In pursuit of the new customer

A few simple ideas for generating more business
Jenni Chase
April 1, 2010

Exhibiting at local trade shows is one way to reach out to new customers. Photo by Gardner Glass Products.

Ask most company owners how business is these days, and they’ll probably tell you customers aren’t exactly knocking down the door. Yet, that doesn’t mean glass companies aren’t finding success in today’s market. Instead of waiting for customers to come to them, however, they are revamping their sales approach to be more active participants, seeking out clients in existing and new markets.

“The people who are doing well are those who are very aggressively knocking on doors,” says David Cates, vice president of sales and marketing, Flat Glass Distributors, Jacksonville, Fla. “You can’t just sit there and wait for the phone to ring; you have to do things to get people in the door,” he says.

For Gordon’s Glass, a retailer in Westminster, Pa., that meant going after a new customer base: architects in the hospitality industry. “I would love to lie and say we are setting the world on fire, but times are tough for us right now,” admits Mel Gordon, president. “This year [however], we are starting out strong, with two large jobs that started in February and two high-profile jobs already complete. We installed 90 doors in the Little Nell Resort in Aspen, Colo., and [worked on] The Willard Intercontinental Hotel in Washington, D.C. These are both five-star hotels. Our focus now is on getting our name out to architects that specialize in the hospitality industry. Multiple installation jobs seem to be where the profit is,” he reports.

At Gardner Glass Products, North Wilkesboro, N.C., the leadership team decided to reorganize its sales staff in an effort to garner more business. “We don’t feel like business is just going to come to us,” CEO Tommy Huskey says. “This is a business that we are going to have to go get, so we reorganized our sales and marketing team to be a more ‘demand creation’ team. Now, we have a group of people that work with architects and designers. We make sure that [potential customers] know our product and how it can make them unique in their market. We also have people trained internally that do ‘lunch and learns,’” he reports.

Trade shows are another potential way to attract new customers. “We’re doing more trade shows than we’ve ever done,” Huskey says. “It is hard work, but we’re trying to create demand by showing the consumers, the architects, the designers, that this product [Dreamwalls] is available.”

While there is no single solution for creating new customers, revisiting your sales and marketing efforts is a good place to start, say industry executives. “We’re tweaking, we’re improving, we’re thinking of new things every day,” Huskey says. “It gives you a reason to get up and go to work every day. These are exciting times for us during challenging times.”

Jenni Chase is editorial director of Glass Magazine, e-glass weekly and Write her at