In your business, you already know how to generate leads. You have a trained sales team. You build relationships with architects, distributors and contractors. You provide high-quality service to your existing customers and nurture referrals. You maybe even invest in direct mail and print advertising.
But if you’re like many of the manufacturers we work with, you’re also considering online ads to generate new leads.
It makes sense. When generating new leads, you want to be where your customers are, and on average, internet users spend 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day. We spend so much of our lives online, and online advertising opens up wider audiences for you to target allowing you to extend your reach far beyond your existing network.
Despite the obvious benefits, the complexity of the world of online ads leads many Building Materials Manufacturers to drop out of the race.
We’re here to demystify online ads so that you can get ahead of the game: building leads online and outperforming your competition.
But First, Why
There’s a big shift in today’s economy towards research and shopping for products online. And the building materials industry is not exempt. Just take a look at these stats.
There’s been a 75% increase for the search term “interior doors” since 2016. That’s a LOT of business you could be tapping into.
And it’s not just interior products. Fiber cement search saw a 73% increase, composite decking saw a 42% increase and roofing shingles saw a 35% increase.
With more and more people searching — and buying — online, if they can’t find your product, you are going to be left behind. When we surveyed builders, we found that 65% of them used online search to find new products.
The same is true for architects: We found 84% go straight to the manufacturer’s website and 78% use online search.
Advertising online is no longer optional if you want your product to be chosen by any audience, whether you are targeting builders, contractors, designers, architects or DIYers.
Google Search Ads
What Are Google Ads?
Google processes 40,000 searches every second which is approximately 3.5 billion searches per day. When it comes to thinking about where to invest digital ad dollars, it’s no wonder that Google Ads ranks first for many businesses.
Google Ads is a paid advertising service that places ads within search results. For example, if I search “Roofing Materials,” the first listings I see on the results page are ads for roofing companies in my area. Google Ads work on a pay-per-click basis: This means you pay each time someone clicks on your ad.
Where your ad shows up in search results (and how well your ad performs) depends on your AdRank. AdRank is determined by two factors: your quality score and your bid amount (how much you pay compared to other businesses advertising using your same keywords).
What this means is that Google Ads isn’t just pay-to-play… dropping huge amounts of money on ads won’t get you the top listing, because Google only wants to display relevant and useful ads to its user base. The higher quality your ad, the less you’ll pay per click.
An additional type of Google Ad is local search: This is a great option if you have a showroom or store you want to drive foot traffic to. If customers search “bathroom showroom near me,” local search ads can make sure your business shows up in the list of results.
Why Use Google Ads?
Target Customers Who Are Already Looking for You
One of the key ways you’ll target your ad on Google is through the keywords you select. You may have encountered the idea of keyword research when it comes to thinking about your website SEO — and the principles are very similar when it comes to paid ads.
Basically, you want to make sure that you’re advertising to the keywords that people actually search for. Google offers an in-house tool to get started on keyword research.
The fact that you can target specific keywords means your ad will show up for people who are already looking for products that you sell — meaning you can get your business name in front of warm leads.
Test Your Message
When you set up your Google Ad, you can control every part of the message. This means that over time you can test various ad strategies to figure out what messaging works best to convert your leads.
For example, Google allows you to target your ad by specific geographic regions. This means you can choose to advertise nationwide, but you can also choose to target ads at specific local regions. So you can be running several versions of ads in multiple locations concurrently, each tweaked to appeal to your specific market. As you analyze your results, you can see which messaging works best in each market.
If you have more than one product line, you can also create separate ads for each product line. For example, if you manufacture hardwood, engineered and vinyl flooring options, you can run ads for each, again testing and refining your message as you go.
Control Your Budget
One of the benefits of Google Ads is that you can easily control your ad budget. You can set your monthly ad budget maximum, and receive estimates on how many people you are likely to reach and how many clicks you can expect to receive. You’re also able to pause or cancel your ad at any point in time.
What Are Facebook Ads?
Users spend approximately an hour each day on Facebook — and a similar amount of time each day on Instagram. On Facebook, 1.66 billion people log on to the platform daily and one in five page views in the U.S. is on Facebook. If you want to find customers where they already are, Facebook (and its subsidiary, Instagram) are a good bet.
Advertising on social media platforms works a little differently to search advertising. Unlike Google Ads, on Facebook and Instagram, people usually aren’t searching for you. Instead, you’re creating “display ads”: Ads that will show on the newsfeed of your intended audience, sandwiched between the other content they are browsing.
Facebook’s Ads Manager will walk you through the steps of setting up all the steps necessary to start advertising on Facebook:
- Setting your campaign: Creating your overall marketing objective
- Creating your ad set: Targeting your ads to specific audiences
- Creating each individual ad: An ad lives within an ad set, and you can test multiple variations of ads
All of the powerful tools that are available on Facebook are also open to you when you advertise through Instagram (which is owned by Facebook). Instagram offers its own unique modes of advertising (such as Instagram Stories), skews towards younger audiences and, increasingly, is used as a tool for design inspiration.
Why Use Facebook Ads?
Develop Sophisticated Marketing Strategies
Facebook lets you set one of 11 marketing objectives when setting your campaign:
- Brand Awareness
- App Installs
- Video Views
- Lead Generation
- Catalog Sales
- Store Traffic
In our experience, one of the best ways to use Facebook advertising for Building Materials Manufacturers is to create warm leads, rather than to do direct selling.
