October 26th, 2012
by Ron Treister
When the Florida Marlins implemented their name change and became the Miami Marlins at the start of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, the overall goal was clear: a new corporate image, a new stadium, and a new and successful year.
Plans were drawn for a new stadium that would encompass 966,929 square feet with a seating capacity of 37,000. The Miami Marlins Stadium, named Marlins Park, is located on the site previously occupied by the Orange Bowl Stadium in downtown Miami. With a three panel retractable roof (one of only six Major League Baseball stadiums to have such) which protects both the playing field and seating areas, the Marlins Park is right at the top of its class when compared to the other major league baseball fields. The ballpark is more than just a baseball palace; it also has its own entertainment district consisting of 53,000 square feet of retail space, any stadium experience far more than watching the team play. General contractors Moss Construction and architecture firm, Populous, successfully teamed up to build a ballpark that reflected the new, fresh attitude of the professional sports organization that would inhabit and compete within it. To construct a Stadium that was as ambitious as its team’s upcoming aspirations, the finest construction products, including those from LATICRETE® International, Inc., were specified.
As beautiful and contemporary as is the new Marlins Park, the walkway leading up to it is what anybody and everybody first notices. The tiles and installation systems used to construct this walkway had to be the absolute cream of the crop. The importance of a good first impression is crucial when speaking about a project of such grand scale. The exterior walkways leading into Marlins Park have been designed with vibrant tiles that were produced using Miami Marlins’ brilliant colors, arranged in a striped pattern. This design catches the eye immediately, as separate walkways with different destinations have their own unique scheme.
To achieve the flashy, eye-catching finished tile design, there were some obvious difficulties to address. “There were many challenges for us,” stated Ramone Silvestre, President of R & F Flooring, of Lake Worth, Florida, the company that installed tile for all exterior walkways of the stadium. “There was so much going on. In particular, there was a great deal of underground drilling and other water work being done around us. When landscape workers were installing the sod, sprinkler systems and royal palms, it was just too wet for us to be installing tile.” Despite those tough conditions, R&F was able to get the job done on time.
The use of specific LATICRETE® products was instrumental in making the project not only look good and perform at optimal levels, they helped the contractor meet the project’s very important deadline. Ramone Silvestre was emphatic about using LATICRETE Hydro Ban™, a thin, load bearing waterproofing/crack isolation membrane that doesn’t require the use of fabric in the field, coves or corners. It is a single component self-curing liquid rubber polymer that forms a flexible, seamless waterproofing/crack isolation membrane. “LATICRETE Hydro Ban was of great use as the conditions were so wet, a waterproofing product had to really live up to its reputation not only after the project was complete, but during installation!” exclaimed Silvestre.
LATICRETE 254 Platinum, which is the ultimate one-step, polymer fortified, thin-set mortar for interior and exterior installation of ceramic tile, was also used at the park. “The one-step feature of LATICRETE 254 Platinum lived up to its name, because we were backed up due to conditions, so it allowed up to keep on schedule and save time,” Silvestre added.
“The LATICRETE System really helped us. Battling restraints because of the site conditions and having a good, solid, reliable products to use made it much easier to work within the time we had,” concluded Silvestre. “The final production and ‘look’ ended up being flat and smooth, and the design was just very cool.”
Despite the delays, however, there were no problems with the installation thanks to quality materials the focused determination of R&F.
“R&F Flooring deserves a huge amount of credit for the job they did at the stadium,” Blackburn said. “They dealt with a lot of setbacks that were completely out of their control, but still managed to do a world-class job.”
The Miami Marlins opened their season in Marlins Park against the St. Louis Cardinals, on April 4th 2012. All involved felt the excitement of a new stadium and a new season, and this clearly made their participation in the final tile installation like hitting a game-winning grand slam home run.
October 25th, 2012
Quick Drain USA has announced the release of a new ¾” spacer. The product was introduced as an alternative option to address the variety of tile thicknesses available on the market and how they measure up to the adjacent drain for installation purposes. Quick Drain has added the ¾” spacer, making it the seventh different sized spacer the firm offers, all of which are used to easily raise the drain cover to the height of the floor. Other systems use “feet” or “legs” that are difficult to adjust should the customer change the floor material, especially since the feet are embedded in a mud bed that Quick Drain eliminates. Unlike others, the Quick Drain channel drain system is designed to make it easy for the contractor to work with a number of floor materials and thicknesses. ”We love talking to contractors who have installed other systems,” said Jim Van Landingham, Vice-President of Residential Sales for Quick Drain USA. “Once they see ours and how easy it is to work with, they never go back to the others.”
Craftsman, by Florida Tile
This line designed by Florida Tile, embodies these same qualities of contemporary design, extraordinary craftsmanship and the American spirit those people and of that time period. Designed in a classic Marble style, the Craftsman DP line features a smooth flat surface that is ideal for residential and light commercial applications. The graphic development is done using Florida Tile’s proprietary DP-Digital Porcelain technology. With up to 20 different graphics per color in the 12×12 alone, this line features the realistic shade variation of the most modern decorating lines available. 12 vby 12, 18 x 18, mosaics and listellos in biscuit, rye and wheat.
Next-Generation Sound-Reduction Membrane
Researchers at MAPEI have delivered a new, patent-pending sound-reduction membrane for use in both residential (homes, apartments, condominiums) and light commercial (office buildings) environments. Mapesonic™ 2 provides reduced transmission of both impact sound (footsteps, dropped objects, etc.) and airborne sound (voice, TV, etc.) through floors. The membrane also helps prevent movement up to 3/8″ (10 mm) wide from transmitting through flooring assemblies. Mapesonic 2’s next-generation technology combines sound reduction and crack isolation in a thin, flexible, lightweight, load-bearing, fabric-reinforced “peel-and-stick” membrane approved for use under ceramic tile, stone and wood flooring. The challenge for MAPEI’s R&D group was to meet or exceed a rating of 50 for both STC (airborne sound) and IIC (impact sound) standards on a 6″ (15 cm) concrete slab with no ceiling. Mapesonic 2 met both of those challenges head-on, bringing to the marketplace an easier-to-use membrane that compares favorably with thicker membranes currently on the market. Brian Pistulka, Business Manager for MAPEI America’s Tile & Stone Installation Systems product line, commented enthusiastically on Mapesonic 2: “This patent-pending membrane is the most significant development in the industry that I have seen in my career. The MAPEI Group did in-depth research into understanding sound, how it travels, and how various materials and the dynamics of components work together to reduce that sound. Mapesonic 2 is truly a product innovation – delivering better sound-performance results with a thinner membrane than existing contenders, because of its material composition and design format. The result is technology you can build on.”
October 23rd, 2012
By Kathleen Furore
Everywhere you turn, the business world is buzzing about social media. Companies not communicating via Facebook, Twitter and a website risk looking dusty in this digital age; and even those that do are being upstaged by competitors whose blogs tout the latest news about products, promotions and industry trends.
“Business that don’t have a blog lose out on a great new channel for bringing in business. A blog offers the opportunity for a potential customer to get to know the business by reading what they have to say,” says Daniel Decker, internet marketing strategist and owner of One Marketing (www.onemarketingagency.com), a company that specializes in web design and internet marketing, direct marketing, graphic design, and strategic consulting for small and mid-sized businesses. “It’s a much more personal introduction than a standard website. Businesses without a blog will also generally be out-performed in the search engines by businesses that do blog.”
