Dealers, Manufacturers Talk Internet Strategies
March 4, 2014
Window and door dealers and manufacturers say one of their biggest challenges this year will be adapting to how the Internet is continuously changing the way they do business: from managing their online reputations to dealing with customers armed with information gleaned from the web.
Social media can build or tarnish a company’s social reputation, and help or hinder it from closing sales with today’s research-oriented consumers who are “empowered by ratings or reviews,” says Chris Griego, business development specialist for HomeAdvisor Inc., based in Golden, Colo. He says managing their online reputations is an ongoing challenge.
“Two-thirds of homeowners will check you out online before they call you,” Griego says. “This is a reputation economy and there is no stronger force on the Internet then your online reputation. It is critical that you take that seriously and counter, in a positive and diplomatic way, any negative reviews of your company that may appear online on sites such as Yelp, CitySearch or Angie’s List, just to name a few.”
“We respond as kindly and as diplomatically as possible,” says Ken Mariotti, president and owner of Woodland Windows and Doors in Roselle, Ill. “And we will ask people to do nice reviews as well. It is another way to get in front of the customer.”
Scott Barr, steward of Southwest Exteriors in San Antonio, and Adam Kaliner, one of the founding partners of Power Home Remodeling Group in Beltsville, Md., do much the same. “We constantly manage our Internet presence and how we’re viewed," says Kaliner.
“We are fanatical about it,” adds Barr.
“The Internet has been great and horrible at the same time,” says Ryon Ray, chief operating officer of NT Windows in Fort Worth, Texas.
“It provides consumer information that is accessible and helps them make decisions,” he says. “But on the negative side is the inaccurate information that comes with it, and you just have to be prepared to counter that."
The Educated Consumer
In addition to being prepared to respond online to negative reviews, dealers and contractors need to be even better prepared than in the past when talking with potential customers.
“The consumer has access to tremendous information, product knowledge and reviews of products on the Internet, so we now use the Internet as one component of our educational process,” says Keenan Burns, chief operating officer and executive vice president of A.W. Hastings & Co., a distributor for Marvin Windows & Doors in the New England area and eastern New York.
“A consistent theme we hear from dealers and contractors is that consumers are coming to them 'pre-loaded' with questions about products and options,” adds Mark Savan, president of Therma-Tru Doors and Simonton Windows. “The Internet has provided easy access to product information for consumers, and they're investing substantial time in product research before approaching their contractors."
“Product information on the Internet is changing consumer expectations of their shopping experience, so old-school selling techniques are becoming less and less effective,” says Savan. “Building industry professionals should expect more knowledgeable customers in the future and be ready to answer their questions.”