For example, you upload a video ad, showing how well your product outperforms close competitors. You can analyze who watched your video and demonstrated an interest in your product. You can then re-target those users, and begin directing them to your website or to order a sample, meaning you can continually refine your ad messages.
Target Precise Audiences
As with Google, Facebook lets you set geographical regions for your ad to run in. But Facebook also lets you run your ad based on a range of demographic data, including:
- Ethnic Affinity
- Politics (U.S. Only)
- Life Events
You also have the option to create a custom audience: For example, you could import contacts from your CRM to target people you already have in your client database.
Facebook also has the option of creating “lookalike audiences.” This allows you to import a data set or use a successful ad group from a previous campaign and task Facebook to replicate your audience based on the demographics of your current group.
Essentially, Facebook is the king of granular advertising. So you can target people in the North-East who are following the National Association of Home Builders, for example, or target millennials with an interest in Architecture and Engineering. With Facebook, you can tailor your ads precisely to different audiences.
Engage Your Audience
Facebook is an inherently visual platform; you have the capacity to create engaging content for your audience.
Of course, you’re also competing against all the other content on your audience’s Facebook newsfeed: clips of the weekend’s big game, jokes from an old college buddy, pictures their Aunt Susan shared of her latest grandkid.
In order to interrupt people’s scrolling, you’ll need to develop a strategy that captures their attention. We think this is actually a good thing as it will get you thinking about the most important question when it comes to selling: What problems do I solve for my customers?
A video where you simply highlight your product’s specs and features isn’t going to cut it on Facebook… But what about (as we recently saw) a video showing a timelapse installation comparing your product vs. a standard installation? This kind of ad directly addresses customer needs and is more likely to capture your audience’s attention.
What Are LinkedIn Ads?
LinkedIn is often overlooked in the world of online ads. While it may have fewer overall users than Facebook, the 660 million people who are on LinkedIn are there because of their work. This creates an opportunity to connect with professionals while they’re thinking about their business, and not while they’re trying to find family photos or read a news article on their other social media.
Similar to other platforms, LinkedIn has a Campaign Manager to walk you through the process of setting up your ads, complete with targeting to specific audiences. LinkedIn also offers you multiple ad formats, including single image, carousel image, video, text, spotlight and follower ads.
Why Use LinkedIn Ads?
Reach the Right People
As with Facebook ads, LinkedIn lets you target based on demographic information. But because of the professional nature of LinkedIn, you can advertise directly to people based on their job title, industry, the company they work for or the LinkedIn groups they belong to (for example, the Construction and Building Materials — Professionals Group).
As a manufacturer, you’re selling into very specific markets, which is why LinkedIn’s ability to really fine-tune your audience based on industry and even company makes it such a draw.
When you’re able to target the decision-makers, you want to make sure you’re positioning yourself as a leader. LinkedIn ads work well as part of a content marketing strategy to present yourself as an expert in your industry — capable of solving the problems of the very decision-makers you want to sell to.
While you may not always be making direct sales through content marketing, you are building your reputation and awareness of your products, which is an essential part of a long-term strategy.
Choose How You Pay
LinkedIn has a reputation for being one of the more expensive online ad options. However, they do offer you some flexibility in how you’re charged: cost per click (CPC), used when you’re driving traffic to your website or a landing page, cost per mille (CPM) where you pay for every thousand impressions, used when you’re running awareness-building campaigns, or Cost per Send (CPS), used when you send ads through LinkedIn’s internal messaging system.
As with other online ad platforms, you can also set your daily and monthly budgets, and pause or cancel campaigns at any time.
Getting Started With Online Advertising
For each of the platforms we’ve covered, the process of getting set up is more or less straightforward. Each platform has a user interface to guide you through setting up your first ad, step-by-step.
Of course, just because the interface may be straightforward, it doesn’t mean the strategy is. Often, when businesses complain that online ads “don’t work” for them, it’s because they’re not using ads to their best strategic advantage. Avoid major mistakes with these steps:
- Know Your Customer: Having a clear picture of your intended audience is key in any marketing strategy. The same is true of online ads. You should know your target customer inside out — and in particular, you should understand how your products can solve their problems.
- Define Your Goals: What are you hoping to achieve with your online ad? Are you trying to direct traffic to your website? Build buzz about a new product line? Generate leads? Getting clear on your goals will help you pick the right online ad, and track your results.
- Craft Your Ad Copy: There’s a lot of content competing for your customers’ attention online. So make sure your ad copy engages them right from the top. This means creating ads that both show and tell how your products solve your customers’ problems. You should also consider using video to increase engagement.
- Test and Refine Your Ads: The beauty of online ads is that you can test and refine your messages in real-time. As you grow more confident with online ads, you may run several variations of an ad at once, changing a single variable and looking to see which ad performs better over time. This lets you constantly improve ad performance.
- Dig Into Your Analytics: All of the platforms we’ve covered above offer sophisticated analytics to help you assess whether your campaign has been successful or not. The metrics you track will depend on your goal, but common ones include conversion (did your audience perform the action you wanted them to?), cost-per-conversion, clicks or click-through-rate (the number of clicks divided by the number of impressions your ad received), engagement and bounce rate.
The Bottom Line
The world of online ads can seem big and complicated. There’s a lot to learn, and you’re already running a business. But if you’re not already using online ads, our best advice is to just get started. Start slow, find your audience and begin doing some testing. You can worry about more complicated strategies further down the road, once you start seeing results.
Because even when starting small, you will begin gathering valuable data. Do you really understand your target audience? Is the messaging you’ve been using for years actually working? This is critical customer research that will enable you to make data-driven decisions in the future.