I think perhaps that there is an acceptance that 2017 might be a bit more of a challenging year for the glazing industry than this year. The tone of the commentary coming from manufacturers is that creeping inflation rates, lower value Sterling might cause a bit of consumer spending tightening. I personally don’t believe some of the negative, almost “woe is me” tone coming from some.

But, if 2017 is to pose a challenge, then fabricators are going to need to get a bit creative to make sure they continue on the path to growth. And given that our industry is predicted to experience steady growth in the next three to five years, those opportunities are there.

One of those opportunities is an area that I believe is often overlooked or ignored. Fabricators sit on a wealth of potential already. Their existing customers.

Growth from existing customers

Fabricators naturally want to sign on new customers all the time. It’s the nature of their businesses to look for new businesses to bring to their portfolio. It’s a way to increase their market share. However in the race to sign up new installers, I often believe that their existing installer base can be ignored.

Yet there is a huge pool of opportunity in existing installers. There is a ready-made base of loyal installers, where some fabricators won’t have to worry about them dual-sourcing. An existing relationship has already been established. They make for a great platform in which to build further business.

As an example, we have just been told that at our place, we have grown our Solidor sales by a whopping 250% in the same period this year to last year. I wasn’t aware of this until our rep from Solidor told us. Not only is this good news for us, but it’s also good news for Solidor. More sales of their product for us means more money in our pockets and more money in the Solidor pockets.

If every installer was able to replicate growth, perhaps not 250%, but some level of growth, it gives a fabricator a powerful boost in revenues, all without having to actively sign up new customers.

Working with installers and brand protection

Fabricators should be looking to give their installers as many tools as possible to help them sell their products to home owners. That means a lot of marketing support, customer service, regular high quality products and logistical support as and when required.

An installer armed with a full suite of high quality literature, such as brochures, books, technical guides, posters etc puts them in a good position to get the message of the product they’re selling across. An installer with proper customer service from their fabricator gives them confidence in their relationship and confidence when selling their product. Assuming that the products delivered are of a high quality and with minimal problems, that ensures the installer can get on with doing their job and the home owner is left happy with their purchase.

All of this gives an installer tools in which to increase their sales year on year, which in turn has a positive effect on growth for the fabricator. Of course new customers can boost growth for fabricators, but extra work has to go into getting that off the ground. An existing installer base requires less work, less cost, and therefore makes it a more cost effective and efficient way to boost growth for a fabricator.

A fabricator also has to keep one eye on it’s own brand too. Solidifying their existing relationships, helping to create strong brand associations with their existing installers will help protect their own brand and revenue streams. Signing up every possible installer in every possible region however can dilute relationships, dilute the brand’s strength and create local, often uncomfortable competition between installers.

Within a few square miles it is quite feasible to have at least three, four, five maybe even more installers working in the area. If they’re all selling the same products, it immediately puts them at a disadvantage product-wise as they lose a USP. It then often becomes about price for home owners, and installers feel under pressure price wise. It devalues the product for the installer, the home owner and has a negative impact on the fabricator.

So when establishing relationships with installers, a fabricator needs to be careful on how many and where installers are selling their products. Too many in too small an area can actually cause a drop in revenues, rather than a rise, as installers look at other products to sell in an effort to differentiate themselves from their competition.

For the next calendar year, as trading conditions start to become a little trickier for some, fabricators should be looking to work with their existing installer base to help boost growth and revenues.

To get weekly updates from DGB sent to your inbox, enter your email address in the space below to subscribe: