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May - June 2003

The Cutting Edge

Push-Pull Marketing
Selling the Benefits of Energy-Efficient Technology
by Jim Plavecsky

Many window manufacturers are incorporating energy-efficient window technologies such as low-E glass, infrared-reflecting films, warm-edge technology and argon/krypton gas into their windows. When you talk to the production people within the manufacturing facility, they often say they are manufacturing whatever the market is demanding. 

The most marketing-savvy window companies, however, are not merely leaving it up to the consumer to request energy-efficient technologies. Instead they are promoting the use of these components and selling them as premium systems or upgrades and enjoying greater levels of profitability in the process. After all, nobody likes to sell windows based on price alone. These are the least profitable deals. The most profitable window companies are selling products based upon value, and this means convincing the consumer to purchase the higher-performing products at a higher price.

Pulling Your Message 
Effective marketing campaigns are conducted both with a push and a pull. The pulling is done by planting seeds in the marketplace that will serve to generate interest at the consumer level in the types of products that the window manufacturer has available. This is what public relations is all about. Write articles that will go into industry trade magazines or the home-improvement section of the Sunday newspaper or participate at home improvement shows. These are relatively inexpensive ways to display and demonstrate the energy-efficient features of advanced window systems to a large number of pre-qualified prospects. 

“How are they pre-qualified?” you might ask. Just by the fact that someone is at a home improvement show means that they are at least interested in improving the quality of living in their home environments. Advertisements also are effective, but only if placed in the right magazines that reach the types of target audiences that would be interested in this type of message. Also, ads must be visually appealing and catchy enough to cause someone other than a competitor to want to stop on that page and actually take the time to read and absorb the intended message. Wordy ads are probably not going to be as effective as visually appealing ads that, with as few words as possible, create a big impact.

Time to Push 
Now, for the push part of our equation. This is where window companies can enjoy a huge return on a rather modest investment, which involves training the sales staff, giving them the best selling tools and putting motivational plans in place that reward profitability instead of just sales dollars. Training is essential. It is surprising how many window manufacturers are using low-E glass, warm-edge technology and argon in order to meet a certain energy code, but are not taking advantage of this on the sales and marketing side of the business. A modest investment in terms of training the sales staff to sell value can reap huge dividends in terms of greater market penetration and profitability. 

Often, the window component suppliers are ready, willing and able to help in this regard, so it is foolish not to take advantage of their expertise. Training seminars, conducted by window manufacturers with the assistance of the window component suppliers, are a great way to educate and motivate the sales team to go out and sell value as opposed to price. This is what author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” Steven Covey would call, “sharpening the saw.” Many window salespeople know the lingo, but do they really understand how a low-E coating works in winter versus summer or how a warm-edge spacer not only lowers U-values, but also impedes the build-up of condensation that often occurs on the window edge? 

When conducting these training programs, it is also very important to employ what window salespeople like to call the KISS principle (“keeping it simple for the layman”). Window salespeople don’t have all day to talk about each individual component, so encourage your component supplier to help by supplying sales tools that are visually appealing and succinct as opposed to long engineering dissertations.

Invest In Demos
Use of demo kits such as this can be a great selling tool. Also, invest in demo kits. Today’s average consumer is looking for high-tech products. Often, effective demonstrations are conducted in a showroom, but the majority of sales presentations are given within the home or office. Arm your salespeople with the best means to demonstrate the benefits of low-E glass, warm-edge spacers and argon.

Affordable demo kits are available with digital meters that measure solar-energy transmission. These can be used to perform demonstrations with the sun directly or used in conjunction with an infrared heat lamp to compare the solar transmission properties of various glass packages. Warm-edge properties of various spacers can be compared simply by placing them in a glass of ice water and letting the homeowner see how some are cold to the touch (conducting heat into the ice water) while others are warm. The homeowner easily can understand how the same thing can happen when these different spacers are built into the window, and thus the concept of warm-edge technology extremely simple for the consumer to understand and appreciate.

Reward Salespeople
Finally, sales reward programs that compensate salespeople not only for growing sales, but also for generating higher levels of profitability will encourage them to sell the value-added benefits that these high-performance products bring to the table.

Window companies that leverage their business with effective push-pull marketing campaigns to promote the use of energy-efficient products will benefit from increased market penetration and higher levels of profitability. In turn, consumers will benefit with products offering energy savings and enhanced creature comforts that they will enjoy for years to come. Now, that is what Covey would call a “win-win!” 

Jim Plavecsky is the owner of Windowtech Sales Inc., a sales and consulting firm specializing in the window and door industry. 


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