In a world where Wikipedia defines everything, MySpace hosts everyone and YouTube videos are everywhere, glass companies must look beyond traditional print marketing techniques to effectively reach consumers.
“Seventy-three percent of adults are online. And 59 percent say they start online when looking for local listings,” said Scott Orth, director of Internet marketing strategies for GTS Services LLC in Portland, Ore. Orth spoke Sept. 12 at GlassBuild America: The Glass, Window and Door Expo in Atlanta. “If you’re using your entire marketing budget in the Yellow Pages, you’re losing two-thirds of your audience.”
Online shoppers cross all age groups, despite common misconceptions that Baby Boomers aren’t on the Web, Orth said. “The older generation has strikingly high numbers of people who buy online,” he reported.
For the glass industry, 8 million online searches occur annually—3.5 million for commercial and residential flat glass.
Glass companies, however, have not kept pace with online consumers. In the Sept. 25 e-glass poll, 63 percent of industry respondents said they spend most of their marketing dollars on print advertising and promotions. About 12 percent said online, and less than 2 percent said television.
“Most glass shops still rely on the Yellow Pages and word of mouth; that’s where their marketing comes from,” says Bill Evans, president of Evans Glass Co. in Nashville. “We are experts in our industry, but in nothing else. So, our marketing hasn’t really changed in the last 10 years.”
Investments in more traditional media marketing aren’t as powerful without a Web component, according to a consumer study by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association in Washington, D.C., and BigResearch of Worthington, Ohio. In the study, released in March, roughly half of the 15,000 consumers surveyed said they are prompted by TV, magazine and newspaper ads to shop or research online.
“When it comes to advertising, retailers always need to be careful not to put all of their eggs in one basket,” said Mike Gatti, executive director of RAMA, in a March 14 release. “While search-engine marketing continues to be a popular strategy, retailers should not lose sight of traditional advertising channels to promote products and services.”
Internet marketing strategies include developing an effective Web site, creating the best search terms, getting on local Internet listings and establishing Web advertising.
Tim Czechowski, president of Artwork in Architectural Glass in Newport Beach, Calif., says Web development is his company’s top marketing priority.
Almost all of AAG’s budget goes to online marketing, he says. “Online advertising—how we build our Web site and keywords—that’s far and away the most time and effort we put into marketing,” Czechowski says.
Effective keywords are critical, as more and more customers use search engines to find information about a product rather than going to a specific source. “The Web is where everyone is going first. If you’re an architect looking for a product, you go right to a search window and type in whatever you need,” Czechowski says. The right keywords ensure that a company appears higher up in the search results.
Google, Yahoo, Ask, MSN and other search engines also provide advertising opportunities where a brief text ad will appear next to relevant search results. Orth recommended Google’s advertising campaign, as it has the most searches. Visit https://adwords.google.com for more information.
Instead of just appearing in the print Yellow Pages, companies should also pay to appear on local online listings through sites such as Google, Yahoo and YellowPages.com.
As far as Web site design, Orth said companies need to focus on interactivity. Once customers get to a site, they need reasons to stay.
Web marketing goes far beyond a home page. A search for “glass shower door” on YouTube results in videos of professional glass shower enclosure installations and commercials for glass and hardware manufacturers.
Although the same search also results in non-industry related videos, such as a person running through a glass shower door, the widespread use of YouTube has some glass company executives working the site into their marketing strategies.
“[YouTube] videos help get the word out,” says Aric Wilson, co-owner of Wilson Glass Co. in Berkeley, Calif. Wilson Glass, a distributor of do-it-yourself glass shower door components, has posted instructional videos on YouTube.
“We want to have as much information for people as possible. A lot of times, people call in with questions, and it’s much easier to provide thorough instructions on video, rather than just on the phone,” Wilson says. “[The videos] also show that we know what we’re doing.”
Wilson says he tries to make videos and post them on YouTube whenever he gets an influx of questions about one specific topic or task. So far, he has posted two videos on frameless shower door installation.
Other companies are posting marketing materials such as television advertisements on YouTube. The “glass shower door” search resulted in promotional videos from Custom Hardware Manufacturing Inc. of Keokuk, Iowa, and Super Glass of Campbell, Calif.
David Fitchett, president of Carolina Glass & Mirror of Garner, N.C., says companies need to consider new ways to target this new customer base. “We are starting to consider these unconventional methods to communicate about our products and our company,” he says.
While Fitchett says YouTube isn’t ideal for the commercial market yet, it does help glass companies reach homeowners directly.
