Begun in the basement of its founder in 1998, Craft-Art Co. progressed over its first ten years from making cutting boards and wooden pot racks to a strong position in the custom countertop market. But by 2009, once-thriving Craft-Art was floundering. With the home building industry in shambles, the primary market for the manufacturer’s solid wood countertops, vanities and bathtub surrounds was rapidly shrinking. Compounding the problem, Craft-Art also faced stiff competition from foreign imports and from European manufacturers for raw materials.
Two events helped to put the company back on solid ground: Craft-Art upgraded the people talent in their business, and they brought in the Southeastern Trade Adjustment Assistance Center (SETAAC) as advisors. Based at Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute, SETAAC helps manufacturers develop and implement turn-around strategies.
Together Craft Art and SETAAC determined that the company’s marketing efforts had fallen out of step with the times in reaching customers who had shifted from buying new homes to remodeling their current ones. “It used to be that people used a designer or visited a showroom to search for inspiration for their kitchen and bath makeovers. People obtain that first stage of inspiration online today, and we had to be part of that market,” said Barry Madel, President of Craft Art.
With a $75,000 grant from SETAAC, which Craft-Art matched, the company made much needed modifications to its website, updated sales and marketing literature, engaged in new product design, and hired a marketing consultant. Craft-Art also installed an online tool which allows instant quotes for customers. Before the website transformation when customers made inquiries about products and prices, the company took as much as a week to respond. Now, said Madel, we can tell customers immediately exactly how much their custom made order will cost and calculate when it will be delivered.
Search engine optimization and a marketing automation product that helps turn site visits into leads and orders are also in place. SETAAC helped Craft-Art create an online store as well, which Craft Art’s Product Manager Sarah Anderson says generates a “huge number of customers.”
The results have been impressive. The Atlanta company, which operates from a company-owned, 40,000 sq. ft. facility, went from 200 visits a month to its then rudimentary product and design website to 10,000 to 20,000 visits a month to its new and improved site. Last year, Craft-Art could count 1,500 active customers acquired through leads generated from the website, advertising, inside sales staff; partnered with 100 sales/installation service providers; and was present in some 2,250 Home Depot stores. “We manage a website just for our Home Depot customers,” Anderson said.
While competition from foreign manufacturers, who face fewer government restrictions and can hire cheaper labor, remains a challenge, SETAAC’s assistance has helped level the playing field.
“Craft-Art has been a great client, as they have gone through the list of proposed projects with enthusiasm each step of the way” says Mark Hannah, SETAAC director. They completed one project, then moved on to the next and the next. They did it the way it’s supposed to be done.”
SETAAC and Craft-Art began working together in 2010, with the first project completed in August 2012. A second phase of partnering that began in 2013 has focused on expansion of the online quoting tool and its integration with marketing automation.
“Thanks to our joint effort with SETAAC, we have a real level of sophistication on the website, which allows us to get a broad view of our customers, their interests and their activities during their visits on our website,” said Madel. “This completely automated system helps us greatly expand our customer-base and compete with import products.”