For several years, Party Reflections in Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham, N.C., has held a quarterly tabletop contest for its sales team. In 2008, the friendly game morphed from an in-house activity to a public event, with outside clients as judges.
The tabletop competition starts with a theme and individuals on the sales team choose the size of table. Then outside clients are chosen from a long waiting list to judge the “anonymous” tables based on creativity, use of budget and function. The tables, which showcase the most current colors and trends, help to refresh the company’s showroom until the next contest occurs.
“In a day and age where the most face-time you get with certain clients is on their Facebook page, the tabletop competition has given us a unique opportunity to draw clients into our store and reiterate the strength of the organization’s staff members and products,” says Douglas Crowe, CERP, Party Reflections director of sales.
This past year, however, the contest has phased to a new level to include online voting. Photos of the tables were posted online and those who receive the company email newsletter were invited to choose their favorite in an online survey format.
“Our goal with the virtual voting is to reach more of our clients who cannot always come in to visit. Plus, who doesn’t love to vote? Online polls are always popular and this was our unique way to add technology to our tabletop competition,” Crowe says. “We still have our clients who come into the building and vote, as many people prefer to see and touch the products. Many people actually voted online and then came into the showroom to see the tables in person.”
Crowe says setting up the online poll was much easier because of how the company’s website is set up. “When I designed the website, there was enough forethought to have an area for ‘embedded links.’ Normally, we use that area for video links from our YouTube account, but in this case, we were able to put in a Constant Contact® poll instead. The event photos we have on our homepage normally scroll through, so we used that existing technology and uploaded the tabletop design photos to scroll, rather than our regular event photos,” he says.
“We had a professional take the photographs of the tables, as we wanted to make sure there was a good shot encompassing the entire look of the table, as well as a complimentary photo to show close-ups of the table details. We have already made notes on what angles and shots we want for the next competition. Since this was our first attempt, our main goal was to make it simple and functional,” Crowe says.
Photos also were saved and uploaded to the website in a smaller image size to make page loading quicker for users.
The online format has created a buzz not only inside, but outside the company, Crowe says. “One morning I went to a meeting and the first thing the client asked was, ‘Who is winning the tabletop competition?’ I don’t know if it has or will directly increase sales, but I do know we are driving clients and potential clients to our website,” he says. “That alone sets us apart from our competition, which ultimately leads to increased sales. Also, I think it shows our clients and other companies in the industry how we enjoy forging the path of what can be done from a social media marketing perspective.”
The beta version of the online competition included the same images for both the Charlotte and Raleigh/Durham stores, but Crowe says there could be unique competitions for each store in the future. As for right now, “we’re very focused on making notes about what’s working and what we need to improve. Google Analytics has helped us monitor website traffic, track activity and voting, and also know how many people link to our new Pinterest page. Whenever you start something new, there is a learning curve,” he says.
For the first survey, Party Reflections received 341 responses with 34 percent voting for Tabletop Design No. 2, which featured pale coral pinstripe linens, leaf green glass dishes, a citrus fruit centerpiece and twine-wrapped candles. “We’ve been thrilled with the success of the poll and we have seen a substantial uptick in website traffic,” Crowe says.