I learned firsthand that the high-end market for any product is not always confined to the demographic you’d expect. When I was first married 17 years ago, my wife and I bought a cheap couch—one of the first pieces of furniture we needed but couldn’t really afford. After two years, it was ready for the dumpster. So we bought another cheap couch. This time an imitation leather couch for a little more money. Within a few years, it looked worn and dated. The next couch we bought was a high-end piece of furniture that lasted for 12 years. Our financial situation hadn’t changed dramatically from when we bought the first couch. But our priorities changed. We decided that it was worth the extra cost to buy something that would last. We wanted quality pieces for our home and we were willing to pay for it.
When it comes to products like shutters or other window fashions,
there’s a high-end market that will pay top dollar for everything
they buy, and then there is an under-estimated middle-income market
that will pay for a high-end product if they are properly educated
about the benefits of the product.
The high-end market for window coverings is not just families with
six-digit incomes, but it’s people who understand the need
for a quality product like interior shutters, and will pay a little
more for them up front so they don’t have to replace their
window treatments down the road.
Many companies in the window covering industry ignore this viable
market completely and get caught up in the pricing game, engaging
in bidding wars where they lower their margins just to get the job.
Companies who feel that price is the No. 1 factor for consumers
have a gross misconception about the buying patterns of this market.
Even a recent study by Draperies & Window Coverings showed that
aesthetics and value ranked ahead of price on the list of reasons
people buy shutters.
PRODUCT FIRST, THEN BENEFITS
The key to reaching this mid- to high-end market is to first offer
a quality product and then to focus on education, not price. This
creates informed customers who are willing to pay for a product
that adds value, longevity and beauty to their homes. We do this
every day in each Sunburst Shutters market. Our sales teams close
an average of 80 percent of their sales calls by educating customers
on the benefits of a superior product instead of matching discounts
and lowering prices to get the sale.
It’s critical to teach consumers that there is a difference
in the quality of window coverings available. This market is alive
and well, and it’s enormous. They will continue to pay more
for quality products as long as they are educated on the benefits.
Fact: The high-end market doesn’t just mean people who own
million-dollar homes. It can mean average, middle class Americans
who never want to replace their window treatments again. It is made
up of consumers who see the value of a quality product and are willing
to pay for it once and never have to think about it again.
Here are some key factors to consider when taking your product to
this huge market:
• Have a high-quality product with a long life expectancy.
If you have an inferior product, today’s consumers will find
out through their research and then, all you have going for you
is price. The foundation of any sales campaign toward high-end buyers
is a high-quality product. All others need not apply.
• Stop competing in the price-only market: Don’t match
quotes to win a sale. You will only undercut your prices until you
lose your margin. No job is worth your company going out of business.
Stick to your profit margin and focus on the benefits of your product
• Educate the customer about the benefits of your product:
Why is it worth paying the price you are offering? Why will this
product out-last any others they could buy? How will it improve
their quality of living? If you can answer these questions, you
can sell to this market.
• Back it up: Demonstrate the qualities of your product and
have a warrantee in writing that supports your claims.
• Don’t back down: Show respect for your product and
stand by your claims. Would you sell a BMW Z4 for the price of a
Ford Taurus? The quality behind a brand demands a certain price,
and most consumers who are aware of the benefits are willing to
pay the asking price.
John Barnes is vice president of marketing for Sunburst Shutters.
He has an extensive background in marketing, advertising and public
relations, specifically in the home products industry. He can be reached
at jbarnes@sun burstshutters.com.