New York Sash Owners are the Face of the Company

"The Home Improvement Couple" run their company on strong community, business principles
Christina Lewellen
October 1, 2009
FEATURE ARTICLE | Operations, Sales & Marketing, Close-Ups

Getting the Word Out

Excellence in Marketing

New York Sash

Whitesboro, N.Y.

Jill and Scot Hayes have branded themselves the "Home Improvement Couple," not only earning recognition for themselves in their community, but also creating a sense of trust in their company among homeowners.

Jill and Scot Hayes get a lot more recognition than most window and door dealers. They get noticed at the grocery store and the local pizza joint, and strangers approach them at their kids’ soccer games and when they go out to dinner. They don’t mind though. Even though the attention may slow them down on a quick trip through the store, it means that their marketing efforts are resonating with their local customer base.

Jill and Scot, second generation owners of New York Sash, a Whitesboro, N.Y., replacement dealership, have branded themselves the “Home Improvement Couple.” Everywhere they turn in their business, they see themselves—their picture is on the Web site, on all the promotional mailers and brochures, even on the sides of the company’s delivery trucks. So while this approach may solicit regular comments like, “Have you lost weight?” from people they haven't met before, it’s worth it to communicate that customers can trust the couple. “We decided to go down that path of really becoming the face of the company understanding that one of the most important factors in making a major decision for your home is trust,” Scot Hayes explains.

Central New York residents have also come to know the company because Jill Hayes joins them in their living rooms several times per week with a show she hosts called “CNY’s Open House.” What started as a desire to increase the company’s television advertising spots evolved into an opportunity to have Jill host a 30-minute home improvement show. The show runs on network and cable stations several times during the week and features a home improvement showcase of four or five companies per week, a community spotlight to highlight local charities and a real estate segment to explore available home listings. “What it’s not is a half-hour infomercial,” says Scot Hayes. “It is an educational program featuring these companies right here in Central New York. What everyone likes is that it’s a home improvement show about the companies you actually deal with, right here in the community.”

In fact, the show is so popular among local residents, having achieved top Neilsen ratings in certain time slots, that it has become a brand of its own in the last couple of years. “It has really given us the ability to get our brand into different places,” Scot Hayes explains. “Through the show, we’re able to put on our home show at a local mall. Instead of the New York Sash home show, which would have just been us, we had a CNY Open House home show, and got all the local vendors to participate.”

The branding effort and television show has made a significant impact on the company’s growth. As it rolled into its 20th anniversary this year, New York Sash was also celebrating the revenue it had generated from its revised marketing approach. “Since 2006, we’ve grown 20 percent, and that’s attributed to the television show and the rebranding.”

MARKETING EVOLUTION
Scott Hayes’ father started New York Sash in 1989, beginning the company by teaming up with a friend and working out of a garage. Scot joined the company a few years later and worked through every aspect of the business—installing, running the marketing department and phone room, doing sales and eventually moving into administration. He purchased the company from his father in 2000, the same year he was preparing to marry a co-worker who had joined the company in 1995—Jill. Today the company has 34 employees and offers a private label window line designed to offer energy efficiency during the cold New York winters. The dealer also sells Paradigm and Sunrise windows, along with sunrooms and other home improvement projects like decking, gutters and bathrooms.

What started as a sponsorship opportunity turned into the dealer's primary marketing vehicle. Jill Hayes hosts CNY's Open House, a home improvement show which airs locally seven times per week.

With a solid product line, a successful transition to the second generation and the kind of customer base that comes with being in business for two decades, Scot and Jill Hayes are constantly looking for different ways to approach the marketing for their business. Just a few short years ago, New York Sash was struggling to make its limited television advertising worthwhile. “We had just begun TV advertising maybe a year or two before the TV show came out,” Scot Hayes explains. “We were very inexperienced in TV advertising, and because of that, really weren’t driving too much revenue through TV advertising.”

Then, the couple was approached about having New York Sash sponsor a local program. “Through our meetings, the producer of the show said they needed a host. They said, ‘We need someone who’s trustworthy,’ so Jill decided to become the host of the program,” Scot says. “Once that took off, we bought the rights to the show and the advertising.”

