Eliot Tatelman is different. I mean, the guy has a ponytail. But it’s not his looks that I want to talk about, it is his approach to marketing and how he and his brother, Barry, took their family’s mom-and-pop store and turned it into a thriving business.
Tatelman is the president and CEO of Jordan’s Furniture, which is owned by billionaire Warren Buffett. He hosted a Splash event last month sponsored by the Rhode Island Small Business Recovery Program at the company’s newest store in Warwick, R.I. During the event, which featured a laser, water and sound show, Tatelman talked about his approach to selling furniture and what it takes to capture the attention of busy consumers in a crowded marketplace.
- Love what you do, and choose employees who love it, too. Tatelman believes business is about people and he makes them the focus of every touch point starting with employees. At Jordan’s, new staff members train for six weeks before they are given an opportunity to interact with customers. They also are required to read Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. The book is about strategies for exceeding customer expectations and driving loyalty. Tatelman’s 1,200 employees understand that the business is about the people involved and having fun, not just furniture and sales.
- Be different, make shopping an unforgettable experience. Tatelman has a keen ability to think like a consumer, not a businessman. He has found inspiration in the casinos of Las Vegas where patrons arriving to see a concert, show or performance must walk through aisle after aisle of slot machines before reaching their intended destination. It is the novelty of the show that gets them in the door, but it is the slot machines that get them to stay. Tatelman created the Splash experience with this concept in mind. It is an attraction that brings new consumers into the store and encourages them to stay awhile. Other Jordan’s Furniture stores feature their own unique draws. The Natick and Reading, Mass. stores, for example, are home to an IMAX 3D theater. Other store locations have restaurants and seasonal events that invite customers.
- Keep it local. While it is perhaps most well-known for its Red Sox promotions, offering special discounts if the team wins the World Series, Jordan’s Furniture gets involved more deeply in the communities the business serves by giving back to organizations that support children and families in need. Participating in cause marketing shows the personal side of the business reinforcing its strong family roots.
Jordan’s Furniture differentiates itself from its competitors with these strategies. Tatelman focuses on people through service, entertainment and philanthropy. He might offer the right product at the right price, but bend over backwards customer service is the backbone of the business.