There are a number of effective ways that building material manufacturers can market to builders. Like most things in this day and age, the most successful strategies involve a winning combination of traditional interpersonal skills and targeted online techniques.
In the past, your company may have been tempted to focus your manpower on the largest builders in the country — after all, isn’t that the way to get the best bang for your buck? While those relationships are certainly worth nurturing, there are multiple strategies that include medium and small size builders as well. These tactics are not time, labor or dollar intensive and can quickly diversify your client pool.
And they really do work.
In order to help your company truly maximize your marketing strategy to builders, I’ve created this ultimate guide to make sure you’ve got things covered on all fronts.
I’ll walk you through several types of marketing channels to help you create a robust and effective plan.
I've split this article into 8 chapters:
1. Understanding Your Target Builder Demographic
2. Creating a Winning Approach to Reach the Builder
3. Marketing to Builders Through Your Website
4. Creating an Effective Online Sales Funnel for Builders
5. Growing Awareness and Leads Online
6. Becoming a Social Media Leader
7. Reimagining Your Trade Show Interactions
8. Growing Your Builder Relationships
Discover more about Builders: Download the Builder Marketing & Research Report to get deeper insights into who they are and what they want from building materials companies.
Understanding Your Target Builder Demographic
When beginning a new relationship with a builder company, regardless of size, make sure that you target the right person. Their role in the company should be either in purchasing or management — or ideally, both.
Most builders making purchasing decisions are well-seasoned professionals. We recently conducted a survey of builders and found that of those with purchasing power, 43% stated they’ve been in the business for 20+ years, and another 27% had between 11 and 20 years of experience. So you have to prove that you really know your stuff.
And that really holds true no matter what kind of marketing strategy you’re using, whether it’s a sales call or a piece of content on your website. There are several different ways you can grow your builder sales when you pitch the right person in the right way.
Let’s talk about a few of my favorites.
Empower Your Sales Staff With Email Nurturing & Marketing Automation
Using marketing automation along with your CRM can help your salespeople make informed calls to warm leads from your website or listserv. How does it work?
Marketing automation is software that takes your email marketing to the next level by tracking visitor behavior on your website and in emails. Marketing Automation software gathers data on each person who visits your site and engages with your email to build a prospect profile that contains a wealth of helpful information so that you can tailor your messages to specific contacts, nurture them through the sales funnel, and have incredibly informed, targeted sales conversations with them at the exact time they’re ready to make a purchase decision.
This information can be priceless. Why?
Because it paints an extremely detailed portrait of what your potential customer is looking for in a product. If certain criteria are met, a salesperson then receives an automated email with all of the person’s activity explained in detail.
This information allows your sales staff to make highly-informed follow up calls pitching the right product that addresses the exact problem that person is trying to solve.
What I also like about marketing automation is that everything is measurable — you get a clear-cut picture of your ROI. Plus, it’s pretty cost effective to begin with and allows you to extend your reach to small and mid-size builders in a manageable way.
Differentiate Your Product During the Sales Pitch
Don’t create the same pitch for each builder. There’s plenty of research you can do in advance in order to make your pitch as specialized as possible, even if you don’t already have an online relationship to track with automated marketing.
Regardless of whether or not you have an existing relationship with the builder, differentiate your product and position it as a solution for their specific needs. In order to do this, you need to perform a fair amount of information gathering. Don’t make the mistake of scheduling an exploratory meeting. You need to go there ready to make the sale.
For example, get to know what kind of projects the builder specializes in. Are they building single-family starter homes or customized luxury residences? That alone can tell you what kind of product you should be pitching.
If they have model homes built already, actually go walk through them to see what they’re offering to buyers and what kind of need you could help them fill. Don’t be afraid to talk to the sales rep there. They can offer tons of helpful information on what the current market is like and what kind of finishes and materials potential buyers are looking for.
Also, find out about the builder’s competitors. That information will be useful in your sales pitch and shows that you did your homework.
A lot of this information can also be found online. So if you don’t have the bandwidth to travel for each individual builder, do some sleuthing online and make some follow-up calls to the model homes to get more in-depth information.
Understand All Stakeholders Involved
We’ve found that builders aren’t always the only decision makers in certain material product categories. In fact, our builder survey shed some light on exactly who else has influence in certain purchasing decisions.
