Glass Canada

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Editorial: February 2014

Invisibility not a virtue

February 6, 2014  By Patrick Flannery

Here’s a line I hear from companies in this industry sometimes: “We like to keep a low profile.”

Here’s a line I hear from companies in this industry sometimes: “We like to keep a low profile.”

What? This bizarre sentiment flies in the face of every known principle of business. If the goal of a company is to grow (as it has to be, or face dissolution) then it has to be familiar to as many potential customers as possible. Since there are new players entering the market all the time, and new people coming into control of old players, it is simply impossible for a business owner to be sure he is making direct contact with everyone important. It is therefore critical that a business have a prominent public profile, at least within the market it serves. And there is no such thing as too high a profile. Yes, some drawbacks come with being widely known. Your staff might have to field some time-wasting calls from suppliers who don’t have anything you want or customers who can’t pay for what you have. Rivals might try to poach good employees. Charities might target you for donations. Competitors might target your customers. But chances are, in a market as small as the Canadian glazing industry, these things are happening to your company already. These challenges need to be set against the undeniable benefit of being well known and well understood in your market: increased sales and business opportunities. Isn’t that why we all go to work every day?

One objection I have heard to having a higher profile is that company owners want competitors to have the least possible amount of information about their companies. A good principle but, like anything, it can be taken too far. There is a lot of information companies  can share without giving away critical secrets. Look at public companies that have to publish all their financial information. Somehow they manage to maintain their competitive edge even with a very high degree of transparency.


“Word-of-mouth” seems to be the most popular method of branding and marketing in the glazing industry. It does have the advantage of being cheap. But if it is really so effective, I have to wonder why the most successful companies do not rely on it more. Instead, you see the largest and wealthiest companies with the most brand recognition consistently spending the most on advertising and publicity. If a high profile goes with high revenues, what does a low profile go with?

I think one reason why some companies avoid even friendly publicity is because they are afraid they will mess it up. While the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity is not entirely true (just ask Rob Ford), companies in this business tend to worry too much about looking bad and not enough about being invisible. Remember, PR help is available. Maybe you can’t afford a professional PR agency, but you probably know a sharp young person in your organization who can rattle on with the best of them. Why not empower him or her to deliver some talking points when necessary?

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