Since tile dealers and distributors are no exception, understanding how to create and manage a blog is key to your social marketing success.
What is a Blog?
“Blog” is an abbreviation for “weblog”—a term used to describe web sites that maintain an ongoing chronicle of information. “A blog features diary-type commentary and links to articles on other web sites, usually presented as a list of entries in reverse chronological order,” information from WordPress, a self-hosted blogging tool and full content management system, explains.
While blogs’ style and content vary, most include a main content area with articles listed chronologically (usually the newest on top, and often organized into categories); an archive of older articles; a list of links to other related sites (sometimes called a “blogroll”); and “feeds” like RSS, Atom or RDF files.
High-quality blogs also let visitors comment about posted articles and even message each other—an important feature that distinguishes blogs from static websites, industry information says.
The Benefits of Blogging
Blogging is valuable for tile dealers and distributors for several reasons. It demonstrates industry expertise, increases exposure on Google and other popular search engines, and keeps tile businesses connected to potential clients and the industry as a whole.
“Blogging establishes the expertise of the dealer or distributor. It helps them build the perception of being an industry expert, which in turn makes customers more likely to do business with them,” Decker explains. “Studies have shown consumers are more likely to buy products and services from people they know. You might not be able to personally meet potential customers, but a well-written blog can leave them feeling like they know you. It’s an ideal place to demonstrate your expertise and let your personality shine through.”
The Search Engine Optimization (SEO) benefit is a very important plus, Decker adds. “Greater visibility means more website traffic, and more website traffic means more sales. That’s something we all want!” he says. “Search engines love content, and your blog is the easiest place to deliver fresh content that is relevant to your business. Your blog will dramatically increase your visibility on Google, which will lead directly to more traffic and more sales on your website.”
Blogging also helps tile professionals stay up to date on industry trends and remain “in the loop” as a participant in online conversations.
“Your blog gives you the opportunity to deliver branded content to customers, potential customers and, perhaps most importantly, to search engines,” Decker says. “Your blog gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and your personality while simultaneously increasing the online visibility of your company.”
Statements Tile and Stone (www.statements.com) is one company delivering content and reaping rewards with Ciao! (ciaotile.com), the blog that Statements’ president, Ryan Calkins, launched five years ago.
“We started the blog in September of 2007 to provide a more informal source of information for our clients. Our website, much like a product catalog, needs to be clear, detailed and somewhat technical. It’s not conducive to the conversational tone that a blog can have,” Calkins explains. “For events, interviews, less conventional information and client-generated content, the blog is a much better format. And of course, our goal with the blog was to engage new and existing customers to encourage them to use us as their tile source.”
Calkins says the blog—which includes such categories as Sustainability, Style + Design, Vendors and Trends, plus links to Facebook, Twitter and “Ideabooks by Statements”—has met those goals.
“Ciao! has helped us to build a brand as a personal, local, and engaging business. It deepens the client’s sense of who we are, and creates additional spaces for people seeking tile options to find us,” he says.
Another upside: Blogging can help build a brand at no cost. “It’s possible to blog without spending a penny. It’s a no brainer,” Decker stresses. “If you’re not blogging already, it’s time to get started!”
Ready, Set, Blog!
So it’s time to get started. But what does it take to embark on the road to successful blogging?
While Decker advises tile dealers and distributors to seek professional help to create a blog, he says anyone can tackle the task.
“It is certainly something that can be done by an individual. Sites like WordPress.com and Blogger.com allow anyone to create and maintain a blog completely free of charge,” Decker says. “Anyone with basic computer skills should be able to set up a functioning blog that looks and works just fine.”
Calkins, in fact, turned to WordPress when Statements debuted the Ciao! blog.
“I personally had some experience with blogging for a non-profit, so I was able to set up a rudimentary blog using WordPress,” he recalls. “Aside from a few adjustments to the template, we have not changed the format all that much.”
The story is similar at East Coast Tile (www.eastcoasttile.com), which now boasts two blogs, according to Director Stacey Mednick.
The company’s website blog debuted three and a half years ago, while Everything Tile and Stone is two years old.
“The website blog was part of the design of our then-new website. I believe we announced its launch in eblasts,” Mednick says. “Everything Tile and Stone was created through a company called HiveFire using their Curata (www.curata.com) technology. Neither were difficult to set up, but we spent time designing the look of the blogs and deciding on the types of content.”
The blogs, Mednick explains, have separate missions.
“The goal of our website blog is to inform customers about our products, unique customer service and store locations. Everything Tile and Stone is set to help inform everyone on the Internet searching for topics about ceramic, porcelain, glass and metal tile, stone and flooring,” she says. “We felt the blog on our website was limited to our own customers’ reviews, product mix and store events. Everything Tile and Stone let us branch out into the whole tile and stone industry.”
Posts on Everything Tile and Stone, for example, cover topics ranging from design ideas and shopping tips to “green” tile options and Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects.
Maintaining your Blog
Once a blog exists, the only real upkeep is site maintenance—a time-consuming but necessary task.
“We recommend adding content once per week. At a minimum, the blog should be updated twice per month,” Decker recommends.
Calking says his company adds at least one post a month—usually product-related—to the Ciao! blog, and over the past two years has shifted some posts to Facebook and Twitter, as well.
“We have multiple people who can update the blog, each with a different emphasis. Our audience loves to hear about our ‘extracurriculars.’” Calkins says, noting that topics about Statements’ community involvement are popular. “A couple of months back, unbeknownst to me, someone took a picture of me relaxing with my feet up on my desk and posted it under the caption, ‘working hard or hardly working?’ That was one of our most popular posts all year!”
A similar blogging strategy is at work at East Coast Tile. New posts are added to the website blog a few times a month, while updates are added to Everything Tile and Stone every weekday. Mednick shares responsibilities with other employees for the website blog, and is responsible for the daily additions to Everything Tile and Stone.
“For the website blog, I typically ask a few key managers and salespeople to periodically come up with content. For Everything Tile and Stone, the popular tiling topics on the Internet guide my posts. The most popular ones are typically design-oriented,” Mednick explains.
While each tile dealer and distributor will have different ideas about what content to include, current bloggers share basic advice about how to best manage blogging.
Mednick recommends finding a few quick writers who are knowledgeable about specific topics. “For example, find one person who can write for contractors, another for design and another for DIY. Have them each be responsible for a certain number of blogs a month,” she suggests.
“Find somebody in your business who is passionate about social media and let them run with it. If it’s just a chore for someone, that sense will come across on the blog,” Calkins adds, noting that maintenance and security are key. “A blog is another window into your company, and therefore needs to be monitored,” he stresses.
Clearly, blogging has become a marketing “must” for most small businesses. But creating and maintaining a blog can be challenging, especially from a time-management perspective, the experts acknowledge.
“Blogging takes time, and business owners are always short on time. The key is to develop a system and stick to it,” Decker says. “One of our most successful clients dedicates an hour to blog writing every Tuesday, usually from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Choose a time that works for you and schedule it into your week. Treat this time as importantly as you would a meeting with a potential client. It’s not optional!”
