One Dealer Carves
Out a Niche in Green Bay
Hear the words Green Bay and, to most Americans, familiar thoughts roll in: Brett Favre, Vince Lombardi and, of course, the frozen tundra of famed Lambeau Field. Yes, Green Bay is famous for its Packers and frigid temperatures. That’s why window film is one of the last things associated with the town. That’s for the sunnier places like Florida and California. Why would anyone in Titletown USA (a nickname given to Green Bay) need window film?
That’s a question, Nick Ferry, owner of Window Film Specialists in the Green Bay suburb of De Pere, Wis., gets a lot. And it’s one he doesn’t mind. If fact, Ferry wished more folks would ask him about film. That would give him more people to educate. As it is, Ferry still isn’t doing half bad. In four years, he’s built a diversified business that’s become one of the biggest film dealerships in the Green Bay area. His formula: educating locals about the benefits of film, even in the wintertime. It’s been a hard sell in some cases, but a diversified product line, an ambitious advertising campaign and a dogged determination to sell the benefits of film have helped.
“He’s a young guy, he’s energetic and he has a lot of great ideas,” said Tony Zak, a regional sales representative for Performance Films in Columbus, Ohio, which sells Llumar film to Ferry. “He’s the most progressive guy in the market.”
The Origins of a Business
“There was just too much glare,” Ferry said. “We couldn’t even eat. I looked at my fiancée and said, ‘Let’s have a go at it [starting a film business].’ I sold the restaurant owner on the film. We started going from there.”
“In the Southern states, [window film is] just so much more common,” Ferry said. “It has been around for so long. People don’t ask if they should tint, but which company they should go with. Our biggest weakness is the market that we’re in. The people here know what homebuilders do, they know what plumbers do, but they don’t know what a residential window tinter does.”
Zak sees many of the same challenges.
“Being in a colder climate, people don’t feel window film is a staple that it is in Arizona, Texas and Florida, where people feel the need for film every day,” Zak said. “In the colder climates, you have to educate the consumer. People need to see the benefits of that product. Things need to be spelled out for them.”
Educating consumers is the first step and most important step to obtaining customers, at least for Ferry.
His consumer education takes a lot of forms. For customers that come in off the street there’s the 500 square feet showroom with different windows filmed with different shades, film samples and product specification sheets.
“Our ads are more informational than just advertising,” Ferry said. “We want to explain the product and its benefits. A lot of people have never heard of window film for home or business.”
In fact, Ferry says most people don’t think they need added protection outside of what their windows offer.
The presence, popularity and some misconceptions about energy efficient windows, in fact, has proven to be the bane of Ferry’s professional existence.
“No glass will offer the shade protection, energy saving and shatter protection [as it would with] film. You can always improve glass with window film,” he said. “We can install a film that offers [additional] shade protection, fade reduction, and energy and heat performance. Any of these can be combined on film,” Ferry said, noting that in some cases, window film can help improve the aesthetics of the building, a window film aspect about which he has to educate many potential clients.
So, when Ferry meets customers face to face, he drives home the value of film.
“We can’t necessarily go out, measure, quote a price and give a sample,” Ferry said. “It’s mostly showing them that we can make the glass more efficient. We have to say, ‘This is the film and this is the warranty. It is going to be better than regular glass.’”
As with many other window film companies, however, one of the best sales outlets for him is the referral.
“Word of mouth is the most beneficial. We will apply film for customers in subdivisions and they will tell their neighbors, friends, and family members,” he said.
Even if people do know about film’s potential, Ferry has one other ace in the hole to sell it within Green Bay, where temperatures average 14 degrees Fahrenheit in January and 70 degrees Fahrenheit in July.
“A lot of people see the benefits in the summertime to reduce the heat but they don’t know the film can also warm the glass in the wintertime so that your heating isn’t escaping as much,” Ferry said. “On an estimate, I will bring an infrared thermometer. In the wintertime, a window will be in the shade. That window will be warmer with tint on it than a clear one in the sun.”
“There were three or four companies in the area that do flat glass and one or two that do automotive film,” Ferry said.
“Auto was definitely our big-ticket item in the beginning because there was a demand.”
“There was one tint company that did just the cars,” Ferry said. “They couldn’t make enough to stay in business.”
“As it grows in popularity and as we educate the public on the benefits of flat glass, that became a bigger percentage of our market,” Ferry said. “We knew the money would be in the flat glass if we could educate the customer on its benefits. We also knew we couldn’t focus on one aspect of film. We want to be diverse and offer film for people’s homes, businesses and automobiles.”
Ferry also dabbles in decorative film, but it’s not a huge portion of the business.
“We have machines to cut frosted and edge glass,” Ferry said. “You can do different scenes and designs on the glass. We can also do company logos.”
He doesn’t do security film, though.
“We didn’t really get into safety and security film because there wasn’t a market here for it,” Ferry said.
“In the wintertime it slows,” Ferry said. “For a month or two, we can’t tint flat glass because glass temperatures are too cold. That’s why we also do the cars. You try to bank your money and do as much as you can in the spring, summer and fall.”
Plus, people are just much more likely to call about solar issues in the summer.
“Most of residential is based off of the bright, intense glare and heat from the sun in the summertime,” Ferry said. “That’s where we get most of our flat glass calls. Most are for single-family houses.”
The calls have been coming in more this year since Ferry ramped up his advertising budget and has started receiving more referrals.
“The longer [we’re] in business, the more homes we do,” he said. “We do a lot of word of mouth. When we do one home, a neighbor or two will call. We get a lot of people that, once they find about the product and do their homes or businesses, they like to brag about it to other people, considering it’s kind of innovative and new for Northern states.”
“We would like to see at least dozen employees,” Ferry said. “I would like to do sales in excess of $2 million.”
“I would like to have slow growth,” Ferry said. “I don’t want to get huge overnight. Slow growth is better so that we can appropriately handle customers.”
While window film will never be as big as the Packers in Titletown, if Ferry can continue to educate customers and manage growth, it’s safe to say he could cut out a nice little niche in the frozen tundra. Zak thinks he’s well on his way.
“He’s doing all of the right things in the Green Bay market,” Zak said. “I think he’s going to get the lion’s share of that market. I’m excited for the future of Window Film Specialists.”
Les Shaver is a contributing editor to Window Film magazine.
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