In order for building material manufacturers to be successful, they need to have a channel experience that is connected. Building material manufacturers need to connect the dots for reps, distributors, builders, architects, and commercial or residential consumers.
Unfortunately, today there is a huge disconnect in the channel, leading to frustration. This disconnect is evident by the fact that reps and distributors do not understand the value proposition of the manufacturer’s product.
The builders and contractors do not have a clear understanding of the application(s) of the manufacturer’s product. Engineers and architects do not know how, when, or why they should specify certain products. And, the ultimate disconnect is that consumers are unaware of products that could better fit their needs.
Let’s illustrate the channel disconnect. We live in a highly digital world where everything we do is centered around technology. Yet, most builders are still crafting homes that are not tech-enabled. Most consumers are not even aware of the amount of tech-enabled products that are available.
If a builder isn’t building a home that is tech-ready, then consumers end up spending tens of thousands of dollars to retrofit their homes with smart technologies. This is just one of the more obvious disconnects. Some readers may argue that it is a broad and unfair assumption, that many homes are being built smart. However, the majority of the industry remains top-down – a “you will get what I give you” mentality.
Why There Is a Disconnect in the Channel
The reason for this disconnect in the building products industry is that manufacturers struggle to see the forest for the trees. It is a problem that centers on leaders not understanding the building products ecosystem and how it impacts revenue.
As a whole, most manufacturers are focused on the wrong customer, their direct customer purchasing the product. Whereas the most productive approach would be to zero in on their customer’s customers and their customer’s customer’s customers.
No, that isn’t a typo – building products are sold through a complex ecosystem filled with many influencers. Therefore, manufacturers who want their products to become the preferred brand need to ensure that everyone in the ecosystem has the information to make informed buying decisions.
Misalignment between the manufacturer, the distributor, and the builder leads to a bad experience for consumers. The disconnect was spotlighted during the pandemic when everyone was forced to buy and sell digitally. The past couple of years have proved conclusively that the industry was ready for more technology to facilitate a digital buyer’s journey.
This digital buyer’s journey is more than just having sales calls via zoom or creating a Shopify ecommerce website. The digital buyer’s journey involves the enablement of everyone in the ecosystem. Part of that enablement is the channel having the right content to influence each buying phase.
When selling through the channel, it is important to remember that everyone goes through each phase of the buyer’s journey, meaning that the end consumer navigates through the awareness, consideration, and decision phases and are often influenced by a builder, architect, or engineer. The builder, architect, and engineer also navigate through the buyer’s journey. But what about the building product manufacturer’s customers – the dealers and/or distributors? This is where it gets interesting.
The Problem Coming for Manufacturers
Manufacturers have relied on established relationships with dealers and distributors for decades. Year after year, manufacturers go back to these customers and ask for the order. The awareness, consideration, and decisions were made long ago.
With the pandemic, demand went up and supply went down. This forced many manufacturers to sever relationships with many of their customers. Very few manufacturers suffered; most reputable companies have been sold out of products through 2022.
The problem is yet to come.In the near future, when the market corrects itself and manufacturers have to sell again. The relationship they dismissed or didn’t nurture has moved on and begun their buyer’s journey again.
They are aware of new vendors, they are considering new vendors, and they will decide to purchase from new vendors. This, coupled with the emergence of many new entrants taking a new approach to products has made the building products industry prime for disruption. To stay relevant, building material manufacturers must leverage community, content, and technology to create a connected channel experience.
Four Steps to Creating a Connected Channel Experience
A connected channel experience involves 4 steps:
Recruit: Manufacturers must find and sign the right partners to connect with and recruit into their channel. This includes not only identifying and qualifying the right distributors, but also the right builders, architects, and influencers.
Engage: Manufacturers need to keep everyone in the channel ecosystem engaged. They can do this by actively communicating with them and others in the ecosystem about shared objectives.
Guide: Manufacturers must make sure everyone in the ecosystem understands their role and how they can successfully contribute to the shared objectives. Manufacturers are responsible for educating the ecosystem that in turn guides them.
Grow: Manufacturers must take an interest in the financial well-being of their partners. They have to help their partners sell better and grow.
To accomplish these four objectives, manufacturers need technology to help them achieve their goals at scale – Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platforms. A PRM provides manufacturers with the tools they need to create a connected channel experience. PRM platforms are more than just dealer portals with static content. A PRM is a platform that allows manufacturers to create a shared environment where everyone can have access to the tools needed to educate, influence, sell, and service shared customers. PRM Platforms include tools for:
- Joint business planning
- Training and certification
- Content management
- Lead management
- Marketing automation
- Selling playbooks
- Order management
Creating a connected channel experience is not simply about bringing new technology into your organization. Your IT folks should not be the ones leading your channel initiatives. Creating a connected channel experience is about communicating the way each individual within your ecosystem wants to be communicated with. This requires taking a strategic approach to the way you do business in the digital age that we live in.
This article was written by Kevin Dean, President and CEO of ManoByte a very talented building materials agency. I’m grateful to have talented contributors like Kevin to help me provide valuable and thought-provoking content.