Blog for Building Materials Companies

What We Learned at The Whizard Summit

  |  Posted in Strategy

What We Learned at The Whizard Summit

Even though I organize it, the Whizard Summit is not a one man show. I share a lot of information, but I also learn a lot from my expert speakers and the attendees.

If you couldn’t attend my last Whizard Summit, I want to share with you the 12 most important lessons the attendees and I learned from it.

(If you’d like more information on any of these subjects, I am offering a more detailed synopsis that you can request at the end of this article.)

1. The Pace of Change is Accelerating

It used to take the building materials industry 20 years to accept a new product. DuPont first introduced Tyvek in the 1960s, but it wasn’t widely used until the 1980s.

Compare that with how quickly Huber’s ZIP System took hold in building materials.

And now we’re seeing off-site construction being accepted almost as quickly as the latest smartphone.

While the pace of change is faster than ever, just how fast it is depends on which part of the construction industry you look at. Contractors, builders, architects, and developers are accepting and embracing the new changes more quickly than manufacturers.

Why is that? Mainly, it has to do with fear. Manufacturers are held back by a fear of channel conflict. They also have difficulty understanding that their role is changing or how it is changing.

For customers, the fear is that they will no longer be competitive if they do not embrace change.

2. Continuing Shift Online

Building material manufacturers continue to lag behind their customers’ expectations when it comes to their website, emails and other online tools.

Contractors, builders, architects, and other customers are becoming more impatient with how difficult it is to engage with building material manufacturers online.

The websites they use every day in their personal lives are user-friendly, helpful and easy to navigate, so it’s a real shock when they come across a building material website that makes them feel more like they’re stumbling through a maze than driving down a clear road.

3. More Unhappy Customers

As the sales of many building material companies continue to rise, their level of customer support is declining. Their business is growing, but they have not added to their customer service, order processing, warranty claims, and other customer support functions. These areas are, predictably, being stretched and the customers are noticing a drop-off in support.

This decline in customer service is not just an inconvenience for the customer; it’s making them less efficient and more open to switching over to a supplier that offers better support.

4. The New Role of Printed Materials

One of the most common mistakes building material companies make is running a marketing program that is stuck in the past. Year after year, they continue to produce the same materials and go to the same tradeshows.

When I work with these companies and recommend changes to their marketing programs, they see these changes only as additional expenses. They’re not looking at them the way they should: as more effective ways of using their current budgets.

If I really want to get a company’s attention, I will tell them to stop printing everything.

You could say I’m not exactly a champion of printed materials. But I also love to be proven wrong – or at least hear a good counterargument.

Last year, I got into a discussion about this with Bob Schindler of Lightbox Strategy. He made an excellent case that there is still a very important role for printed materials and traditional marketing in building materials. If you want to make effective use of printed literature, you have to completely rethink the way it’s used, where it fits in your sales process and what kind of content you create.

I was so impressed with Bob’s take on this, I invited him to present at the Whizard Summit.

(If you’d like more information on Bob’s presentation and how to rethink your traditional marketing, you can request it at the end of this post.)

5. The Customer is Changing

I delivered an update on how to sell residential and commercial building materials based on the rapidly changing needs of your customers.

I focused on two main issues:

  • The way your customers select products and suppliers has changed
  • The best messages to gain their interest and the best way to reach them

Request my synopsis for more information on these changes and how you can benefit.

6. How to Make Your Customers More Loyal

Dana Schindler of Lightbox Strategy has a lot of expertise in making customers so loyal that you’re literally bulletproof when it comes to losing them to a competitor.

She calls her process “Customer Entrenchment” and the key to it is continually providing value-added services and support that make your customers more successful.

When you do this correctly, your customers won’t be able to imagine doing business without you. They also won’t be so focused on price because you’ll be giving them other, better reasons to stay with you.

(If you’d like a synopsis of how you can apply Customer Entrenchment to your business, see the offer at the end of this post.)

7. What Has Replaced The Sales Funnel?

Dana Schindler showed us why we should replace our sales funnel with a customer flywheel. Sales funnels are focused on single transactions, like gaining a new customer. The customer flywheel, on the other hand, is focused not only on gaining those first sales but designing a system for continuing sales.

I think of it like investing in an annuity. You make an investment to gain a new customer and, just like an annuity, a flywheel keeps giving you a return with regular , and often unexpected, sales gains.

8. What is Sales Excellence?

I have been after Carlos Quintero of Sales Effectiveness, Inc. to speak for several years. Even though he’s the co-author of our book How to Become a Building Industry Sales Rainmaker, his schedule was always jam packed and he couldn’t make it to the Whizard Summit, until now. I finally managed to get him to speak to my audience about sales excellence.

In both sales and marketing, I see too many building materials companies think that investing in a single program or element, like sales training or Salesforce, will pay off.

When I met Carlos several years ago, I was impressed by his holistic or total approach to sales. It showed me the weakness in some of the most common approaches to improving a sales team’s performance.

I was also impressed with the results he shared with me from the many leading building material manufacturers who are now using his approach.

He calls this approach “Sales Excellence,” but I really see it as having a much better sales team than any of your competitors.

(If you’d like to learn more about what Carlos shared at the Whizard Summit, just respond to the offer at the end of this post.)

9. How to Gain More Specs with BIM

Architects, contractors and building material manufacturers are inundated by companies telling them that they have the best and only way to gain and keep more specifications.

The more I try to keep up with all the new offerings, the more confused I get. I have asked many of these new companies to explain to me what is going on in the industry and what is the role of each of these new ways to reach and sell architects and contractors.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to find any who would be willing to actively step back and act as my guide. They’re all in such a hurry to make a sale and reluctant for me to be aware of or understand their competitors that I have continued to be lost.

