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Cost Effective Creativity

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 dollar.

High-quality 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 references.
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 design.
  • 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 professional.

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 following:
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 truck.
  • Public Relations – To enhance the potential of getting published in local or national magazines, you need high-quality shots, along with a great story.
  • New Technology – CD portfolios, like Web sites, will benefit from well-lit, well-shot photography.
  • 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 ( 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 adds.

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 investment.”

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 these:

  • TV Commercials – Rather than a single commercial, consider a series of spots that may highlight different aspects of your business or different projects.
  • 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 booth.
  • 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 potential clients.

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 production.
  • 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 music.

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 piece.”

Web Site
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 that.

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 Web-based version.
    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.

Good Partnering
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: 919-932-4447; Email:



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