Here are some other key stakeholders you’ll need to be aware of, even when pitching the builder specifically.
Architects are typically involved with structural decisions and, to a lesser degree, with lighting fixtures, windows and doors.
Installers frequently give input when it comes to heating and cooling systems. They may also weigh in on painting, decking and flooring.
General contractors are known to give their input in all development categories, though to a less significant degree.
What does this mean for you as a manufacturer?
Create a sales approach that addresses the concerns of these stakeholders as well — even if you’re talking directly to the builder. We know that construction projects are becoming less and less siloed. So if you can help your builder help educate other parties about the benefits of your product, you’ll have a much easier time winning over the entire team.
Creating a Winning Approach to Sell the Builder
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not taboo to ask for a meeting to pitch your product. Most purchasing managers actually appreciate the additional information — as long as you’ve prepared and researched in advance.
In addition to learning more about the builder’s specific needs, market and competition, you should also ensure your sales staff are adequately versed in the specifics of your product.
In fact, a common complaint among builders is that salespeople don’t have the proper knowledge about their building material products.
To prepare your sales team, educate them in what a typical builder wants to know. Some of the most common hesitations when it comes to selecting a new building material include:
- Quality of material and whether or not it will perform as quoted
- Seller’s reliability
- How it works with other products in the project
- Warranty issues
- Availability and cost
Other potential concerns a builder might have include lack of testing, product history and installer acceptance of the product. Give your salespeople the resources they need to proactively address each of these worries with the builder.
Remember the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? It applies to effective sales marketing too. Prepare answers to these questions early on in your team’s training.
I’ll show you some more ways you can create a toolbox of valuable resources to share with builders in a bit, but for now, it’s important to have your sales staff fully versed in the potential concerns any builder may have when considering a new product.
You can also empower your sales staff to create an atmosphere of trust by not only helping builders solve their problems, but also admitting when it might not be the best fit. Of course, it’s ideal to demonstrate how your product can help alleviate some of the builder’s issues. But if it doesn’t, don’t try to force it.
An honest and sincere approach can go a long way in creating a lasting relationship, even if every single product isn’t a perfect fit for a builder.
Plus, it shows your knowledge of their business. If you don’t do your best to help solve their problem, the builder will have little incentive to continue ordering from you in the future. They’ll think you’re either disingenuous or simply not knowledgeable enough to help them get the job done right.
By being upfront about potential drawbacks, builders will trust that you truly understand their needs when it does come time to choose a product of yours that can help them out.
Give the Builders What They Want
We’ve talked about how product knowledge is an absolute necessity in order to effectively sell a builder on your product. But for many builders, seeing is believing.
One of the biggest requests we’ve found is for manufacturers to provide physical product samples for test homes, either for free or at a reduced price.
The upside for you as the manufacturer is that you can get your product displayed and in front of a larger audience while also showing the range of finishes and features available with your product line.
This is especially helpful if the builder is selling lots for a new residential community and putting out finishing samples for buyers to choose from. Consider it an investment.
What else do builders want to see from you? A proven track record.
Whether it’s through client testimonials or performance statistics, start compiling some type of data to prove that your product actually works. Not only is this information helpful in a one-on-one situation, but it can also lead to extremely effective content that you can use in other channels, like your website.
Plus, testimonials can help give builders ideas of how to use your product that they might not have considered before.
Another way to win over a builder is to guarantee both pricing and supply for a certain period of time. We hear it time and time again, one of the biggest issues for builders is a lack of availability when they need it. The same goes with consistent pricing. Everyone’s on a budget, right?
Work on your supply chain quality to ensure you can meet your clients’ needs. Once you can offer one or both of these guarantees, make sure you highlight it on your website and any other marketing materials you offer — and, of course, in your personalized sales pitch.
If you need a killer differentiator, guaranteed pricing and supply is the way to go.
Marketing to Builders Through Your Website
There’s no denying that interpersonal meetings and relationships are vital to any effective sales strategy. But when you’re trying to diversify your builder client pool to include all sizes, there’s just no way you can schedule a one-on-one meeting with every single company you’d like to meet. Even if you could, it’s really not practical or necessary.
