Granite Imports, a Denver, CO-based wholesale slab distributor, hosted the MIA/Stone World Rocky Mountain Stone Summit on May 19. This event drew 100 stone professionals from a four-state region. The three-part agenda included:

• Seminar on “Marketing Your Company in Today’s Business Environment”

• Tours/demonstrations/networking

• Inaugural Meeting of the Rocky Mountain Stone Association

The morning program was lead by marketing expert Marty Gould. He showcased marketing “best practices” with an emphasis on the internet and connecting with customers through social media.

“The internet leveled the playing field,” Gould explained. “Today, small companies can compete and many of the best tools are free.” However, he also cautioned everyone that for the first time, the marketer is not in charge of the process; the customer is. On the internet, the customer decides what messages to look at, when and where. They also dictate when the transaction will take place and, often on what terms.

Gould highlighted that customers will choose you if:

1. You come close to solving their problem

2. They’re comfortable/confident in your ability to do the job

3. Your price matches what they’re willing to pay. He concluded that if you focus your efforts on the first point, and if you’re fair and honest, people will give you the benefit of the doubt on points two and three. Without point one, it’s much harder to make a sale.

He shared that when consumers need a product or service, and they don’t know where to go get it, they search the Internet. The big problem (and an unfortunately reality for many stone companies) is that most Web sites don’t get seen. To illustrate this point, Gould had an advance attendee list and included a section in his presentation which highlighted the Web sites of various companies in attendance. This was an eye-opening experience for everyone.

Not only did this seminar highlight how Google ranks Web sites, but it also touched on getting people to your content. “There are only two ways to get your message out today: Get people to your content by utilizing paid media and search optimization, or get your content in front of the people who will be interested in what you have to say, via social networking, article syndication and online PR,” Gould said.

However, he also stressed that the content must be dynamic, interesting, collaborative, detailed and authentic. That’s why new content must be substantially different from old fashioned advertising. “What you say online must be interesting to the people who are searching it, so don’t hold back,” he stated. “New content involves the customer in the creation and dissemination. Don’t forget: the details matter. And, whatever else you do, be authentic.”

He concluded by talking about the challenges that face many stone companies when it comes to marketing:

1. Responding vs. reacting

2. Quitting

3. Finding time to do it

4. Keeping up with all the changes

5. Fear

“The hardest part of launching any kind of marketing campaign is having the guts to stick with it,” Gould stated. “Even if you make changes to the campaign itself — media, message, target — don’t give up on marketing. It’s the only external force that can deliver customers to your business. Of course, fear is a very important motivator. It’s easy to decide it’s too complicated or difficult to do. But if you’re also afraid of losing customers to competitors, you may come to the conclusion that being fearful of these new marketing tools is not nearly as scary as losing customers to someone else who overcame their fears to build a loyal base of consumer evangelists.”

When asked what should stone companies do next to succeed in the new age of Internet marketing, Gould shared:

Step 1 – Focus on your niche. What are you best at? What can you lead at?

Step 2 – Identify your target. Who should hear your message and why? Identify unique targets for each project/message.

Step 3 – Evaluate your content. Is your message real or “adspeak?”

Step 4 – Surround your customers. Content goes everywhere, not just your Web site.

Step 5 – Make a commitment. It takes time to make it work. It’s a big experiment, and nothing is out of bounds.

Following Marty Gould’s presentation, one participant said, “I learned a lot about the mistakes my company has been making with our marketing and promotion online. Now I know what changes I need to make to be more successful.”

The Rocky Mountain Stone Association

The afternoon segment of the program included tours of Granite Imports and networking with participating sponsor suppliers. It also featured the inaugural meeting of the Rocky Mountain Stone Association (RMSA). (Note: This new stone association will focus on organizing more local training and networking events in Colorado, and it will be closely aligned with the Marble Institute of America.) Several RMSA board members — including Scott Polak (Denver Marble), Joe Percoco (Percoco Marble & Tile) and Bob Adwar (Granite Imports) — shared the vision of the new organization and fielded questions from the audience.

The RMSA will be announcing upcoming events very soon and has already asked the MIA and Stone World to feature Denver as a host city in its 2012 regional education schedule. For more information about the RMSA, go online to

Upcoming MIA/Stone World seminars:

• June 23 - Toronto, Canada

• July 28 - Seattle, WA

• September 14 - Washington DC

• October 4 - Houston, TX

• November 2 - Phoenix, AZ

To learn more, visit