What will next year hold for building materials and, more importantly, what will it hold for you? Many building materials companies look at economic data like projected housing starts, interest rates, and other factors to determine what the year will look like for them.
It’s like they wonder how kind the Gods will be to them as they let these factors determine their destiny. If construction activity will be up, then so will their sales. If the big boxes predict a softening of demand, then their sales will not be as good.
The most successful companies are in control of their own destinies as they are aiming to grow their market share, every year. I’ve always liked this quote from the Leo Burnett Ad Agency,
“When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
In planning for next year, why settle for a “We should be able to make this” goal? Why not dream a little, at least, in the planning stages? The fear of failure prevents most companies from asking questions like:
What if we could….?
Why don’t we….?
What would it take to….?
Have we thought about…?
What would it take for customers to willingly pay more for our products?
How can we really differentiate ourselves?
I see so many opportunities for companies to grow. Most of them are stuck as if they are playing by a set of rules that someone made up a long time ago. Here are 16 of the rules and beliefs I hear most frequently:
- Customers aren’t loyal.
- If a competitor has a lower price, our sales will go down.
- Customers don’t want more profitable upgrades.
- Customer service is an expense.
- Warranty claims are just part of the business.
- Customers don’t want better products.
- The largest customers have all the power; we have to do what they say.
- If we grow our online sales, we will lose traditional customers.
- Losing specifications is just part of the business.
- Independent reps are paid too much and don’t work hard for me.
- We can’t do more online unless we have a bigger marketing budget.
- We have to keep doing the same marketing programs and trade shows because we are more comfortable with what we always do than trying something new.
- The new approaches to marketing are very measurable and we are more comfortable with subjective measurements like, “The boss really likes it.”
- Marketing is measured by getting projects completed on time and on budget and not whether they’ve actually sold anything.
- We really don’t have to improve our online presence as long as we are as good as our competitors.
- There are no new market opportunities we can grow into.
Who made up these rules? Are they written in a book? Most companies only change when their competition or customers change the rules. And they are forced to change.
Most building materials companies play it safe The ones who challenge what they see as the realities of the market are most likely to tilt the playing field in their favor.
When Was The Last Time You Had a No Limits Brainstorming Session in Which Anything Was Possible?
Most of the brainstorming I see today is focused on solving a single narrow problem and not the company or opportunity as a whole. Once a year, get your team together for a day of disruptive thinking and brainstorming. During this day, team members need to be able to let go of the way they think things are. They need to be open to the idea that what they know to be true, may no longer be true.
Rather than have people go off on their own and prepare lengthy reports on what’s possible, reverse the process and start with a day of brainstorming and disruptive thinking. At the end of the day, you’ll have a feeling of what is possible based on who you are as a company and your resources.
I really enjoy it when companies have me be part of this process as I am very good at helping them thinking very big and developing a path to get there.
Even if you end up with small changes, it is much more likely to be successful when it is based on thinking bigger than you normally allow yourself.
Most companies think about growth goals in the lower single digits, while I always start with double digits when working with clients.
Paths to Double-Digit Sales Growth
In my years of consulting with building materials companies and meeting with their customers, these are the most common ways I find that can lead to double-digit sales growth.
Growing Your Sales to Current Customers Many of your existing customers would buy 10% to 20% more from you with only a few changes that have nothing to do with price.
Updating Your Sales and Marketing Messages to be More Compelling to Customers Your benefit-oriented sales and marketing messages may have little meaning to your customers and prospects.
Making it Easier for Customers to Find You Online as a Solution to Their Problem Customers today more frequently find you on their own, yet your marketing is probably still based on you selling to them.
Focusing on Fewer Opportunities Most companies are not focused enough as they feel they may lose sales by focusing.
Pursuing New Opportunities New opportunities arise every day in the building industry and many building materials companies ignore them. Design/build, panelized/modular, tiny houses and apartments, a higher level of green, online planning, quoting and selling, the needs of different age demographics, new uses for your products, the list goes on and on.
More Effective Marketing Most B2B marketing programs are only 50% to 70% effective in communicating to your customers. Every architect, builder, dealer or contractor I meet with asks me why building materials companies spend their marketing dollars in such ineffective ways.
Improved Customer Service Rather than viewing customer service as an expense, it should be viewed and budgeted for as a sales function. Your customers value excellent customer service higher than you may realize.
And More Each company also has its own unique double-digit growth opportunities that can only be uncovered when you are disrupting your thinking.
If you are one of those companies who wants more than an acceptable level of growth, approach your planning with some disruptive thinking and brainstorming. Expect that most of the ideas you explore won’t work or aren’t a good fit for you. The ideas that do make the cut are more likely to be game-changing than when you start by thinking the same way as usual.