So how do you broaden your reach without doubling your sales staff? The answer is, of course, by creating a knockout website that brings in traffic and converts leads to sales.
In fact, I routinely tell our clients that their website should be their best salesperson. But it doesn’t have to be a complicated process. You can do the same thing by following a few simple steps.
Let me break down each one, and you can see how your website stacks up. I’m even going to share some feedback from our builders survey to give you an idea of what exactly your target audience wants to see when they visit a building materials website.
Digesting this information and creating a plan to execute some (or, ideally, all) of these action items can go a long way in increasing your sales to builders.
To start analyzing your company’s current website, ask yourself each of these three questions:
Is your website easy to navigate?
When we interviewed builders across the country about their purchasing habits, we gained a lot of great insights into their thought processes. One of the most telling is the main source that builders use to discover new products. It’s not manufacturer sales reps or even trade shows — it’s online search.
What that means is that more and more builders are taking to the web to find the best building materials for their new projects. So if your website isn’t user-friendly and easy to navigate, you’re automatically missing out on a huge opportunity to bring in sales leads.
Plus, once you build a strong and effective process to keep your website current, you can get in a good groove of continually attracting leads.
But before you do that, you need to make sure your website is set up to drive traffic to the right place at the right time. Builders actually cited navigation difficulties as one of their chief complaints about building material websites.
So how can you make your website function better for them?
Start off by looking at your website’s navigation. The options should really be pared down to the most important links. To share more information, you can offer four or five different options for each one in the form of a drop-down menu.
A well-organized navigation can also help you differentiate web content for separate audiences. So if you want to primarily target builders but also sell to individual consumers, you can make that distinction right away.
Alternatively, you can organize your navigation based on your different product categories. I love the clean look of this website from Silverado Building Materials in California.
It actually has two tiers of menu options but is far from looking cluttered. Front and center, your eye is drawn to their product categories: masonry products, outdoor living, nursery, the design center or a gallery for inspiration.
At the top of the page, you can find logistical and contact information, as well as a resources page and blog. No matter what page you click on next, you always have the same navigation choices available, making it easy to find what you’re looking for. The layout is consistent so you’re immediately drawn to the right information. Distractions are kept to a minimum.
Can you say the same for your company’s website? Make sure every page is consistent and streamlined. Too much information really can be a bad thing when it comes to your online presence.
Does your website provide visitors with valuable content?
Builders are looking for helpful content — why else would they be searching online for new product ideas?
Not only does quality content help your website win in search rankings (more on that shortly), it also creates a user-friendly experience for your visitors. The more information they can find about your products, the better understanding they’ll have of whether or not it’s the right fit.
What kind of content do builders want to see?
Visuals are definitely worth the time and investment. Here’s a telling statistic about how effective visual marketing can be. Research shows that if a person hears a piece of information, they’ll only remember 10% of it three days later. If there’s a visual component, they’ll remember 65% of the information within the same timeframe.
Not only does science support this theory, but studies all over the web point to an increase in visual content marketing. And our builder survey supports the same. When we asked builders to identify the most helpful types of website content, a resounding 67.4% had the same response:
Photos and videos.
It makes sense when you think about it. Being a builder is an extremely visual process that involves countless details. If you can provide content that takes the guesswork out of the job, then you’re doing your audience a huge favor.
How can you integrate more visual content into your website?
Hopefully you already have photos of your products. But you can take that one step further by also including photos of each product actually installed or if applicable, integrated into an existing system. Use imagery to visually clarify any common logistical questions or concerns.
Installation videos are also hugely popular. These are a great way to share step-by-step instructions. If you don’t want to produce live videos, consider hiring someone to create animated explainer videos for you.
When you think about the concerns builders cited having about new products, it’s easy to see why visual content is so popular among this demographic. Remember that the largest hesitation was whether or not a product actually works as quoted.
If you provide a video demo of your product working in real life that builders can watch from the comfort of their laptop or smartphone, you’ll have a pretty straightforward time convincing them of your product’s quality.
Providing quality content not only saves your sales team countless hours, but it also gives you a much larger scope because you’re able to reach builders you probably wouldn’t have had access to in any other scenario.
