill
4. Follow up questions. Things such as
“To be heard we must first listen”… LR Knost
5. Move them to topics that parallel to your strengths. “So you mentioned that quality is important. I know we are more expensive but if it cut down on your rejects would that actually save you money?” This transition should be smooth and fit into something they have already said
6. Be respectful of their time. Remember that learning about your client is not an interrogation and should not feel clinical. This means that you should sound smooth and listen closely to signs they need to go. Sometimes you can bring up a subject that makes them want to stay and talk but the most important thing is to remember to be respectful.
“Respect is not imposed nor begged. It’s earned and offered.” Author unknown
7. Winding down. Once you get a good direction or course of action its important to transition the end of the meeting or conversation. You can be honest that you have a conference call but the best is to be direct and say “I need to go but I will send you the samples or quote you requested by tomorrow. Is that OK?” And always , always keep your word.
Remember that as humans, there is no sweeter sound than to hear our names or the sound of our own voices. Are you speaking to your client so that you get to hear your own voice or so that they get to hear theirs? Ask detailed , probing questions, listen, be respectful and do what you say you will do. Simple.
?This blog will discuss Kerokan, Cupping and Eagle Claw Rejuvenation.
What a business can learn from an Eagle
In a previous article: "What a business can learn from an Octopus", I spoke about the intelligence of the Octopus and drew comparisons between the Octopus and niche manufacturers in North America. I gave specific intelligent tactics that the Octopus use for survival and then compared that to tacts that a manufacturer could use in positioning their product or services.
Living here in Florida, its not uncommon to see a Sandhill Crane or a long legged Heron walk around as they hunt for worms or geckos. If you live near large trees or the water it is also normal to hear the squawk of a Hawk. But seeing a Bald Eagle is always a bit more rare. I think most people stop with awe when they see this beautiful bird glide through the air. Aside from being our National Bird, its simply a remarkable animal. But what tactics do the Bald Eagle use for their survival and how can we draw comparisons that can be learned in business?
BE AN EAGLE
So we know that Eagles are rare and that its a federal crime to kill a Bald or Golden Eagle. Felony convictions face a maximum of $250,000 and misdemeanor convictions can face up to a $5,000 fine. In business, being unique and serving a specific niche is key to most small businesses's survival. If you are a custom manufacturer of components (for example) is it your lead time, your profiles or what specifically make you rare in your segment? Its important to be as rare as possibly but remember that if you are too rare that extinction could be a prediction. A little competition actually creates more overall awareness for a given product segment. And its the hard times that build the Eagle's character. Its important to serve an industry where you know you're the Eagle rather than the pigeon or even worse a buzzard. A pigeon pecks at the ground for scraps, a buzzard feeds on the dead. Be an Eagle.
Eagles have amazing hunting strategy and can be cunning. Have you ever witnessed a video of an Eagle throwing a goat off a cliff as a killing tactic? If your business is to survive and flourish you must have the courage to be different, to focus on creating value for your clients in every way you can. If you are a sales person you have to accept rejection and understand that you will often get a "no" or face rejection. But what we all do is not life or death, so fear of rejection is silly albeit natural. When Eagles mate they lock talons and copulate while falling to the ground. Its called the spiral of death however, its shows that they love how they live, without fear. Even how Eagles learn to fly is done with a specific flare. Momma Eagles gather an Eaglet on their back and soar high. When they glide to ground they do so gradually and gently so that the Eaglet gets the feeling for their wings as they drop to the ground. Eaglets can be a metaphor for new hires, new ideas or new products. Its important to soar high but be there to catch your eaglets to make sure they don't fall to the ground and die. But flying is a must for growth and ultimate survival so if an Eaglet refuses to fly, the Eagle rips apart the nest and nudges them off the cliff. The Eagle knows when the time is right and so should you. You must know when to launch your Eaglets when YOU feel the time is right no matter how much they cling to the nest. Remember, you've already let your Eaglets get a "feel" for their wings, you've already fed them, nurtured them and when its time for the world, rip apart the nest and nudge them off the cliff if they refuse to fly. And since Eaglets are born and bred to fly. Feel the pride when they soar.
