On Display

October 8, 2013
SPECIAL FEATURES | Close-Ups
    
A Showroom that Sells

EXCELLENCE IN RETAIL STRATEGY

 

Agoura Sash & Door

Westlake Village, Calif.

  
 Agoura Sash & Door owners and brothers Dan and Don Smith began a showroom-centric company to serve Southern California consumers, builders, contractors and architects.

In many respects, Agoura Sash & Door’s showroom is the center of its universe. One of the main reasons the company was founded is because brothers Dan and Don Smith were finish carpenters thriving in Southern California in the early 1980s, when they recognized a need in their area for a building materials supplier that offered customers the ability to try out products before purchasing. “They were finish carpenters by trade, doing high-end homes,” says Kerry Smith, Don Smith’s wife and one of the managers of the company. “They started out of a need to have a set of suppliers they could go to, and to have a small showroom so builders could come in and touch and feel the products they were going to get.”

From humble beginnings, the company has grown to occupy an 18,000-square-foot facility that includes a showroom, millwork shop, offices, and a shipping and receiving department. “Our 10,000-square-foot showroom allows our customers to visualize how their project will look when completed,” Smith says. “We have a great, large space. We’re always tweaking it—looking at how do we fit this product or that product in here without making it too overwhelming.”

Agoura, based in Westlake Village, Calif., considers itself a partner to its clients, serving a mixture of contractors, builders’ customers, architects’ customers and homeowners. “Sometimes on the high end, there might be a designer involved or a builder might be really involved,” Smith says. “If it’s a remodel or replacement job, it’s just the contractor, us and the homeowner. In any scenario, it’s a partnership. The ASD showroom is clearly used as a design center in many cases.”

Drawing on decades worth of experience and a seasoned sales staff, Agoura’s owners understand that simply having a showroom is not enough to earn a long-standing reputation as being among the best. Helping customers navigate the showroom is a commitment to education and service around which the entire company structure must be built, Smith explains. “The key to success for our business is expertise when working with customers of all types,” she notes. “It is especially important when working with homeowners. These customers today have researched the Internet, shopped around, and are savvy about getting the best deal possible. However, it is extremely important that our sales professionals know all the products and the customer’s situation to be able to refer the correct product for the solution.”

“Agoura has one of the largest and most organized showrooms in the Southern California market,” says George Guynes, sales manager, Milgard Windows and Doors. “In addition to having a wide variety of products from the top manufacturers in the industry, they also have a very professional, knowledgeable staff to assist customers in selecting the right product for their projects.”

Center Stage

Over the years Smith says Agoura’s retail presence has grown to mirror the local customer base. “We have evolved with the industry itself,” she says. “We started with a simple product line and the business has since evolved as the housing development has evolved. We bring in products that we feel architects expect and customers want.”

Today, Agoura represents a broad product line that includes Milgard, Marvin, Kolbe & Kolbe, Fleetwood, Andersen and Eagle, Windsor, AG Millworks, Jeld-Wen, Emtek, Baldwin, and many more. In addition to windows, doors and hardware, the dealer also offers hinges, commercial frames and doors, and installation products. “Over the years, we have developed excellent relationships with the top vendors in our industry,” Smith says. “We work closely with our vendor partners to ensure we carry the best and most current product line.”

Having a vast product offering is essential for Southern California clients, Smith notes. “You can’t please everyone with one product here,” she notes. “We have beach communities with special needs, high-end new homes, and we have the retrofit market, which is a large part of the market, and there are only a couple of vendors that provide a pure replacement offering.” Still, as the Agoura product line has expanded over time, the owners are careful to choose products that will stand the test of time. “We have the key, core manufacturers [in the industry],” Smith says. “We know they’re going to stand behind the product. We’re not selling something to the customer that’s going to break in a couple of years.”

The Experience

  
 With a vast display of full-size products, Agoura’s showroom allows customers to know exactly what they’re getting before they make the commitment to buy.

Agoura’s showroom is located just off of the 101 Freeway near Thousand Oaks, in the notable community of Westlake Village. The facility is a stand-alone building with ample parking, clear signage, and a location that’s easy to find. “We have a large walk-in and referral customer base that keeps our sales people busy throughout the day.” The retail strategy is to showcase as many actual product displays as possible, giving customers the ability to compare various options and visualize the end result of their home improvement projects.