Next up: Marketing your blog for maximum exposure and profit
Getting a blog up and running is just the first step toward a successful blogging future. Learn how to maximize your marketing efforts to increase traffic to your blog in Part 2 of the blogging series, coming in the next issue of TileDealer.
A Dictionary of Blogging Terms
Archive: A way to keep track of articles on a site. Many blogs feature an archive based on dates. The front page may feature a calendar of dates linked to daily archives. Archives can also be based on categories featuring all the articles related to a specific category. You can also archive posts by author or alphabetically.
Blogroll: A list, sometimes categorized, of links to web pages the blog’s author finds worthwhile or interesting. The links in a blogroll are usually to other blogs with similar interests. The blogroll is often in a “sidebar” on the page or featured as a dedicated separate web page.
Feed: A feed is a function of special software that allows “Feedreaders” to access a site automatically looking for new content and then post updates about that new content to another site. This is a way users can keep up with the latest information posted on different blogging sites. Some Feeds include RSS (alternately defined as “Rich Site Summary” or “Really Simple Syndication”), Atom or RDF files.
October 22nd, 2012
Crossville Tile & Cannon Design team up to recycle old bathrooms into new!
When Cannon Design in Chicago was renovating 78 bathrooms over 39 floors of the the John C. Kluczynski Federal Building, the company tapped Crossville Tile to create the tile – more than 57,000 square feet.
Once Cannon learned that Crossville had invented the solution for recycling fired porcelain tile, they asked if any porcelain body could be recycled, i.e. – toilets, sinks and urinals. After testing was completed, Crossville determined that, indeed, any porcelain could be recycled to make new tile.
So, Crossville set about to harvest all existing porcelain from the building so that all new tile could be manufactured from those materials.
The design challenges were substantial. First, create all new tile by recycling all tile and porcelain fixtures from the building’s bathrooms, a true cradle-to-cradle installation. A second, equally important challenge, addressed logistics: time the demolition/installation so that tenants always had bathroom access within one floor of their work locations. Happily, Cannon & Crossville were able to meet these expectations.
The tile that Crossville created for this unique project went on to inspire Shades by Crossville, the new line of porcelain tile launched into the full market a few months ago.
Importantly, the project turned out to be a great success well beyond the beautiful and truly sustainable renovations of the building. Because of this project, Crossville developed a partnership with TOTO USA to recycle their fired yet unused toilets, saving thousands upon thousands of product from entering landfills each year. As a result, Crossville is now a net consumer of waste!
September 12th, 2012
Every once in a while a good pep talk is in order. Here are nine reasons why we in the tile industry should be optimistic.
1. Housing Starts. The number of housing starts have been steadily improving over the last several months. As the number of foreclosures inches down and housing inventories fall relative to demand, builders and buyers are sensing opportunity. And to add a little icing on the cake, the size of the new homes is increasing once again, after years of decline. Larger floorplans equals more tile.
2. Affordable Care Act. After two years of back and forth on the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of the law provides small businesses owners with some certainty regarding their healthcare budget lines. The tax credits available to small businesses that provide healthcare to their employees will also be a welcome relief after years of escalating costs from insurers.
3. Strengthening Dollar. For those of us who import most of our tile, a strong dollar is a welcome sign. In the last year, the Euro has dropped nearly 20% in value against the US dollar. If you haven’t already discussed better pricing from your overseas suppliers, you should be doing so now.
4. Better Materials. Advances in ceramic technologies have improved the performance and the look of tile. High definition glazes, large format porcelain and thin tiles are all the result of new technologies that are improving the products we bring to market. In addition, grouts, adhesives, sealers and other sundries have all made great strides in the last decade, resulting in fewer claims, longer lasting installations, and less maintenance.
5. Better Installers. The recession in the construction business had at least one silver lining: it drove out many of the fly-by-night installers who got into the business for a quick buck during the boom. The installer who survived the recession is of a higher caliber, both in terms of quality of installation and customer service. In addition, installer certification courses like those offered by the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation raise the standard. Installers are our key partners in the industry, since even the best looking tile won’t look good if the installation is bad.
6. Echo Boom First Time Buyers. Pessimists fret over the retirement of the baby boomers. Optimists look to the Echo Boom–children of the boomers–as the new source of economic stimulus. The Echo Boomers are hitting their thirties now and starting to purchase homes. While their tastes may be somewhat different than their parents, the Echo Boomers will be buying tile for their kitchens, bathrooms, fireplaces and, who knows, maybe even their bedroom floors. Just think how elegant and functional one of our wood-look tiles with underlayment heating would be in a master bedroom.
7. Conclusion of the Presidential Campaign. Whoever you happen to be rooting for in November, we can all agree that presidential campaigns are not good for business. Advertising costs skyrockets as campaigns buy up all the airspace, and the general uncertainty about the direction of the federal government causes businesses and individuals to put a hold on major initiatives. The good news is that it will all be over in just a few short weeks.
8. Healthy Homes. American consumers are paying closer attention to the importance of safe and healthy materials in the construction of their homes. They are concerned about increasing asthma and allergy rates among children linked to chemicals used in many of the products found in our homes. Unlike many of our competitors’ goods, tile emits no volatile organic compounds, does not require the use of harsh finishing goods and is simple to clean. Tile also is mold-resistant.
9. Sustainability. Last but not least, tile is the most sustainable flooring material on the market. There is plenty of hype around bamboo, recycled carpet, and whatever the latest green product is, but once all of the factors are weighed, nothing comes close to tile. The raw materials are abundant and available close to the point of production. Production is clean and energy efficient. Installation does not require harsh chemicals. Maintenance is simple. And, most importantly, tile lasts as long or longer than anything else out there. Ask a carpet rep to give an example of a hundred year old carpet installation and then show him a thousand year old tile installation in the churches of Europe.
Now is a great time to be in the tile business.
Statements Tile & Stone
July 24th, 2012
One-on-One with Donato Pompo, Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants
One might say Donato Pompo’s career in tile was foreordained. His grandmother was a tile company employee while expecting Donato’s father, who not only would go on to a long and illustrious tile industry career, but serve as both inspiration and role model for his son’s career in tile.
In the 30 years since Pompo followed his father’s footsteps into the business, he has earned two MBA degrees, gained five industry-related certifications, written nearly 30 published articles, captured countless industry accolades and presented more than two dozen educational seminars.
Most importantly, he is the founder of San Diego-based Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, and the University of Tile and Stone, a pre-eminent provider of education to industry employees and customers. The university’s online programs are available to CTDA members.
TileDealer: Please discuss your family history in the tile business.
My grandmother worked at Gladding McBean (Franciscan Tile), hand painting dinnerware while she was pregnant with my father. My father worked for Franciscan Tile for 30 years, and then purchased their San Diego location, renaming it Southwestern Ceramic Tile and Marble Company. I was in the tile union as an installer after high school, before being drafted into the Army and serving in the 82nd Airborne Division as an MP paratrooper. I attended college after the military and got a biochemistry education with an MBA in marketing and finance.
After college, I worked in the family distribution business for 17 years, in the warehouse, customer service, driving the large diesel truck and in the showroom. Then I specialized in architectural and contractor sales, and specified and sold many larger architectural projects. Eventually, I managed the company and grew it into one of the largest tile distributors in the country.