Eagles pick the highest spot in a terrain and the keep a sharp eye out for their prey. They can spot prey the size of a rabbit from 2 miles away ! But as a human, its not eye site , mental vision is our key. To have mental vision, we must see far into the future of to predict the needs of our clients. We must develop the vision to see what colors will become the new market standards and see the way to developing the business for the market rather than scavenging for the business created by others. Although its impossible to always be the originator of every idea, if you make your business solely on the copying of others by duplicating other's designs , profiles or work you are modeling your business on a different animal (such as the pigeon or the vulture) rather than the Eagle. Its not impossible to create a business solely by copying others however eventually if your competitors find a way to protect their work you may find yourself unable to adapt to becoming an original when you've spent so much time bottom feeding. In other words, you could become extinct.Remember that pigeons peck and fuss about and vultures bottom feed. Eagles soar to new heights and find new prey. Eagles are game changers and pay no mind to pigeons. If your business is always nipping at the competition by price, you may want to ask yourself why you do not believe your product or service is worth the market price and try to find how you can improve upon your quality, service or value proposition.
When a storm comes, Eagles use the air current by flying directly towards the storm and the wind lifts them like a rocket as they fly up above the clouds. In business, downturns can happen, markets change, new competition arises. Instead of giving up, laying low or seeking shelter, why not face the challenge like the Eagle. Instead of hunkering down, fly up to get a 10,000 foot view and look for new opportunities that only an Eagle could see by climbing to that height. The office industry is an example of this. Many office furniture producers became Healthcare furniture producers as the office industry became more competitive in past years. When the storm settled and other Office furniture manufacturers came out from their shelters they noticed that the companies that were thriving the most were the ones that diversified in an intelligent way. These diversified companies are now strong in Office and Health Care.
At about the age of 30, Eagle's bodies begin to deteriorate due to their age. It has been reported that some Eagles do something completely amazing when they get 30 years old, they retreat to a mountain top and over a 5 month period they rebuild. The eagle knocks its beak on the rocks, plucks out their talons and then all their feathers. When they emerge they are revitalized and can life up to another 30 plus years. Think humans can't do this? I'll never forget back in the 90s when I was visiting Indonesia. I witnessed an Indonesian woman become ill and her friend took her into a room and raked a coin down her back till it was covered in welts. When they emerged from the room, her back was completely red and you could see the raised skin. Although years prior, I lived in Malaysia for nearly a year my Malay / Indonesian was very limited but I do believe they used a word similar to "Kerokan" to describe the technique they were doing with the coin. I deduced that this simply created shock on the largest surface area organ of the body "the skin". And the back is the best place for this technique. Although I had never heard of this before, my mind is always open to learning from others and I could only reason that the damage done to the back is a way to hyper stimulate the immune system into hyper drive. Whether its a technique similar to acupuncture or whether its a placebo, the body's ability to heal itself is unquestioned.
So in reality, humans have the power of an eagle. But alas, Western society has taught us to drug up, take antibiotics and after all, aren't we supposed to live the life of a pigeon and not the Eagle? But we can be Eagles !
Are you a plus or a minus polarity? As humans, we have power; power of thought, power action, power of influence and many unknown powers. One such power I call Purpose Polarity.From very small, our parents unknowingly teach us this power of polarity in the ways they reward our good behavior and punish us for bad behavior. Its through our parents that we find our values and how we handle our daily lives. How we view the world and our participation or power over our surroundings determines so much in the ways of success in personal relationships as well as in matters of career and money.
If a kid steals $10 from his mothers purse to buy candy and she never finds out he or she may realize that dark or negative polarity works. If the kid apologizes they are grounded , candy taken or much worse. So the kid just learned that not only does crime not pay but confessing doesn't pay either. But what if the kid confessed, apologized and then was told to wash the car and they could keep the candy. What if the kid was taught to add value and provide a service and only good things would happen?
DARK FORCE / NEGATIVE POLARITY: It is widely known that in this world there are some very bad people. Sometimes these very bad people are in jail but other times they are extremely successful. These negative polarized people seem to be all about themselves and all their actions are to their gain. Ego, lawyer protection, contracts, negotiation; all of these things are required to protect the dark worker with negative polarity. If you see a successful company with a huge legal department you can probably guess that they are negatively polarized. In fact, faceless corporations and public companies often go the way of negative polarity.
