One of the biggest challenges building materials companies face is getting customers to switch to their products. Unfortunately, there is a built-in resistance to change.
Some of the time-consuming tasks that keep architects, builders, and contractors from switching to new products.
- Do a deep comparison between the products to make sure it’s a smart switch
- Train installers on the new product
- Convince the other parties involved that the switch makes sense
- Make sure it’s compatible with the products and building methods they’re already using
- Fill out extra paperwork
It also has to be worth the potential risks that come with a new supplier – late shipments, stock issues, and frustrating customer service. Even if they have problems with their current supplier, those are problems they’re used to dealing with. A couple of predictable problems feels a lot safer than the uncertainty that comes with switching.
It’s no wonder that building materials customers tend to stick with the product that’s worked for them so far.
If they’re already buying from you, that tendency will work to your advantage. It’s one of the reasons keeping a customer is so much easier than getting a new one. No one wants to switch if they don’t have to. As long as you don’t screw up, you can turn a lot of customers into regular buyers.
Winning over new customers – that’s a whole other ballgame. Many of them are comfortable with their current products and suppliers, which makes switching them very challenging.
To overcome that challenge, you’ll need to make a really strong case for your product. It has to provide a lot of value. It can’t just be good, it has to help them solve problems.
One of those problems is waste.
Construction is an industry that has always generated a lot of waste. According to Transparency Market Research, annual construction waste is anticipated to reach 2.2 billion tons worldwide by 2025. In the US alone, 40% of the 250 million tons of solid waste generated yearly is purely construction waste.
Builders and contractors used to accept this as part of the business. Now, they’re starting to realize that all that waste comes at a cost. Their customers have also begun asking about sustainability and environmental impact, so they’re worried that being too wasteful is going to cost them business.
Helping builders reduce waste might not seem like the most pressing issue, but it’s one way to differentiate your product. Given how hard it is to convince customers to switch to new materials, that kind of advantage can make all the difference when you’re trying to grow your sales.
So, let’s look at how building material companies can help their customers reduce waste and how you can make waste reduction a competitive advantage.
How to Help Building Materials Customers Reduce Waste
If you want to find the waste in a construction project, you won’t have to look far. There’s plenty of it at every level.
- Design. Some products have to be trimmed or cut to size on the job site
- Procurement. Contractors typically order more products than they need
- Handling. Some materials are damaged during installation and have to be thrown out and replaced
- Residual. When a construction project is complete, you’ll see the site littered with lots of residual materials that have to be gathered and disposed
Since it happens at every level, waste reduction is a collaborative effort. Building materials companies will have to work with architects, builders, contractors, and owners to find effective ways to minimize it.
Here are some steps that can have a significant impact.
No More Copy/Pasted Product Specifications
Architects want to do their job efficiently. The more projects they can complete, the more successful they can be. And the less time they spend on product specifications, the more time they can devote to fiddling with other parts of the design.
Unfortunately, that means a lot of them will essentially copy/paste product specifications from one project to the next. If the projects are similar enough, there’s no urgent need to reconsider another product.
Except if they’re aiming to reduce waste. Taking a closer look at the specs will ensure that they’re not recommending a product that needs to be trimmed, requires extra materials to install, or comes with excessive packaging.
Architects are more concerned about environmental issues than other types of customers. If you can show them how you could help them reduce waste, that might be the nudge they need to draft a fresh set of specifications.
Change Your Message
We are seeing many new products, such as Zip System Sheathing, where one product takes the place of two or more. A very effective way to reduce waste. When these products are presented to customers, superior performance is frequently the main sales message.
Making waste reduction a more important part of the sales message may be a more effective way to sell these new products.
The concept of reverse logistics is relatively new, so it’s worth taking a moment to explain it. In brief, it’s an approach to supply chain management that includes the moving/returning of goods back to the manufacturer or sellers.
It’s an alternative to traditional logistics, which tends to be one-directional. Suppliers and manufacturers send products to their customers, and the customers throw you anything they don’t need. Reverse logistics lets you move products in the other direction: anything that isn’t used but is in good shape can be sent back to you, where it can find its way to a customer who will make good use of it.
It’s a waste-reduction and cost-saving measure, but it’s also an extra selling point for your product. There aren’t many suppliers and manufacturers who will let contractors return excess products for credit. Giving them that option will make switching to your product that much easier.
Waste reduction must start from the first step of the construction process. Before there are boots on the ground, before you’re shipping materials to the site, there has to be a plan in place to keep waste from generating.
Even though construction waste is most visible at the end of the project, a large percentage of it is generated at the purchasing stage. Contractors want to minimize complications. Builders want to make sure there are fewer delays. One way they do that is by ordering too many products, just in case.
That could be avoided by spending a bit more time working out how much product will be needed for the project. That way, builders and contractors can order a few extras without buying an excessive amount.
As a building materials company, convincing your customer to buy less of your product might seem counterintuitive. But if you can work with them to nail down the right amount they’ll need and reduce their expenses, that will help you build stronger customer loyalty.
Reduce Product Packaging
About 10 to 20% of the waste in construction is generated from cardboard alone. As a building materials company, that’s an area where you can make a big impact.
Take a look at the way your product is packaged and how it gets wrapped for shipping. There’s a good chance some of it is excessive. If you can, create new packaging that uses fewer materials. Ask yourself if you really need all that cardboard or the fifth layer of plastic wrap around the materials before you load them onto the truck.
Any packaging you can reduce on your end is packaging your customer doesn’t have to throw out on theirs.
And be sure to let your customers know about it. They’ll appreciate the effort, and you should get credit for taking that extra step to help them.
Construction crews don’t set out to throw out as much material as they can. It’s just what they default to doing. They have all this extra material they don’t need and plenty of large dumpsters conveniently on-site. So the most obvious solution is to throw it all out.
Most of the time, materials don’t get reused or recycled because construction crews simply don’t realize it’s an option.
Plastics, paper, cardboard, metal, and glass can all be recycled. Concrete, gravel, and other aggregates can be salvaged and reused. Drywall can be used to patch damaged spots during the finishing stages.
You can normalize those practices by giving your customers recommendations for how your products and materials can be reused or recycled. Be precise about it, too. Many companies say their products can be reused or recycled but don’t tell their customers exactly how. Show them how and they will be a lot more likely to take those steps.
Track Your Progress
”Reducing waste” is somewhat vague. It’s a great goal, just not a very concrete one. You can make it concrete by setting quantifiable targets and tracking your progress toward them.
Track how much excess material gets recycled instead of disposed of. Put a number on how much packaging you want to eliminate – 5%, 10%, 20%? See how much waste your competitors generate and set a target below that level.