My father was CTDA president, and I was on the CTDA board of directors during that time. I later worked as a sales manager for Laticrete International for seven years, before founding Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants (CTaSC) on May 5, 2002. I am currently the chair of the CTDA Education Committee.
TD: What did you learn from your father’s experience?
My father was a very successful salesman and businessman. Working with him gave me a great foundation to allow me to be successful in my own business.
TD: How and why was CTaSC Established?
Drawing on my MBA knowledge and industry experience, I created a feasibility study and business plan to determine the needs and opportunities, and to establish that there was a need for a consultancy company in the ceramic tile and stone industries.
I realized there was a need for a sophisticated forensic consultant with installation, distribution, and manufacturing experience and with a science background who could provide and articulate realistic, detailed investigation conclusions. I had been a Certified Ceramic Tile Consultant (CTC) through the CTIOA since 1979 and a Certified Construction Document Technologist through CSI since 2000. With the addition of my Certified Microbial Remediation (CMR), I had substantial experience, knowledge and credentials to be an effective consultant. CTaSC performs forensic investigations to determine the cause of problems and how to remediate those problems; we also perform laboratory testing, prepare installation guidelines and provide on-site quality control services on new tile and stone installations.
CTaSC is made up of accomplished ceramic tile consultants, stone consultants, ceramic tile and stone installers, architects, engineers, general contractors, construction scientists and other industry specialists. Most CTaSC inspectors are seasoned installers with management experience, so they are great quality control inspectors who can also train installers on these jobs. Often tile installers don’t have the opportunity to get formal training in the industry.
CTaSC created the UofCTS in 2002 to develop online education courses for distributors, manufacturers, installers, architects and other professionals in the ceramic tile and stone industries. It provides a means to effectively and practically educate members of our industry.
CTaSC also is the co-publisher of the Catalina Stone Report that is updated every other year and is a contributor to the Catalina Ceramic Tile report. Both provide data and insight in past and current industry trends. CTaSC also develops business and marketing plans for foreign and domestic companies trying to develop products or businesses for the ceramic tile or stone industries.
TileDealer: How do you choose your international team of consultants?
CTaSC only hires quality-minded people with a lot of experience in their fields of expertise. Most CTaSC inspectors are master tile setters who were company owners or superintendents.
When we run into projects where we need a level of expertise that we may not have, then we team up with architects, engineers and testing laboratories that are leaders in their field. In fact, we just added a stone restoration specialist to our team who is working with one of our other terrazzo investigators on a large terrazzo project at a major airport.
TileDealer: One of your services is forensic investigations. Why are those investigations needed and how are they undertaken? What do they reveal?
There is a big need for quality forensic investigations by companies that can provide realistic and reliable conclusions.
Tile failures are very expensive when you consider the cost to tear an installation out, re-install the tile, and likely experience collateral damages that need to be remediated; along with the inconveniences and lost opportunity of use during that process. When there is a problem it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. Everyone will pay one way or the other in loss of time, money, and reputation. Everyone typically points fingers at someone else. Parties hire so-called experts to defend them with hypothetical, but unrealistic, conclusions.
Then, quite often, in trying to reduce their costs and hoping the problem goes away with time, the parties responsible only want to treat the symptom of the problem rather than correct the problem itself. Too often, failed projects are not remediated correctly and fail again. That is why they need a knowledgeable and honest company like CTaSC to find the true cause of the problem and to determine what it will take to remediate it.
I have been very dedicated to our industry in volunteering my time over the years to help make our industry better, which has rewarded me with a lot of knowledge, and status as an expert with industry standards. Early on as a Ceramic Tile Consultant I attended all training programs and volunteered my time for performing inspections in San Diego.
As a distributor I was involved in CTDA committees to help develop programs for the industry. I was the chairman of the Ceramic Tile Institute of America Technical Committee for many years. I am a member of the tile ANSI A108 committee, the ISO TC189 committee, the MIA Technical Committee, and the ASTM C18 Stone committee. I participate in the TCNA Handbook committee and the NTCA Technical committee. All are involved in setting industry standards so we can avoid the negative advertising of problems and failures and ensure successful installations.
TileDealer: Discuss the architectural specifications aspect of your work.
Architects are responsible for all aspects of specifications for a project, so they can’t be an expert at any one aspect of it. Typically architectural specifications are ambiguous and incomplete and don’t provide enough details to ensure the installer installs the tile correctly.
Often the architect or designer selects products based on color and texture rather than on suitability. What’s more, they really have nowhere to turn to get an honest answer, since salespeople are always selling them something and embellishing the product. CTaSC evaluates architectural specifications and applications to determine if the application and products are suitable for the intended application. That will include quality assurance testing, detailed specifications referencing specific industry standards, and specifying a quality control process during the installation to make sure the right products are used and installed correctly.
With my science background, experience and expertise in construction documents, we can reduce the risks of project problems and delays.
TileDealer: You provide some of the CTDA’s online training. What does the training consist of?
The Ceramic Tile course includes industry standards and sales techniques. It is designed to give salespeople the tools they need to increase sales, give tile installers the knowledge of industry standards and how to assist clients with selecting ceramic tile, and give professional designers the knowledge of how to select and specify ceramic tile.
The Natural Stone course also includes industry standards and sales techniques. It is designed to give salespeople the tools they need in order to increase sales, give stone installers and fabricators the knowledge of industry standards and how to assist clients with selecting natural stone, and give professional designers knowledge on how to select and specify natural stone.
The Tile Installer Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification course instructs installers on industry standards and proper installation methods for tile thin-set applications that apply to ceramic tile, porcelain tile, stone tile, glass tile and other types of adhered tile materials. This course is also meaningful to architects, general contractors, consultants, inspectors, and owners who want to be aware of the industry installation standards and methods.
TileDealer: Why is the training particularly important today?
Knowledge is power. Knowledge enables the avoidance of problems and false expectations. Employees who are trained become more knowledgeable, more confident in offering their company’s products and doing their work, and more effective at their jobs. Salespeople sell more; in a more professional way, installers install better and avoid potential problems.
Trained architects and designers select products more suitable for the intended application and specify more clearly to avoid project delays and problems. The ceramic tile and stone industries are unique. And most people don’t have the in-depth understanding and experience of our industry.
TileDealer: Who is likely to benefit from the training?
Everyone benefits from training. The entire tile and stone industry benefits from training because, as I said before, when there is a problem, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. Tile failures cost our industry a lot of business. When someone spends as much as they do on tile in dollars and emotions, and then has to be subjected to a failure that costs a lot of time and money, regardless of who is at fault, they are likely to avoid using tile. And they will tell their friends and neighbors all about the terrible experience. The result is negative advertising. I see lots of what should be tile jobs go another way because of previous failures.
Most failures tend to be due to installer errors and are the result of the installers not following the industry standards that were created to avoid failures.
All major committees and associations such as TCNA, NTCA, TCAA, CTEF, and UofCTS encourage tile installers to be trained, and specifiers and home owners to only used qualified installers.
Training salespeople helps prevent problems too. As a result, they don’t put out bad information and/or allow their customers to have false expectations.
