At a recent Whizard Summit, we uncovered several new problems building material companies are facing. We also found a number of lingering problems that are still holding back their sales.
Here are four ways they are stuck, along with my recommendations for solving them.
- Lack of Focus
Building material companies are still trying to be all things to all people. If there’s a chance you might buy a product from them, they will spend time and effort pursuing you.
But the cost to pursue and convert a prospect continues to rise. Companies and their sales and marketing teams are not taking time to segment their prospects by size or likelihood to buy. The result is that all the effort they put into sales and marketing is much less effective.
Another type of unfocused approach is having too many products. This happens when a smart internal person develops new products at such a fast pace that the sales and marketing departments can’t keep up.
While the building material industry certainly needs more innovation, most of these new products are not the ones your customers want. Instead of being developed in response to a market need, they tend to be produced just because the inventor dreamed them up.
The result is that their original product is never allowed to achieve its full potential as new products are added and less attention is paid to the product line as a whole.
When someone presents me with a new plan, I ask the company leaders if the product is going to have its own sales force and marketing budget. And of course, it won’t. They assume that their salespeople can just take on this new product and it won’t affect the sales of their other products. They also simply add this new product into their current marketing budget, which, once again, reduces the effectiveness of all their marketing efforts.
My recommendation: Get more focused. Ask yourself what products or product lines you can stop selling. And ask yourself what types of customer you should stop pursuing. Doing this will free up valuable resources that you can use to pursue your best opportunities.
I admire intelligence and confidence, but they can also be weaknesses.
Very intelligent people frequently make the mistake of assuming that their intelligence covers more areas than it actually does.
For example, several of my friends are brilliant doctors who have absolutely no street smarts. No one would deny that they’re highly intelligent, but they couldn’t sell or market anything if they tried.
There are two types of intelligent building material executives. There are those who think that because they’re smart in one area, they must be equally smart in other areas. What you want is the second type: the ones who are smart enough to recognize where they’re not so smart.
Confidence is important, too. You need it to be successful. But when that confidence is based on a belief that is set in stone, it becomes a weakness. What you need is effective confidence – confidence based on being certain you will succeed without being locked into any single approach.
The worst situation is when you have an intelligent person who thinks they’re smart in all areas combined with confidence that is based on plans that are set in stone.
My recommendation: If you’re a confident and intelligent person, take time to reflect on and challenge your beliefs.
- Still Too Many Old White Guys*
I learned from the Summit attendees that there are still too many old white guys in positions of leadership in building material companies.
Here’s an example. One of the attendees was recently tasked with putting together a sales and marketing plan to introduce a new building product. The marketing plan was within budget and it combined modern-day, online marketing tactics with traditional programs like print ads, brochures and trade shows.
When he presented this plan, the old white guy leaders crossed out all the online recommendations and approved the print ads, brochures and trade shows.
A few other attendees told me that they didn’t know why they were sent to the Whizard Summit because they’re sure the leadership at their companies won’t listen to or adopt most of what they learned.
My recommendation: Let go of your need to stay with things just because they worked in the past. Listen to the younger people in your organization and allow them to take your marketing in a new, more effective and measurable direction.
- Not Embracing Digital Marketing
One thing the Summit attendees realized from listening to me and my guest experts is that most of them are way behind when it comes to embracing the power and effectiveness of digital marketing.
Everyone has a website, but they’re nowhere as effective as they could be. A number of people use Salesforce but haven’t correctly adopted it so it’s little more than a very expensive Rolodex.
Most of the attendees also spend money on SEO with little to show for it. And they’re not using email, calls to action, social media or content marketing effectively. There were also a number of companies wasting money on poorly designed pay-per-click ad campaigns.
The problem with most of these companies isn’t a lack of trying or awareness of the importance of digital marketing. The problem is difficulty finding the right people and resources to help them make this transition.
The internal marketing people who served you well in the past are not the right people to help bring you into the future.
And your ad agency or web design firm may not be up to the task, either. These outside resources will all claim to be able to guide you through this change, but most of them are not equipped to do it.
They’re probably capable of executing tactics, such as developing an email campaign, but that doesn’t mean it will sell anything. You will hear about open and click through rates but nothing about an actual sale.
Too many building material companies measure their online marketing based on how many activities are completed on time and on budget. They’re not usually measuring how well these efforts actually grow their sales.
And that’s the beauty of today’s digital marketing: when it’s done properly, it can measurably grow your sales.
My recommendation: Let go of your traditional marketing methods and invest everything in digital marketing. The hardest part of this change is finding the right internal people and external resources to guide you through this transition.
*Being an old white guy is more of an attitude than an age or race. I know people in their twenties who act like an old white guy. I also know people who are technically an old white guy, like myself, who are open to new ways of growing.
What Others Are Saying
“This has been my favorite article you have put out yet.” – Daniel Eshaghian, Founder, BuildGrid
“So good, as always! Keep up the great work! I love forwarding your insights.” – Cooper Koch, Principal, Cooper Smith Agency
“I needed this! I’m guilty on nearly all counts and then some. I’m working on getting unstuck.” – Tee Davis, Sales Manager, PolyGreen Buildings
“I stopped reading at too many old white guys. I am unsubscribing from your newsletter.” – Craig Matter, National Sales Manager, BONA
“Great insight! Everything about this article reads so true. ”
Catana Windows & Doors
Mark – love your points about the need for humility (not overconfidence) and the need to embrace digital marketing (not the ‘old white guy attitude’).
Innovate Building Solutions & Innovate Home Org