GREY FORCE / UNDECIDED: Next we have grey polarity. Your masses of people or the majority of people have some grey or a lot of grey. People are often torn on what decision to make and often the amount of money or the gain affects their decision. We've heard before that "everyone has a price". The correct statement is that "most people have a price". There is a small group of people who cannot be bought and their ethics or standards are locked in.
LIGHT FORCE / POSITIVE POLARITY: People with positive polarity are ones who are focused on others or the greater good. In general if a person learns that they must add value in order to be paid or they must think about a system of utility. Utility is the measurement of benefit.
I'd like to tell you the story of my friend Rod who often visited his grandparents near my house. Rod slipped change and bills from his elderly grandparents
. He had told me that they gave him the money however slowly over the summer I started to expect that he was stealing the money. I confronted Rod with this fact and I refused to eat any more. After some time he confessed to his grandparents and he was grounded and I lost my friend for the rest of the summer. My friend Rod was not pleased with me for pushing him to confess and to stop taking the money. Growing up I mowed yards for neighbors and also helped my father in his business. The pay was not great but it was the source of my spending money and also saving for a car when I turned 16. When Rod got in trouble I told my dad about this event and he told me a very valuable lesson. He said "Son, money you make fairly is twice as enjoyable
When you think about life, humans or business we should all look at nature to see how animals have adapted for survival. One amazing animal is the Octopus.
The most obvious thing would be that Octopuses have 8 arms. Actually the arms are four sets of two. Aside from the arms, the Octopus's intelligence and adaptability is what makes it truly a unique animal. Some site that the Octopus has been around for over 400 million years and it has developed quite intelligent tricks to enable its survival.
The Octopus can:
1. NICHE: Fit into small spaces just like a business can serve niche parts of a market. Octopuses the size of your fist fit though the neck of a beer bottle and hide out from predators on the ocean floor. This flexibility enables it to get into tight areas free from harm.
Example for our Industry: Firstly with so much manufacturing that has gone to Asia simply making custom components is already considered somewhat a niche in the grand scheme of materials. A further niche could be a focus on complex parts that are thicker, sculputural panels, a focus on the closet industry or a focus on refacing.
A. Focus complex Parts such as thicker parts. If a company was to focus on this niche it would require them to enhance their CAD abilities and also to invest into a press than would make these deeper parts.
B. Sculptural Panels: If a company were to focus on this market they would have to invest into that specific tooling and also focus on building the rep or specification sales arms to succeed.
C. Closet Industry: If a company were to focus on this segment they would have to focus on bringing in 3D Laminates that matched the boards being most used in their market.
D. Refacing: If a company were focused this market they would need to develop match HPL backed thermofoils or possibly peel and stick backed product which companies like Dackor offer.
The point is that it is very difficult to be all things to all people and so its easier to focus on a Niche for not only survival but also to become the best at that niche. If your company attempted to serve all the markets then you wouldnt have the right press for the thicker parts, or the right tooling for the sculptural panels or all the board matches for the Closet Industry or would never quite develop the match system for refacing. In essence you'd probably get a bit accomplished of all the goals but never be the master of one. This dispersing of time and capital makes you vulnerable to the predators of the ocean who are either more focused or have the resources to accomplish all tasks.
2. ADAPTABILITY: When facing adversity many Octopuses change color to conceal themselves in coral or in the sand. They change and adapt just like businesses must change and adapt with market conditions. In fact, Octopus have been known to change colors to mimick lionfish, sea snakes and eels. This means that the Octopus is intelligent enough to have self awareness in order to aspire to be a more dangerous predator when its life is put in danger; Amazing if you think about it. In waters near islands, Octopuses have been known to grab two coconut shells that were bust in half and use them as shields to fend off its competitors of the sea.
Example for our Industry:
The first thing that comes to mind is the ability for a business to change with the times. Lets suppose that textures are becoming a trend and all your swatch books in the market have yesterday's colors however if you are adaptable you could quickly add the newest textures being offered to change the appearance of your swatch book offering to adapt to the image the market desire.
