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An expert opinion

JOHN SEELMEYER

Haws Corp.

has learned a few things about the business of drinking fountains and emergency equipment during its 100-year existence.

The company’s new marketing strategy puts that expertise to work.

Working with its marketing consultant, Haws Corp.made a concerted effort in the past two years to write and place articles in the trade magazines read by its customers publications such as Plumbing Engineer and Plumbing and Heating Contractor News.

Mike Markovsky, whose Sparks-based Fast Forward Strategies developed the campaign, says nearly 50 articles carrying the byline of Haws Corp.

executives appeared in the trade press in 2003 alone, and the company is on a similar pace this year.

The articles don’t sell Haws Corp.

products directly,Markovsky says, but instead position the company as a supplier with expertise.

And magazine editors, he says,welcome the articles from experienced contributors.

Best of all, says President Sallie R.Haws, the strategy worked during the past two years when a slumping national economy put pressure on the company’s marketing budget.

“It saved us quite a bit of money, and we’ve gotten more bang for the buck,”Haws says.

Markovsky cautions, however, that the strategy wasn’t developed in a vacuum.

It was part of an large-scale review of the company, its products and its marketing strategies.

And that took some gumption for the privately held company, so successful in previous decades that it was honored as large employer of the year for 2004 by the Economic Development Authority ofWestern Nevada.

“I credit Sallie Haws with a huge part of this,” says Markovsky.

And Haws,who became president of the company in mid-2001, says a full-scale review made sense as a series of retirements brought new faces into the executive suites.

Among the discoveries:

* The company’s products routinely were specified by name by architects, but contractors weren’t necessarily including Haws products in their bids.

* Haws had developed some products that were far better than the market wanted.

Some 60 percent of the items manufactured by the company generated less than $20,000 in sales annually.

* The traditional distribution channel manufacturer to distributor to end user was changing.

* The company’s advertising was expensive, but no one could demonstrate a return on investment.

Those findings meant that the company trimmed some product lines, put more focus on convincing builders to honor the brandname specifications of builders and developed a new group to handle direct sales to some accounts who didn’t need a distributor’s help.

“They looked at this as if nothing were sacred,”Markovsky says.”And it’s working like a charm.”

Haws,meanwhile, said the changes in marketing strategies were embraced by employees because they came as part of a carefully developed program of change within the company.

Along with the change in the executive suite after the retirement of the previous generation of leaders,Haws also completed its move to a 210,000-square-foot facility in Sparks.

The move from Berkeley, Calif.

began in 1996 and was finished five years later.