Leveraging digital marketing strategies is a powerful way to expand your building materials manufacturing company and reach a wider audience, but where do you start? If you’re thinking about selling siding online, here are the key steps you need to follow to start tapping into this lucrative channel.
Understanding Your Target Audience
Who are the key decision-makers you’re trying to reach? As a siding manufacturer, these could include installers, general contractors, remodelers, architects/designers and even DIYers, depending on the nature of your product. Once you have picked the titles you want to target, you need to get to know them.
Our 2023 Building Products Customer Guide explores the trends impacting all of these key buyer personas, along with their preferences on media consumption, online sources and how they evaluate brands. While you should conduct additional research of your own, especially taking into account your existing customers, reports like this are a great place to start.
If you don’t already have them, aim to create a unique and actional buyer persona for each market segment you wish to target. This persona should focus on the specific needs and preferences of each target customer, along with details that will translate into more effective marketing and advertising down the road.
Creating a User-Friendly and Informative Website
No matter what ecommerce platform you decide to use to operate your website, there are key elements that come down to your decisions on copy, navigation and design. Not only should your website match the brand and values you wish to portray, but it also needs to speak directly to the target customers you have identified by focusing on benefits over features and addressing their pain points.
An effective website also requires high-quality imagery with detailed product descriptions for every product you’re advertising. If you aren’t selling with a typical “Buy Now” functionality, you should make the “Request a Quote” button readily available.
Also consider linking to product spec sheets, brochures, white papers, and articles so that you can educate potential customers on your products and industry. Starting a blog can give you a major leg-up when it comes to SEO and driving organic traffic, and it can give way to an email newsletter later.
Needless to say, maintaining and growing your website will be an ongoing process, but you’re best off getting started ASAP. Building an online presence takes time, but the efforts will pay off once your website is generating leads for you and nurturing them along the buying journey.
Logistics and Order Fulfillment
Customers have certain expectations when they place orders online these days. While your target personas don’t necessarily expect to get their order in two business days as many consumers do, it’s essential that you set reasonable expectations for processing and delivery and that you stick to those estimates.
From the get-go, you need to select the right shipping partners and carriers to accomplish three key priorities: Keep costs low for your customers, reduce lead times and reduce damage claims from careless shipping and handling.
If you’re going to be shipping directly out of your own warehouses, there will be substantially more coordination and management on your end. On the other hand, if you plan to use a fulfillment center, you might be able to distribute your products more evenly across the country and/or secure faster shipping times, but there are additional fees to keep in mind.
You also need to consider the software side of the equation. A reliable and efficient order fulfillment process starts and ends with the right software and tools for you and your customers. This includes everything from picking, packing, shipping, scheduling and tracking to returns and claims processing.
Pricing Strategy and Promotions
Striking a balance between product quality and customer expectations is the biggest challenge you’ll face when it comes to pricing strategy. Analyzing market trends is critical, and so is understanding how your competitors are pricing their offerings.
You’ll also need to consider separate pricing strategies for each channel you get into. The price should be higher for your direct-to-consumer model as these customers will place far smaller orders (and likely only one, ever) compared to builders and other B2B audiences.
Volume-based pricing, which scales costs down as order sizes go up, can be very useful in helping you automatically adjust your pricing to fit many different types of buyers. Seasonal promotions and incentives for repeat customers can also help you reach a variety of markets effectively.
The importance of appealing images is obvious. When shopping online, images are often the only thing you have to go on to assess thickness, proportions, color and texture. This is why providing multiple angles and close-ups with nice lighting is essential to giving your brand a professional look.
Studio images are a must, but it’s also worthwhile to include images “in the wild.” If you can go and take professional photos of your siding where it has been installed (especially freshly installed), then do so.
If you need to collect more photos of your products in use, this is a great opportunity to encourage user-generated content (UGC). By starting a hashtag, sending out requests, and including incentives or reminders when customers purchase, you can get them to send photos of their projects that you can use for marketing.
Once you have images on your website, you then need to think about improving the user experience. High-quality images are large and take up a lot of space, which can lead to them slowing down your page speed. Using a content delivery network (CDN) and other strategies to optimize your images will help you avoid these issues.
Building a visualization tool may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult of a project — and it can offer immense value to your customers. Especially with something as visually impactful as siding, offering a tool to help customers imagine what the product will look like on their building can help build confidence and drive sales.
Visualization tools also help customers engage with your brand, encouraging them to come to your website even in the early stages of the buying process, long before they’re ready to make a purchase. If you’re providing a really good tool, it can help you stay top-of-mind as they move through the journey.
