Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be a part of the first ever Haworth Dealer Marketing Summit at Haworth’s Holland, Michigan Headquarters. Any trip out to HQ is always a enjoyable experience due to the great facility and presence the company has built there. But this trip was more unique and even better than expected. Along with 11 other Dealer Marketers, I spent three days learning about Haworth’s latest marketing and sales initiatives, engaged in open and honest benchmarking dialogue, and built strategic plans for the remainder of 2017 and 2018. The different perspectives from each of the 12 companies provided a great deal of insight that I could talk about forever, but below are my top three takeaways from the summit.

1. CRM’s are for WAY more than tracking people and projects

We all know that a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) System is very important to sales and marketing teams in all companies of varying sizes. Being able to track contacts, outreach, and organizational projects is beneficial to a company in a laundry list of ways. The discussion of a CRM wasn’t what I found so valuable at the summit – it was HOW some other dealers were using it. One dealer discussed in depth about how their “Retention Marketing” (what a GREAT, underutilized concept) was helping their business by further breaking down clients and what they had purchased from them. So, for example, if a client purchased new chairs from a dealer 8 years ago, it might be a good time to circle back to them and share some of the newer, more ergonomic options available in the market now. It may not lead to a sale, which is not the point of this aspect of the CRM, but rather let the client know that the dealer is thinking of them and is recommending product that could be of great benefit to their team. It’s the next level of customer consultation and advocacy.

2. VR and AR are not just here – they’re everywhere

Since early 2017, our team at Workwell has been exploring both Virtual and Augmented Reality – their platforms, benefits, and usage in the commercial interiors industry. We’ve begun investing in these technologies and certainly are not the only ones doing so. Of the 12 dealers at the summit, one third of them are actively utilizing these technologies, one third has started the process, and the rest are still is discovery phase on how to best leverage in their market. I was pleasantly surprised in the collective excitement to learn more about Haworth is using these technologies, and even more amped to hear their strategy and future implementation. VR and AR is definitely not going anywhere and I would expect the wider audience of commercial furniture to be on board and benefit from these platforms.

3. Experiential marketing’s more important than ever

“Marketing” can be such a broad term, encompassing everything from digital platforms, social media, brochures, and sales support. Many companies have boiled down marketing to such a granular level, that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to provide an experience to their potential and current customers. That is not the case in this dealer marketing group! The idea of experiential marketing was of paramount importance to the team, and it was awesome to hear how each of them were doing it in their own cities. My favorite aspect was their showroom experiences. It was extremely valuable to hear the care and thought that went into creating their showrooms – not just for clients, but for their employees too. I believe that the number one brand ambassadors for a company are its team members, so this conversation was even closer to my heart. Whether it was engaging clients in their spaces, or creating interactive 360 walk through tours, this part of marketing provides insight into what these spaces and the people behind them are like. It’s truly exciting for everybody involved on the dealer level – especially customers and employees.

All in all, for 12 dealerships in 12 different markets, a lot of our pain points, strategy, and excitement for marketing are truly more similar than we all thought. Our plan to continue sharing ideas and successes is something that our marketing group at Workwell is thrilled about (and will continue to share)! This is just the beginning of a larger initiative that we will carry on, each with 11 new resources and friends to call on – and cheer for. What could be more exciting than that?