May 5th, 2022
Three “M” s that will Define Your Company’s Future
The first M is Marketing. Over the many years that I have been in the fenestration industry, I have seen a diminishing emphasis on marketing. When I first became involved in the late 80s, marketing was a big thing. A great deal of emphasis was placed on creating differentiation between a company’s product line vs the competition. These unique features were described in advertising, colorful brochures and most importantly during sales presentations to consumers. Window companies and their dealers hosted annual sales meetings highlighting new products, unique features and benefits, discussed sales strategies and compared notes on the competition. I’m not saying that marketing today is nonexistent. It’s just not taken as seriously. Back then, it was like religion. I even remember companies embracing the topic of marketing warfare. Copies of the book written by Al Ries and Jack Trout were passed out as part of a mandatory read list. Marketing Warfare is still available on Amazon. It’s about using military principles to develop and execute marketing strategies. Indeed marketing was considered serious business. Then came labeling.
The National Fenestration Rating Council was established and created a standard way to rate windows for thermal performance, light transmission, air infiltration and even condensation resistance. Rigorous test methods, certification testing and labeling programs were developed to provide the consumer with everything he or she would need to compare different windows. The Energy Star program came along to establish guidelines that set the bar for what was considered an energy efficient product. The window either makes the grade and is dubbed Energy Star or it doesn’t. The way it panned out was that window and fabricators jumped through hoops such that nearly all products qualified. The result is that marketing took a back seat to certification.
Well Energy Star 7.0 will go into effect sometime in 2023 and will be much harder to meet. The U-factor requirements were lowered for all climate zones and the SHGC requirements were lowered in the South-Central and Southern Zones. A minimum SHGC was established for the Northern Zone. The new U-factor numbers are quite a bit lower with the northern zone at 0.22. So many window systems will no longer qualify. This means one thing. In order to catch the eye of the consumer, your non-Energy Star rated windows are going to have to have some other feature or benefit to get noticed, and low price is not where you want to go here! So, it will be time to get back to more intense marketing in order to develop and point out other features of your window or door system that may be important to potential customers.
First, even if you do not meet Energy Star, you can still tout some decent level of thermal performance and additionally focus upon other features that your window brings to the table. Perhaps you use a durable spacer-sealant combination that provides a longer service life for the insulating glass unit. Service life and durability are factors that are extremely important to consumers. Perhaps your window does not meet Energy Star 7.0 but because of the methods, machinery and materials used in your company, it is a much more durable window system enabling you to offer a better warranty vs your competition. I have seen window companies offering lifetime warranties and some are even transferable. Warranty is very important to consumers, especially given the fact that it costs so much to replace windows and doors, and prices are rising even higher due to inflation. No one wants to spend money to replace windows only to have to do it again or pay for repairs in a few years. There is also condensation resistance to talk about. Just because a window unit meets Energy Star does not mean that it has the best condensation resistance. This is especially true with some of the 4th surface low-E coatings. Safety is another crucial factor. This could be related to differences in the type of glass used or also due to the type of hardware employed in the window or door system.
I, for one, believe that laminated glass can be marketed effectively in window systems to provide improved safety and burglar resistance as well as superior sound deadening qualities, blocking out unwanted noise such as planes, trains, automobiles, lawn mowers and barking dogs. Then there is hardware. Some companies like to put bare bones hardware in their window systems and will choose a different lock to save a nickel. How about using some innovative locks and other hardware to provide superior safety and burglar resistance? Next there is the area of electronics and automatic shading. Electronics allows the development of smart windows and integration with home security or ventilation control systems. There are so many possibilities. I think the next ten years is going to see the window and door industry developing great innovations in these areas.
One thing is for certain. This crazy demand we are seeing in our industry will not last forever. Rising interest rates and inflation will slow things down. The rising cost of gasoline is taking a serious bite out of the average homeowner’s disposable income. Lack of affordable and reliable labor compounded by supply chain issues as well as increased logistical costs are taking their toll on the affordability factor for the average window and door. This means one thing – the need for a sound marketing strategy will once again come into the limelight. And remember, marketing is not just advertising. It is the core strategy devised by your company leaders that affects every aspect of your company – it defines your target markets, product development, price points, manufacturing methods, corporate culture, customer service, sales training and advertising. Marketing is like the hub with spokes that reach out to each key section of the wheel making the whole wheel strong and ready to roll fast. So, it’s time to increase the emphasis on marketing so that when things slow down your company can keep rolling fast!
Well, we never got to the other two “M”s, but those are coming in future blogs. Just to give you a preview, they are Machinery and Manpower. These other two “M” s will also be critical to your window and door company’s future. They will of course tie right back to your Marketing Strategy, the one M that controls it all.