Can you imagine a Major League Baseball team going into the season without first gathering for spring training? No matter how many times they’ve played the game before, it only makes sense to focus and get ready for the season. It is during spring training that a team puts together the best staff, gets everyone on the same page and fine-tunes processes for a successful season. A decking dealer should do the same. Here are some key areas that you’ll want your team to work on to set the stage for a winning deck season.
Inventory: Confirm with your vendors what they’re going to stock for the season. With new products and colors arriving, you want to make sure that everything you advertise is available to your customers. Make sure that you know what the new offerings are going to be. Don’t just base your forecast on last year’s history. And just because a manufacturer makes it, doesn’t mean your distributor carries it.
When arranging inventory, keep this in mind: Figure out what kind of dealer you are. While it’s good to offer a breadth of product offerings, it’s important to be an expert in one of the major brands. You’ll get better manufacturer support and you’ll get a better customer following if you focus on one. It’s okay to tell people, “I can get that product, but I’m not an expert.”
Staff and Subs: You’ve got to make sure that everything is in place with your employees. Even through management decisions have been made on which products you’ll carry, you’ve got to let your employees know. Start hiring employees early. The extra you pay to have them on board and trained before the season gets busy will pay off in the long run. If you’re using subcontractors to build decks, make sure they are in place and make sure their licenses and insurance are current.
Displays, literature and samples: You also want to make sure that your store’s displays properly demonstrate to customers which products you have available and how they can best be used together.
Go through all your literature and make sure that it is current and has your name on it, not just the manufacturers’.
Make sure you have plenty of samples ready of different products. Even though it’s not your most popular, you’ll want to make sure it’s available, even to show customers something to compare. Most manufacturers should give you samples for free. Here at the Deck Store, we get sample requests from retailers all over the country because they don’t have enough of their own. If your manufacturer distributors don’t have samples to give, you can always ask your builders for any scraps that you can use to cut for samples. Put your name on these samples.
Equipment: Make sure all of your equipment is repaired and maintained. That includes things like oil changes in your trucks and software updates to your computer systems. Neither of these are things you’ll want to take time to deal with once busy season arrives.
Training: Make sure you have a phone script for the people answering phones. Make sure your sales materials are intact and the sales kits are complete. Then, double check them. Pretend that today is your first busy day of spring. Run an imaginary customer through your system to make sure everything goes smoothly. Any small adjustments you need to make now will pay off time and time again over the busy spring and summer seasons.
Make sure you’re up to speed on any code changes. There were new ones this year and we reviewed them as a company. A big change this year is that your rail kits have to have a label on them that says “ASTM D7032” and so does the decking. Composite rails and composite decking have to bear that label. If your decking doesn’t, it may become an issue.
Advertising: We increase our Google AdWords spending this time of year. Now is the time to increase your budget too (See Digital Case Studies on page 68 of this issue) because now is the time that people will start searching for decking products and dealers. Plan your ads ahead of time for the summer months. Plan as much of your advertising and newsletters you can ahead of time so that all you have to do is just tweak them a little when you send them during the busy months.
For us, busy season starts on Valentine’s Day. We’ve typically found that mid-February kicks off our spring deck season. In the southern states it starts a little sooner. Whenever it starts for you, make sure your team is ready. Here’s to a home run season!