Many building materials companies waste marketing dollars by investing in Random Acts of Marketing.
Marketing should start with an objective, like growing sales, followed by the most important part: the strategy. A simple example of a strategy may be to convert more builders or defend architectural specs. But great strategies have much more to them—details like what type of builder you plan to target and a clear idea of why they should switch over to you.
Once you’ve got the strategy in place, you’re ready for the tactics, or the “acts of marketing.”
The brilliance of this approach is that it allows you to evaluate the different types of marketing activities that support your strategy. This allows you to separate the ideas that are just good from the ones that will be the most effective in helping you reach your objective.
Strategic Marketing vs. Shopping
Too many building products manufacturers approach marketing like a shopping trip—they have a budget, and the goal is to spend it. The goal is not often enough to actually achieve a well-defined objective and grow sales.
Here’s how a lot of companies go shopping for marketing:
1. Just like a trip to the grocery store, they start with the essentials. We buy eggs every time we go to the supermarket, and we put the trade show in the budget every year without giving it a thought.
2. Next, it’s time to go window shopping the competition. They have a new website? Then we need one too.
3. Then there is word of mouth. “I’ve heard that social media is the new cool thing. We need a social media program.”
4. After that, there are the internal sales people or sales leaders who request their own random marketing tools. It’s everything from a simple “We need golf balls” to “We need a new printed catalog because our old white guy customers don’t go online.”
You get these requests because marketing isn’t out in front of the sale people. When you have a well thought out and executed marketing program, your sales people are too busy making sales to be asking for anything else. Why would they when the marketing that supports them is working so well?
Some sales people will always be asking for things. But it’s much easier to say no when the other sales people are happy with how well the marketing tools are helping them succeed.
5. And then, finally, the big, really costly one: the external salespeople who call on building products companies to sell them media space, research, videos, inbound marketing, CRM and more.
The best of these companies, like Hanley Wood, Salesforce and Marketo, have amazingly talented sales people who are equipped with sales materials full of very convincing charts and graphs. They’re so convincing that it’s easy to start thinking you’d be a fool not to buy what they’re selling.
These materials also make it very easy to go to management and show them how smart you are. So easy, in fact, that you don’t really have to think or put your own presentation together—it’s all done for you.
All you have to do is listen to the sales pitch, repeat it to your boss and—snap!—that part of the budget is spent. No muss, no fuss, and no hard work thinking up your own ideas. There’s also little risk of rejection. And these are easy to implement with little risk that there will be a problem.
These companies have excellent products that play an important role as part of a well thought out and effective marketing program. The problem is when you start with what they are selling and then work backward to convince yourself that they will support your plan.
Make no mistake, doing something is usually better than doing nothing. Most of these will have some positive effect.
But unless you start with a clear objective and strategy and then evaluate these programs, they will likely only be 50% effective, at best. It’s no wonder that CEOs don’t trust their marketing departments.
How to Stay on Guard During a Sales Pitch
When I am approached with one of these sales pitches for a client, I use the following approach to keep from being swept away by how great it all sounds.
1. I am very skeptical about their sales pitch. I keep it firmly in my mind that this person’s job is to sell me something, not to help me develop the best marketing program. While they’re talking, I keep asking myself, “How well does this match my strategy?”
2. I also consider whether your company can even implement the program. CRM systems, marketing automation, social media and content marketing frequently fail because your company simply cannot implement them. It is easy to buy ads or a research report.
3. If I still think it’s a good idea, I force myself to come up with at least one viable alternative marketing solution to compare it with.
If the idea passes this test, then it may very well be the right solution.
Stop Using Random Acts of Marketing
If you really want to grow your sales and make more effective use of your marketing budgets, stop using random acts of marketing.
When I work with building products companies, I play the devil’s advocate. When I’m reviewing their marketing budgets and programs, I start with the position that everything they are doing is wrong.
Every company is doing a number of things right; if they didn’t, they wouldn’t still be in business. I challenge everything so that I can separate what is just an ineffective random act of marketing from what they’re doing that is truly great. Then, I work with them to develop a plan for how to shift dollars from random programs into more of the really great ones, the ones that are going to grow sales.
Try it out for yourself. If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll be able to tell what is a random act of marketing and what is truly effective. If you’re having trouble focusing on the programs that will really make a difference, that’s where I can help you. Contact me if you’d like to discuss it.
Thanks for the following comments. I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions.
Director of Business Development, Builder Strategy