3. INK: When attacked in open water the Octopus will deploy ink and then disappear to a safer hiding spot. I used to live in Japan for several years and developed a taste for Octopus at the Sushi bar but when the Octopus releases the ink in open water it makes the water taste bad and reduces the desire for larger predators to continue pursuit.
Example for our Industry:
If you compare the example of the Octopus unleashing ink to make the water taste bad and hence think that the Octopus will taste bad imagine your company focusing on a niche industry while your competitors are spread out too thin. If you were focused on the reface market for example and all of your matches had complimentary HPL matches, you could process HPL back and even peel stick back then it would spoil the water for a would be competitor. A competitor would come in to eat your lunch only to taste the ink in the water and decide not to attack this market due the high barrier of entry you have created. I could apply this example to the Closet Industry, Sculptural Panels, or any other part of the market as well.
I hope that as I've used the example of the Octopus that you feel inspired to continue on your current path or for some you may, in fact, rethink how you are currently going about things and hopefully this article may inspire in some way.
As readers of this blog may know, I am with DACKOR 3D Laminates here in North America. Aside from stocking the laminates and making them available to the market and creating trends, we do a lot of specifications. Sometimes cabinet companies have a misunderstanding of what we do.
As you may be aware, before a condo, apartment or hotel breaks ground, the designers choose colors and come up with a general design to be bid on. Designers are contracted either by the Architectural firm or directly by the owners. This is a critical point because if they specify an offshore producer.... or a veneer, for example, and your company's strength is membrane pressing doors then something could be specified that your company does not have a comparable advantage in. Just like HPL, Solid Surface and other architectural products, Dackor gets our colors specified and we do our best to also value engineer the project. We explain how important melamine matches are however ultimately this is a decision for the ultimate customer, the owner of the project.
WHY DO DESIGNERS WORK WITH MATERIAL SUPPLERS?
It is commonly known that Designers work with material suppliers rather than cabinet makers. I have suspected that the reason is that its viewed that for the Designer to work with the subs on a project that it is interfering with the bidding process. Often cabinet companies get exclusive materials and the price of their final work reflects that. By specifying the material, multiple people can bid on the project. This is the first theory. The second theory is that GCs do large projects and may owe funds to one supplier and so interfering with subs and specifying them may affect the cash flow of a project. In summary, its an industry conclusion that designers like to specify materials and then empower the GC to work with whom they choose. So if we are specifying 3D Laminates and you like working with our product segment we are doing you a service. We are lining up a project to fall into your wheel house and better assure that you get the project.
Dackor is not in the business of going to existing projects and trying to convince them to switch colors. Since our main customer is those with membrane or vacuum presses, we would never disrupt their business by trying to convince a color to be switched to ours. It is our goal to support and to further enhance the business of the door pressing community.
If you are a cabinet company who has previously done work for a General Contractor and then you see a Dackor specified laminate, it may seem that we are disrupting your business. This is inaccurate because the project could have been specified in an off shore cabinet color or a surfacing product which your factory is not equipped to produce. From your perspective, the GC is your customer and the wishes of the owner or the designer seem irrelevant however they are the ultimate customer who is paying for the cabinets. Also GCs use a wide variety of cabinet vendors and just having the spec be initially in a 3D Laminate gives your company a leg up to assure that its you who gets that project.
RECOMMENDING CABINET COMPANIES
Dackor is independent and does not favor any company over the other however if you own a membrane press its you who we want to impress, who we want to develop a relationship with. Its important to see our role in the process and to see value in us being out specifying 3D Laminates. Why not get closer to us to find out about other opportunities and to utilize us as an extension of your sales efforts. In addition, we can custom match colors and bring in colors to enable you to win projects that would normally go to another technology or go to another producer.
OTHER INDUSTRIES THAT SPECIFY
We are all aware that HPL producers such as Wilsonart, Formica and Laminart specify their laminates as well as countertop companies like Corian, Cambria and Silestone. In these markets it is quite common for items to be specified and there are such an abundance of companies who can process these materials. Please note that as a membrane or vacuum presser that you are in a unique group and although you are used to controlling the supply of these materials that it is not out of line or unordinary for us to specify our laminates prior to the GC being name and certainly before the Cabinet company is named. By the time you are called to bid the project we may have had a year prior into the specification process. Be sure to reach out to us and to work closely with us so that we can work towards mutual benefit. Ultimately we want to work more closely with you and to develop a closer relationship.
