I recently asked three building material manufacturers about the results of their trade show efforts. All three told me they had a lot of traffic and interest but six months later they still hadn’t made a sale.
I asked them what they did to follow-up after the show. I got answers like, “We called and left a voice mail” or “We mailed them a brochure” or even “We did both.”
Why didn’t they make a sale?
I asked my clients to put themselves in the shoes of their prospect. Whether it was an architect, builder, contractor or dealer, they all came to the show looking for new ideas. They also came looking for solutions to problems.
The majority of the show attendees who took time to stop at a booth and find out about the products have a genuine interest in them. If they have an interest, why don’t more of these leads turn into sales?
Once again, put yourself in the shoes of the show attendee. When you take a break from the day-to-day details of your business, your mind sees all kinds of new ideas and possibilities.
You walk the show floor and find many exciting new products. Let’s say that you have a real interest in six of them.
You also go to the show to network and be educated. Through networking and attending seminars, you learn about six new business practices that you also want to consider, in addition to the six new product ideas. You are now a building material lead.
You now have twelve ideas that you can’t wait to take back to your business and see which ones will work for you.
Blame it on Monday morning.
You get back to the office on Monday morning with your notes and new product literature that you can’t wait to share. But you’re now back in the office. There are phone calls and emails to be returned. People need to see you. Problems need to be solved.
All those exciting ideas from the show may be sitting on your desk but they are slowly getting pushed aside by the daily challenges you face.
Maybe you get a phone call or email or even a brochure in the mail, but that is usually not enough to breathe life back into your new product idea.
It’s Salesmanship 101.
Good salespeople know that most people don’t buy on the first call, or the second or third. You can do your own research but a recent figure I saw said it takes an average of seven calls or communications to sell a product.
When you think about the complications involved in a building material sale, you can see how it can take some time and patience. It’s not like getting someone to try a different toothpaste.
Companies don’t have enough sales people to follow up on building material leads.
The solution is to utilize a marketing automation program. When I bring this up, they usually tell me they already have a CRM program like SalesForce.com. When I ask how it is used, I find that it is more focused on managing current customers. I also find that it becomes a burden rather than a valuable tool for most sales people who have to enter information that no one reads or uses.
These programs are also focused on sales and are usually not connected to marketing. Another problem with CRM is that they are designed to manage direct sale relationships. In building materials, the person you really need to influence is a contractor, builder or architect who doesn’t directly buy your product.
A better solution to consider is one of the newer programs that is designed to be a marketing automation program and not a CRM pretending to be a marketing automation program. They are an excellent tool to reach out to and build relationships with contractors, builders and architects.
Here’s how building material marketing automation works.
You take the leads that you spent lots of money to gain through trade shows and advertising and put them into the program.
You set up a campaign within the program that automatically follows up with the lead until you choose to stop. The campaign can be a combination of email, direct mail and phone calls.
The program tells you who responded and what message was the most effective. It also tells when the prospect is ready for a sales call.
I am not doing justice to the effectiveness of these programs. Just go to their websites and watch one of their demonstration videos. The other benefit is you can see how the program works for yourself.
Once you go to their site, they will offer you something of value in exchange for your contact information. Now watch over the next few weeks how they follow up with you with different offers that all answer a marketing problem.
They are watching what you respond to and if you respond. As they do this, imagine your product making offers of similar value to your prospects.
I am partial to Infusionsoft because I use it myself and have several clients who use it. It’s also good for smaller to medium sized companies.
What are the downsides?
I have found that there are two issues or downsides. The first is that it has a steep leaning curve. You have to appoint a lead person and allow them enough time to set it up. I would say it will take someone 6 to 8 weeks to learn how to use it. Once it is set up, it will take that person maybe as little as a day a week to manage.
The second issue is that you need to develop content that you can offer your prospects such as white papers on improving profits, reducing call backs, etc.
Most companies think they need to add people and budgets to do this. I think it’s more about priority management and aligning those priorities with the future of marketing. Providing useful content is a more effective means of communicating with prospects on the way to making a sale. Marketing automation helps facilitate this process.