“The videos could help develop a rapport with new homebuyers or remodelers. There are more and more people in that demographic that are using YouTube,” he says.
Getting on TV
TV advertising still remains one of the most effective ways to reach consumers, especially for glass shops, Evans says. “We have grown exponentially since we started advertising,” he says. “I can tell exactly when an ad airs, because we’ll get calls within 10 or 15 minutes, no matter what time of day.”
Evans Glass Co. has aired about 15 advertisements since it started a TV marketing campaign in 2003. Since then, it has nearly tripled its business. “We started airing ads with the idea that we’d give it nine to 12 months, investing $7,400 a month,” Evans says. “We started breaking even at five months, were profitable at 10 months and the rest has been history.”
One reason for the success is a more educated public. “Most people don’t know what a glass company does. If they want a table top, they think they have to settle for what Pier One has. If they want a shower door, they go to Home Depot and think that’s all they can get,” Evans says. “We spent two years [in our advertising campaign] educating the public. … The impact has been huge.”
The educational portion of the ads benefits the entire industry; it also gives Evans Glass Co. recognition and credibility, Evans says.
More small-screen hits
Glass companies also look to home decorating and design television shows to market their products to the mass public.
Programs such as “Martha Stewart Living,” “Designing Spaces” and “Extreme Home Makeover” have run segments about glass flooring, decorative glass innovations and the latest glass bath enclosure products, giving companies access to tens of thousands of households nationwide. A current segment on The TLC network’s Designing Spaces features glass shower enclosures with the Shower Guard product from Guardian Industries of Auburn Hills, Mich., as well as the showroom of ShowerGuard glass dealer Mr. Shower Door, Norwalk, Conn.
Earnest Thompson, director of Guardian marketing and brand management, says marketing techniques for glass companies have evolved along with technology changes. Internet advertising and TV spots now join word-of-mouth and Yellow Page ads.
Thompson says companies aren’t choosing between the old marketing tools and the new. Rather, managers are developing integrated marketing approaches to reach more players in the process.
“Take ShowerGuard: A homeowner needs to know that the technology helps them so they can ask at the kitchen and bath shop. The shop needs to be up to speed to provide the best solutions to its customer.
Likewise, the fabricator needs to know in order to sell a system to the shop. Throw in the interior designer, contractor, builder, etc., and you can see the need to broaden the marketing mix,” Thompson says.
Thompson doesn’t expect Guardian to see immediate sales increases after TV segments air, but the program gives the company and its brands name recognition that can lead to sales.
“We expect to get sales because we’ll arm our sales force with a DVD of the program as a sales tool. Customers perk up when they hear the phrase, ‘As seen on TV,’ because it gets all the way down the value chain and everybody sees an increase in awareness of a product,” Thompson says.
Tom Whitaker, president of Mr. Shower Door, says the TV segment also gives a company credibility.
“We’re not a national company, but I expect [the show] to make a difference in our 12 stores,” Whitaker says. “There is an added value benefit of being on TV. It gives us credibility and makes us more recognizable.”
Czechowski says the spots also provide companies with lasting marketing tools. Shows rerun for several years, and companies can use the segments as professional video marketing tools on their Web sites.
AAG has been featured in TV spots on two HGTV network programs.
Both videos are posted on the company’s Web site. “Being on those shows provides us with documentation to show on our Web site. Customers can see both spots,” Czech-owski says. “It helps us have a professional presentation of our products.”
Several decorating and design shows contact companies directly to become involved on the show. Others can be contacted by company marketing departments.
Getting outside help
For glass companies, navigating various media and finding the best balance across platforms becomes a tough task, making outside help critical, Fitchett says.
“It is hard to run a business and devote all the time that’s needed to learn everything about marketing. So, I count on others to advise me,” Fitchett says. “I still keep my hand on it and give the final decision on what I like and don’t like, but it expedites the process.”
Evans also seeks those with experience. “Just like I want people to hire [Evans Glass Co.] for our expertise, I want to go to someone in marketing for theirs,” he says. “I don’t know how to write or produce an ad, negotiate with TV stations or know how to reach my buyers. … It’s hugely important to rely on someone outside.”
Director of Internet marketing strategies
GTS Services LLC
Evans Glass Co.
Artwork in Architectural Glass
Newport Beach, Calif.
Wilson Glass Co.
Carolina Glass & Mirror Garner, N.C.
Director of marketing and brand management
Auburn Hills, Mich.
Mr. Shower Door