Dackor gets involved very early on in projects to specify our laminates. Projects specified in Dackor have been long before you have been involved in that project and before the GC has even been awarded the projects. If your company brings to us a project after the fact then we will refer to you and not even communicate with the Designer or owner for that matter. We understand very clearly the protocol and operate in that manner. We hope that you embrace us, become a customer to us and that we can feed each other business and grow together.
In this 3D Laminate Blog I try to write articles that are specific to the 3D Laminate Industry however from time to time I do write about Sales, Specification and other tops. Often I do research and this is the best way to obtain data. I came across an amazing article on sales reps and rather than recreate the wheel I'd like to cite an article by Zorian Roten berg
HOW TO HIRE SALES REPS
When you are hiring new sales reps, what traits are you looking for?
I use the 5 below which have worked for me time and time again. And an in-person interview is your best way to test for these top 5 and below I will also share with you how to spot them. So here they are:
This research on sales rep performance published by the American Psychological Association way back in 1993 found that the most predictive indicator of sales rep success is “conscientiousness.” Conscientiousness simply means achievement and dependability. We also can refer to it as “hard work until you get it done,” also known as “GSD” (i.e. Get S**t Done, implying that getting things done comes with a goal and the dependability to achieve it). Candidates who are conscientious are goal-oriented, hardworking, persistent, and have high expectations for themselves – exactly what you want in a sales rep.
When you find a candidate that fits this description, you can count on them to not only set goals, but also to set a high bar for themselves and make a great effort to reach that bar. They’ll be able to work autonomously. Conscientious sales reps do really well with data transparency – when they have access to their own sales performance data, they can track and adjust their efforts in real time.
Testing for Conscientiousness:
But when it comes to interviewing candidates for your sales team, how do you gauge conscientiousness? Ask them to tell you about a time they set difficult goals. What did they do to stretch themselves and achieve these goals? Let them walk you through the process and purpose. If they can show they’re goal-oriented and results-driven, they will likely put in a lot of effort and do well on your sales team.
2) CoachabilityWhile hard work and conscientiousness is important, the most successful sales candidates will find a healthy balance between that self-starter attitude and an ability to turn coaching into results.
Mark Roberge, HubSpot’s top Sales Executive, ran an experiment where he looked for specific attributes during sales interviews and measured over time which of these attributes actually correlated with success. He collected over 1,000 interviews and hired more than 60 people before doing his first analysis. What he found was that Coachability was the #1 predictor of sales success at HubSpot.
Testing for Coachability:
One of the best exercises to test for coachability in an interview is to run a roleplay. Ask them to sell something simple to you, like their phone or the table. Spend a few minutes pretending to be a prospect while they deliver an elevator pitch and answer some of your questions. Then, ask them to reflect on the roleplay: what did they do well and what did they not do well? Candidates who are open about and unafraid of their weaknesses tend to be the most open to coaching. Next, tell them what to do differently next time. Do they get defensive or stressed, or do they receive feedback well? It’s a great sign if they take notes on your response. Then, have them do the roleplay again and see how well they apply your feedback.
So, what does this mean for you as a sales leader? You need to hire coachable reps and then dedicate time to actually coaching them. Well-coached sales teams consistently outperform the competition and improve forecasting accuracy. Moreover, your reps want to be coached because they want to develop their professional skills. It may be a serious time commitment, but prioritizing coaching has proven significant, long-term benefits.
3) IntelligenceIn order to be coachable and smart about sales, a rep must be intelligent. Sales is a data-driven field, so successful reps can analyze sales data and make smart decisions based on their analysis.
Testing for Intelligence:
Good indicators of intelligence include your candidate’s academic and workplace experience and achievements, including GPA – but remember, those can be arbitrary. I’ve found that a great question to ask in an interview is: “In five minutes, could you explain something to me that is complicated but you know well?”
It can be a hobby, something technical… anything they want. Their response will tell you not only how well they can comprehend complex subjects, but also how well they can articulate them to someone who doesn’t know much about the subjects. To succeed in sales, your candidate will need to explain your product, technology, and ideology to people who are mostly unfamiliar. That question will show you how naturally this comes to them – and it’s a sneaky way of gauging intelligence.
