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What Trump Can Teach Building Materials Companies

  |  Posted in Strategy

What Trump Can Teach Building Materials Companies

Stop.  Calm Down.  If you can look past what you think of Trump, there are several lessons in strategy for a building materials company.

I am a student of strategy.  I read everything I can about strategy.  I watch the military channel to learn how everyone from Hannibal to Napolean to Patton used strategy to defeat their enemies, even when the odds were against them.

I also look forward to presidential campaigns as these are frequently won or lost based on the strategy.

Ronald Reagan had Roger Ailes – “Act Like the President.”

Bill Clinton had James Carville – “It’s the Economy Stupid.”

George Bush had Karl Rove – “Appeal to the Base.”

Barrack Obama had David Axelrod – “Blame Bush.”

When something comes out of the blue that makes no sense, I get very curious no matter how I personally feel about the individual or the issue.   This is what got me curious about Trump and what a building materials company can learn from his strategy.

3 Things Building Materials Companies Can Learn From Trump

1. Throw out the “This is how it has always been done” rulebook.

Just like Trump doesn’t rely on big donors or spend a lot of money on tv, why do you do the same things year after year?  What if you didn’t go to that trade show?  What if you stopped those legacy marketing programs that have outlived their effectiveness?  What if you hired more salespeople instead of cutting back?

All the other candidates use similar, “this is how it’s done” advisors and now look lost.  Trump has mastered how to use the media to get free air time and dominate the air waves.  He does it inappropriately with is mouth.  A building materials company could dominate the free media of the online world.  With a shift in resources, a building materials company could dominate the internet, social media, SEO, and mobile by making a major commitment. I’m talking about using the online world as Free media just like Trump and not just a bunch of pay per click, banner ads or retargeting.  As I don’t see anyone, in building materials, using this strategy, the first company that does, will dominate their category just like Trump.

2. The OODA Loop

Donald Trump uses the strategy of one of the best fighter pilots, John Boyd.  He called it the OODA Loop which stands for  Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.  The idea is to confound opponents with a constantly shifting marketplace.

John Boyd would challenge any fighter pilot to a contest.  He claimed that he could get behind any pilot within forty seconds, and he did using the OODA Loop. When you get behind the other plane, he is now ready to be shot down.

On the surface, the OODA Loop can look like simple common sense but there is more to it. The OODA Loop can be summed up as:

  1. Observe – collect current information from as many sources as practically possible.
  2. Orient – analyze this information, and use it to update your current reality.
  3. Decide – determine a course of action.
  4. Act – follow through on your decision.

Here is a graphic of the OODA Loop

OODA Loop

The simplest way to think of this is to keep your competitor disoriented by what you do so he is spending time and resources trying to decide how to react to you.

The keys are your skill at observing and orienting and the ability to look beyond what you believe to be true.  The goal is to use this information to reach a decision that your competitor will not expect you to make.

Next is your ability to move faster than your competitor, a lot faster.

Finally is the ability to be fluid and keep modifying the plan as you go. No more annual marketing plan that is locked down for twelve months.

It may seem like a lot of what Trump does makes no sense and has no thought behind it.  As evidenced by the fact that nothing seems to hurt him, it makes me believe that he is observing and orienting on a constant basis, and we can all see how he uses speed. He makes what many people think is an outrageous statement.  This gets him on television.

His competitors go off their message to react to him.  Before they react, they have to take a little time to research what people will think of their response. By the time they are ready to respond, Trump has made his next outrageous statement so the others are always playing catch up and reacting to him instead of promoting themselves.

No one in building materials moves with this speed, ability to trust their gut and constantly change.  The closest company I see is GAF residential roofing.

Most building materials companies spend their time focused on how to keep up with the competition. Imagine what would happen if your goal was to confound and disorient the competition.  If you search online for OODA Loop you will find a lot more to read about this interesting strategy.

3. Targeting Abandoned Customers

Trump identified a group of customers (voters) who were unhappy and felt abandoned.  A large group who felt ignored and unimportant to Washington. He crafted his strategy to appeal to these people that no one else cared about.  The result was that he has no competition for their loyalty.

This frequently happens with building materials companies as they get larger and little full of themselves.

Everyone sits in awe of Kohler, yet they have customers who aren’t happy. Customers who a competitor could appeal to if they focused on them.

For example, some independent plumbing distributors have a passive-aggressive feeling about Kohler.  They have to carry Kohler because, it’s Kohler, but they don’t feel the love as Kohler has the leverage.  If it is up to them, they will frequently prefer to sell another brand.

I am amazed at how many times I talk to plumbers and ask them about Kohler.  Their response is, “If you want Kohler, I’ll use it, but if you ask for my opinion, I can tell you several reasons why you shouldn’t buy Kohler.”

If I were a competitor of Kohler, I’d let them have the “establishment” and go after the important but underappreciated independent distributors and plumbers, much as Trump has done.

James Hardie is another company that is so successful that there is a growing group of customers who no longer feel the love.  This creates an opportunity for competitive siding companies.

If you’ve read this far, you probably were able to separate your feelings about Trump and learn something from his strategies that you can apply to your business.

If someone as outrageous as Trump is doing this well in politics with these strategies, what could you do without being outrageous?

Contact me if you’re open to finding new ways to grow your sales.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia creative commons

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About The Author

I am the leading sales growth consultant in the building materials industry, I identify the blind spots that enable building materials companies to grow their sales and retain more customers.  As I am not an ad agency, my recommendations are focused on your sales growth and not my future income.

My mission is to help building materials companies be the preferred supplier of their customers and to turn those customers into their best salespeople. Contact me to discuss your situation.

  • Steve Kennedy

    This is a very interesting take on marketing. Your points are well taken by myself. Supply house management would be well served by considering what this viewpoint is saying to them, especially Targeting Abandoned Customers.

  • Rick Mueller

    Good article Mark. I’ve observed for years how the building materials industry has underutilized online search, content marketing, SEO, etc. It’s a sideline passion for me. Thanks for the insight.