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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

Give me just about any piece of carpet and I can install or repair it, I've been doing it for over 21 years, but trying to find out if there's a market for the 50 page Report or Booklet that I wrote on Carpet Rip-Offs and Scams and how to get the word out is a whole other ball game.

I'd rather ask and get advise from someone who is more knowledgeable in this area. ...., Maybe they [newspaper editors and consumer awareness groups] feel that consumers really don't want to know if they will or have been ripped off. I thought that they would want to know if they got what they paid for or that the money they could save may be enough to also buy a VCR, 27 inch TV or even a computer, but that's just my opinion, who knows. So if you can tell me if you think the majority of consumers would be interested in this and if so what would be the best way to market it. Like many of the others that have posted here, especially with 6 children, funds are a little tight. Please visit my website for more info at http://members.aol.com/carpetpros

Norman

Answer from our Guest Expert Mark Bower of Aberdeen Mobile Home Repair

Dear Norman,

As a contractor myself -- who sometimes installs floor coverings in small rooms -- I read your posting with great interest. I also read everything you had on your website. I want to compliment you on your website and I'll be ordering your booklet.

Everyone who buys carpet wants to know the information in your book. However, in my estimation, you have at least three roadblocks to consider.

Three Roadblocks to Ram

First, when it comes time to making a carpet buy, customers look to the friendly salesperson to give them correct info and point them in the right direction. You know as well as I do that very few salespersons are working in the customers' best interest. If they were, you wouldn't have a reason to write your book. By the time you get to the customer, half the damage is already done if they've purchased an inferior carpet or pad.

Your second roadblock is most customers feel they shouldn't have to pay for your type of info. They usually expect info on scams and other consumer alerts to be free for the asking. To contractors, like you and I, however, it makes sense to buy the booklet. It could probably save us 10 times the price of the book in buying and installing carpet.

Finally, most people don't know your book exists because they probably don't do any research on the subject. Realistically, who thinks about doing research when buying carpet? Everyone should, but very few do. As frustrating as this may sound, all hope is not lost for your booklet.

Right now you have two choices -- either give away your valuable information, or change the marketing strategy of your book. Actually, trying both ideas wouldn't be a bad idea.

Giving Free Milk from Your Cow!

In your local service area, consider writing a condensed pamphlet version of your information and give it away to prospective customers. Be sure your name and phone number are main features on the pamphlet too. Hand it out like you would a regular business card.

When reading your website, the first question that came to my mind was, "How can I tell someone is a good carpet installer?" If a carpet installer would've handed me a brochure like I just described, I would've instantly thought of him as a good installer. You gain instant credibility!

Of course, if someone wanted even more information about carpeting, they could order your booklet. (Be sure you mention this in your pamphlet.) Or if someone is going to be your customer for sure, consider giving the book away or letting him borrow it. Either way, you could use the pamphlet as a powerful marketing tool for your services in your area (Just in case you're not busy enough already!)

In my area, a local carpet cleaner has followed a strategy similar to what I've just described, but he's taken it a step or two further. Along with handing out informative brochures, he also has the information on a recording to anyone who calls that specific phone number, which has a separate listing in the Yellow Pages. In addition, about once a month, he pays to have his informative flyer inserted into the daily local newspaper. These days, carpet cleaning is a tough business, but I believe that because of the information he gives away, he has given himself an edge over his competition. Maybe you can too!

Change the Focus of Your Booklet

Because many consumers think your booklet's info should be free -- which will be hard on inspiring sales -- consider changing its focus. I know you've spent a lot of time writing your booklet, but some reworking could really make a difference. You may have to add or rewrite a couple chapters, but my solution to your dilemma is to change your book into a carpet installation manual. Sure, your target audience would be do-it-yourselfers and people wanting to get into the business, but that's probably been your main audience anyway.

Of course, you'd also continue to market your book to people who don't intend to lay their own carpeting but want this information. Right now, I'm reselling a book on setting up a manufactured home. No, I don't expect even one buyer of this book to set-up his own manufactured home. But in my marketing efforts, I tell people that if they buy this book before they have a home moved or set-up, they'll know more than most set-up crews.

A lot of customers like having that kind of power, because it gives them enough knowledge to know whether or not the home is being correctly set-up before it's too late. I feel that with the right marketing, your book could serve the same purpose.

If You're the Best, Charge like You're the Best

You also mentioned on your website that installers who tend to do a better job end up installing less yards of carpet than a poor installer during a day. If you're the best carpet installer in your area, then I hope you're charging the highest rate in town. As I'm sure you also know, customers who want a job done right the first time aren't usually afraid to pay extra

When questioned about your rates, simply tell them that "You're the best!" Of course, a customer who purchases the cheapest carpeting in town most likely isn't going to be too fussy about the installation. You'll have to weed those people out. Hopefully, your contacts, the carpet salespeople, are letting their customers know that if they want their expensive carpet installed right, you're the only person they should be calling.

I'm trying to end this response, Norman, but my last statement just brought up another thought. How many carpet salespeople really know how to correctly install carpet? That ignorance is probably really hurting you. In that case, think-up ways to get the salesperson to come to the jobsite for a couple hours. Give them a mini-lesson in the right and wrong ways of laying carpet. End the session by giving them a copy of your book. If you can pull that off, I bet you get a lot more referrals!

Hope this helps!

Mark Bower

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