The showroom is staffed with highly trained sales professionals to help consumers navigate the extensive product offerings. Even when homeowners visit with builders, contractors, and other design professionals, Smith notes that the maze of full-size displays can be intimidating without a properly trained tour guide. “There’s always people on the floor to help with walkins,” she says. “It can be a little overwhelming. We don’t want to push people or come across too strong, but we get a salesperson to help them and answer their questions. We find out what they’re looking for and point them in the right direction.” This guidance can only come with educated salespeople, Smith adds. Untrained hourly employees would undermine the consultative model Agoura intends with its showroom strategy.

“Agoura Sash & Door is pleased to have 10 qualified inside and outside sales professionals, as well as seasoned millwork estimators on staff,” she says. “Several of our top sales professionals have been with ASD for more than eight years, [and] all of them have more than 15 years of window and door or construction knowledge. Don and Dan, as owners, are always available to work with sales staff and their clients if needed for technical installation or product questions. Together, the team has extensive knowledge to ensure the customer is fully informed of making the right decision for their project.”

In addition to helping customers who already have projects underway, Agoura teams up with one of its manufacturers, Milgard, to host regular replacement window clinics to educate and build relationships with potential clients. “Replacement windows in our region account for more than 25 percent of overall window sales to the consumer,” Smith explains. “It is also a confusing investment for homeowners. Due to this, we host a friendly, casual clinic for customers to learn what it means to ‘retro-fit’ windows in the home and what products are used.”

These clinics introduce consumers to Agoura’s team of certified installers and helps them understand the entire process, Smith says. “It takes the guesswork out of the customer’s mind when they hire a contractor to come into their home.” The company also offers an additional discount toward customers’ window purchases when they attend the clinic, further supporting the notion that a fully informed consumer makes for a satisfied consumer. “Customers are encouraged to provide ASD reviews on how we performed by giving us reviews on social media, Google, and vendor sites,” Smith says. “We track this very closely and ensure that we are constantly improving and ensuring the customers are extremely satisfied and want to refer ASD to others.”

“They are well equipped to handle anything from small residential remodels to large multi-family apartment or condo buildings,” says Milgard’s Guynes. “Agoura invites manufacturers like Milgard into their showroom to conduct clinics designed to teach homeowners and contractors about proper window and door installation techniques.”

Targeted Marketing

  
 Agoura’s marketing efforts encourage customers to visit the showroom, and seasoned sales professionals are prepared to help visitors no matter what their home improvement needs might be.

The Agoura leadership knows that the showroom can only pack a powerful punch when consumers continue to walk in the door. “Even though ASD has achieved a very high customer referral base, we have invested every year to achieve success with marketing, branding and overall reach to customers,” Smith says.

Agoura is disciplined about tracking the money it spends on marketing and it works with manufacturers’ co-op funds to stretch every dollar. The company’s marketing efforts promote brand recognition and aim to keep Agoura top-of-mind among Southern California homeowners, but the primary objective is to drive traffic to the dealer’s retail location. “We have spent most of our investments … on driving leads through the website and to our retail location,” Smith notes.

From years of experience, the Agoura team knows that its showroom is a highly effective closing tool. “Once a customer comes into the showroom, we have a better chance of making a sale,” Smith says, adding that homeowners feel more comfortable making a significant purchase when they are clear about what their money is paying for.

Agoura has a well-rounded marketing effort that includes traditional print and radio advertising, prominent billboard placements, and a healthy blend of new media. The company was one of the first dealers in its area with a strong website presence, and it leverages the power of search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and social media platforms.

Still, while the company would never forego its solid marketing strategy, Smith points out that some of the dealer’s strongest marketing efforts happen when clients walk in the front door. No matter what the customer, or potential customer, is seeking, the Agoura team is trained to handle each request as if it’s the biggest sale of the year. “If a guy comes in with some weatherstripping and he wants to match it, we do whatever we can to help,” Smith says. “You just never know. Maybe he’s remodeling a house, or working on a new house. You don’t know what the situation is. That customer—you just never know what he’s working on. If he has a good experience, he’ll remember that.”