Close-up with Keith Pigues, VP-CMO, Ply Gem Industries

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Keith Pigues is senior VP-CMO of Ply Gem Industries, a building products manufacturer he joined in August 2007. A past chairman of the Business Marketing Association (2007-2008) and a BtoB's Who's Who selection in 2007, Pigues is now at work on a book with Chicago-based consulting firm Valkre's CEO, Jerry Alderman, titled “Winning With Customers” (John Wiley & Sons, 2010).

In the following interview, Pigues talks about the challenges of marketing in the recession-battered construction sector and his strategy for the rest of this year and next.

BtoB: What's your top marketing objective for the rest of 2009?

Pigues: The Ply Gem company brand was launched two years ago, comprised of eight former businesses with different names and brand promises. The brand names of several predecessor businesses were in existence for more than 60 years. We continue to remain focused on increasing awareness of the Ply Gem brand and delivering on the promise expressed in the company tagline: “Building products. Building success.” As the homebuilding industry recovers, helping builders, contractors and our distribution partners grow their businesses has never been more important.

BtoB: What do you have planned for next year?

Pigues: We have several new things planned for next year to create demand for our products. We are launching the Ply Gem Enviro brand of green building products to help builders, contractors and architects meet their goal of sustainable building. And we are expanding the Ply Gem Windows campaign in support of the federal stimulus package and consumer rebates to improve energy efficiency of U.S. homes.

We also plan to significantly increase our direct marketing efforts with builders and remodelers that increasingly use online information sources to get the information they need when making product selections for Ply Gem Windows, siding, stone veneer and fencing products. We plan to increase our online budget 10% to 15% in 2010 to build and strengthen direct relationships with users and prospective users of Ply Gem products.

After experimenting with social media, we are formally incorporating it into the mix with the use of Facebook to support the growth of the Durabuilt by Ply Gem home gutter protection product.

BtoB: Ply Gem has continued making acquisitions during the downturn. What's behind this strategy?

Pigues: Ply Gem was formed in 2004 to be a growth company in the building products market. We have continued to grow relative to the market since that time, even through the recession. In addition to our organic market share growth, acquisitions have played a key role in the growth strategy, enabling Ply Gem to provide a broad product offering to meet the needs of our customers at nearly all price points throughout North America. In addition to acquisitions of stone and windows companies, we have launched a record number of new and exciting products over the past couple of years.

BtoB: How did you advocate spending, especially long-range marketing investments, during this recession?

Pigues: While we had to make tough choices like everyone else, our strategic focus on brand building and demand creation helped to guide these decisions. It's simple: We invested in marketing programs that are core to our growth strategy with attractive ROI. Two examples stand out. Brand building is paramount to the company strategy, and we continued investing in the company and product brands. In fact, we launched the new Ply Gem Windows brand and the leading Mastic by Ply Gem vinyl-siding brand during the recession. The results have been positive. Additionally, we continued investing in trade show marketing when some others pulled back. We were confident in this decision based on measurable lead management, sales conversion and ROI performance from previous years. We believe we made the right decision.

Another key factor that contributed to advocacy for these investments is what may be my rather unique perspective, with responsibilities for marketing, strategy and new-market development for the company. At the end of the day, it's about making investments to support the corporate growth strategy and delivering financial results.

BtoB: Brand building is an interest of yours. How do traditional media and new media support this objective?

Pigues: Clearly traditional and new media work together to support our brand-building strategy. However, we plan to aggressively move to more direct marketing with new media to support this effort.

Given the multiple customers and influencers for our products with varied needs, it is important that our messages are increasingly direct and personalized. We plan to continue increasing the percentage of our media spend on new media to reach our customers and develop more effective direct relationships while improving the efficiency of our marketing spend.

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