The design center has boosted the companyís closing ratio by about 20%.
The design center has boosted the companyís closing ratio by about 20%.

Editor's Note: As part of Marketing Month, we're revisiting some of our best, and most importantly timeless, articles of marketing advice.

How did Anthony Slabaugh Remodeling & Design react to the recession? By applying this lesson, which owner Anthony Slabaugh says he learned from books and industry magazines: In a downturn, ramp up your marketing to gain market share.

To create more of a presence in his Stow, Ohio, market and give a boost to his marketing, Slabaugh decided to create an office/design center space for his business. He found an old house — a hair salon for 15 years — for which he signed a lease-to-own contract (see sidebar, below). He then spent three months renovating the 2,000-square-foot space, filling it with product displays, a conference room, and offices.

Then & Now

So did the plan work? The numbers tell the story: Gross sales rose from $482,608 in 2011 to $821,300 in 2012. Slabaugh attributes 50% of this increase to the design center. The company had a 25% to 30% closing ratio prior to having the design center; in 2012 its closing ratio was 46%. It has also saved Slabaugh driving time and fuel costs, since many appointments now take place in the showroom.

Instead of presenting designs on a laptop at the client’s home, Slabaugh now invites them to the design center and presents Chief Architect 3-D drawings on a 47-inch LCD screen in the conference room. Clients complete about 75% of selections in the design center — core items such as cabinets, countertops, flooring, tile, trim, doors, and windows. For fixtures, faucets, and lighting, the company helps clients shop online or sends them to local suppliers.

Slabaugh promotes the center by hosting events there, and by publicizing it in newspaper and magazine ads and in press releases, as well as on the company website and in social media.

Intent to Buy

Though the building was for sale, Anthony Slabaugh arranged for a lease-to-own contract. “We wanted to minimize risk, plus it gave us time to save up a 20% down payment,” he says.

His lawyer drew up a contract for the four-year lease with an option to buy. A portion of the rent payment goes toward the principal. Though the contract does not state that Slabaugh must purchase the property, he has every intention of doing so.

The property owner has been accommodating about Slabaugh’s renovations. “We manage all the repairs.” Slabaugh says. “I treat it like it’s ours.”

—Nina Patel is a senior editor at REMODELING. Find her on Twitter at @SilverNina or @RemodelingMag.

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