ClosetsCon/WPE keynoter: Identity is the 'hub of all marketing'

Rich Harshaw, CEO of Level 10 Contractor, will share his expertise for generating more customer leads and sales, as the keynote speaker of Closets Con and Wood Pro Expo Florida.

WEST PALM SPRING, Fla. -- Creating a winning marketing strategy starts with knowing who you are as a company, says Rich Harshaw, CEO of Level 10 Contractor.

“The concept of identity is absolutely foundational to every single thing. It’s the hub of all marketing activity,” Harshaw says. “It’s not just, ‘Hey, we exist.’ It’s not just that we are a closet or cabinet company. Identity is all about how we are different, how we are better and what you can expect when doing business with us. Everything that you produce as a marketer can be pulled from that hub called identity.”

Harshaw, who has a solid background in corporate marketing and advertising, specializes in helping remodeling and home services contractors take their sales to higher levels by generating more and better customer leads. He also produces a daily podcast and is author of “Unlocking Unlimited Lead Flow: A Blueprint for Remodeling & Home Services Contractors to Make the Jump to $10MM+.”

Harshaw is scheduled to deliver the opening keynote speech and workshop at at the co-located 2021 Closets Conference & Expo and Wood Pro Expo Florida June 8-10, at the Palm Beach County Convention Center. 

In an extensive phone interview, Harshaw offered a preview of what attendees can expect to experience and learn at his session. The following Q&A was edited from the transcript of the conversation.

Rich Christianson (RC): What is the significance of your company’s name, Level 10 Contractor?

Rich Harshaw (RH): That is a good question. We we’re going under the name Monopolize Your Marketplace for years and years until 2019 when we rebranded. The rebranding was realizing that the kind of companies we wanted to work with were companies that wanted to do things the right way not the quick way, not the cheap way, not the hurry up and get it done way. These are companies that are committed to doing things right. We call that doing it the Level 10 way.

I have found that the companies that thrive and grow are the ones that take that attitude and mindset to do things the right way. The ones that sort of flounder along year after year are the ones that are not as committed to that. They are more about just trying to hang on to the status quo or taking shortcuts.

"Many companies do an absolutely terrible job of explaining who they are, how they are different, why they are better and what customers can expect when they do business with them." 
-- Rich Harshaw, CEO, Level 10 Contractor

RC: How is it you came to specialize in working with remodeling and home service companies?

RH: Throughout my career, I’ve literally worked with hundreds of companies in a wide variety of industries. Some of my biggest successes early in my career were with manufacturing companies and service companies like banks.

In 2005 I was invited to do a webinar with a company called MarketSharp that services the remodeling industry with CRM software. The response was quite overwhelming. It was obvious that it was a niche that had a lot of sales-oriented gurus but lacked marketing consultants. We partnered with MarketSharp on about 30 marketing seminars throughout the country that year exclusively focused on contractors and home services providers. We really haven’t look back since then.

RC: I read that you refer to a company’s website as the “backbone of all your marketing efforts” and further note that “9 out of 10 prospects will visit your website before they even consider contacting you.” What are the most common problems that you see with business-to-consumer websites and how do these deficiencies detract from a company’s marketing efforts?

RH: The keystone concept that defines a company is identity. It’s all about who you are, how you are different, why you are better and what customers can expect when they do business with you. This information must be communicated with power, precision and passion in all of your marketing efforts, including your website. Identity is far and away, without any close second place, the biggest problem that happens with websites and most marketing for that matter.

Many companies do an absolutely terrible job of explaining who they are, how they are different, why they are better and what customers can expect when they do business with them. Instead of communicating that with power, precision and passion, they’ll do either one of two things. They will be completely boring and not have any important information about their identity whatsoever or they’ll communicate using platitudes using words or phrases that are so over-used that they are trite and don’t really have any power.

RC: How does a business get a grip on its identity and once it has, then what?

RH: Identity can be broken down into five categories or pillars of differentiation points.

The one that is the most obvious, where some attention is given sometimes, is the products themselves. A closet organization company might say, “Our closets are better. We have better design and use higher quality materials that last longer and are more versatile.”

The second one is the core values of your company. This is going to include things like integrity, respect, compassion, teamwork, accountability, trustworthiness and customer advocacy. This is something that most companies never talk about. It’s not even given lip service. But it matters because this is the DNA that makes your company tick.

