Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Color Splash Effect

Watching HGTV is hazardous to my wallet. Donna and I enjoy several HGTV programs, but we’re hooked on Color Splash with David Bromstad. We watch. We learn – or at least I do. We look around our house and that’s where the trouble starts. The living room needs updating. The bedroom needs a makeover.

Donna has a great eye for design and color, just like her mom. I don’t. I’m functional, utilitarian when it comes to furniture and accessories. Donna’s got her foot on the accelerator, mine’s more on the brake. And as a shopper, I don’t buy things often, but when I do, it can turn into a cascade. Thanks to Color Splash, it just did. New artwork for the living room walls. A new area rug, throw pillows, TV and stand. A new bed frame and comforter.

I prefer to buy locally whenever possible, but shop online when we can’t find exactly what we want. Using the classic 4P’s of Marketing, let’s look at brick-and-mortar and virtual store experiences:
• Product – I like to see and feel the rug, pillows and furniture at a local store. And you can’t beat up close and personal when shopping for a TV. But the depth of product choices is vast online. Add buyer reviews – even if some of them seem “planted” – and you get a dimension unmatched by a smiling salesperson.
• Price – is often lower online, sometimes dramatically so. The advantage is enhanced if the virtual store charges no sales tax and offers free shipping.
• Place – do you want immediate gratification? If so, the local store has the advantage. Two days after ordering a TV stand online, a phone call from the vendor informed us that the style we chose was out of stock. When we found a replacement – at a different virtual store – it took 10 days to be delivered. Meanwhile, our new TV sat on the living room floor.
• Promotion – local radio ads helped us choose where to begin shopping. Google key-word ads have made telephone yellow pages nearly obsolete; we searched locally and the vast Internet expanses with iPhones in hand. There was nothing we could not find!
• Pleasing the Customer – Marketing’s 5th P is where local stores can and should make their advantage evident. Customer service, going the extra mile – helpful advice, quick delivery and set-up, scheduling delivery according to the customer’s needs – can make the difference in clinching the sale.

Donna and I just watched a Color Splash kitchen redesign for the Yemoto sisters – and it was a stunning transformation. If we didn’t live 250 miles south of San Francisco, where David films his home re-design projects, I’d love to have him come up with something uber-fabulous for us. We better start saving for new countertops and appliances now. I can feel a new project bubbling to the surface.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Place for Mom

It all started with phone message. Followed by a letter. The assisted living facility my mother has called home for a dozen years was shutting down. Not one who takes change easily, even in her younger years, this was going to be a challenging process finding mom a new place to live.

In passing, I mentioned what was going on to a friend at work. She told me that her husband was going through something similar for his mom in Los Angeles. The next day, Bruce sent me an email with a link to a resource he had used to find housing for his mother. A Place for Mom, Inc. is a nationwide information service about eldercare options including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, adult family homes, independent living and home care agencies.

After poking around on their website, I decided to enter basic information on the home page and start a search. Within 10 minutes, I received a call. I tend to be suspicious by nature, so I was expecting a “sales” pitch. But, I wanted to leave no stone unturned, and was willing to listen if it helped me make a better decision. I was pleasantly surprised – Barbara was empathetic, seemed to know what she was talking about, and provided helpful suggestions, particularly about applying for additional financial help for mom.

Barbara followed up by email within an hour, with 10 senior facilities that fit our budget and location requirements. All at no cost to me. I’m not na├»ve, and on their website it’s clearly stated: “In order to provide the information service to consumers at no charge, participating facilities or agencies pay a fee to A Place for Mom, Inc.” I also leaned heavily on mom’s current assisted living facility, which provided solid information about senior housing in the area.

So, off we went to search for mom’s new home. Every few days, I’d get an email or call from Barbara. She sent articles about other families’ experiences. She asked how I liked the facilities we’d toured. She provided particularly helpful information about a little known financial assistance program for surviving widows of veterans. Barbara treaded that fine line between showing real interest and coming on too strong. I appreciated her as a resource.

What I liked about A Place for Mom (www.aplaceformom.com) was that Barbara provided a service that offered real value – saved me time in identifying options we could afford, provided information I didn’t have about financial resources, and followed up to get our impression of the facilities they’d recommended. The final step was a survey Barbara sent me to rate their service. Oh, and yes, we are on track to get mom moved in to her new home next month.