Plavecsky's
by Jim Plavecsky
December 3rd, 2012

What Do You Offer That Sets You Apart?

What is the best thing that a door and window company can offer to stand apart from the competition? Price? Somebody else can always match your price if they want the business bad enough! Service? In today’s demanding consumer market and fierce competitive environment, if you don’t have great service then you won’t be around for long anyway. Advertising? Well, advertising is critical and will get you noticed but then you still have to follow through and convince the prospect to ultimately choose you vs. the competition!

Consumers generally don’t buy windows once a year or even once every five years so what will they be looking for when they eye their not so frequent window purchase? Innovation! Yes, innovation is what sets your windows apart from the slew of other window manufacturers out there. Sometimes it is the best thermal performance – even better than what Energy Star requirements dictate, or a stronger and more secure patio door locking system that other fabricator’s charge extra to install. Sometimes it is the operating features – easy to open and clean, self-locking, child security, venting. Sometimes it is a lifetime transferable warranty that sets your windows apart from every other manufacturer in the area. Sometimes it is the fastest delivery, or unique aesthetics such as a great looking patio door handle, a greater window-viewing area, laminates, wood veneers or a variety of colors available that no other manufacturer in the area can match. And believe it or not sometimes it isn’t even the door or window itself but rather a unique financing plan that fits the consumer’s budgetary needs! Whatever the case, differentiation is the key to creating a unique impression upon groups of consumers in the marketplace, and innovation is ultimately what enables you to accomplish it!

These groups of consumers are often referred to as market segments and strategically intelligent window manufacturers will have different product lines aimed at each market segment. The key to success is being able to offer a given market segment what they need (or want) more effectively than your competition can do so! If you cannot put together a program targeting a certain market segment’s needs in a manner superior to your competition, then it is oftentimes a wise decision to consider dropping that particular product line and putting your efforts into a different area where you can stand apart! The door and window company that tries to be everything to everybody will soon find that it cannot reach the volumes necessary to make a decent profit margin while funding efforts across such a broad spectrum of the marketplace. This is where the expression “Jack of All Trades and Master at None” originated.

With the-International Builders’Show coming up soon (January 22-24th) it will be interesting to see what level of innovation exists in the marketplace given the extremely competitive market conditions in which we are operating. Will door and window fabricators step up?

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4 comments
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  1. I would be interested to see what the writer suggests as well as window companies. In my world, advertising that I see, includes bogus sales, and everyone is the best of the best.

    Some even add up the years each owner has been in the window business, as if the total of those years is better than the individual’s numbers. But, just because a company has been around for a long time, doesn’t necessarily equate to the quality of their offerings. I know some companies that shouldn’t be allowed to sell products and they have been around for many years. It is a mystery to me that they can survive their errors.

    Honest businesses with real credentials have higher overheads and as such have difficulty being the low bidder. I learned a long time ago that consumers looking for the lowest price have friends and relatives that are like minded. Similarly, discerning consumers have friends and relatives who are like minded as well. My company tries to attract discerning consumers, but all the advertising gibberish out there has us sharpening our pencils and justifying our quality. I have no problem justifying our position, but sometimes and too many times, the consumer buys from the hypsters and they and we lose.

    I would be interested to see any solutions to the above scenario.

  2. Great comments Stephen!
    I think much of the answer comes in the form of continuous sales training. Advertising will get you leads but it is the sales staff that ultimately wins the sale. Investment in regulary scheduled training session with your staff can really pay dividends. Discuss with them the hype and false claims that you are seeing out in the field and how they can squash them. In the end, consumers respond in a positive manner to the truth and the dividends come in the form of orders. This is one of the major reasons that the NFRC was formed so that a uniform window rating and labeling procedure could be established, therefore making deceptive claims more difficult. Still, as you indicate, this still exists. Another great tool is a reference list and many satisfied customers are happy to serve as a positive reference. Satisfied customers can often be your strongest sales pitch as word of mouth can be a very powerful form of advertisement. In the long run, a postive reputation will establish your company as a leader in the industry and even price conscious consumers will attempt to get their best deal from a leading provider of windows and doors. Good luck out there!

  3. There is no doubt that sales training is a part of the equation. My sales staff knows more about the windows we sell than the people we buy from. Furthermore, my sales staff has extensive construction knowledge and for replacement projects, they can practically see through the plaster or drywall with that knowledge. Sometimes a half inch can be the difference between custom sizing and standard sizing.

    Too often, contractors call us with sizes for a quote and we can usually tell if they have sizing knowledge or not and then we try to get real numbers, or we offer to remeasure with them in attendance.

    Where we have been falling short is new business in the residential replacement segment. Our repeats, referrals, and recurring business are outstanding. In this economy we have struggled to find the best ROI on advertising. I hate false coupons and false sales. Seemingly we may have to defer to this consumer mind set. Everyone likes a sale.

    Our goal is to have happy customers via quality products etc etc, but getting those discerning customers to call has been the biggest challenge in the past 3 years or so. We have that proverbial mousetrap that consumers don’t seem to understand in our advertising. It’s possible that they view the advertising of our credentials as the “high price” guys and don’t realize that quality and longevity come with buying power too.

    What has worked in the past is not working now. The multitude of internet options for advertising is mind boggling. There is Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, search engine optimization and third party optimization and so on. Some are free but most cost money and each one is the “best” of the best. How does anyone filter through this barage of marketing venues? All of a sudden businesses are facing the same thing that consumers face when trying to buy a service. Is that a bad joke or what?

  4. The above article is very interesting, we face the same thing as a small window manufacturer, and also as a company that installs close to 80% of what we sell.

    The comment that Mr. Roth made “Honest businesses with real credentials have higher overheads and as such have difficulty being the low bidder.” hit the proverbial “nail on the head”. This factor alone is a huge thing in our business, when times get a little tough you have John Doe working out of the back of his pickup truck, selling and installing a cheap window because he can’t stay busy anywhere else.

    Advertising, what really works the best..?? I don’t know, we have tried a lot of different things, as well as the standard newspaper, but have found that word of mouth still works best, at least in our area. And that, only comes from taking care of our customers, in other words, SERVICE….

    The comment Mr. Plavecksy made about innovation, I believe is right on. How do we tell our customers about the latest Energy Star regs that will be put into affect ? And how those guidelines will have an impact on the cost of manufacturer, ie; retesting, redesigning, ect. which in turn will drive the finished product up.??

    Keep up the good articles, I enjoy reading about them, and gaining a new perspective.

    Final thought; innovation is great, a quality product is important, fair pricing is a given, but at the end of the day, SERVICE reigns supreme. ( at least in my book ) :-)

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