Discover more about Builders: Download the Builder Marketing & Research Report to get deeper insights into who they are and what they want from building materials companies.
So how can you incorporate education-based marketing on your company’s website? There are countless tactics you can use, but no matter what, you need to:
- Cater to Your Ideal Customer. We talked about segmenting your website to various audiences. But more than that, you really need to put yourself in your customer’s shoes to make sure you’re providing the most useful information. Talk to your sales staff to find out what they’re hearing in the field.
Also reach out directly to your existing customers for what type of resources they’d like to see on your website. Remember that your ultimate goal is to help your leads solve their problems. That should always be the basis of any education-based content you create.
- Create Consistent Touchpoints. Your entire online presence should lend itself to giving visitors ongoing reminders that you’re there to help. A great way to do this, and to move leads through the sales funnel, is to offer valuable information — in exchange for an email address.
Once you have their contact information, you can regularly send gentle reminders and ongoing tips regarding your company or specific building material. I recommend to keep a good balance of giving valuable content and product information so your leads look forward to hearing from you, and remember that any downloadable content you provide should be worth the exchange of email.
- Craft a Message That Warrants a Response. Here’s a great place where the sales and marketing teams can work together to get great results. As mentioned previously, your entire website’s message should revolve around solving your customer’s problems. So all that research your sales team did to educate themselves on the needs of their prospective clients can also come in handy for your online presence.
They can communicate builder’s needs to the marketing team, who can then repackage that into compelling text that makes website visitors keep clicking. This information should set the tone for all of your content, whether it’s visual or written.
- Keep Adding Value. To truly create a successful education-based marketing strategy, you need to help your leads through every step of the buyer’s journey. We’ll talk more about those stages in a minute, but let me say here that your website should be a platform that sets you apart as the leading expert in your industry.
If you’re a builder comparing two building material websites with a similar product, wouldn’t you choose the one with helpful installation guide videos and in-depth specifications over the one with just general product information and nothing more? Of course you would. It sets the expectation that your team is there to help.
- Exceed Expectations. Once you’ve set the bar that you’re an established authority, you’ve got to live up to your own reputation. Again, this boils down to keeping up with your content production, building your brand through various online channels, and empowering your staff to provide the resources builders actually need.
Creating an Effective Online Sales Funnel for Builders
A huge part of creating an effective sales website is to generate leads and then provide multiple nurture campaigns in which you convert them into actual customers. In order to be successful at this, you need to provide killer content in three specific stages of the buying process.
Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
You’ve undoubtedly heard of sales funnels, and the same concept applies when turning your website into a marketing machine for builders. The idea is that you break down your website visitors into categories based on their intentions, and then provide valuable information to move them closer and closer to a sale.
Let’s take a closer look at each sales funnel category of builders and how you can convert them into actual customers.
Top of Funnel: Your Largest and Coldest Group of Leads
The top of the funnel is the biggest group, and they’re furthest away from becoming customers. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. By educating these website visitors in your general category, you can help them become more interested in your product.
So what are builders in the top of your funnel looking for? Most likely, this segment wants to learn more about your general product category — not just about your specific company.
This gives you a great opportunity to provide value directly to these leads while simultaneously positioning yourself as an industry expert. For content targeting this tier in the funnel, you don’t want to be too sales-oriented because they’re just not ready yet.
Instead, offer helpful content about the industry as a whole. There are tons of great types of content you can use for this purpose. Some of my favorites include blog posts, social media, infographics, portfolio galleries, product pages, newsletters and some short introductory videos.
Here’s a great landing page from Rinnai, which sells tankless water heaters.
The page is targeted directly to builders (you actually get there by clicking on a hyperlink called “For Builders”). There are a couple of things that I like about this page.
It’s extremely solution-oriented for the target demographic — all of the statements are for builders. This allows Rinnai to keep the messaging simple. They’re not trying to hit homeowners and builders at the same time.
On the right side, you see a downloadable catalog that is again compiled specifically for builders. There’s also a link for a case study about residential new construction. Both of these are more appealing to builders than just having a document on the benefits of tankless water heaters.
The topic is broad enough to reach most people in the top of your sales funnel, provides value and sets you apart from the competition. It’s a great differentiator.
