Carving a Niche
By Donna Wells
Hello and welcome back to “Ask the Expert.” I hope you have been enjoying
my articles as much as I have enjoyed writing them. I appreciate those
of you who have taken the time to send in questions and I hope my perspective
on business and the window film industry has enlightened you.
Today’s question is from someone who is relatively new to the industry:
“How do you find your niche in the window film industry?”
Excellent question. Our industry has many niches to choose from and deciding
which path to follow can be confusing and cumbersome. Though I cannot
decide for you which path is the correct one, let me help steer you through
some of the curves within our industry.
Know Your Business
First you have to decide whether you want to work with automotive professionals
or with homeowners, contractors and architects. The answer to this
question is where your niche begins.
Most people enter through the automotive venue. Let’s face it, for a few
hundred dollars you can own your very own automotive window film company.
Assuming automotive is the way you choose to go, now you have to decide
how you can make a living as an automotive window film company. Understanding
your market is the key factor in any niche. You will want to join organizations
that highlight small businesses and the automotive industry in particular.
Your local Better Business Bureau, Tops in Professional Sales Leads Groups,
the International Window Film Association and the Specialty Equipment
Market Association (SEMA) are excellent choices. As you become involved
with groups such as these you will be able to meet other individuals who
share your same interests, allowing you to exchange business philosophies,
marketing strategies and gain insight into your niche.
“Keep in mind
that you don’t want to niche yourself into a pigeon hole. You want to
have some flexibility in order to accommodate what the public market is
looking for during various times of the year.”
Let’s say you want to go the other way and enter the window film industry
through the residential/ commercial (i.e., flat glass) niche of the market. This
will require a little more experience, education and finesse. For example,
in some states this niche of the market requires you to obtain a contractor’s
license, bonding and commercial insurance. Once all of the legal paperwork
is in place, you need to decide which niche of the flat glass market you
would like to specialize in. Whether it is residential or commercial,
these markets do have some overlap. You will again need to get involved
with various groups of individuals who share your same interests, such
as the American Institute of Architects, the American Society of Interior
Design, as well as local construction groups. All of these groups have
regional and national conventions as well as local monthly functions.
Don’t Niche Yourself
Keep in mind that you don’t want to niche yourself into a pigeon hole.
You want to have some flexibility in order to accommodate what the public
market is looking for during various times of the year. No matter how
much marketing you are doing, if your niche is too narrow your phone may
not ring and your door may not swing open.
One last note regarding SEMA. I have been attending the SEMA Show for
more than 20 years and have not been involved in automotive window film
sales for years. The reason I go (and recommend you go as well), is it
gives me the opportunity to connect with others from a multitude of industries,
which allows me to grow my business. Most window film manufactures attend
SEMA and attending will give you a chance to speak to middle and upper
management who you might not otherwise get a chance to meet. (Turn
to page 24 for a preview of just some of what you can expect to find
at this year’s SEMA show.)
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