While waiting in a high-rise conference room recently, I did my habitual inspection of the windows in the room and those of the other buildings across the street. Looking out, I noticed a spider web like none that I’ve ever seen. The owner and creator of the web was a creature that we all must emulate in the door and window industry. This was the first time I’d ever seen a spider web that was truly standing room only. Every inch of every strand of that web was occupied by an insect from a cloud of bugs swirling around outside the window. Lucky spider, I thought. Then I realized, the spider could have spun his web anywhere, but he chose to set up shop where the customers were already swirling. Smart spider.

Compare this spider to door and window dealers who, for example, persist in utilizing print or TV advertising, despite the fact valuable customers may be swirling around another medium. This is not to say that traditional means of advertising are wrong but the entire question deserves a careful, ongoing assessment. Are we building enough webs where the customers are today and where they will be tomorrow? Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Angie’s List, Yelp and a series of private consumer products blogs are a platform through which most companies will need to access customers in the future. We see more and more companies referring to these sites in their advertising, on their websites and even in signature lines on emails that they send. No one yet seems to have emerged with an unbeatable plan for making sure that they are capturing more than their expected share of the next generation of customers. By way of full disclosure, how many of the websites above am I currently using? None. But I’m a self-classified late adopter of technology. That means that on the innovation diffusion curve, about two-thirds of society will be taking advantage of those websites before I do. No one can afford to cater only to the late adopters, so these social media sites must be addressed.

A final recommendation in this area would be that the manufacturer who can help the most door and window dealers and distributors get in touch with the most end consumers through new and traditional media will be the big winner in the years ahead. Manufacturers typically have more professionalized sales and marketing teams and greater resources to design best in class marketing programs of all types. If you can invite your distributor customers into a turnkey media solution that you create and share with them, your web will be standing room only, too.

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