A lot of blogs about Branding and Marketing deal in generalities. We prefer to focus in on what’s relevant to the furniture industry. The first part of finding a solution to the various challenges the industry faces today is to understand some of the key points that shape the current circumstance. This entry focuses on specific insights and recommendations to make sense of the current state of affairs, but more importantly, creates a path for success moving forward.
The Great Generational Shift
The furniture industry’s great generational shift relates directly to different ways of thinking, which in-turn influences the perception of and adaption to the other important and influential factors. Owners and senior executives of legacy furniture companies are reaching retirement age, and younger generations are beginning to enter roles of greater responsibility.
While this is a natural process, it typically causes conflict as younger generations tend to have a better grasp on the complexities of competing and communicating in an increasingly dynamic and digital world; where older generations have the experience, patience and discipline to achieve tangible results. The older generation also has the last word when it comes to key decisions. In an industry where loyalty, cautiousness and traditional mentalities prevail, finding compromise between generations is challenging, but it is the key to keeping a company moving forward and positioned for future growth and sustainability. Defining areas where compromise is possible and beneficial is typically the most effective way to keep the company moving forward.
Avoiding Adapting to Technology
Technology is the primary and unavoidable factor that all businesses must come to terms with, especially in furniture. Technology is changing business models all across the board, from manufacturing to sales to customer service. Furniture companies must adapt to these ever changing technologies in order to sustain in today’s fast-paced, highly digital market place or risk falling further behind, or worse, fail.
Playing the “this is how we have always done things” or “waiting to see what happens” game is a losing proposition that has been proven time and again over the last decade. This type of thinking can manifest itself in a way as obvious as the misallocation of resources towards printed materials, or sticking with a stale and outdated website. While these may still be part of the mix in some markets, their overall effectiveness and necessity are in rapid decline, and resources may be better allocated towards new, direct and cost effective methods of communication. The good news is more companies in our industry are recognizing this and making the transition with positive results.
In furniture there are a range sales channels and target audiences for your company to consider depending on your product line, capabilities and values. This can be daunting to sort out for marketing purposes if your company, for example, sells to traditional retailers, designers, online and ultimately to the end-consumer. With many companies this often leads to an overly generalized marketing and sales model that overlooks crucial parts of the market; or to a disorganized and unfocussed approach that ignores the way the overall customer ecosystem actually works.
Companies will come to us seeking guidance on how to make sense of who to target and what channels to create growth, and what is the most effective way to go about it. However, when we ask them what specific areas are they targeting (e.g. Hospitality, Residential, Commercial, Interior Designers, etc.), and which channels they are leveraging, they will most often say “ALL”. While this broad thought may work for some large legacy brands, it most certainly does not for the majority of furniture companies. This type of thinking could hurt your company and the industry as a whole. As a matter of fact, there are times when it’s better to take a step back and evaluate what segments are performing well and which are not, and then figure out why.
Ignoring the End-Consumer
Long gone are the days companies are able to claim “we don’t sell directly to consumers, so we don’t worry about branding or marketing to them”. If consumers buy or use your product, your company is a brand; it’s that simple. If your company is B2B, you need to understand who is buying and / or using your products, how, why, and where both on a physical level and an emotional level. The more you understand about them the better you can serve their underlying needs and build loyal customers for years to come.
Many B2B companies will rely solely on their retail partners to create awareness and market to consumers. If you think about it, this can be a losing battle. Ask yourself who cares more about your company’s product and its success than you and your team? Through technology and social media the opportunities for you to connect directly with those that buy your products at all levels are endless. You can control how your brand communicates, how it connects with consumers and the information you provide about your product. You are able to have control of your brand’s message, image, tone, voice and content. The time is now to step up and take control of your brand and drive demand for your product.
Lack of Resources
The majority of legacy furniture companies are independently owned with many being family owned and operated, therefore, resources can be limited in-terms of operational capabilities and execution. Typically, executives and key stakeholders serve more than one role, while administrative, logistical and marketing resources are minimized (especially the latter), causing the integration of much needed new ideas and innovations to become stagnated.
In today’s hyper-competitive, fast moving, and tech-savvy business environment– stagnation is the primary hurdle to maximizing present results and building a thriving future. A simple solution to overcoming stagnation is to quickly search for new talent to provide additional internal support. Another is to leverage a strategic partnership with an experienced professional agency that understands your branding and marketing needs, what makes you unique, and how to effectively execute across all channels.
We hope this has been insightful and reassuring. Remember, your company is unique but it’s not alone when it comes to the challenges it faces.
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