4) Prior successThis is critical because you want someone who has shown a track record of achievement. It doesn’t matter in which area – and even someone graduating from college can show that either in academics or at sports or hobbies.
Testing for Prior Success:
This is easy – just look at the resume. Or look at their academics and grades if the candidate is fresh out of college. It’s easy to see. Also, Inc. magazine published an article recently called, “The Only Interview Question That Matters.” The question was: What single project or task would you consider your most significant accomplishment in your career to date?
Even more important than the question itself is the follow-up questions you can ask, like “Walk me through the plan, how you managed it, and its measured success,” “What were some of the biggest mistakes you made?”, “Give an example of how you managed and influenced others,” and “What would you do differently if you could do it again?” It’s amazing how much insight you can gain about a candidate by spending 5 minutes asking questions about their #1 accomplishment.
5) PassionHire candidates that have passion for sales. And I suggest that you look for someone passionate about your company’s mission, too.
Testing for Passion for Selling:
Ask your candidate why they want to go into sales. Ask them what books they’ve read about sales, which sales blogs they read regularly, and what excites them about sales. People tend to succeed doing things they really like, so a passion of sales can be a good indicator of success.
Testing for Passion for Your Company:
You also want sales reps who are passionate about working at your company. It is really important to be clear up front about your company’s mission, culture and purpose
You can gauge their passion and selling savvy by what questions they ask you when given the chance. Are they well-thought-out, difficult questions? That can give you a clue into whether they will maintain high interest in your organization over time. Ultimately, the candidate that will succeed on your sales team will passionately engage with you on this subject.
These 5 characteristics of successful sales candidates might surprise some of you. What about years of sales experience or industry knowledge? Think about it: those traits can all be learned, but none of them are inherent. The most successful sales reps have high potential because they possess the 5 characteristics I’ve listed. Those are far stronger at the core than something that can be easily learned.
Sometimes it is tempting to hire a candidate that looks fantastic on paper with tons of experience even if they didn’t pass the 5 tests above. But the cost of turnover is high and you don’t want to screw it up. Hire the most dependable, goal-oriented, coachable, intelligent, and passionate people and you are guaranteed to build a world-class sales force.
If you are big organization and you’ve hired a lot of reps, I’d love to hear if you try these so let me know how these traits correlate to performance (especially Productivity Per Rep – PPR) of your most successful reps. For example, you can run a few simple regression analyses to correlate the sought after traits (which can be tracked during and after the interview) with performance of your reps. A number of companies including Hubspot have run such analyses and many of us agree on most of these 5 as strong and consistent predictors of success in inside sales.
Some of my most popular posts in this blog have been based upon sales and marketing. In this article I'd like to explain how some companies impede their sales by putting too many constrictions on their success.
THEORY OF CONDITIONAL SUCCESS
In life too many people place conditional limits on their success. An example would be to say something like "Whenever I get a promotion, I'm going to start coming in to work early" or "Whenever I sell all the dead stock of this ugly maple I'll bring in a new maple". With conditional success we put limits on succeeding and tie them to things that are completely unrelated or in some cases they are even conflicting to the success. As you can see above, it may be a good idea to start coming in early in order to get the promotion now. Or in the case of the dead stock, the fact that one item is not selling has no correlation over whether or not the new maple will or will not sell.
WE ARE VEHICLES FOR THE DELIVERY OF DESIGN
Think of me or yourself as a vehicle to deliver a color or design. The market itself may or may not accept a new color or texture however the less restrictions we put on that discovery the better. Some restrictions can be things such as:
"I dont' like this color but its up to you". If you think of about it, your like or dislike of a color should never be forced on a client. Imagine if you sold cars at BMW and someone who liked blue cars came in and test drove a new 7 series and you commented "Its a nice car, too bad its blue". Taste in color is a personal opinion and its also about awareness. Because you are unaware of how to use a color in interior design yourself does not mean its impossible to make it look good. The consumer knows better what they want.
