When it comes to maximizing your marketing
dollars, proper planning and professional help are a
must; while amortizing costs across many projects can
create economies of scale.
By Philip D. Zaleon
Have you ever sat with a client when
discussing the cost of a new kitchen and explained that
there are two kinds of charges: those for the tangible
items – cabinetry, appliances, fixtures, etc., and those
for the intangibles – your expertise, your knowledge and
your creativity? As a professional, you’re entitled to
be paid for your intellectual input; that’s what
separates you from the kid selling cabinets in an orange
apron. But, how do you convey this concept to the
client, who thinks it’s “just about cabinets?”
Now, let’s put you in the role of the customer. What
are you buying when you go shopping for creative
services to market your own showroom? Despite having
been on the other end of it, many showroom owners
investing in creative services experience the same
“sticker shock” they see in their clients. However,
unlike the consumer’s purchase of a kitchen or bath,
where cost cutting typically involves downgraded
tangibles, when you purchase creativity, there are steps
you can take to get better value from the dollars you
spend – without sacrificing quality. Proper planning and
the use of professionals can help you purchase the best
creative products for your
photography is the single most important building block
to marketing your business. Without photography, your
print ads would be empty and your Web site boring. Even
before price, there are two reasons your clients have
chosen to talk to you:
1. They feel comfortable with you. They have checked
you out; your background, your Web site and your
2. They liked the work you’ve done.
Having looked at your portfolio of jobs online, in
magazines or showcased in a binder at your showroom,
they felt comfortable that your taste and theirs would
mesh in a beautiful new kitchen.
As kitchen and bath dealers, you are selling a
subjective, visual product. That means potential clients
need to see a variety of examples of your work in the
best possible light. Photography is essential, and many
kitchen and bath dealers have looked into investing in
digital cameras to save money on professional
photography. Bad choice. The fact is, you can’t afford
not to hire a professional architectural (preferably
kitchen and bath focused) photographer.
Steve Whitsitt of Steven Paul Whitsitt Photography
believes that digital cameras have their place in the
industry. “The digital camera is an excellent tool for
keeping in constant touch with the client on the
progress of an out-of-town job, estimating, or for a Web
site page that shows the progression of a remodel job.
However, when the job is finished and you’re ready for a
portfolio piece, a kitchen and bath photography
professional brings a level of knowledge and expertise
that Sony didn’t put into their digital camera.”
Whitsitt lists the following things a professional
photographer considers with each shutter release:
Lighting – This can be used to set the
proper mood, and to highlight areas that would
normally be in shadows.
Props – To make the kitchen more
interesting, a photographer adds splashes of color
using fruit, food or wine to accent elements of your
Composition – It’s important to make sure
you have enough space around the main subject to be
able to crop the shot for a variety of uses.
Angles – There’s an art to ensuring the
oblique angles you can get photographing in cramped
quarters don’t become the center of attention and
distract from the beauty of the room.
Color – You chose colors, subtle or bold,
for a reason, but a digital camera will almost
certainly distort them.
Format – Many of the high-end magazines
only accept 4"x5" transparencies that you get from a
Whitsitt adds, “Once you’ve determined that
professional photography is the way you want to go, and
you’ve had your kitchens shot, be sure to get high
resolution scans burned to a CD.”
So, how can that money be amortized across projects
to give us an economy of scale? Consider the
n Print Ads – You can use a single shot,
different views of a single kitchen or multiple shots.
And, you can run the same ad (for consistency) in all of
your scheduled media.
Television Commercials – If you run TV ads,
a 30-second montage of the photos with a voice over
and some music makes a great spot, and saves you money
on shooting video.
Web Site – You should immediately place all
of these new images on your Web site – on your home
page, as well in your showroom pages.
Collateral Materials – These photographs
should be included in your brochure, pocket folder,
post cards, direct mail pieces and other printed
materials, as possible.
Vehicle Signage – Today’s technology allows
for full-color, photographic designs to be used your
Public Relations – To enhance the potential
of getting published in local or national magazines,
you need high-quality shots, along with a great
New Technology – CD portfolios, like Web
sites, will benefit from well-lit, well-shot
In-Showroom Displays – Have framed prints
throughout your showroom.
Paul McDonald of Royal Cabinet Company in
Hillsborough, NJ has found a broad use for the library
of high-quality photography of the firm’s jobs. “We
always needed high-quality photography for 8x10 glossy
prints, but now we use the same pictures for brochures,
magazine placements, and on our Web site
(www.royalcabinet.com). Some people think that showing
pictures on the Web means limited resolution, however,
with some clever software from Viewpoint Media
Technology, our Web visitors not only see the full
picture of a kitchen, but they can also zoom in and see
close-up details of any area of interest – for example a
corbel, crown moulding detail, or a custom hood.
