Everywhere I look, articles are being written by people with great marketing minds. I'm not one of them, but I'd like to share with you (not for the first time) what I call my solid surface journey — how I was hooked, what we did in our own business that worked, and some observations from the recent past. The marketplace is very different today than it was in the '80s and '90s, but it occurs to me that some things remain valid. Also, I've spoken to numerous industry veterans who were kind enough to share their observations on business, the market, competitive products, etc. Many of their insights are included here as well.
If there is anything we learned in the 1980s and 1990s, it's that people can't sell solid surface if they don't like it, don't understand it, never used it, can't figure out what its advantages are, think it's overpriced, don't understand its many wonderful qualities, and can't price it. They still can't.
Here are some ideas from industry colleagues and myself on the general topic of selling solid surface — past and future.
For Christmas of 1987, my husband built me a large kitchen table out of eight pieces of Sierra Dusk Corian scrap and two table bases. With much annoyance ("who needs this expensive thing?"), I stayed awake trying to figure it out. "It must be good for something," I thought.
I made bread for our company dinner the following day, while my daughter Catherine, then seven, was painting at the other end of the table. The surface was perfect for kneading dough. Suddenly I realized that company would be arriving in 45 minutes. "Quick Catherine, we need to clean up this mess and set the table."
We went into high gear, cleaned up the paint, the dough, the flour, the floor, set the table with white dishes and no cloth or place mats, and in about 10 minutes everything was done. I looked up and there it was — a beautiful, elegant table which, just moments before, was a total mess.
Thoughts bombarded my brain; I was so excited I couldn't contain myself. What is this new product? Who knows about this? What else can it do? Who understands this? What other product would do the same thing? Everybody wants this; they just don't know it yet!
The lessons of the day were not lost on us. We developed a plan and started immediately to invite client companies to our shop, from people at the top to sales people. We talked about solid surface, showed photographs of different applications and design options. We tried to stretch everyone's imagination. Everyone was given a cutting board, a simple sales book with information on pricing, color charts, which bowls and thinner sheets came in which colors, etc.
We discussed different countertop products and some pros and cons. For example, people might like the look of granite, but do they understand it can crack or chip, that it is almost non-repairable, that it is porous and needs to be resealed on a regular basis, and that any defect in the sealant can make it porous again? Do they know that the FDA does not approve it for commercial kitchens because of its porosity?