In 2013, I wrote Building Materials Channel Marketing based on 30 years of experience in an industry that has always been very slow to evolve.
Well, the industry has changed in a lot of ways since then. I am now in the process of writing an updated version of the book that I plan to publish next year.
In the meantime, here are the 11 major changes that I will be covering in the new edition.
1. Prices Are Less Important
In the past, many customers were focused on finding the best price.
These days, they’re making smarter purchasing decisions. They’re realizing the value of time, efficiency and reliability when choosing a product or supplier.
Many of them won’t even bother getting multiple quotes because the savings they would get from it won’t outweigh the time they wasted on that search.
If your product can solve a problem, eliminate waste, or reduce construction time it has more value than it did in the past.
2. Distributors Are Growing
Back in 2013, I questioned the future of distributors. I saw how few of them were adapting and investing in their future. I couldn’t see where they were providing value to justify their costs.
Since then, I’ve changed my opinion. I’ve been really impressed with the way major distributors have innovated and invested in better meeting the needs of their customers. Many of them have even surpassed manufacturers when it comes to customer loyalty and support.
For manufacturers, the risk is that distributors might soon gain more influence over the products their customers choose.
3. Architects Have Less Power
On many projects, the owner/developer and the general contractor have as much power as the architect.
The owner/developer is much more knowledgeable about products, given their experience on past projects. They’ve dealt with installation issues, unexpected maintenance and replacement costs.
The general contractor is frequently involved in the early stages of a project and their opinions are respected.
If you do well with architects, then continue your approach. If you’re struggling with them, consider reaching out to owners and general contractors instead.
Ask yourself who would benefit the most from your product. That’s the person you should be selling to.
4. Your Online Presence Is Your Most Important Asset
Your new customers are looking for solutions online. They want to gather information and advice on their own before contacting you. By the time you hear from them, they are already 70% of the way to making a purchase decision.
If your competitor’s website is easier to find and ranks higher on Google, you’re at a disadvantage.
The same is true if your competitor’s website delivers a better customer experience than yours.
Improve your SEO, create a website designed with the customer’s needs in mind and make sure all the information they’ll want is online and accessible. It will make a massive difference in your success.
5. Healthy Is the New Green
Green used to be a really good selling point. Now it’s an expectation.
Because we have stronger energy codes, everything is energy-efficient. It no longer differentiates your product.
One thing that still does, however, is how healthy your product is.
Concerns about our health has radically changed our habits and the things that concern us. We’re far more worried about health (our own, our employee’s and our customers’) than we were at the beginning of the year.
In this environment, healthier products, homes and buildings are a differentiating factor.
If your product has healthy features, like being antimicrobial, you need to promote those more heavily.
A lot more building materials are being sold or ordered online than they were when my book came out seven years ago.
Your customers who sell online need you to support them in different ways than you have supported their brick and mortar locations.
7. Contractors Have Become Better Business People
There is a low cost of entry for many types of contractors. Because of that, we used to see them start businesses and then fail because they didn’t know how to run them.
Today, things are different and we have two types of contractors running their own businesses.
The first type is the large, well-established business that has been in business for a long time. These tend to be run by older contractors who have little interest in changing the way they do things.
The second type of business is run by younger and more business savvy contractors. They’re not interested in chasing the larger contractors and imitating their business models. Instead, they want to differentiate themselves and focus on profits rather than sales volume.
For many building materials companies, selling to these up-and-coming contractors is a better opportunity than selling to the larger ones.
8. Social Media Matters
Many architects, builders, contractors and other channel customers are ahead of building materials manufacturers when it comes to using social media. They expect everyone to be there with them.
Manufacturers need to catch up. Those who don’t will be left behind.
9. Trade Shows Are Dead
I have long believed that trade shows don’t deliver a good return on investment for building materials companies. There are much more effective ways to spend your marketing dollars.
Now that social distancing has killed the trade show, companies can finally redirect that spending to programs that deliver a better ROI and work for them 365 days a year.
Some of the better areas to reinvest the money that used to be earmarked for trade shows include: building a better website, creating more and better content, improving your SEO and implementing marketing automation.
10. Virtual Is Here to Stay
Even if you can’t wait to get back out on the road, your customers are less interested in meeting with you. At first, it was about their health and safety. Now, it’s about making better use of their time.
Your customers are also questioning the role and value of the sales rep. Often, all they want is an answer they should be able to get from your website or by typing the right question into a chatbox. Having to wait for a return phone call from a rep is now seen as a pointless hassle.
There will still be a time and place for face-to-face meetings. They will just be less frequent now and in the future.
11. There Is a Growing Focus on Waste and Inefficiency
Offsite construction is growing. In part, that’s because of an ongoing shortage in labor. Another driving factor is the growing focus on reducing waste and eliminating inefficiencies.
These days, the question that is being asked is “How much will it cost for every extra day it takes to complete a project?”
As Gerry McCaughey, CEO of Entekra says, “There Isn’t A Labor Shortage: There Is A Process Crisis.”
If your products are designed to meet the needs and limitations of jobsites, you need to consider the needs of offsite construction and rethink your products as soon as you can.
It’s Not Too Late to Adapt
I’ll be dealing with these topics in greater detail in future newsletter articles and in the new edition of Building Materials Channel Marketing.
In the meantime, it’s enough to understand the ways your customer’s expectations are changing and what it takes to adapt to the new reality.
It’s not too late to change the way you do business so you can continue to be successful. Companies that wait too long, however, will see that they missed the opportunity to remain profitable and sustainable.
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