“Our cabinets are all about the details, and the
‘Zoom’ technology provides the solution for showing what
makes our finished product special. We only use
professional photos, and our photographer is not cheap,
but we now spread the cost across different mediums. Our
marketing agency uses the images on our Web site, an
interactive marketing CD, print ads and brochures,” he
Rich Ryan, who keeps his eye on the spending at
Kitchen Concepts in Cincinnati, while his brother Pat
Ryan, CKD, maintains responsibility for the sales and
design aspects, understands how to put this into
practice. “When we get new photography, it immediately
becomes a part of our Web site and when possible, our
overall marketing effort. When we brought the
photographer in, we had him shoot professional shots of
our showroom and the outside of our building. He used
standard slide film and a 35mm camera, which kept the
cost down, but his expertise kept the quality high. Our
agency is using an outside shot in our brochure to help
visitors recognize us from the street. Getting these
images ‘out there’ through our marketing is showing a
definite return on our
Kitchen and bath
professionals are often torn between advertising on
television and in print. Both work. Both can be
expensive. And both have economies of scale. So, make
your decision for reasons other than price.
Despite the availability of high-quality, low-cost
video equipment, you should let a professional shoot for
you. Before you let your local cable company or TV
station shoot your spot, sit down and create a potential
list of video-based projects that will add value to your
showroom, your business and your bottom line. Consider
TV Commercials – Rather than a single
commercial, consider a series of spots that may
highlight different aspects of your business or
Sales Tools – Create a videotape or DVD
that your sales team can leave behind with a potential
client explaining how you do business, testimonials,
project shots, biographies, etc.
Showroom Video – Use the same sales tool in
your showroom to catch the attention of the drop-ins
while they’re waiting to talk with someone.
Home and Garden Shows – A video showing
beautiful kitchens being described by satisfied
customers will attract homeowners to your
Direct Mail – A video will increase the
chance someone will “open” your direct mail.
Web Content – Video will add to your Web
site, keeping visitors longer.
Interactive CDs – Add video to your CD
business cards or the interactive CDs you give
With video, determining your projects is only part of
the process to maintaining cost-effectiveness. The real
work is in crafting your message, writing your scripts
and planning your shots. It’s a time-consuming
operation, but pre-production planning can keep your
costs in line.
Let’s look at a sample scenario. You want to run a
series of three testimonial-based commercials on your
local cable station.
The following is part of the planning that will help
keep your costs in line:
Determine your clients – To get three good
testimonials for the TV spots, you may want to
actually set up interviews with five or six clients.
Be sure to get their permission.
Scheduling – Typically, you hire a camera
crew by the day. Be sure to schedule as much as you
can. Your producer/director will be able to help you
determine how much is too much.
Scripting – Although you want natural
responses, you need to script the spots. Your clients
will be happy if you tell them what you want to
hear…only in their words. Remember, you only have 30
seconds for your commercial, and probably only 15 or
20 seconds for the testimonial portion.
Shoot the interviews… and more – You should
videotape your clients in their new kitchens. Ask your
questions, but also ask open-ended questions – you’ll
love the extra they tell you! Be sure to shoot all
areas of the kitchen, include family activity and
interactions, if possible.
Other shots – While you have the crew,
begin or end your day at your showroom and let them
interview you and your staff. Shoot the showroom –
inside and out, plus signage.
Graphics – Your logo and the other elements
of your image need to be gathered for inclusion in the
Music – Music copyright is a huge issue
right now, so it’s best to rely on the TV station or
production facility coordinating your project to help
you find music you like from their library of licensed
The edit is your next step. According to JD Price,
president of JD Price Editorial, a post production
company in Pittsburgh, “Once an editor has organized the
video clips, it’s not going to cost you much more to
create five 30-second spots than it is to create one.
Tie those together with graphics, photos or video clips
and you have a nice 3-4 minute sales
The Internet has
changed the way kitchen and bath designers market
themselves. Your clients are shopping online, they are
looking for examples of what you’ve done, as well as
testimonials and biographies. In short, they’re looking
for a comfort level. Be sure your Web site gives them
From a content and design perspective, consider that
many elements of Web design are part of an overall
economy of scale that comes with effective integrated
marketing. For example:
Look and Feel – The look and feel of your
Web site should reflect your image – logo, print ads,
TV spots, collaterals, etc.
Images – Professionally shot, high-quality
photography included in your site will better
represent your jobs, as they will show more detail,
truer color and better composition than
non-professionally shot photos.
Text – What you say online should be an
extension of what you would say in your brochures,
print ads and other marketing materials.
Video – You shot it, you edited it – so
don’t leave the production facility without a
Once the site is done, consider
moving elements to a CD business card, or full size CD
to distribute as a sales tool. The cost to retool
should be less than if you did either independently.
Look at your outsource
partners. Do you have one for your Web, another for
print ads? Do you let the newspaper design your ads?
Attempt to move it all under one roof. If the same
company does the creative for your print ads, Web site,
TV commercials, interactive CDs, etc., you will not be
“reinventing the wheel” with each project. There’s a
definite economy of scale when you can build from one
project to the next, plus you will develop a consistent
image your community will grow to identify with you.
The key to keeping tabs on your creative costs
literally hinges on planning and professionalism. By
knowing in advance what your goals are and how you
intend to reach those goals, you can develop your
creative with an eye toward cost effectiveness.
As for working with professionals, remember the old
adage – you get what you pay for. If it works to your
advantage when you sell, it will work to your advantage
when you buy.
Philip D. Zaleon is founder and
president of Chapel Hill-based Z promotion & design
– a full-service integrated marketing and creative
agency focusing on the kitchen and bath industry.
He can be reached at Z promotion & design, PO Box
17291, Chapel Hill, NC 27516; Phone: 919-932-4600; Fax: