One frequent mistake that building materials companies make is looking at the whole country like it was one big market. It simply isn’t. And when you step back and look at each market individually, you can adjust your sales and marketing for maximum results.
If demand for your product is booming in Charlotte more than it is in Indianapolis, maybe you should double down on Charlotte. The reasons people buy your product in California might be very different than what appeals to your customers in Texas. Tailoring your message to reflect these differences can be a big help to your sales.
Natural Disasters Force You to Think Differently
Natural disasters force you to think more locally. The recent hurricanes will affect parts of Texas and Florida for months – if not years. Builders, contractors and architects in Minneapolis will soon be back to business as usual. Those in the south-east won’t be so lucky. This creates two different markets with two very different needs.
If you sell through Lowe’s, Home Depot, big distributors or major dealers, they already have a plan. They will tell you what you need to do for them, to help those in need.
In the areas affected by the hurricanes, you need to think about your employees, your customers and your operations.
What will happen to architects in these areas? Will current projects come to a halt and new projects dry up for a while?
Can they pivot to the reconstruction market quickly enough? How do they find these owners?
Architects are good at what they do, but they’re not great marketers. Is this something you can help them with? What if you gave your marketing team and agencies this assignment?
How will these extreme weather events affect small- to medium-sized builders? As the attention shifts to rebuilding, how will they find the labor to complete the homes they have already sold? How much more will they have to pay for materials and labor to complete these homes? All of this amounts to added costs that they cannot pass along.
How well did their homes still under construction hold up? Are they insured?
Will people stop buying new homes for a while?
Will they have to switch to repair and rebuilding just to stay in business?
How can you help them? Again, this may be a good time to get your sales and marketing people working to help them.
Contractors are likely to be overwhelmed with work. A roofer already knows how to replace a roof. But many other contractors will face jobs that are larger than the ones they’re used to. They will also face situations where they have little expertise, such as dealing with water damage.
They may not know what to look for and will have a tough time estimating projects.
They’re not great human resources people and might have a tough time keeping their employees from getting poached by competitors. They also don’t know how to attract experienced people except by just paying them more. A higher pay might lure skilled employees, but people who come mainly because they will earn more are also likely to leave when a better offer drops on their lap.
Contractors don’t know how to hire and quickly train inexperienced people.
They also aren’t operational experts, so they don’t know how to become more productive by changing their processes.
How can you help? What if you gave your HR and Operations people a special assignment?
Lumber dealers and specialty dealers who buy through two-step distributors tend to get ignored. They don’t deal directly with manufacturers, so the manufactures may not know their needs or how they can help them.
How can you improve your communications with these important customers? How can you find ways to help them?
Remembering the Little Guy
Builders and dealers are used to being treated like second-class citizens when big boxes and other big customers need all the product you can provide.
You can choose to continue this practice. If you do, no one will blame you. But you can also try to find a way to help these smaller customers. They’re the ones who are likely to stay loyal to you in the future. If you’re not the market leader in your category, this can be a very smart strategy.
Your local sales reps should be in contact with their customers. What is their personal situation? Are they OK? What about their homes?
What about their business? Was their place of business damaged? What are their problems and how can you help?
You should be all over social media, showing your concern and offering suggestions or sharing information.
Senior executives who live far away from Texas and Florida should also be contacting every customer they know who may have been affected – large or small.
If you have a good customer who has really been hurt, can you offer them special credit terms to help them get back on their feet?
Opportunity to Prove Who You Are
Most companies have a nice sounding mission statement on their website or on a plaque in their lobby. But most of the time, their employees and customers don’t believe they really stand for what they say.
How you respond to events like this is an opportunity to show what type of company you really are and what you stand for.
It’s always good to give money. But this can be the easy way out, and it might do more to make you feel better about yourself than showing people who you are.
It’s like checking off a task. There was storm; send a check to a charity. Send out a press release that no one will share. There. We’ve done our part.
It’s better than doing nothing, but it’s nowhere near what you could do to benefit those in need and your future business.
This commitment has to come from the top. Get your team together and think about what you could do that would make a real difference.
Opportunity to Demonstrate Your Product
If you have a product that requires people to change the way they design and build, you now have a window of opportunity. The costs of materials and labor tend to rise slowly enough, in normal times. that there is little incentive to look at new ways to build.
But when the market is hit with a huge price increase for materials and labor, they’re a lot more open to switching to an alternative like your product.
Maybe your product costs more than the traditional solution. You may have just become a lower cost and smarter solution.
When traditional materials are in short supply at any price and your product is available, you gain a big advantage
If your product uses less labor, less expensive labor or installs faster, you have yet another advantage.
This window of opportunity will only be open for a short period of time. You need to act fast, and it will probably take a lot of boots on the ground.
One Last Suggestion
Natural disasters will continue to happen, and they won’t all be hurricanes. Now is the time to learn and plan how you will react to the next event. Having a plan in place will not only allow you to be more helpful, it will also further your business in the future.