Middle of Funnel: Your Leads Are Warming Up
Here’s where you can really start to turn general website visitors into actual leads. This takes builders one step further in the conversion process because they now know about the product category in general and are ready to compare options. That means they want more specific information about your building material.
We’ve seen our building material clients have tons of success by providing testimonials, pricing information and side-by-side product comparisons. And while other markets may appreciate case studies and white papers, our survey indicated these long-form pieces are among the least popular types of content with builders.
Here’s a great example of layering top and middle content on the same landing page on your website. This is from Hallmark Floors, and you’ll see that they provide a lot of content on their pages.
First, notice their inspiration gallery. You can see a few updated projects on their homepage and can then click to see more. This gives the coldest lead a better idea of what to expect from the company.
Right underneath that, you’ll notice that Hallmark jumps into client testimonials — including a great one from a flooring store that references how happy installers are with the product.
This type of content is directed at the middle of the funnel visitors because it’s giving meatier specifics about how the product works. On top of that, it starts to add an element of trust because the builder can see actual people who have put their names behind a strong recommendation. They may even see the store location so they can place a follow up call if they’re inclined to do so.
You can incorporate multiple tiers of targeted content throughout your landing pages rather than categorizing one page for one specific audience. So while it might seem at first like there’s a lot of content to create, it really starts to come together organically for a holistic funnel approach.
Now that your website is warming up builder leads, let’s find out how to close the deal and get the lead’s contact information.
Bottom of Funnel: They’re Ready to Convert
Now it’s time to convert those leads and capture their information so you can start an appropriate follow-up campaign. The people at the bottom of the funnel are a smaller group, but there’s a much stronger likelihood that they’re ready to make a purchase.
What kind of content can you provide to help win them over?
You can offer video demos, consultations, installation guides, spec sheets, product sample accessibility and quote requests, just to name a few ideas. The key is that instead of giving away this information, you need to provide it in exchange for some contact information.
Just how much information you ask for depends on the value of the content. Typically, I recommend asking for no more than an email address because it’s quick and easy for your web visitor.
The key to success is making sure that the content you’re providing is actually worth at least as much as an email address. Ask yourself, “Would I give a company my email address in exchange for this information?”
In some cases, you may want to require more fields. If you’re including something like a quote request or a contact form to talk to a rep, then you’ll obviously need more information, like what product the builder is interested in, what their project needs are, etc.
Whitmer’s Lighting does a great job of offering value in exchange for a bit of personal information. Check out their newsletter sign-up form.
Visitors get to take advantage of a discount coupon by simply submitting their name and email address. If you’re a builder looking for multiple fixtures for a residential project, that can translate into a lot of money saved.
And once you have that information, you’re one step closer to making the right touch point to get the sale.
How to Get a Quick Win on Your Existing Website
No matter where your current website stands in terms of lead-focused content, don’t get overwhelmed. I’m going to show you how to do a quick online overhaul so that you can start getting new leads from your website right away.
Here’s how you do it.
Discover more about Builders: Download the Builder Marketing & Research Report to get deeper insights into who they are and what they want from building materials companies.
Start by identifying the five pages on your website that bring in the most web traffic. You can easily find this information with just about any web analytics program.
Then, ask yourself, what is the next thing someone needs or could find helpful on this page. For example, if a builder is on your products page, maybe they want to see the ROI of using your product so direct them to a calculator. Or maybe they want a sample or potentially a quote. These are all opportunities to introduce lead-generation in a way that feels natural and organic, versus forced.
Here is a diagram we use to to figure out where someone is in the funnel and what content you may want to present in front of them to help drive new leads:
Here’s an example of Fiberon Decking’s color options page. When a builder is looking at this page they know that the next thing they may want is to get a sample of the product, which is why they highlight this call-to-action.
As we’ve seen with some of the previous examples, you can naturally incorporate information for different levels of leads all on one landing page.
Ultimately, you want to drive builders to feel compelled to give you their email address. For most, it’s probably not going to happen on the very first visit. They’re simply not ready yet. You’ve got to nurture the online relationship just as you would an in-person relationship with potential customers.
Provide value, prove your expertise and give them something they want. It’s the winning formula for gathering lead information directly through your website.
