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Philibuster: Image First – What impression is your facility making?

Good marketing starts at the front door.


July 3, 2019
By Phil Lewin

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Back in the 80’s, I often did a marketing seminar where I would start by holding up a small black cube for the audience to see. I would ask, “What is this?” Of course, there were attendees with a predictable sense of humour who would respond, “A black box.”

These are people of little imagination who I do not expect to succeed in marketing. Generally, the audience would politely wait for me to answer my own question.

And, after a pregnant wait, the answer would be, “Your business, devoid of any marketing.” In other words, everything you do has ramifications on your image or, as today’s millennials like to say, your brand. By everything, we must include a lot of things that might seem like small potatoes but can carry a big message.

Let’s start with your facility. Potential customers are probably visiting you. Certainly, if you have a showroom, this occurs on a regular basis. The location should be convenient for your customer base to access. Parking should be convenient and free. If you have a street retail location and parking is metered, put a change jar up front with a sign stating, “Thank you for your visit – please let us pay for your parking!” Yes, the cost is almost irrelevant, but the gesture says a ton. Shrubs and gardens around your entranceway should be manicured. No garbage on the ground, please. Make sure it’s safe to walk across your parking lot in winter. A lack of concern for your facility will always suggest that you will also lack concern for your customer’s premises.

The exterior of your building should be an effective billboard for your business. Passers-by should be able to tell what you do at a glance. You want to create an impression that says, “File the name and location of this company away for future reference.” In my early days in the window and door industry, I was cold-calling 30 to 40 dealer locations a day when on the road. In those days, you knew how many window sales people had been to that town within the last year by how many phone booths had phone books with the window section stripped out with a razor. This didn’t mean I made 30 to 40 calls. In many cases, as I cruised up to a location I didn’t even bother to get out of my car. Lack of signage, garbage piled at the side of the building among other items on my personal checklist convinced me the occupants were not the droids I was looking for.

OK, a potential customer walks in your door. The first 60 seconds may be critical to the opinion the potential customer has of your business. Recently I walked unannounced into the front door of a business and wandered around for over five minutes before I spotted a live human being. Oddly, my presence wasn’t of interest to that particular warm body and I had to actually stop someone in a hall to explain that I was looking to talk to someone about purchasing their products. Eventually someone claiming to be a manager came out to see me but was unable to answer any questions. I purchased elsewhere. Personally, I like to have anyone who walks through the door approached quickly and immediately thanked for coming in. You don’t have to say, “What can I do for you?” That will follow from the visitor as you stand there smiling.

In your showroom, the question to ponder is, how much information do you want to provide as part of displays versus leaving it to a sales person’s discretion to talk about or not? Ideally, there are two goals the posted information should achieve. The first is, information should generally reinforce to the potential customer that they made the right decision by walking through your door and your establishment is a fine, upstanding member of the community. Typically, for as long as I can remember, thank-you letters from local charities and teams along with pictures of same have been fixtures in many showrooms. Awards and memberships in industry and community groups and associations do help establish your personality. The second is specific information that will help lead a visitor to asking more questions on the topic. In other words, it raises a topic without closing out the need for further detail in an interaction with your sales person. Now that the topic is raised and in the forefront of the visitor’s mind, they will likely raise the subject in conversation if it is important to them.


Phil Lewin is sales and marketing manager for GEM Windows. He’s been annoying people in the window industry since 1984.