Keeping Up with the New World of Marketing

John G. Swanson
July 16, 2012
COLUMN : Opening Remarks | Sales & Marketing

New demands and new materials mean constant change in the way windows and doors are made. The way we install our products has also changed in recent years. But the most rapid change we are seeing in the industry these days is probably coming in how we sell windows and doors.

The internet has changed all our lives and today, it’s rapidly changing how we interact with customers and potential customers. We don’t just put ads in the Yellow Pages or on the local radio station, we send out Tweets and post project photos on Facebook. Who heard of Pinterest last year? Who knows what will be adding to the mix next year?

With this issue, we look at how companies in the industry are grappling with the rise of social media. What I find most interesting about this topic is that no one is really an expert. No one claims to have the definitive strategy for using Facebook, for example. Even experienced window and door industry marketers will admit that they are “trying this” or “experimenting with that.”

For some, it’s difficult even to define goals. “We are tweeting a couple times a day, but we’re not sure why,” a window manufacturer marketing executives once confessed to me. I more than sympathize. We often feel that way at Window & Door.

I certainly don’t claim expertise on the subject of social media. In fact, growing up in a print media world, I’m probably too much of a skeptic on all things online. There’s no doubt, however, that we’re all heading in that direction.

But the exact route is uncertain. A few years ago, investors were lining up to buy Digg, a social media site, for $100 million or more. It shut down in July. Rupert Murdoch paid millions for MySpace only to see Facebook make it virtually worthless a year or two later.

I take some comfort in the uncertainty that’s out there in the online world. People dedicating their careers to social media don't get it right a lot, so it's not so bad for those of us with a regular full-time job to miss the ball occasionally. I know we may not be at the cutting edge with our websites. We were late to the game in setting up a Facebook page and we haven’t had the good fortune to go viral. But web traffic slowly keeps building, as do our number of “likes” and “followers.”

And it’s likely that the game will change again. Even if we fall behind, we can catch up during the next round. The dealer that doesn't have a website or Facebook page could leapfrog the competition when the next social media platform rises. And those new platforms will undoubtedly emerge.

Young people coming into the workforce now don’t read newspapers and/or magazines like previous generations. They don’t even listen to the radio or watch television in the same way. It’s only a matter of time before these same people become the primary buyers of windows and doors. I'm a skeptic, but I am certain that social media—whatever form it may take—is going to be a key element in most marketing strategies.

The good news is that you can dabble before you dive in. But eventually, you are likely to have to dive in.  And many companies will determine that social media requires a real investment in resources. We may all may end up spending more time and money on "free" social media than we do on traditional marketing.

So I'll conclude with a caveat.  No matter what means we use to communicate, we can't forget the message. What is your brand? How do you want to define your company or differentiate yourself in the minds of your customers?  A company won't find much success in traditional media or social media without good answers to those questions.