Better Living Through Decorative Finishes
by Miranda Lipton and Jerry Rabushka
A faux finisher once ended a seminar by saying “You’re selling a product that nobody needs,” the point being that you need a bang-up marketing approach to be successful. But maybe we do need it—these days we can all use some decorative coatings on our walls and in our lives! Still, you might need to do some extra convincing to get some customers to go “beyond the conventional pail” and try these finishes as an accent or even over a whole room.
We consulted two suppliers: Golden Paintworks (makers of LifeStyle Finishes) and Old Fashioned Milk Paint, about their experience with faux finishes and the strategies they use to increase awareness of these products. As something that is often seen as an addition to a paint job rather than a necessity, companies must create opportunities for customers to realize just how much these products add to their finished look.
Dana Rice from Golden Paintworks utilizes social media to get the word out. She discussed how beneficial it can be to hook up your customers with the company’s social media pages. This offers a way to link customers to some “How To Apply” videos, which Rice feels is a must with faux products. She also finds it important to hold informative seminars for homeowners and contractors, since despite all that social media has to offer, an in-store display might just be the tipping point when deciding on a purchase. “When it comes to the full visual and tactile experience of falling in love with a product that reflects your own personal Lifestyle, nothing beats a fantastic store display,” she said.
You can also help your clients tap into the customization frenzy, as more and more people are looking to personalize their living space with both color and texture. A customer raised on a diet of off-white might love to hear about some new options! Rice suggests some questions that may steer them towards your LifeStyle Finishes display:
• Are you aware that you can personalize your living space to reflect your lifestyle?
• Would you be interested in bringing the beauty of nature’s textures into your home or perhaps doing something a little more individualized or elegant?
• Which ones do you like? Lifestyle Finishes are easy to apply—choosing from the 16 options is the hard part!
Anne Thibeau, president at Old Fashioned Milk Paint, uses social media in a different way. “Posting photos of projects on social media platforms is a good way to show how the finish will look on different surfaces,” said Thibeau. “Milk paint is distinctive in that it can be used to make something look old and worn with very little effort—usually less steps are involved than with other paints since milk paint can easily give a surface a time worn, old world look.” For customers who are into shabby chic, farmhouse chic, or even historic restoration, this is a great product to take us back to those old chic times. Or not: “It lends itself to a modern, sleek aesthetic as well,” she added.
Again, seeing is believing for your customers. “Sample boards, display signs, and seminars are all great—many dealers who sell the Old Fashioned formula have events where customers bring their own small pieces in to paint,” Thibeau said. “Others may offer occasional demos.” If your store is on social media, see if your customers will upload their accomplishments so others can see the product on a variety of surfaces.
Impress them with product’s ease of use, she recommends, as well as the ability to create new colors by combining the pre-packaged powders either in ratios determined by the company or by experimenting on their own.
Need to Take a Powder?
In addition to the faux aspect of Milk Paint, Thibeau reported how the company differentiates itself from other manufacturers through the way their paints are created. The soft and chalky finish that Milk Paint leaves is a result of the how the product’s dry powder is mixed with water to make the paint. “We are the first to admit that many pro painters may balk at the idea of having to mix up paint before use, but it is quite easy to do with a bucket and a paint paddle on a drill,” she observed. The paint also appeals to a “greener” crowd because of the chemical-free powder that is used as the base, she said.
It’s these differences that can help you sell to consumers who are increasingly looking for a customized experience. “Milk paint is definitely not ‘just paint,’ and mixing a dry powder with water into paint it can be a bit difficult of a concept for some to wrap their heads around,” she acknowledged—but people have been stirring up Kool-Aid and Metamucil for generations, so mixing powder into water is not a novel concept. More and more people are hearing about milk paint, and now part of your mission as a retailer is to show them that it’s not really that hard to mix up. Once they give it a try, they’ll most likely be a convert, said Anne. “Explain that the finish is soft and chalky like the popular chalk style paints on the market, but that this all-natural paint has been around forever and is the original paint with that soft, chalky look.”
Need to Hear More?
As appealing as faux products are, you may be hesitant to add yet another product line to your inventory. Thibeau puts these uneasy feelings to rest. “It’s super easy to become a dealer,” she assured us. She highlighted the low minimums and great technical support that Old Fashioned Milk Paint offers to make these products easy to try out without making a large investment.
Dana Rice assures retailers of a smooth transition into faux products as well. “Lifestyle Finishes can be displayed in a compact profit center with minimal SKUs,” she said. “Every product is tintable, so you don’t have to guess which colors will be fast-movers. We provide tinting and spraying guidelines for you in order to take away the guesswork.”
Plus, adds Rice, it’s a great finish for contractors; your sales pitch to them should emphasize ease of use with great results. “Show them how these easy-to-apply products can differentiate them from their competitors that only apply boring off-white,” she urged. “Contractors can easily learn a skill that will get their phones ringing and referrals flying in.”
Plus, it’s contagious. When one person sees it, the next person wants it! “The latest looks that are ahead of the curve will get your customer’s neighbors (or building visitors in the case of a commercial project) asking where they can get that look for their next project. With products like these, your painters won’t have to compete at the lowest price, they can earn a fair wage for the time they spend on the job.”
Along with the how-to videos, said Rice, the company has seven Material Application Specialists on staff to answer product application questions. And Golden Artist is there to help you get the word out. “To support our dealers, we advertise in trade magazines and participate in national trade shows that are geared towards the professional painters,” she concluded.
See? We need it.