The Top 6 Things to Consider When Choosing a Cabinet Partner
By Thad Whittenburg
- Technology – I know a lot of manufacturers have portals where you can or are required to order products on their website. This is great for them, but when you have a project that has 7 different vendors, it can cause a tremendous amount of double work for the dealer. Everything a vendor does should be geared towards making their customer’s (yours) lives easier and improve productivity. Do they have a website that is mobile friendly so that you can check orders, download pictures or get access to products and specs? You should be asking what they are working on that will help dealers on the technology side of the business in the future.
- Training Resources – Most manufacturers provide product training, but they really should be expanding their offering to their customers. With live webinars, they can provide not only product training but also basic kitchen and bath design, 2020/ProKitchen classes, customer segment (i.e. retail, builder, contractor) sales training, etc.
- Business Forums – Do they offer individual or group gatherings (with like-minded companies from different regions) where they can educate dealers on best practices? Offer guidance on KPI’s with ideas for improvement? The best manufacturing partners will understand a dealer’s business and will truly be able to suggest actionable items that will increase their bottom line.
- Flexibility – This comes in all shapes and sizes but when a manufacturer introduces their 150-page policy guideline manual, it might be time to run! There still seems to be an attitude that the vendors make all the rules and you must live by them whether you like it or not. They may end up enforcing those rules on their way to the cabinet manufacturer graveyard. Let’s not forget…at the end of the day, the customers(dealers)will either make or break their business. I remember working with suppliers about co-op monies and how they could be used. Everything had to be perfect before they would approve it. Really?? Simon Solomon, who at the time was President of UltraCraft was meeting with the company I used to work for. I asked him if we could use our funds in non-traditional ways because it would help us grow our business. His response? “Absolutely! If you think it will help, let’s do it” I think I almost fainted since every other manufacturer would have just stated policy. Well guess what? Our UltraCraft sales grew at a much faster rate than the other lines we carried. Manufacturers need to stop boxing themselves in with the old rules. These times they are a changing and dealers need to spend their co-op funds in creative ways moving forward. They need to have flexibility in all areas such as displays, damage and defect product, etc. I’m not talking about giving away the farm but before we pull out our policy manual, let’s take a step back and see what makes sense for everybody.
- Marketing – How many of your manufacturers are providing video or blog content for your website that you can use? Not many based on what I am seeing. Plus, some of their websites aren’t exactly firing up a retail customer to buy that brand. I know everybody thinks that brochures are old school, but a nice piece of literature still goes a long way with customers. Remember short and sweet (but powerful!) is a better play than a large 20-page brochure. It just makes more sense and tell a personal story about the brand and their vision.
- Lastly and most importantly is their passion about helping you be successful and not just a platform where they can sell cabinets.
So next time you have a meeting with your new or existing cabinet partner, see if they are just talking about the basics (products, price, lead times) or is the conversation at a much higher level and about your business and how they can help.
In summary, I just want to say that the supplier partners you choose are going to be even more important to your success than they ever have been. I would recommend picking a few good, strong, supportive vendors rather than a multitude of companies that sell similar products. These selective relationships will become more beneficial for both parties. It’s going to get rough and tough out there over the next 3-5 years, so you better have some strategic partners in your corner that will help you thrive in the future.
As always, I would love to hear from you. Best of luck! Thad
P.S. I just spoke with someone who is redoing their bathroom. Vanity, top & faucet…. Wayfair…clearly the lines of customer buying habits are migrating in a multitude of directions.
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