"I have too much inventory". The market itself does not care if you are carrying too much inventory of dead items. Imagine if you have too much dead stock of green or Sanibel maple and so you use this as an excuse not to bring in new items. The market itself may have demand for particular colors however the market itself has no care over how much dead inventory you or I have of non selling colors. Not bringing in new colors because of having too many old colors is a version of conditional success. Its like saying "I will start selling more new colors whenever I get rid of the old colors that are not selling" One has nothing to do with the other. I am not suggesting that you over extend yourself but its important to identify if we are in fact putting limitations on ourselves and then examine it.
THEORY OF FALSE CORRELATION
The theory of false correlation is where we draw conclusions based upon seemingly correlated facts however in truth there is no direct correlation. Imagine if you are a component producer who has been around since the 90s and most of your colors are HPL matches. I could show you a new Tafisa match and you could bring it into your stock and have no sales. You may say "This color doesnt sell" however thats a false conclusion because it could be a top 10 seller for me. A more accurate statement would be "I dont currently have many customers who use Tafisa board and most of my clients are refacers" That would be an accurate conclusion and therefore explain the poor sales results for that color. So by creating false correlations we operate business based upon false data and then make decisions based upon false data. Clarity and understanding of the market is key.
BAD POLLING RESULTS
Sometimes I have spoken to door producers and I've heard them say "Well I just put the door out on my counter display and we will see if the market likes it". Does this accurately depict their entire customer base or just the refacers who pick up the doors themselves personally? Its clearly a selected demographic of just their counter sales and not of their entire sales. Its quite possible that their cabinet customers who are decision makers may not pick up their doors personally and may have them delivered. So the sampling is skewed. Dont feel bad about poor polling though.... Whenever you watch or read the news listen to their poor poll results. They will draw conclusions about public schools based upon a poll they did in Manhattan. Not exactly a national sampling to draw any type of consensus.
POOR LIMITATION OF SUPPLIERS
Another thing I will commonly see is when a company may buy all their laminate from one company. When I ask them about this they say "Well we like so and so sales rep" or "Their freight costs less" or "We like to consolidate our suppliers". Although when we are the company exclusively supplying them it seems great but at what expense? The overall success of our customers is the most important factor and laminate should not be purchased the same way that you buy boxes. Each laminate supplier will have a list of top 10 sellers and the reality is that sticking to just one supplier can hurt your sales over all. There is definitely some merit in focusing on 2 or 3 suppliers to get purchasing power or to demand more service and to diversify however sticking to one supplier will only limit your growth except in rare circumstances.
LIMITATION OF SAMPLES
Another thing one can do to limit sales is to having too few sample chains. If you ever find that you do not have enough sample or literature and you are selected which interested buyers do or do not get samples then this can cause a severe limitation in sales. Its an example of a way we can stand in our own way to selling more.
PREMATURE DELETION OF COLORS FROM STOCK
Another example of how we can hurt ourselves is by premature deletion of colors from the stock line up. Imagine if a laminate, board or door company takes on a new color and it can take 6 months to a year to first create awareness by distribute the samples and then the market itself must be timed properly for that shade of color. Tastes change and imagine if a board company releases a color too soon, takes 6 months to get samples out, distributors dont take the color into their line and then the color is deleted before it becomes relative. Its difficult to do however the timing of colors is critical and that is to have the right color be released at the right time to create relevance. If a board company discontinues an item, under most cases this will kill the 3DL sales.
NOT ENOUGH SALES REPRESENTATION
Most component, laminate and furniture producers in this industry do not have enough sales representation. The problem with this is that it means that our sales become limited to a core group of customers or based upon existing demand. I often notice that if we have a duplicate to another film company or in many cases they have a duplicate to ours that suddenly our sales will grow. Logic would suggest that if I were the only one to have this color that I should get all the sales but its quite the contrary. The market movement of more people promoting colors creates a larger over all market. By not having enough sales representation we limit our sales to only the existing demand and no new fresh business is created or discovered.
In conclusion, the key for us all is to step out of the way of ourselves in order to let the market and the colors do the work. By eliminating conditional success, holding our opinions to ourselves, diversifying supply, distributing adequate samples and being patient and consistent we can better discover if a color has potential or not.
Color inspiration from around the world, backstories on design inspiration and informative articles about marketing, membrane pressing and personal development. Author Mark Viers delivers fresh content that will help you and your business grow and thrive.