Chatting to Bethaney Larkman from Distinction Doors over Teams, Total Fabricator is struck by the marketing manager’s enthusiasm and vivacity. We’re in the midst of lockdown 3 and like many, Bethaney is working from home. “It’s fine; I’m keeping busy,” she says, smiling. “I have a routine and I think that’s made all the difference.”

Bethaney joined Distinction almost six years ago, initially as the company’s graphic designer before the lure of a wider marketing function saw her accept the role of marketing executive, a job which a year later led to promotion – as marketing manager. “I know, I can’t quite believe it,” she laughs. “The time has flown by. I’m just grateful for the opportunity; a career in a discipline that I love.”

As marketing manager for the UK’s largest supplier of composite doors, Bethaney is responsible for promoting Distinction products to audiences in the trade, retail, new build and social housing sectors, and providing valuable marketing support to its fabricators.

“No one day is the same and that’s what I enjoy most. It’s been particularly useful given the monotony of the past year! I manage everything from PR and communications, advertising, events, our online presence, design and print; pretty much everything that the role requires. I’m very hands-on and alongside my management duties, I also get involved in delivering the projects and completing daily tasks.”

FLEXIBLE AND AGILE

The conversation soon turns to the pandemic and its impact upon Distinction’s marketing plans. “Like many businesses, we soon discovered that things had to change, and fast.”

Multiple lockdowns and a surge in home improvement spending meant that the company’s online platforms were invaluable. “Our door-designer, showroom locator and request a brochure option have been by far and away our most powerful marketing tools ever since the first lockdown. The figures have been extraordinary.”

Some of the highlights for January 21 include website users increasing 67% YOY; door-designer overall sessions increasing 82% YOY and direct quotes going up a whopping 129% YOY. Digital interest has also led to an astonishing number of printed brochures flying out of the door!

PREPARED FOR THE V-SHAPED RECOVERY

As the vaccine rollout gathers pace, Bethaney is focussed on supporting her customers and helping them to maximise the opportunities presented by the ‘…V-shaped recovery in 2021 and consistent future growth until 2025.’ (AMA Research).

“As part of our marketing support package we provide a Design Boutique service where we create completely bespoke brochure artwork for our customers. It’s not only cost-effective because they don’t pay for the artwork, but they also benefit from our design expertise, marketing skills and access to our image library.

“We are investing in additional lifestyle CGI photography this year which will be infinitely useful and allow us to better reflect modern living.”

One of the company’s most popular marketing tools is its door-designer – a free online portal available to both Distinction customers and theirs.

“Our door-designer is a classic example of an effective online sales tool which suits new consumer behaviour patterns. It is interactive; provides a good user experience across all platforms; creates an engaging visual, and benefits both the business and consumer – an instant door design with auto-issued enquiry and 24-28-hour quote turnaround.”

IN REAL LIFE

Away from the internet, Bethaney is confident that the desire for real life experiences will gather pace, post-pandemic. “Our data proves that consumers are eager to visit showrooms. Everyone is keen to return to face-to-face interactions and I believe that showrooms will be central to the sales proposition in the months and years ahead.”

Bethaney and her team have advised several customers recently, helping to reinvigorate their showrooms. “We suggest a review of all the touch points – from the moment the prospect arrives in the car park to the welcome over the threshold; the lighting; background noise; movement around the space; everything – it’s a holistic approach.”

Bethaney believes that a good showroom should appeal to the senses. “We want to create spaces with positive energy. Colour is dominating our current order book and it’s important that whilst eye-catching, coloured products are presented practically and cohesively. They must be visually appealing, and this is why good, well-positioned lighting is vital, as is natural light, for viewing the door and creating a healthier showroom.

“Touch is also incredibly important – whether it’s the woodgrain effect of the door or the ergonomics of the handle. But we must remember that this sensory impulse be catered for while adhering to COVID-safe procedures – we are all responsible for maintaining safe and hygienic spaces.”

TOP MARKETING ADVICE

With only a few minutes to spare before Bethaney has to leave for a virtual customer meeting to “…discuss a brochure redesign,” we discuss her top tips for retail fabricators and home improvement companies in 2021.

“I’m afraid all my advice would hinge on their online presence. Invest in good photography and video for sharing online, and make sure you’re on top of your social media; all too often we see incomplete profile pages and dated feeds. I recommend picking one or two social media platforms and doing them well. It’s all about the quality not quantity of accounts or posts!

“If they have a showroom, it’s got to be the Google My Business profile. It’s far more than a free listing, it lets you manage how your business appears on Google search and maps.

“As for the company website, view it on a mobile device – they now account for around 50% of online searches, and people may be surprised by how the user experience differs to a desktop, and not always for the better. If this is the case, it may be time for a refresh.”

And with that, our time with Bethaney Larkman is up. With a winning smile and friendly goodbye, she’s off to help yet another Distinction customer thrive in these challenging times.