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Weaving an effective web

Blinds & Shutters caught up with Martin Willis, Guthrie Douglas’ sales & marketing manager to discuss the benefits of the company’s new web video page, architects and all things on a global stage

Formed in 1981, Guthrie Douglas has been supplying motorisation systems for retractable solar shading, rolling shutters and industrial doors for over 25 years

The projects lend themselves well to videos. What is the plan with new web video page?
We wanted to take showing our systems on the web one step further. Since we export the majority of our shading systems, using video means that we can reach a worldwide audience instantly and show them close up exactly what our systems can do and the areas they can cover. Video can do this in a way that photographs simply cannot even come close to.  Anyone, anywhere in the world can immediately understand what makes our products so special just by clicking on our site.

What has been the reaction to the videos?
People have been genuinely impressed by the quality of the videos, and we have had a great deal of positive feedback. After launching the video page we got nearly 200 companies visiting that page on our site in the first two days from the four corners of the globe. Subsequently the amount of web traffic has almost doubled.

How long has it been in development and where did the inspiration come from?
We wanted to produce some videos for R&T. We started last autumn talking to our customers who helped us to find good sites to film. Dearnleys, who installed the Liverpool and Birmingham projects, were particularly helpful in getting us access to the buildings. Since most people have broadband these days, there has been an explosion in interest in embedded web video (sites like youtube and BBC for example). Industry in general is beginning to catch on to this and we wanted to be at the forefront of this development.

Websites are a great way of communicating with customers and end users. How important is it for companies to make the most of online opportunities?
We think its vital to use the web to its full potential, since in the future most business will be done this way. A website should be able to instantly inform customers and solve their problems, so datasheets, order sheets, installation instructions and project reference photos can all be found on our site as well as videos. This increases our efficiency and enables us to answer customers’ questions and demonstrate our solutions just by directing them to our site. We don’t have to travel every time we need to do this.

What has attracted architects and installers to the company’s TESS range of systems?
We have a reputation for solid, reliable products that have been painstakingly designed and tested for optimum performance. We are unique in the range of systems we offer, and their ability to cover very large glazed areas with the fewest number of systems. Whatever the shading problem and no matter how large, we probably have a system to fit the bill.

When we spoke last year it was stated that energy consumption of buildings needs to be reduced by 20 per cent. Is the message that solar shading can play an integral role in achieving this goal reaching the right people?
The message is starting to get through to some of the right people. We now have the L2 building regulations which state that those involved in the design and construction of new buildings need to carry out studies to minimise Solar Gain and maximise efficiency. But unfortunately blinds tend to be amongst the last things to be talked about and can often be removed from the specification at the end of the process.

How can we raise awareness of the benefits of external shading in the UK and do you ever see it catching on in a similar way to abroad?
There is a lot we as an industry can do to promote external shading by designing and marketing good systems, and talking to architects and planners about their effectiveness. 

Are architects recognising the importance of the shading issue early enough in projects so it isn’t just an after thought?
Not always, but talking to us at an early stage can help, we can advise architects on building design and how the blind systems can best be accommodated. Our video of the TESS 140 in a long street of blinds is a perfect example of a project where we talked to the architect early on and there is a good fit of blind hardware to the building.

Guthrie Douglas exhibited at R+T, how have the months following the show been for the company?
It has been pretty hectic! We had our biggest presence yet at the show with a 65m2 stand, with working display models as ever. We logged 240 visitors to our stand who wanted to hear more from us, that’s 40 per cent up on last time.

Guthrie Douglas is a global exporter, what have been the advantages and disadvantages over the last ‘turbulent’ couple of years?
We have seen many changes over the past couple of years, with big fluctuations in currency markets and economic instability which have made forward planning our business difficult. Despite this we have continued to grow during this period.  A drop in business in the UK and Germany has been compensated by growth in South America, the Middle East and surprisingly in Southern Europe. This is where being a global exporter really helps us. 

How have your customers’ needs changed in the last few years?
Customers are asking for more technical back up and support, so we have brought together a full Solar Shading team, so we can respond promptly to technical and commercial enquires. We want to support our customers with their projects as early as possible, be it by looking at drawings, designing special brackets or just helping them choose the best system for the job and providing in house technical and commercial training sessions.

Which products have been doing well for Guthrie Douglas?
By far our best innovation has been the wire-guided systems, the TESS 140 and TESS 440 for internal and external shading respectively. These now make up the majority of our sales, with architects being impressed by their flexibility. The look is clean and minimal, but at the same time the stainless steel wire guides are very strong and the system can span up to 6.5 metres with no intermediate support, adding to its aesthetic appeal. The TESS 140 features on our video page.

Where does Guthrie Douglas see the big areas of development?

We have completely redeveloped our TESS 440 and TESS 420 external systems, the TESS 440 data is already available on site, and the TESS 420 will be launched this year. Both products will spearhead our push to sell more external systems in the future. We have other projects in the pipeline too which are still at development stage, but rest assured we will keep customers informed via the website and regular mailings to all our customers.



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