Pillar three is what I call bedside manner. How do you treat your customers? Things like communication, giving accurate quotes, no sales pressure, and no pricing games are included here. The way your employees work and interact with customers; listening, respect, professionalism; finishing on time and on budget -- these all fall under the pillar of bedside manner.

Then there’s workmanship. It’s kind of like your products but it’s separated and looked at individually. This is the fourth pillar. This includes things like attention to details; slowing down to do it right; using quality materials; the expertise and experience of your craftsmen; the training you give your people; and installation standards and warrantees that go along with all of that.

The fifth pillar is sort of a catch-all that covers anything that didn’t fit in with the other four pillars. They could be things like your company culture, your reputation, your company’s financial stability, community outreach, online reviews, association memberships and awards that you’ve won.

Using these five pillars you need to find the two or three things in each that really map most closely to your company. Then find examples, stories and comparisons about those things that you can communicate on your website and advertisements wherever the marketing is going out where people will see it.

RC: What are some of the key take-aways conference attendees can expect to gain from attending your keynote address?

RH: The first thing is always going to be identity: Who you are, why you are different, why you are better and what people can expect when they do business with you.

I’ll encourage everyone to conduct a self-audit of their website. Does it communicate who you are, how you are different, why you are better and what people can expect when they are doing business with you? Does it have elements of the five pillars -- the products themself, the company’s core values, bedside manner, workmanship and some of those other elements? Are they illustrated with stories, examples and comparisons? If they are, then you are on the right path and things are going to gel and they are going to work. If that stuff is not there and you are competing against somebody who has this identity infused into their marketing, you are almost always going to lose.

The good news is that you typically are not competing with a company that has its identity infused. So, what happens is you end up competing based on aesthetics. It becomes a beauty contest. Who has the prettiest website that resonates with the website visitor? That’s OK, that’s a decent level to compete on but as soon as you begin competing against a company that has this identity concept infused and they are really explaining with power, precision and passion who they are, why they are different, and why they are better, then it’s not just a beauty contest. Then it becomes a problem.begin competing against a company that has this identity concept infused and they are really explaining with power, precision and passion who they are, why they are different, and why they are better, then it’s not just a beauty contest. Then it becomes a problem.

Learn more about Rich Harshaw at Level 10 Contractor.

About the Closets Conference & Expo and Wood Pro Expo Florida
The Closets Conference & Expo is the annual national event for closet and home storage professionals. It is co-located with Wood Pro Expo Florida (WPE), a regional marketplace for the woodworking professionals. The events are organized by Closets & Organized Storage and FDMC magazines respectively, each part of Woodworking Network. The twin-billing event is scheduled for June 8-10, 2021, at the Palm Beach Convention Center in Palm Beach, Fla.

The Closets Expo and WPE both lead off with a separate full-day conference on June 8, followed by the two-day expo, June 9-10, featuring woodworking machinery and supplies. Additional educational programming is offered on both days of the expo. Tours of local manufacturing plants and the popular Top Shelf Design Awards networking reception are also key components of the event.

For information about exhibiting, and sponsorship opportunities, contact Laurel Didier, publisher of Closets & Home Storage. For inquiries about WPE, contact Harry Urban, publisher of Woodworking Network. 

Additional Woodworking Network events
Wood Pro Expo Lancaster, Oct.14-15, 2021, Warehouse at the Nook, Lancaster County, Pa. -- Annual woodworking trade show and conference

Executive Briefing Conference (EBC) Sept. 8-10, 2021, The Broadmoor, Colorado Springs, Colo. -- Annual forecast of economic, technology and design trends for the North American woodworking industry.

Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo (WMS), Nov. 4-6, 2021, International Centre, Mississauga, Ontario -- Canada's national woodworking show.

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About the author
Rich Christianson | President/Owner/C-Level

Rich Christianson is the owner of Richson Media LLC, a Chicago-based communications firm focused on the industrial woodworking sector. Rich is the former long-time editorial director and associate publisher of Woodworking Network. During his nearly 35-year career, Rich has toured more than 250 woodworking operations throughout North America, Europe and Asia and has written extensively on woodworking technology, design and supply trends. He has also directed and promoted dozens of woodworking trade shows, conferences and seminars including the Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo and the Woodworking Machinery & Supply Conference & Expo, Canada’s largest woodworking show.