Torin Dixon

Special Correspondent

Make Natural Stone a “Value Proposition”We all know how natural stone has been used over the ages as a durable and lasting building material.      

But do your clients truly understand the “Value Proposition” of using natural stone? Are you promoting natural stone as the most durable, natural material in existence? Think about the ancient ruins that are world famous tourist attractions. You don’t see many ancient thatched huts on display. Rather, ancient pyramids and stone cathedrals are the featured attractions. Stone endures, nearly forever.

If you have been in the dimensional stone industry for any length of time, you may have begun to take for granted the strength, durability and sustainability aspects of natural stone. For you, it may be a no brainer to use as much natural stone as possible in a project, but your customers may not even consider durability, sustainability and the ease of maintenance in their decision making process. They may only have a myopic view on getting the “lowest price.”

For Stone Fabricators, do you actively feature these value attributes in your promotional materials and advertising? Are you featuring website links to the Marble Institute of America, Building Stone Institute, or website? Are you a member of one of these trade associations? Are you keeping up with the sustainability issues being discussed in the related trade magazines? It is vital to stay abreast of these issues and how it is impacting all the building trades.

What about the “green” aspects of using natural stone as a building material?

When compared to other engineered solid surfaces, natural stone is by far more environmentally friendly and recyclable. Are you a member of your local building industry association? If so, most have Green Building committees where you contribute and may have an influence in upcoming promotions that can direct sales you’re way.

Do your showroom displays feature comparative products that feature the advantages of natural stone? A few years ago when our local Home Depot was built, in the kitchen display area they unwisely featured a wine colored Corian® countertop on their sales desk. I knew instantly that counter wouldn’t last. Within months, they installed a clear plexiglass cover, and shortly thereafter, replaced it with a quartz product. I managed to obtain a 6˝ x 6˝ sample that we use in our showroom to demonstrate how durable granite is compared to Corian®. Comparing scratched up Corian® to a granite sample doesn’t  take much to persuade interested customers in the difference of these materials.

What about flooring displays? Here is another perfect opportunity to demonstrate how durable natural stone tile or slab is compared to other products. Perhaps install a “test area” with several different products that show how over time, stone is the best option.

You can also prepare a “Cost-Benefit-Analysis” brochure demonstrating how over time, natural stone is a far better option. Perhaps contrast a 5 year and 10 year comparison on initial costs, ongoing maintenance costs, and resale value calculations. Natural stone will win this battle every time.

For Builders and Developers, featuring quality stone products as part of your “standard features,” rather than as an upgrade combined with skilled salesmanship can demonstrate your quality and value aspect of your homes. Stone

Fabricators can team up with your larger builders to educate the builder’s sales team on the value proposition of using and featuring natural stone surfaces.

Perhaps most importantly, regular training of your sales staff on the unique attributes of natural stone is vital to helping close sales. Discuss the most common questions or complains about natural stone. Discuss how relatively easy the ongoing maintenance of natural stone is compared to other surfaces. Get educated about all the competing products and be prepared to defend your position on the value of natural stone surfaces. Customers value trained expert opinion, and your knowledge may convince them to switch to a stone surface.

Having displays on-hand in your showroom, combined with your insight and knowledge of stone, sprinkled with some job-site examples from your career experiences may help convince your client on the inherent value aspects of using natural stone. And for many areas in the United States, fabricated granite counters may never be as inexpensive as they are now. Now is the time to take every opportunity to champion the value aspects of using natural stone to the uneducated customers who walk in your door.

Torin Dixon is a 34-year stone industry veteran and consultant on natural stone importing and stone care products. He may be reached at