Over the last three decades I have watched local shutter markets grow across the nation and have noted various forces affecting market development. The strong popularity of wide-louver shutters has been obvious and pervasive. So has the development of local shutter specialty companies driven by the need to handle logistical problems typical to custom work. Beyond these elements, which are common across the nation, I have noted an especially potent force that affects shutter markets on the local basis. It is the striking effect of individual personalities.
The people who sell shutters—with their personal characteristics, their
likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses—have an amazing influence
on local shutter markets. This is because custom shutter work is inherently difficult
and, thus, relatively few players survive the learning curve. These few have
a concentrated influence on one of the highest priced window treatments available.
As the wide-louver shutter style trend moved across the Sunbelt in the late ’70s
and into the ’80s, I noticed particular cities in which the progression
from two- to three-inch louver spacing occurred much more rapidly than in other
cities and markets. Further investigation revealed an individual in each of these
cities who personally liked the larger three-inch louver spacing and sold it
over two-inch spacing in spite of greater nationwide acceptance of two-inch louver
spacing at the time.
Methods of installation in custom shutter work also are personality driven. I
know of particular cities in which the shutter specialty pioneer promoted his
ideas as to how shutters should be installed. Competitors that followed emulated
his success and used his exact methods of installation. These methods still are
in use while in adjacent markets significantly different and sometimes better
methods are used.
ADVICE FROM THE TOP
Most interesting is the effect of individual personalities on the pricing of
shutter work. In a medium-size town in the south-central United States is an
individual who has dominated his shutter market for 30 years while at least a
dozen cheaper competitors have come and gone. Using an extraordinary ability
to sell up, this individual not only has been the largest player in his market,
but also has been by far the highest priced. Let’s call it being the price
Meanwhile, in a large metroplex in the Southeast, there are several shutter personalities
who revert to low price as their primary sales tool. The resulting market price
has certainly minimized profits.
In yet another large city in the Southwest, in spite of similar bottom-feeder
personalities, others with the fortitude to lead the market have successfully
prevailed in recognized quality and pricing that leads as well. The market price
here is 15 percent higher than in a neighboring city.
This begs the question: How does one prevail in being the shutter price leader
in spite of having to compete against bottom feeders? Assuming the product being
offered is what it should be, the answer must involve good marketing technique.
Because custom shutter work is sold most often in the customer’s home,
good sales technique has a great deal to do with how the salesperson presents
himself as well as his product. Consumers must be convinced that a particular
company’s work is worth more. Many individuals who market shutters could
command a higher selling price if they were convinced of the quality of the product
they sell and the work they do and thus had the confidence to match their prices
to what they offer.
Without exception, the common personality trait of all the price leaders I know
is their confidence in selling a high-quality product and service and their ability
to communicate that to the customer. The following advice and quotes from a few
of these veteran price leaders in this business may be helpful to others:
Base your price on the value of your product, not your competitors’.
The best advertising is a satisfied customer, so make sure you charge enough
to make that happen.
Market to the top. Don’t overlook the most qualified buyers, those who
can afford to pay your profit margin.
When you’re the price leader, you stand out in the crowd and invite closer
scrutiny. That’s your opportunity for a good reputation to pay off.
If your reputation is for being the cheapest, you’ll be swamped with customers
looking for just that.
Never give in to customers who try to negotiate your price. If you do, they’ll
make it your reputation by bragging to others.
Let your competitors take the low-margin jobs. Reserve your capacity for the
If you’re capturing every job you quote, your price is too low.
Never trash your competitor. Encourage customers to discover it themselves.
Give a reasonable delivery for the quality of work you do. Don’t over-promise
“I’ve never felt the need to apologize for my price or the quality
of work I do.”
“Some of my best referrals are from the jobs I didn’t get.”
“Personally, I would have a problem with people thinking I’m cheap.”
ASSUME THE NERVE
The confidence to present oneself as reflected above does not develop overnight.
It is the result of hard work in knowing your business and your customers. It
is derived from representing a company that actually does excel in quality and
If you have done your homework and you represent excellence, then assume the
nerve to be a price leader. Take pride in it. I contend that real fulfillment
in marketing shutters, not to mention real profit, requires nothing less.
T. Brant O’Hair is director of marketing for O’Hair Shutters,
Lubbock, TX, (806) 765-5791; (800) 582-2625; www.ohair.com.