Optimizing Your Website for Search Engines (SEO)
Search engine optimization is not a one-and-done activity, but investing in an initial audit to optimize your website and then taking some time to plan and write your content in accordance with SEO best practices can do wonders for helping your website earn traffic naturally.
Some of the key recommendations you should follow if you’re just getting started with SEO include:
Auditing your website for ways you can improve on-page performance with aspects like page speed
Conducting keyword research and building posts and pages around relevant queries
Tracking and analyzing your site’s rankings and performance over time, watching metrics like bounce rate
SEO will not lead to instant traffic. In fact, even with a full-scale SEO strategy, it can take some months before you start seeing the results of your efforts. However, once your site gains momentum, you’ll begin to notice an influx of organic traffic and, eventually, a steady stream of leads and sales.
Social media is a powerful way to drive traffic to your website, even in the absence of great SEO. By leveraging hashtags and other methods of organically reaching your target audience, social media can become an excellent source of traffic and leads.
In addition to posting regularly and building your presence naturally, you can also use social media by:
Partnering with influencers, such as contractors and DIYers, who may want to demonstrate or endorse your products
Collaborating with construction companies and other businesses to show your product in action
Encouraging user-generated content with contests and giveaways so that you can call attention to your brand
Sharing valuable information, such as tips, tutorials and infographics, that have the potential of going viral
Implementing Paid Advertising Strategies
Paid advertising is the fastest way to bring in leads and sales for your online business. The most popular way to get started with paid ads is to set up a Google Ads campaign, which will show your website at the top of the search engine results pages.
Other forms of paid advertising can also be effective for siding manufacturers, including pay-per-click ads on social media websites. Targeted display ads can help you get in front of people already searching the web for similar products, and remarketing campaigns can be used to stay top-of-mind for those who visited your site, but didn’t make a purchase (yet).
The hardest aspect of paid advertising is setting the right budget and reasonable ROI expectations and then deciding on the platform and copy that will allow you to get from point A to point B. With a sound ad bidding strategy, you can launch your first campaign with ease.
Offering Excellent Customer Service and Support
There is no face-to-face interaction when a customer visits your online store, which is precisely why you need to go above and beyond with your customer service and support. When people have questions, either before or after purchasing, your team needs to come through with timely, informative answers.
Having astounding customer support can set you apart from other online retailers in the building materials space, and increase the confidence of buyers who are ultimately making a substantial purchase.
Chatbots and AI-powered tools can help you provide instant self-service options when humans aren’t online, but it’s critical that you have humans around to answer questions during regular business hours or at least to respond to emails regularly. Publishing helpful guides, calculators, price sheets and tutorials can also help you answer customer questions even with limited staff.
Building Trust and Establishing Credibility
There are plenty of online stores that promise amazing products and, oftentimes, too-good-to-be-true warranties and policies. Consumers have grown quite weary of where they buy from, and it’s essential that you establish credibility for your brand.
Some of the ways you can build trust include:
Providing detailed information about your history
Making pricing and shipping costs transparent
Providing delivery time estimates before purchase
Making your return policies clear
Highlighting industry certifications and affiliations
Showcasing customer reviews and testimonials
Sharing customer images of installed products
Securing your website and payment portal
From the legitimacy of your company to the quality of your products to the security of the data you process, customers have many concerns when shopping online, and it’s your responsibility to put them at ease as much as possible. Make sure these things are a priority when designing your site and checkout.
Analyzing and Optimizing Your Online Sales Performance
Like any process, selling your products online will take continuous analysis and optimization, especially as software, platforms and tools change. Web analytics can play a major role in helping you decide which aspects to prioritize (like design, SEO, or something else entirely) and setting goals will allow you to stay on course with real-world business objectives as you move forward.
Aside from looking at traffic, bounce rate, page speed and other key indicators of site health, you should also be using social media analytics and campaign data to see how you can better utilize the platforms and channels at your disposal. Listening to customer feedback is also key, especially when it comes to how your product listings or checkout process could be improved.
As a building materials manufacturer, opening up the doors to online sales is a smart business strategy that can help you reach a wider market while increasing your brand recognition and credibility. However, it doesn’t come without legwork.
By taking the time to understand the best practices of ecommerce, SEO and paid advertising, you’ll be off to a great start with driving sales for your business and you can avoid many of the common pitfalls companies make when getting into this new territory.
If you need help with the next step in your venture, Venveo can help. Contact us today to speak with our team of building materials marketing experts and learn how you can begin leveraging online sales for your company.