The show, CNY’s Open House, pulls together the top tier home improvement companies in the region, including New York Sash, and educates viewers about their services and various products and projects they offer. “We’ve selected the best companies in our region in insulation, HVAC, kitchen remodeling, basement waterproofing, pool and spa,” Scot Hayes explains. “We’ve also partnered with a real estate company and they show home listings. Whether you’re shopping for a home, fixing one up, or selling a home, the show is the perfect vehicle to fix up what you have or do the improvement to sell it.”

With Jill as the host, the show runs a total of seven times per week on cable and network stations. While it takes a lot of her time and energy, the couple has seen the payoff in the growth of New York Sash. “We ask our sales reps all the time why homeowners buy from us,” Scot Hayes says. “It’s simple. They trust Jill. They see her every single week. We’ve really worked on building the [dealership] brand through the TV show.”

MARKETING MACHINE
The company’s marketing innovations do not begin and end with the show. The “Home Improvement Couple” theme is carried into all of the dealer’s literature and communications—the attractive, smiling couple has become the face of the company, taking away the apprehension that often comes tackling a home improvement project. The owners reward no-pressure sales behaviors from its team, resulting in in-home demonstrations that have more of a “c’mon in for coffee” feel to them. “We don’t have to shy away from the attention [from being recognized] because we’re proud of our staff and our products,” Scot Hayes says. “We don’t have any subcontractors. Our entire process is run by our own people so we have complete control over the quality. We are able to ensure that customers are completely thrilled with the results of their project.”

The relationship with community members may start with promotional materials or the TV show, but the trust-building continues with marketing programs such as the “Dinner for 2” initiative. With this promo, potential customers are offered a voucher for a free dinner at a local restaurant, just for inviting a sales rep into their home to review home improvement possibilities. “We basically say, ‘Take some time for us and we’ll buy you dinner for two,’” he says. “We went out to local restaurants and negotiated a gift certificate program. There’s so much more value to that than buying blind leads from the Internet for $50 a pop. I feel this is a better value. If they [get their dinner voucher] and don’t purchase from us at this time, they’ve had a memorable experience and may remember us down the line.”

New York Sash also ran a $20,000 home make-over promotion in conjunction with its 20th anniversary. People attending the CNY Open House home show pre-registered online to receive a voucher and a key to a door. Whoever had the matching key to the lock set would win the giveaway. “We had a thousand people in line to get their keys,” Scot Hayes says.

This summer, the company ran an in-house lead production contest for its employees. Branching out into the community with the people most educated about New York Sash’s offerings, staffers were divided into four teams from various departments. Points were awarded to each employee based on referrals and self-generated leads. “This is a way we are generating business, with minimal lead cost, and at the same time encouraging inter-department cooperation for our employees,” explains Kathryn Reilly, marketing assistant for the dealer. “[It allows] our employees to work extra hard for the benefit of the company as a whole.”

WELL ROUNDED
Jill and Scot Hayes know that strong marketing initiatives must be backed up by a solid company. All of the dealer’s installers are trained to strict standards and the sales team is incentivized to be an extension of the trust the couple builds through the marketing programs. The owners are selective with their business partners and suppliers, ensuring that the quality they expect for their homeowners are consistently met. “You have to have a solid foundation and systems in place to be able to pull off the campaigns,” Scot Hayes says.

But just as important as these direct business principles is the company’s commitment to its community. Sure, community outreach is often a successful form of marketing. But New York Sash embraces local causes with a passion, even profiling one charitable and/or community organization per week on its television show. “The community spotlight plays into our role as an educational program,” Scot Hayes says. “Viewers learn about local companies, as well as what’s going on in the community.”

The company gathered more than 13,000 toys last year during the holidays for area families in need and was a five-month supporter of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Healthier Lifestyle Campaign. Jill Hayes even participated in the challenge for all of the show’s viewing audience to see. One of its biggest campaigns is its annual involvement in the Children’s Miracle Network’s home makeover program. “We have been recognized by both local and national organizations for our dedication to our customers, community and industry,” Reilly says. “New York Sash is proud to be able to be at a point where we can give back to the community responsible for our success.”

“We’ve been in the community with this business for 20 years,” Scot Hayes concludes. “We’ve been fortunate to be honored by a number of different awards, but they really only mean something if you can back up what they stand for.”

Click here to see our other 2009 Dealers of the Year.

Contact Christina Lewellen, senior editor, at clewellen@glass.org.