Training the architect helps ensure the installers get clear instructions on how to install the tile, and that there is a quality control process in place.
TileDealer: You’re on record predicting late last year: “My feeling is tile industry growth is going to continue, but slowly.” Are you more optimistic today than several months ago?
My business has gotten a lot busier, but I still see the industry being sluggish and only slowly improving. Until home foreclosures slow down significantly and housing stops depreciating and starts appreciating in value and building resumes, we aren’t going to see a huge change. Residential remodel work and some commercial work are keeping businesses going right now, and driving the slow recovery.
As soon as more people go back to work and consumer confidence goes up, you will see some good growth in the residential remodel sector that will eventually drive home building, which will drive the growth of the ceramic tile and stone industries.
TileDealer: What’s ahead for Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants?
CTaSC will continue offering its consulting services in finding solutions to problems and providing services to help avoid potential problems and help clients plan for opportunities. UofCTS will continue to develop new courses. We are currently developing a new CTDA Certified Ceramic Tile Specialist Study Guide both for online use and as an insert in the CCTS notebook study guide. We are developing a new course named “How To Specify Tile and Stone with Architects,” that will teach architectural sales reps how to specify their products with architects, and it will teach the architects how to properly specify tile and stone.
We have another course we have started on called “How to Install Tile for DIY and New Professionals.” This will cover all the basics of tile in terms of making sure the tile is suitable for the intended use, how to properly prepare the tile substrate, how to lay out your tile, how to install the tile, how to grout and seal your tile, and how to maintain your tile floor.
I will continue to volunteer with the industry in any way I can. I owe a lot to this industry, which has provided me and my family with a good life and with many rewards. We can be proud in our industry that our products are not only building materials that provide a lot of benefits in function and sustainability, but they represent art and beauty that will be our legacy to the future. ###
TD: CTDA promotes the online training, and members get a break on the cost, but it’s available to others, as are other training programs you have developed. What prompted the development of the first class? Which class was it? What has continued to drive that aspect of the business? For example, you have recently introduced “Tile Installer Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification.”
I founded The University of Ceramic Tile and Stone (UofCTS) in 2002 because as a distributor for 17 years, and then as a manufacturer sales manager for seven years, I realized how important educating employees and customers is to the success of a company, as it was for me in my roles as a distributor and manufacturer. Everyone always acknowledges that educating their employees and customers is important, but few have the time, resources or commitment to get it done. Education is important to everyone, but it isn’t urgent, as so many other things are during their day. I always had a special interest in education.
I was the creator of the well known industry TileWise cartoons in 1987 (http://www.ctasc.com/TileWise_Cartoons/) where I worked with an artist and created cartoons about industry problems and issues that exaggerated the issue and conveyed the educational message in a humorous way. When I discovered e-learning technology that universities and large corporations were using to deliver training to their students and employees via a computer and the internet, I was impressed by its effectiveness in teaching, and delighted in that it was a very convenient and practical solution to effective training.
Students get 24/7 access to the online campus and course, the courses are self-paced so the student can come and go at their convenience, and the courses are interactive, which engages the student and reinforces the key points that we want the student to learn and retain. There are no travel costs or loss of productivity, because the courses can be taken at home or at work, and the courses are professionally narrated and loaded with photos, short video clips and animations. They’re enjoyable as well as informative.
The UofCT’s first course, “Understanding the Basics of Ceramic Tile,” has been a huge success. It has been updated several times. It was customized for CTDA Online and recently “Canadianized” for the Tile Terrazzo Marble Association of Canada (TTMAC) to offer to the Canadian market.
With the success of the ceramic tile course, we started getting lots of requests for a stone course. The consumption of natural stone and manufactured stone had increased tremendously, but most lacked the knowledge to be able to intelligently sell the material.
Thus the “Understanding the Basics of Natural Stone” course was created and released about two years ago and then customized for CTDA Online. In June 2012 the stone course was adapted for TTMAC to offer to the Canadian market. In fact, TTMAC has gotten both their ceramic tile course and the new stone course accredited for Continued Education Credits by the architectural organization OAA and AIBC, and they have also been accredited by the professional interior design organization IDCEC.
Now architect and interior designer members from those respective associations earn CEU credits when they take those courses.
As soon as the stone course was released we started working on the new tile installer course, because we knew the industry desperately needed a way to easily and practically allow tile installers to learn the industry standards.
The “Tile Installer Thin-set Standards (ITS) Verification” course was released at the beginning of the year and has done extremely well. Now installers can easily learn the current industry installation standards and methods without travel expenses or missing work. The course has been customized for CTDA Online and is now available to CTDA members. The course is currently being adapted for TTMAC. ###
Donato Pompo, founder
Ceramic Tile and Stone Consultants, Jamul, Calif.
July 2nd, 2012
by Thomas J. Kotel
Doing more with less has become the rallying cry in business and in personal lives. It seems everyone is looking for ways to save time, money and resources to become more efficient in what they do.
The flooring industry has been no different. First came the advent of large-format tile designs, providing the customer with greater coverage (not to mention some great new looks) while using fewer total tiles. Still, large-format tile came with its own challenges, not the least of which was the weight of the material. On wall installations especially, large-format, traditional thickness porcelain or ceramic tile can be a bit labor intensive. Luckily for designers and installers alike, a solution has evolved!
Cotto D’Este, an Italian manufacturer, has developed a revolutionary new technology to create Kerlite, a large-format, thin porcelain tile that weighs a fraction of standard thickness tile while still providing the strength and durability of porcelain. Incredibly, Kerlite is just 3mm thick and ideal for walls in residential or public buildings, both indoors and out. Kerlite Plus adds a fiberglass mesh backing, making it 3.5mm thick. This backing makes Kerlite Plus suitable not only for walls, but for floor installation as well. An added bonus of Kerlite Plus is that it can be installed over existing flooring, saving the installer time, money and the mess of tearing off and disposing of old material. The mesh backing coupled with the thin design makes it easy to score and shape the tile to fit rolled-edge countertops, columns and other imaginative applications while ensuring the tile sticks solidly to the adhesive on the substrate.
Now let’s talk size. Kerlite puts the “LARGE” in large-format tile with a variety of sizes up to a maximum of 39-3/8” x 118-1/8”! The variety of color and style choices available makes cladding exterior walls not only functional, but fashionable as well.
Mid-America Tile, the exclusive Midwest distributor of Kerlite, recently had the opportunity to introduce this thin tile technology to the Architectural and Design community at a forum hosted by the International Masonry Institute (IMI) at their training center in Addison, Illinois. Matt Nordloh of MAPEI presented Leaner, Greener, Larger, Lighter: Thin Tile Systems to over 70 architects and manufacturer reps in attendance. The session outlined the features and benefits of thin body tiles including design and installation requirements and techniques for successful projects. Following the class, attendees went downstairs to see firsthand demos and product presentations of the benefits of Kerlite Plus tile given by representatives of Kerlite, MAPEI, Tuscan Leveling Systems, Mid-America Tile and Wedi. Attendees were also able to view a wall mock-up featuring a 39-3/8″ x 118-1/8″ sheet of Kerlite Plus tile.
The attendees left with an appreciation for the possibilities of this unique, new technology and shared many positive comments about the product.
