Lighting expert Randall Whitehead gives advice about how fixture designers can bring their new products to lighting manufacturers.
Your Web site and column have been a tremendous source of information and inspiration for my partner and me as we prepare to launch a line of decorative lighting products next year. What do you recommend we read, do or see to position ourselves well within the high-end lighting industry? Thanks again for all that you bring.
I love to bring it. Here are my suggestions for what you can do to promote your lighting line; these suggestions apply to established manufacturers, as well, so listen up:
The first thing that I would recommend is that you offer all your fixtures in energy-efficient versions. Green design is hot right now, and you could get a lot of mileage out of providing earth-friendly lights. What you should look at, lamping-wise, are dimmable GU24 CFLs—which are, generally speaking, no bigger than a regular household bulb and socket and can be wired like a standard (two-wire) incandescent fixture and dimmed with a standard incandescent dimmer. The dimmable GU24 will also meet California’s Title 24 requirements.
Once you’ve established your basic line, you’ll want to develop a Web site where people can view front and side images of your fixtures, along with dimensions, size, available finishes and lamping options. You absolutely need to have downloadable PDFs that people can use as cut sheets when presenting to their clients or putting together specification booklets. Some of the more interactive sites even allow people to assemble a picture of the fixture in the finish, size and lamping of their choosing. Make sure that your contact information is on each sheet of the PDF in case the sheets get separated.
Create a real catalog with numbers; companies that just call a fixture “Betty” without any catalog number drive specifiers and distributors nuts. The more specific you are with the catalog numbers and option suffixes, the fewer mistakes will be made at order time — meaning fewer returns.
Try to become a regular in the home and garden section of your local newspaper. People like the idea of hometown talent and buying locally (more green). You could sponsor a talk at local American Society of Interior Designers, International Assn. of Lighting Designers and the International Assn. of Lighting Designers events and have a table set up with your products to show to the participants.
Also, investigate getting involved with one or more of the markets. Participating in trade fairs like Lightfair Intl., coming up May 5-7, means that 15,000+ retailers and design professionals will see what you have to offer all at once. This last suggestion would be the most costly of my recommendations, but you would create a huge mailing list for future new product announcements—although sending them all Christmas cards would be exhausting.