When it’s time for a new sales and marketing plan, most companies use last year’s plan as a template and make a few updates to it. That assumes you already have a great plan and nothing in the market has changed. If only that were true.
Every year your plan becomes less and less effective.
To keep this from happening, take a different approach to developing your plan. Starting with a blank sheet of paper will force you to try something new.
There are a number of ways you could fill in that blank page. Here’s one that I like. I call it the Sales and Marketing Diagram.
Basically, you approach your plan the same way you used to diagram sentences back in grade school.
Your sentence diagrams had nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, prepositions, and conjunctions. Likewise, your plan’s diagram will have some essential parts that play a role in growing your building materials sales.
Elements of a building materials diagram:
Product – What is your product? It’s surprising how many companies skip this step because they assume it’s obvious. Fill in this section. And this isn’t the time for that whole “We don’t sell drill bits; we sell holes” thing. At this stage, you’re selling drill bits.
- Fiber Cement Siding
- Single-Ply Roofing
- Bathing Fixtures
Benefit – What features and benefits make your product a better choice?
Once you have filled in this section, toss it in the trash. The things that make your product better probably won’t grow your sales. Contractors, builders, dealers, distributors and other customers aren’t looking for better products.
But list it anyway. This is an expected step, and you’ll feel the need to do it even though it won’t help you grow your sales. So, write it down and get it out of your system.
Customers – This is another key step that most companies miss. They don’t want to pin themselves down because they worry they’ll less if they don’t try to appeal to everyone.
If you really do have more than one end customer, make a diagram for each one.
Here are the diagram steps:
- Residential or Commercial?
- New Construction or Remodel/Repair?
- Who is the end customer? Facilities Manager, DIY Homeowner, DIFME Homeowner, New Homebuyer, or Owner/Developer?
- How does your product get to the end customer? Are distributors, dealers, contractors, architects, independent reps, or builders involved? Draw a flowchart that shows your product’s path to market.
- Who is the single most important customer when it comes to deciding whether your product will be used? More often than not it’s the contractor, but it could be someone else in your case.
Problems – What are the biggest challenges this key type of customer is facing today? What product are they using? What do they like about it? What do they wish was different or what are their pain points?
Solutions – How can your product or dealing with your company ease these pains points, solve a problem, or just make them more successful?
Competitors – Who are your competitors? They could be direct competitors, who sell a similar product (if you’re a brick company, your direct competitors also sell brick). Or they could be indirect competitors, who sell an alternative to your product (a vinyl siding company would be an indirect competitor to a brick manufacturer).
Customers doing nothing is another type of competitor. If you manufacture solar panels, builders who don’t install solar panels are one of your competitors.
What are your main competitors’ strengths? Are they are bigger? Do they have more salespeople and a bigger marketing budget? Are their prices lower?
What are their weaknesses? Are they so big that customers don’t like dealing with them? Do they have a terrible online presence (most building materials companies do)?
Resources – What resources do you have and how can they be used more effectively? The fewer resources you have, the more important this is. Larger companies with bigger budgets waste a lot of money with ineffective programs. If you’re a smaller company, you can’t afford to do that.
Focus – Now that you have a new view of your situation, think about where you should focus your efforts to become more successful. It could be a region of the country, a type of building, or a type of customer.
For example, is the Southeast the best place for you? Are hotels or million-dollar homes best for you? Are the largest builders or contractors your best target or should you be going after the smaller ones?
Opportunities – Based on what you’ve learned, where are your opportunities to grow? The smaller you are, the more opportunities you have. Larger companies tend to be stuck chasing the biggest customers for the most volume.
What opportunities or customers is your competitor ignoring?
Threats – What could be a threat? Where should you be watching to see threats before they get too big?
The bigger the company, the more threats they face. It’s easy for smaller companies to find opportunities to take a little business here and there from larger companies.
If you’re a smaller company, an opportunity the big companies pass on because they think it’s too small can mean big sales for you.
Measurement – The last part of the plan is to establish metrics or measurements of success. All of these measurements should be steps towards a sale. If they aren’t measurably leading to more sales, they have little value.
For example, increasing traffic to your website is great, but if you have no idea how that leads to more sales, you need to figure out how to tie it to your sales results.
Take a fresh approach to your planning process and you’ll come up with a better plan. Instead of recycling last year’s plan, start with a blank sheet of paper and see where it takes you.
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