Mid-America Tile also brought its thin-tile message to over 40 union contractors at the Ceramic Tile Contractors Association of Chicago (CTCAC) monthly meeting and dinner, held at the International Masonry Institute’s training center. Attendees were treated to presentations by representatives from Kerlite, MAPEI, Mid-America Tile, Tuscan Leveling System and Wedi, showing the features and benefits of Kerlite as well as the proper installation products and techniques to help ensure successful projects.
One of the most impressive highlights of the presentation was when one of the attendees was handed a hammer and invited to strike a piece of standard thickness porcelain tile. After the tile shattered into a several pieces, he was asked to do the same to a piece of Kerlite Plus 3.5mm thin tile. Despite repeated blows from the hammer, the Kerlite Plus tile remained intact.
The contractors came away from this meeting impressed with the strength and ease of installation of this new product.
There is little question that thin tile is here to stay. As professionals and end-users become more educated about and comfortable with the technology, they are sure to see the advantages of using it on many of their projects.
Mid-America Tile currently stocks selected styles and colors of Kerlite Plus in 39-3/8 x 39-3/8” and 39-3/8” x 118-1/8” sizes. We don’t stop there, though. Mid-America Tile can supply everything the professional contractor needs to help ensure the best results when installing Kerlite Plus, including:
- Full lines of recommended substrates, mortars, grout and waterproofing components from MAPEI;
- The Tuscan Leveling System which virtually eliminates lippage during the installation of large-format tile, both on the floor or on the wall;
- The new, patented Sigma “Kera-Cut” tile cutter, designed specifically for use on thin, large-format tile. Kera-Cut tile cutters are available in two sizes and have a 5-year warranty.
Mid-America Tile, headquartered in Elk Grove Village, IL, is a family-owned wholesale flooring distributor and importer specializing in Ceramic, Porcelain, Glass, Metal, Natural Stone Tile, Commercial Resilient, Electric Radiant Floor Heat, and Installation Products. Now in its 51st year in business, Mid-America Tile provides products and solutions to Architects, Designers, Developers, Home Builders, Contractors and Specialty Floor Covering Dealers involved in Hospitality, Health Care, Education, Residential and Commercial projects. For inquiries regarding Kerlite Plus and other products, contact Dan Skowron, Marketing Coordinator, at email@example.com. See more at www.midamericatile.com.
Thomas J. Kotel is the president of Mid-America Tile.
June 13th, 2012
By: Jeffrey Steele
“Tile design is not a stepchild to the interior design business.”
Anna Marie Fanelli learned a vital lesson in her early career as an advertising and marketing professional: the only way to give an advertiser what he wanted was to really get a read on that client. Having long since become a design professional, she’s kept that lesson top of mind. That same ability to really listen now helps Fanelli ensure her designs beautifully reflect her client’s unique lifestyles.
“The way one’s home is designed is just as meaningful a style choice, and presentation of oneself, as the way one dresses,” she observes.
“It’s all about how the space comes alive. It’s about energy.”
For Fanelli, the award-winning co-owner of Tenafly, N.J.-based Floor & Décor, making a home come alive means using tile in ways that are as distinctive as they are dramatic. For the past 20 years, she has incorporated tile in groundbreaking home designs for some of the most demanding and discerning clients in New Jersey.
As her legend has grown, Fanelli has been showered with numerous awards, as well as both national and regional recognition. For two years in a row, she was honored by Coverings and Environmental Design + Construction magazine for a green bathroom she designed that captured the “PROJECT: Green” competition. This year, her submission was spotlighted in the PROJECT: Green Onsite Idea Center at Coverings.
She was also one of just 42 female entrepreneurs nationwide to be featured in the book Never Underestimate the Strength of Women (Jas Literary Publishing).
Her work has been highlighted in publications ranging from the New York Times and Newsday to Better Homes & Gardens Kitchen Makeover and Better Homes & Gardens Bath Makeovers. In addition, she has written columns for New York City-area publications and discussed home design as a guest on a number of radio talk shows.
We invite you to be captivated by the entertaining and compelling views of this consummate tile industry professional.
TD: How did you get started with tile?
That was an interesting journey. I was director of marketing for a point of sale advertising agency. And I had lovely Fortune 500 accounts. And I married John, who was in this business. I was traveling a lot and became physically sick, and was given a year sabbatical by the ad agency. I was newly married at the time, and thought it would be a great idea to work in his showroom.
I got exposed to stone and tile, and loved it. I was able to take the creativity I used in another industry and transpose it to this industry. Instead of going back, I stayed in this industry, came into my own, and now really emphasize tile. Tile design is not a stepchild to the interior design business. I really feel it’s not emphasized enough by design magazines. It takes a tremendous talent to put together kitchens, bathrooms, foyers and outdoor areas using tile.
TD: What are your favorite tile uses?
In residential, I love the foyer, because that makes your first couture statement. I’m really into looking at someone’s personal style, and listening to their lifestyle. That should be reflected in their homes. I learn people’s lifestyles before I design. The foyer dictates how the home will evolve.
But I do quirky things. I just designed a 9-foot-high-by-7-foot wide fireplace. My client is Russian, and in Russia they really appreciate tile. This fireplace brought back [to her] her lifestyle of who she was as she grew up in Russia. What I’m so passionate about is we create art every single day.
And it doesn’t matter if you have a budget, because we have so much material we can work with today; there’s no reason you can’t have design, no matter the budget.
TD: Your PR rep says you are “obsessed with tile.” What’s the nature of that obsession?
The nature of the obsession is that at any given time, or any place, in my life I always seem to be designing with tile. Last night, I had to go to Lowe’s to pick up some paint, and while I was there, I gravitated toward the tile department, to see how they merchandised the product. And while there, I designed a powder room for a rental apartment, giving someone I just met four or five different sketches.
TD: If you attended Coverings, what tile trends most interested you?
I have to say, I was most impressed this year with 3-D stone in wave formats and interwoven pieces. There are a lot of porcelains out there that are doing those wave patterns. And there is another porcelain that looks like a stick format, but is actually dimensional. But at the show, I have to say the most beautiful displays were the Waterjet designs. Waterjet is the process, which is so incredibly advanced.
Yes, it’s pricey. It’s not for every income level. It is laser cut material using stone, glass and a combination of stone and glass. But just the process of all the laser cut pieces that are works of art are incredible.
TD: Where is the most distinctive place you have used tile?
I had a client who said she wanted to have all the archways in her home providing her with a Tuscan, a Mediterranean feel. She had a lot of these archways, and I thought of using the archways as a focal point. And I used the 3-D stone as a mosaic, in a brushed finish. The 3-D stone comes from Italy, and there’s a special process to it. It was new construction. I was the designer on the entire project, but she said everyone looks at the archways, because people don’t think of using the archways.
People just want to touch them; they’ve become the conversation pieces in their homes.
I’ve done bathrooms in which the budget just for tile was $150,000.
The floor was an entire custom Waterjet floor with exotic, intricate field material. The back shower walls depict a muse pattern.
When large budgets dictate something unusual, it’s easy to create couture. The challenge is when you have a tight budget, and still need to be creative. I did the entire façade of a restaurant in New York City’s Times Square, and created a façade that used slates, mosaics, glass and all different size formats to create a Tuscan bistro effect.
