How do you reach all those smaller building product customers with fewer sales people and not pull your hair out?
Building material companies no longer have enough sales people to effectively call on all the builders, contractors, architects and dealers in the marketplace. Rather than just accepting this, you need to adjust your sales and marketing tactics to the new realities of the marketplace.
Here are 5 ways to cost effectively reach the tens of thousands of small to medium size building product trade customers with your product and brand messages without pulling your hair out.
1. Be the leading source of knowledge about your category.
Start a blog about your category. If you are a door company, start a blog about doors, in general. You could post about:
- The history of doors
- Door styles and the home architectures they go with
- Pros and cons of different door materials
- How builders can use doors to differentiate themselves
- How remodelers can use doors as an added sales opportunity
- Trends in doors designs and colors for architects and designers
- How to choose a door
- Why you should replace a door
- How to replace a door
- Doors of the world
- The oldest door ever found
- How to maintain doors
- And more!
Think about what search terms a customer is using. You should aim to be one of the top listings on each page. This will then draw more of these customers to your blog and your website.
Resist the temptation to promote or sell your products. That is what your competitors are doing. Accept the fact that your product is not the best solution for every customer and acknowledge it. By being an educational and informational resource, you have an opportunity to draw more traffic to your website than your competitors.
Finally as the leading trusted source of information, you also gain increased brand awareness, preference, and sales. Consumers, builders, contractors, architects, and dealers will seek you out over the competition, and you will benefit directly.
Creating this information and presenting it in a compelling way takes time. This is not a part time job or something for the summer intern. You need to be consistently creating and posting content. I recommend you hire someone or outsource it. Good bloggers are hard to find so that outsourcing may be your best option.
2. Be the social media leader in your category.
The content from your blog will make great content for your social media accounts like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and more.
On Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Houzz, Pinterest, and YouTube, follow every building material company you can find. GAF is the company that I think is doing the best job right now. Others to watch are Moen and Pella.
Most people think Facebook is just for consumers, but they’re wrong. Follow GAF on Facebook and see how many roofing contractors are actively involved with their Facebook page.
You’ll also find many contractors and builders are very active in social media. They appreciate it when you follow them and retweet, share or comment on their social media posts.
Once again, this is not a part time job. You either need to hire a dedicated person who could be your blogger or outsource it. If you hire a person you need to budget for their continuing education as social media changes so fast.
3. Utilize marketing automation
Marketing automation is one of the fastest growing sales and marketing tools I’ve ever seen. I really like it because the ROI is measurable, you can reach a lot of people cost-effectively and it forces sales and marketing to work as a team.
Here’s a good definition of marketing automation:
“Marketing automation, when combined with the right kind of website and a CRM, has the ability to attract highly qualified prospects to your site and build a profile on them as they engage on the site through different calls to action (or site forms) which are built around your offerings and your content strategy. As it learns about your prospects, Marketing Automation will score them based on the demographics (title, location, business, industry, size, etc) and behavior (page visits, form submissions, emails opened).
Once the right people do the right things the right sales person (based on geography) will be automatically notified via email and linked to an overview of everything that person has done on the site so that they can then start a conversation with the highly qualified prospect from a very informed perspective.” Mark Obrien, President, New Fangled Web Factory
Once again, you are reaching those small to medium size customers cost effectively and with the added benefit of being able to track sales and your ROI.
Marketing automation should be outsourced to an agency that focuses on it.
4. Use a call center
You can also use an older, but still very effective technique of staying in touch with customers, through phone contact. A good call center has a relationship with the customer where the customer is happy to take a call from your representative.
Ideally the same person is calling the same customer, so they build a relationship. Every call doesn’t have to be asking for business. Calls can be just checking in or sharing information about new products or special offers.
This is another area that is best outsourced to experts.
5. Do a better job at trade shows
For many small to medium sized customers, attending trade shows are their only chance to talk to a manufacturer. Many manufacturers simply wait to see who comes to their booth. You should be more proactive. At trade shows the small to medium customer should be your target as you’re probably already calling on your largest customers on a regular basis.
Think how you can get smaller customers to stop by your booth. What can offer them either at the show or before the show? Make sure the booth staff understands your goal of reaching smaller customers. Set some goals for the show with your team to reinforce your focus on this target.
The most effective thing you can do is to make the smaller customers feel important. Your competition is probably missing this important strategy. Ask them about their business. Listen to their questions before you start selling.
And finally, be sure to follow up. In surveys that I do, one of the biggest complaints customers have is building product companies not following up after the show. When they ask for literature to be sent it frequently is not. When they ask for a rep to call on them, many times they don’t. The end result is that these customers are insulted that they aren’t important enough to warrant a follow-up. They are very likely to buy your from your competitor which makes your trade show investment a waste of money.
Reaching more customers, more cost effectively = sales growth
If you do any of these 5 sales and marketing tactics, you will reach more customers than most of your competitors and you’ll do it more cost effectively than by adding more sales people.
Most building material companies have simply let the smaller to medium size customers go, assuming they can’t cost effectively reach them. The companies that embrace new technologies will frequently be the only ones reaching these customers and will see their sales grow.