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Tile Industry Forum: Selling Tile Online. Bill Buyok, Avente Tile

Posted by Christine B. Whittemore on Wed, Apr 03, 2013

This is a 7 minute read.
Coverings 2013: Selling Tile: the Internet, the Industry

I hope you plan on coming to Coverings 2013, and attending Selling Tile: the Internet, the Industry & the Consumer, a tile industry panel discussion with four tile industry experts.  All four have an online presence. All have distinct opinions on selling tile online.

The panelists include Bill Buyok, Avente Tile, Tom Carr, Pan American CeramicsDave Milanowycz, Florida Tile, and Steve Slutzah, Westside Tile and Stone. They will share a ange of perspectives about selling tile online, how the Internet affects the tile industry and how it fits into tile business models.

In anticipation of this discussion, which I will moderate, I've invited each participant to participate in a blog interview. Next is Bill Buyok from Avente Tile.

Tile Industry Forum: Selling Tile Online. Bill Buyok, Avente TileC.B.: Bill, tell me about yourself and your company.

Hi, Christine.  First, let me say thank you for taking the time to interview the entire group of panelists participating in the Coverings 2013 educational session, Selling Tile: The Internet, the Industry & the Consumer. Also, thank you for organizing and moderating this event.

I’m Bill Buyok, owner and founder of Avente Tile and I’ve been attending Coverings for over a decade. 

In 2003, I started Avente Tile because I was looking for hand painted tiles with an old world design similar to some I had seen from Spain. I couldn’t find any designs in local showrooms, tile stores, or online. When I found the right tiles, I fell in love with them and decided I would start a company focused on providing hand painted ceramic tiles, cement tiles, and artisan tiles.

As a result of training as a mechanical engineer, I developed a strong commitment to quality in what I do that starts with an in-depth understanding of tile and the tile-production process. I worked for Chevron, a Fortune 500 company, as a field and project engineer, manager and team supervisor. I understand the importance of delivering a user-friendly website after working at a startup web design company selling and developing web applications. 

In fact, the namesake, Avente, is derived from the Latin 'abante' that means “before” or “at the forefront.”  Avente Tile is committed to providing handcrafted tiles that are of the highest quality with the best customer service.  I believe it is these unique professional experiences and perspectives that have allowed Avente Tile to thrive.

C.B.: What do you love most about tile?

Clay and Mold SMN InterviewTile makes me feel connected to the world and its people in a very special way.  It’s wonderful when a customer in Maine shares a photo of how they used a classic Spanish tile design for their new kitchen backsplash. 

It’s amazing that an almost-forgotten Cuban tile pattern found in a crumbling Havana estate has been re-discovered and re-interpreted as the design for restaurant in Houston.

I love knowing that a piece of clay sculpted into a relief tile in the hand of talented artisans from Antiqua will be used for a beautiful bath in Beverly Hills. 

It's this story that tile tells every day that I love.  Tile has connections to history, art and design and provides a very useful function.  It’s amazing how a piece of clay allows us to share this world in wonderful and unique ways!

C.B.: How does online fit into your business?

Online is my business. There is no ‘brick and mortar’ store.  Avente Tile is an online tile showroom and catalog that also provides inventory data, installation guidelines, and troubleshooting tips. 

Because online is my business we strive to provide an excellent online experience and excellent phone support.  We are finding more and more folks find us through search. They compare us with the competition.  Then, they buy from us because the service and experience we provide - including design and layout services.

Avente Tile Home Page Screen Shot SMN Interview

C.B.: Bill, which of the online resources you use do you find most effective and why?

Think of online resources like a toolbox.  Each has a strength or benefit and like tools is designed for a specific job.  Pick the tool that helps you get your job done most efficiently.  Learn how to use the tool and make sure it’s a good fit for you.  Then, start using another tool.   And, remember, the tool that is most effective for me, may not be the best fit for your task at hand.

1. Start with a web site that includes basic contact information and puts a face on your business.  Include installations and provide answers to frequent questions so that you can establish what you do and show how you solve customer problems or needs.  Whether to include a product catalog and e-commerce solution is a much more complex question that needs to be evaluated based on distributor relationships, cost, and expected income.

Tile Talk Screen Shot SMN Interview

2. After that, if I had to choose only one resource, it would have to be our company blog, Avente Tile Talk.  It is a great place to share customer experiences, installations, new products, design ideas, tips, and our monthly newsletter.  Blogging allows me to share my unique perspective about a product I love, Tile.

3. I use Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to help broadcast my message.  Google+ is a great productivity tool.  Twitter allows me to network with vendors, professionals and colleagues.  We are also finding more customers using Twitter to get answers to their questions. Facebook helps me connect with friends from my past.

  • LinkedIn provides a great way to grow and nurture your professional network and is ideal for B2B distributors.
  • Pinterest is a great way to easily share visual concepts with others.  Great for helping folks pinpoint a design style or color.   It can also help you spot trends in style, design and color.
  • Flickr allows me to organize and share photos of tiles and installations.  I use this for both product photos and installations.  Photos can be grouped in non-traditional way (outside of typical categories or lines) that present options not always available in a product catalog.
  • YouTube (and video in general) excels at showing a process like how tiles are installed; or, telling a story, how handmade tiles are made.  In my opinion, video is a most difficult media to master because you dealing with images, sound, and story all at once.  Video will continue to be a power house in social media, because of its popularity and ability for anybody with a smart phone to create short videos.  There are many great online resources that can assist with video production and provide great value like

{For additional perspective, read Bill Buyok, Avente Tile on Social Media for Small Business.}

C.B.: What is your opinion on selling tile online? Why?

Selling online (and being found online) will become increasingly more important as users rely on search to qualify and find vendors of the products they demand.  While price will drive search results for commodity items, I believe knowledge, transparency, value and service will drive results for most other products, like custom or hand-crafted tile.

C.B.: What advice would you offer someone who wants to get started online with tile?

Think big. Start small. Be committed.  If you have a plan (think big) with specific goals (starting small) and are deliberate, you will get results.  First, and foremost, start with a web site, and then consider a blog.  Then start promoting these efforts with social media (one at a time).  I strongly encourage the support of professionals in both web development and maintaining your social media presence. 

Online is here to stay and getting online is a process.  Follow the advice I detailed above when I detailed which online resources I find most effective. This will help establish where you are in “getting online” and “where you need to be.”

Avente Tile Cement Tile Installation SMN InterviewC.B.: Bill, how can you be reached online? 

Feel free to connect with me or Avente Tile through these channels:

C.B.: Bill, thanks very much!

What is your take on selling tile online? How do you use the Internet in your business? 

I hope you'll join us at Coverings 2013 in Atlanta on Wednesday, May 1 from 3:15 to 4:15pm forSelling Tile: the Internet, the Industry & the Consumer. Registration is free!

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Topics: tile industry, Digital Marketing, flooring industry

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