TD: How do you help your clients select the most appropriate tile for their needs/purposes?
First of all, there’s a specific process. What do you want to accomplish in a space? I want to be very clear on what my objective is.
And once I have that I want to determine my client’s style. It’s about energy, about how they talk, how they express themselves. That dictates color.
If they’re more soft-spoken, I’m not going to throw out wild colors and materials that go against their grain. If someone is really sloppy, I’m not going to recommend white Thassos marble. If you want that white color, I’ll recommend a crystallized white glass that’s maintenance free but provides a similar look.
It can be beautiful at the outset, but if it doesn’t fit their lifestyle, it’s a problem. You have to know their lifestyle, and the product.
You have to take time to listen. That’s critical. That goes back to my advertising days, where you really had to read your client. Today, with the economy, people are just tired. They’re fatigued. And professionals in our industry are fatigued, because materials from Europe are more expensive and everything‘s more expensive. If you can read and understand the client, your task becomes easier.
TD: What do you need from a tile distributor?
I’m a tile, stone and plumbing studio, but what I need from my distributors is for them to be service oriented [and] knowledgeable about the product. I need pricing at my fingertips [and] stock availability. And if something’s out of stock I need a recommendation, so I don’t have to start all over with the process.
I spec’d the tile for a home down the Jersey shore, I’m thinking about timing because the client wants to be in there by summer, the material has to be cost effective, because she has seven bathrooms.
And I’m thinking about shipping costs. But here’s the thing, I needed chair rail, but it’s not available for six months. So I needed to find a different tile that would fit the needs, still be at the same price point, and satisfy the client.
You have to have someone who knows the line and can effectively provide an alternative, someone you can really depend on.
You need someone on your team who can flip material around and really keep your showroom going.
TD: How could distributors do a better job of marketing and selling tile?
I think first of all, when new product is introduced, you should know all aspects. We don’t have time to look at all the price lists. Be up to speed on the new things you’re bringing in. Is it environmentally friendly? How many formats can it offer? Can it be used commercially? If it’s a porcelain tile, does it need to be sealed?
Distributors should do as much homework as possible, not just give you something new, say “this is our new line” and walk away. I want to thoroughly know the product. I want the distributor to provide several different products. If they’re introducing several new lines, I want them to bring in several things at one time.
People are more impatient today. Because of the Internet, it’s instant gratification. It’s all about timing, and anyone who’s on it and can move fast, that gives you the edge. As a design studio, we value our talent and time, and in our case, if you’re coming to us for a new kitchen floor, new construction or renovation project, we recommend setting an appointment with us to review our portfolio of work. A prospective client may always browse our collections of tile, stone and plumbing. Neither my husband nor I will begin the design process unless we have been retained on the particular project. The retainer is applied to a client’s purchases.
You can buy tile anywhere, but you can’t access talent everywhere. Both myself and my husband offer talent and years of experience. And we have won awards. You shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask for a retainer. If you’re not putting a price on your talent, there’s no perceived value.
TD: Do you have additional training in selling or installing tile?
The client is really in a true design environment. We do tile design for kitchens and bathrooms. We specify all your plumbing that goes with the tile design. It’s hand in hand. It’s one design environment, so why separate it?
We can design custom vanities, we can design lighting, we can do the custom shower doors, we can do the installation. And we have a different perspective on the tile, because of the installation background my husband and I both have.
My advice to studios and showrooms throughout the country is the more you offer a client, the better it is for revenues for your studio or showroom. You don’t need 100 clients, because you’re making as much or more from 50 clients.
TD: What’s ahead for you in your use of tile?
My ultimate dream is to have some kind of webcast or some type of TV show that focuses on tile, and focuses on the process. As an advertising girl, I’m into media. There are so many shows out there, but no one really understands our process, and how it evolves to the next step.
They show it done in an hour; it’s not done in an hour.
It’s an aspiration, something I aspire to. Tile is a labor of love.
I have no qualms about helping people with this talent I have, and my skills. I really believe in giving back. Tile fits my personality, because I’m a quirky gal. My work fits my personality.
Anna Marie Fanelli, co-owner
Floor & Décor, Tenafly, NJ
June 6th, 2012
As an early adopter of social media for marketing, I’ve had a number of distributors ask me why I put time and money into social networks. At the most basic level, not having a social media presence is like opening a business and not putting a sign over your door. Many of your customers will still find you, but why make it difficult? For most of your customers—especially the Gen Xers and Millenials who are buying their first homes—their first impression of your business will be through a web search. Social media is the OPEN sign on your front door.
Here are a few insights from my experience with social media:
Start with one platform. At this point there are more social media platforms than people to use them: Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Foursquare and the list goes on and on. Trying to have a legitimate presence on each of them overwhelms even the largest of companies, let alone small businesses. My advice would be to begin with Facebook, as it is the largest of the social networks. Facebook serves as a referral for businesses. When researching tile and stone, your potential customer will turn to your website and your Facebook page for an initial impression. Have any of their friends “liked” your page? What do your customers say on your wall? Do you have beautiful installation images in your photo galleries?
Set realistic expectations. In social media circles, it’s not uncommon to hear about campaigns that reach hundreds of thousands or even millions of potential customers. Is this really your goal? I hope not. Instead, set goals based on how many social media users you can convert to paying customers. You may only reach a few hundred people with your social media efforts, but if your campaigns result in ten new customers a month, that would certainly constitute success in my book.
Focus on your core constituency. One of the first revelations I had when tinkering with social media was to understand how my core constituency uses social media. Sure, a lot of 18 year-olds are lighting up Twitter with their constant tweeting, but they’re not buying my tile. Rather, it’s the forty-something, married mother-of-two updating her Facebook status with pictures from the family vacation. So where should I position my company on social media? Where my consumers are.
What should you say? Once you have your Facebook account set up, the next step is to start producing content for your page. But what kinds of things should you put on your Facebook page? The best content is to answer your customers’ questions. How will this tile look once it’s installed? (Create galleries of installation images.) What kind of adhesive should I use with glass tile? (Post a link to the installation instructions on your vendor’s website.) Can you recommend an installer? (Link to the CTEF page for certified installers or to the website of a trusted installation company).
Finally, set up automatic monitoring. Social media sites usually allow you to set up alert systems that will notify you daily or weekly of your results, including number of users, visits, comments, and clicks. By monitoring your social media accounts, you’ll be able to refine your content based on what works best and what flops. You’ll also be able to respond quickly to any negative comments.
If all of this sounds overwhelming, find the social media guru in your organization and let them take it on. Give them clear guidance and a couple of hours a week to devote to your business’ social media presence. They’ll make sure the OPEN sign is lit up.
May 29th, 2012
By William & Patti Feldman
If you haven’t launched your social media image, here’s an easy way to start.
Social media platforms – most notably Twitter and Facebook – are potent marketing tools for more and more businesses, small and large. They offer a direct way to boost your company’s image and sales among customers and provide an easy way for customers to express their needs, insights, and opinions about what you offer. If you are not yet taking advantage of both opportunities to show and grow your business, now is certainly a good time to make your social media debut.
