The construction and home building industry are being disrupted right in front of us. Yet, the exhibits of most manufacturers at IBS looked like nothing has changed or is changing.
The dominate message is still My Product is Better. The problem with this is that builders aren’t looking for better products. They are looking for partners and guides to help them navigate the industry changes successfully.
I attended a Katerra event where they showed how they are delivering on the promise of building faster, cheaper and better.
While Katerra may be getting most of the attention, there is a growing list of other factory builders such as Entekra and others.
“I can sell 700 home a year but I can only find the labor to build 600.”
“I have three competitors in my market. We all build very comparable homes at the same price point and cost. What will happen when one of my competitors starts using a factory builder? How will I compete when their homes cost less, are built faster and of higher quality?”
How are your “better products” going to help these builders?
One Company Recognized The Changing Needs of the Builder
MiTek tells the builder, “We understand and we can help.”
You won’t find any “Our products are better” claims.
Maybe MiTek has been onto this for a while. In 2012, their IBS booth said “Drive Out Building Costs and Waste, We’ll Show You How”
How Many More of These Signs Will We See Next Year?
A big part of reducing waste and inefficiency is eliminating any costs that don’t add value. More builders are looking to buy direct or from online sources as they question the value of dealers and distributors.
A number of manufacturers are already selling direct to builders, who are interested. When will they add the words “We Sell Direct” to their booths?
Manufacturers Still Don’t Understand How to Sell Builders
Whenever I go to a trade show, I try to spend some time with some of the attendees for a reality check. This year, I walked part of the show with Tom Benedict, VP of Purchasing at Wayne Homes.
Here’s what I learned
1. Most manufacturers show him products that he acknowledges are better. He usually doesn’t buy them because they are not sold to him as a solution to a problem he is trying to solve. They are presented as something that would be nice to have.
The other reason he doesn’t buy is because the manufacturer hasn’t also sold his contractor.
2. Manufacturers who take the time to ask questions and listen before they start selling, are more likely to make a sale.
3. He is very loyal to manufacturers who want to grow their sales by making Wayne Homes more successful and not just selling them products.
How Not to Drop the Ball at the Next IBS
Other than the cold weather and snow putting a damper on the outdoor exhibits, this was a great IBS. There were a lot of builders on the show floor looking for better ideas.
I didn’t talk to a single exhibitor who was unhappy with the show.
Most of them were also patting themselves on the back about their great display.
Most companies will now move on to their next marketing or sales initiative. Other than committing to next year’s space, they won’t start planning for next year’s trade show for several months.
But if you really want to be a winner, you need to act like one. Yes, the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl – again. And yes, they celebrated. But I’m sure they also took a cold, hard look at their performance the following week.
I’m sure they reviewed every detail of every play to find out where they could have done even better.
You might not be playing in the Super Bowl, but you should take the IBS show just as seriously. When you consider the cost of a trade show and the fact that you only have three days to make it pay off, it may be your most expensive activity.
Building materials companies are often reluctant to take a critical look at their trade show exhibit and performance. Like many other businesses, they want to avoid difficult conversations and hurting anyone’s feelings.
But difficult conversations are essential for success. Do you think there was a single play or Patriots player that Bill Belichick didn’t dissect and point out how it could have been better?
Review Your IBS Performance Now
If you want to do better next year, get your IBS Show team together on a conference call this week, including anyone who attended the show or was involved in the planning.
- How was the traffic (on the show floor and in your booth)?
- What did each person learn or observe?
- What questions were builders asking?
- What did builders think about your products?
- What did you learn from your competitors’ exhibits?
- What was good about your exhibit?
- What could have been better?
- Did you give literature or literature bags? Should you in the future?
- What could you do (before or at the show) to draw more traffic?
- How can you improve the show planning process?
- Do you have the right people involved in show planning?
- Most companies are in a rut when it comes to show planning – they simply update last year’s plans – should you start from a blank sheet of paper, instead?
- Should you change anything about your sales and marketing approach, based on what you learned at the show?
- If you decide to exhibit at IBS in the future, what can you do to improve your results?
- And finally, one of the most important questions you’ll ask: should you exhibit at IBS next year?
Are there smaller shows that may be better for you?
If you spent your IBS budget differently, would you get a better return?
Make sure you listen to everyone, even the new person or the people you disagree with. They’re often the ones with the most valuable insights. If you need help on the “What could we do better” part, give me a call.
If you really want to win next year, have that meeting this week while the trade show is still fresh in everyone’s mind.
Put Someone in Charge
Three companies stopped me as I was walking the show and asked me to critique their exhibits. One of them even shot a video of me, as I tore them apart.
None of them had a bad exhibit, they just wanted to improve with an outside opinion from someone who doesn’t sugar coat their comments.
The consistent problem I found was that all of them told me that their booths are designed by a committee. There is one person in charge of deadlines and the budget but there is not a single person in charge from a sales or marketing standpoint.
Everyone has an opinion so you end up trying to please your internal audiences rather than the builder walking the aisle.
Think of your exhibit as an ad. When you design an ad, you have an audience and a purpose in mind. You don’t keep adding things to fill the space.
As everyone is an expert in marketing, everyone thinks they know what should be in the trade show booth. The companies who are very good at marketing building materials don’t make this mistake.
If you don’t have a multi-million dollar marketing budget, you can get better results by putting one person in charge and showing less rather than more information.
And give that person a measurable definition of success. Unfortunately for most companies, the measure of success is whether or not the boss thought it was a good show.
Thanks for the following comments. I’d like to hear your feedback and suggestions on how to sell architects.
“Good points Mark!”
Innovate Building Solutions & Innovate Home Org
“My favorite line: “He usually doesn’t buy them because they are not sold to him as a solution to a problem he is trying…”
Social Media Director