If you are not using YouTube, Skype, and Dropbox to connect with clients or show off your showroom, you'd better start because your competitors are, warned John Morgan, vice president of the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). Morgan, a Maryland-based designer with 20 years of experience, shared the technology tools he uses to stay ahead of the competition during a session at the 2011 Kitchen & Bath Industry Show last week.
"Innovative leaders have to take that leap when it comes to technology," Morgan said. It will save time and money and the best part is that many high-tech tools can better your business for free.
Record video clips of your showroom and upload them to YouTube so potential clients searching for a kitchen and bath showroom in your area can see what you have to offer. If you want potential customers to find your showroom on YouTube, include keywords in the video titles like "kitchen design showroom Las Vegas" rather than something general like "Joe's best work."
You can make the clips private with a YouTube channel; then only clients with access to the link or who have a password can see what you post there.
Morgan promises it takes just 30 seconds to sign up for YouTube; plus, it's free.
Sign up for DropBox and get two gigabytes of free space, plenty of room to share files too large to e-mail and too expensive to copy or fax. This free online service allows you to share images, large document folders, design guides, and product information with a simple drag and drop.
Like YouTube, you can make the files accessible only to clients. "People are scared of these technologies because they think they're open to everyone in the world, but that's not true," Morgan said. "There's exclusivity; you can make them private."
Employ iPads, Tablets, and Apps
Apple will sell 50 million iPads this year, which Morgan believes proves pros and consumers will be using them--and that's why you should be too. "You need to communicate the way they communicate before they find it easier with your competition," said Morgan.
An iPad or other tablet can save volumes, literally, Morgan said. Instead of hauling out boxes of door samples or bags of spec books, you can download PDFs of vendors' brochures straight to the iPad library and zoom and flip pages with your fingertips.
"My iPad is my product samples and literature box, my spec-book shelf, my NKBA professional resource library, my presentation tool, my notepad, my sketchbook, my gateway to inspiration, my order pad, my communicator," Morgan said. "And I can hold a meeting with eight people from a parking lot."
One of his favorite apps is "360 Panorama," which allows you to take pictures of a room and turn them into an interactive panoramic view.
Keep projects moving even if your clients are away using your BlackBerry, smartphone, iPad, or Skype, a free, online communications service. And, you can "Skype" to direct installers on a jobsite or to have a video conference with a factory from the field.
Sign Up for Twitter and Facebook
"Social media is helping cause revolutions in the Middle East," Morgan pointed out. "If you don't think social media can help your business-it's overthrowing countries right now."
Create a Facebook page for your company and sign up for Twitter to market your firm's services and products and to stay connected with the industry and clients. Social media sites are easier to update and manage than your own website and, of course, they're free.
Evelyn Royer is assistant editor for ProSales and Building Products magazines.