It’s hard to say what percentage of business owners use Twitter and Facebook -published surveys vary wildly from one third or less of all businesses to two thirds or more. Whatever the true numbers today, they are likely to be higher tomorrow.
Twitter is a platform for sending followers short easily digestible messages to people you may not know, with interactions proceeding along the lines of a ‘public’ group conversation. The message can be complete “as is” or can include a link to your Facebook account, your company website, or to a photo-sharing social media site (such as Pinterest). You also have the ability to send private direct messages to any follower.
Facebook, the number one social marketing medium for business, is a platform for longer form, more detailed postings, including photos. You can also include links on any of your Facebook postings.
To maximize the benefits of social networking to develop positive awareness of your business and to drive traffic to your website, use both platforms because they have different strengths.
Tweets deliver fast facts and ask and answer short questions. Your tweets should, by and large, aim to educate, entertain, converse with or otherwise engage followers, all with the ultimate goals of keeping customers happy and converting new followers into customers. Tweets can carry links that move readers on to more detailed information on your website or on Facebook.
While you may take on these tasks yourself, keep in mind that they really should be daily tasks and do take some time each day or even a few times a day. You may want to assign someone in your office to handle social media or hire a service that provides attention to your Twitter and Facebook accounts throughout the day. Just make sure you know the passwords to log-in.
Getting started on Twitter is easier than getting started on Facebook. It is also easier to tend daily.
Your Twitter username should be your company name, if reasonably short, or a recognizable or easy-to-remember abbreviation of it.
Getting your first followers on Twitter should be fairly easy. Right from your Twitter account, you can search – they can be people and businesses you already know who have email. On the left of the screen is “Who to follow,” which gives you the opportunity to “find friends” by searching your Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail & Messenger, and AOL contacts by a person’s full name or username and asking them to follow you. Once they do, you can follow them back. And so it goes. And grows.
You can also search for new followers by clicking on “Browse Categories” – currently about 25 – which include overall several hundred suggestions of public personalities and private businesses with whom you may want to interact. Once you get started with “following” and “followers,” you drill down and browse among their “following” and “followers,” and keep expanding your reach. In addition, as you use Twitter, it becomes “smart” and starts to “recognize” the type of follower you want and offers you a listing of possible people or companies to follow every time you log on.
Every Twitter account comes with space for a 160-character bio and an identifying thumbnail image (either a company logo, photo, or product shot – some dealers use a colorful geometric tile face). Use the bio to tell visitors who you are, what you sell or offer, and/or why they should follow you.
You can tweet anything that fits into 140 characters (spaces included) but it should be relevant, readable information without wasteful fluff. (Also consider occasionally retweeting wise words or interesting links from some of your followers.) Keep in mind that letters and numbers used to create links count in the overall character tally so you will want to use a free URL shortening service such as bitly.com or tinyurl.com. URL shorteners convert long addresses to shorter ones, leaving more for your message.
Opinion among social media gurus about how often to tweet a marketing message varies widely. Some experts suggest that one pointed sales pitch per every 4, 6 or 8 tweets is acceptable, but from what we’ve seen on Twitter many tile dealers ignore that unwritten rule entirely, making every other or even every tweet a sales pitch, a promotion, or other clear call to action.
Finding the fine line can be tricky. On the one hand, if a person is following many Twitter accounts, including yours, their incoming tweets will accrue so fast that unless you tweet frequently you may miss out on reaching them with any one marketing or sales tweet. But on the other hand, if you tweet marketing and sales messages too often, you risk annoying – and then losing – your followers.
Everyone agrees, however, that it is important to respond, quickly and politely, to any tweets that include questions or, especially, complaints with positive responses. Resolving complaints promptly and publicly is good business.
Incorporate hashtags (#s) which, used directly in front of a keyword becomes a search tool and helps your tweets on those topics show up in Twitter Search. For example, #tile #backsplash, #countertops and #ceramic increase the chances of someone you do not know who is searching for one of those terms with the hashtag in front of it to find you and view your tweet or tweets on the topic.
You will want to create a welcoming Facebook Page (your business’s public profile) where customers and others can interact with you and from which interested visitors can link directly to your company website. From your experience with customers in your stores and from customer service phone calls, you know what customers, in general, want to know. Facebook is an easy way to deliver that information.
After you create your Page, invite your employees, friends, and customers to visit and “Like” your Page (achieved simply by a click on the LIKE icon). A Facebook Page with at least 25 LIKEs also provides the account administrator with demographic information and statistics about traffic to the site. As soon as you have 25 LIKES, you shorten and customize your Facebook username.
When a visitor to your Facebook page clicks “like” the first time, that person in essence becomes a subscriber to your updates (unless or until he or she un-subscribes). By liking your site, that person endorses your company to all his or her Facebook friends, potentially growing your social media network in many directions.
Facebook is a great place to show off recent projects, introduce contests, offer special promotions or discounts, post photos of new or long term employees, and mention participation in local sports and community-based projects.
To help build your followers and fans, be sure to include your Twitter and Facebook Page URLs on all your marketing materials.
Some Ideas to Get Started on Both Platforms
Here are representative tweets and Facebook postings that tile dealers have posted recently, some with links:
- ask your tiling questions here
- what’s new
- special discounts on products and services
- “gone green? we offer eco-friendly products
- photos of new van, truck, or staff outside place of business or at a community street fair
- photos of store displays and in-store layouts
- Check out this fabulous before and after bathroom remodel
- pros and cons of DIY remodeling
- Great selection, service, and professional planning at all our locations
- “we’re hiring”…send resumes to: (list email)
- what can we do to better serve your tiling needs?
- Find showroom
- Can’t decide what color to paint walls? Why not tile them instead?
- Visit us at LOCATION for huge selection of tiles at great prices
- Introduction of new member of design team
- NAME announces new technical sales rep
- NAME introduces new collection
- Bathroom of the day
- Bathroom with attitude
- Backsplashes with pizzazz
- DIY Tip of the Day
- Who wouldn’t want to relax in the gorgeous bath? Our tile couldn’t have found a more elegant home
- Special Today – 20% off entire online purchase for orders placed before 3pm -
- Cyber Monday 20% off all mosaics today
- June 23rd Sale - celebrating 23 years of serving you – 20% off floor tiles
Other Twitter and Facebook topics could include: tiling design trends; tools to use for a bathroom/kitchen tiling job; how to determine how many tiles are needed to tile a proposed space; differences between wall and floor tiles; differences between ceramic and porcelain tiles; indoors versus outdoor tile; how to grout a tile floor; and how to clean heavily smudged tile.
More and more business postings on Twitter and Facebook also include links to Pinterest. Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) is a social photo sharing website – a visual bulletin board – that allows users to create and manage image collections. You can use it to “pin” images of your new, most popular, or trendiest tiles and finished installations, for both direct viewing on your Pinterest site and for sharing on Twitter and Facebook. (About 80% of Pinterest users are women, with home decor among the most popular subjects.) Visitors can “re-pin” images to their own collections or “like” photos. You can have separate boards for different subjects. By monitoring your own Pinterest account, you can see which “board” earns the most pins and the most “likes.”
Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest are among the sites popular now – emphasis on now, as in today. More are certain to develop but in the meantime, these are good places to add to your traditional marketing mix.