I’m happy to say that I finally found the guide I have been looking for: Benjamin Glunz of Anguleris Technologies. Benjamin is very experienced in how to gain and keep architectural specifications using his BIMsmith tool for manufacturers.

He’s also in no hurry to get you to use his service. First, he wants you to understand the changing specifications landscape so you can make the best decision for your situation.

Based on his knowledge and approach, I asked Ben to teach me and the attendees how to gain more architectural sales by using the latest online approaches.

(If you’re like me, you’ll want to learn more about what’s going on here. All you have to do is – that’s right: see the end of this post.)

10. How to Double, Triple or Quadruple Your Website Traffic

Matt Lee of Lead Generation Experts is always one of the most popular speakers at the Whizard Summit.

Whenever I review a building material company’s marketing budget, I see SEO listed as a line item. When I review their SEO reports and their Google analytics, though, I shake my head in disbelief.

The most common problems I find are:

  • They are getting nowhere near the growth in website traffic they should be getting
  • They are paying too much for these small results
  • They are doing it more for defensive reasons than to proactively dominate search engine results in their product category
  • They really don’t know why they are doing SEO, other than everyone else is so they feel they should too
  • Their SEO supplier is using it as a reason to get them to spend more in pay-per-click, convincing them that they can’t improve their search results without buying their way to the top
  • They’re targeting the wrong search terms

As with all of my guest expert presenters, Matt didn’t just share the outstanding results he has gotten for building material companies and then promised you the same if you’ll just hire him. Matt showed all of the attendees the simple steps they can take to dramatically improve their search results and increase the number of visitors to their websites.

He even looked under the hood of some of the attendees’ websites and showed them how and where changing one or two words would improve their SEO results. And he did it all in plain terminology that even an old white guy like me could understand.

(Okay, you know the drill by now. If you’d like some expert tips for improving your SEO, see the end of this post.)

11. HubSpot for Dummies or Turning Leads Into Sales

Another one of the most popular speakers at my Whizard Summits is Zach Williams from Venveo. In fact, Zach has spoken at every single Whizard Summit since my first one.

Like Matt, Zach uses plain, understandable English to show you how to turn more of your website visitors into leads. He also showed our audience how to convert more of their leads from all sources, including turning tradeshow leads into customers.

He spoke, in other words, about marketing automation. It’s a very powerful tool, but it also has a very steep learning curve and requires investment and resources if it’s going to be used properly.

When it comes to marketing automation, there are two kinds of companies.

First, there’s the type that succumbs to the promise of companies like HubSpot, Marketo and Pardot and start sending them money. I’m not saying those companies have terrible programs; I’m saying that the vast majority of building material companies who pay for these services are not ready to take this step.

The second type of company sees what a large commitment and investment is involved in adopting a full-blown marketing automation program and wisely chooses not to pour money into what will probably be a black hole.

Zach showed us a few simple first steps that any company can take to dip their toes into marketing automation. If a full-blown marketing automation program is calculus and trigonometry, Zach gave us a lesson in basic arithmetic and algebra.

Here are the two basic lessons he shared with us

  • There is no reason not to have some simple calls to action on your website. These are effective ways to get more inquiries. He showed us how you can do this yourself or with your agency with a few tools that are either free or very low cost.
  • He also showed us how not to give up on to a prospective customer too soon. Most companies give up on a prospect who, with only a few easy steps, could turn into sales.

(If you’d like these two tips and a synopsis of Zach’s presentation, just let me know at the bottom of this post.)

12. What Attendees Taught The Whizard

At the Whizard Summit, I’m not just a presenter, I’m also a student. Here’s what I learned from the attendees:

  • It’s difficult for salespeople to get management and marketing to share what they are hearing from the customers in the field. This is discouraging for salespeople, since it makes them feel like management and marketing think they know better than the customer or don’t really care what the customer thinks.
  • Marketing people also have a difficult time with management. Specifically, they’re finding it hard to get approval to improve the company’s marketing by shifting from the way things have always been done to newer, more effective and more measurable tactics. Good marketing people who want to work in building materials are hard enough to find these days, and you put yourself at risk of losing the best ones if you continue to hold them back.
  • Companies are unwilling to invest in educating their employees. While the companies who people to my Whizard Summit were willing to make an investment, most of the attendees had a very difficult time convincing their management to let them attend. A couple of attendees told me that it had taken them three years to convince their boss.

And for the second time this year, I had a salesperson pay out of their own pocket to attend (including registration fee, travel expenses and even taking a few vacation days). Many of your employees are hungry to improve their skills or learn new ones, but it seems like there is no line item for education in most company budgets.

  • There is a continued lack of strategy in building material sales and marketing . Too many companies still jump from the goal of wanting to grow their sales to some simplistic tactic like “We need a new website.”
  • Companies are also measuring the wrong things. Marketing programs are still measured based on whether they were completed on time and on budget or based on whether the boss liked it, regardless of whether they actually help grow the company’s sales.

I hope this recap of last week’s Whizard Summit has been helpful and that you learned a few things that will help you be more successful going forward.

I also hope you will consider sending one or more of your people to the next Whizard Summit.

Click here if you’d like more information on any of these subjects.

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About The Author

I am the leading sales growth consultant in the building materials industry, I identify the blind spots that enable building materials companies to grow their sales and retain more customers.  As I am not an ad agency, my recommendations are focused on your sales growth and not my future income.

My mission is to help building materials companies be the preferred supplier of their customers and to turn those customers into their best salespeople. Contact me to discuss your situation.