Growing Awareness and Leads Online
Now that you’ve optimized your website to be navigable and entice action from builders, it’s time to figure out how to actually drive these leads to your company’s page. You can do this from two separate standpoints: bringing in traffic organically and creating a more proactive strategy.
Ideally, you’ll do both.
Here are the five most common ways you can grow awareness of your brand while at the same time attracting fresh leads to your website.
SEO-Focused Web Content
When builders aren’t working, they’ve told us they spend time online in one of three places: news websites, Facebook and personal-interest blogs.
This actually sheds light on an extremely important insight: individual consumers aren’t the only ones reading blogs — builders are just as much part of your web content audience as anyone else. They’re looking for ideas and inspiration.
But not only is written web content like blogs good for adding value to your online visitors, but it also helps with your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). In case you don’t already know, SEO helps your website rank in top positions on search engines like Google when people (and builders) type in relevant parameters.
This type of traffic is great because it widens your audience organically. While I could write a book solely on SEO, let me give you a crash course in some of the tactics you can quickly start using for your web content.
First, target popular keywords for your industry. There are lots of technical programs you can use to do this, but you can get started by thinking, “What would my ideal builder customer be Googling?” Then create content that focuses on those keywords or phrases.
Maybe your ideal builder customer would search for something like “luxury commercial hardwood flooring.” That means you can write a blog post that includes this phrasing, such as “8 Tips for Installing Luxury Commercial Hardwood Flooring.”
Another SEO tip is to include a meta description for each of your landing pages. This is the text that appears underneath your web page title in a search engine’s results.
Here’s an example.
Armstrong Flooring tells you exactly what you’ll see on the website. You automatically understand the value you’ll receive if you click on the link — a free price estimate tool for flooring.
What really works here is that Armstrong limits the meta description to no more than 160 characters (that’s including spaces). Nothing gets cut off and the message is clear. If you don’t take a brief extra moment to make your own meta description, Google could simply pull random text — and trust me, that won’t look pretty on a search results page.
Outbound Email Campaigns
While web content is an effective inbound marketing tool, email campaigns let you attack your strategy from an outbound perspective. As you accumulate email addresses and other information about your website visitors, your email campaign continues to be an important part of the follow-up process. It’s also a huge part of the conversion process.
Luckily, there’s a lot of automation technology available to help you create a successful outbound email campaign. Your first step is to utilize a tracking tool so that you know exactly who opens your emails and when.
Then, you can implement an automatic follow-up process that re-sends the email to builders who didn’t open the original.
You can even pick an email management tool that gives you a short window of time to “unsend” an email — it’s a great trick for catching accidental typos or mistakes.
Just like any other type of content you produce, the majority of your emails should provide value rather than asking for a sale. Not sure what type of content you should be sending? Check out these ideas to get you started:
- Answer frequent product questions
- Solve common business issues
- Announcement of new content
- Updates on products
- Invitation for event or webinar
- Co-marketing with another company
- Thank you for submitting information
- Lead nurturing
Use these ideas as a jumping off point and create an email content calendar just as you would for any other online channel. Email is now a necessary component of any proactive marketing strategy.
Ongoing Education Webinars
Creating an ongoing webinar series can require some effort, but once you get it going, it can be a remarkably successful way to nurture leads and bring greater awareness to your building materials company.
Here are some shortcuts to perfect your formula straight from the get-go.
First, you’ll want to keep a consistent schedule for when you hold your webinar. It can be challenging to determine the best time to reach builders, so in the beginning, you should play around with some different time options and see which one leads to the best attendance.
Next, create a content schedule. Your sales staff is a great resource to find out what topics are on the minds of builders these days. And your webinar doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) focused on your product lines. Instead, it should focus on your broader industry. You can also pick marketing topics that may interest builders who are looking to grow their own business.
Once you have a topic and date planned, notify your audience through all your available channels: on your website and blog, through your email listserv and on social media. When builders start signing up for the event, make sure you follow up with a reminder email.
After the webinar, don’t forget to track what percentage of your audience signed up and what percentage actually attended. You can also email attendees to ask for feedback or even solicit ideas for upcoming webinars.
By getting in a consistent routine, you can continue to bring in leads and really solidify your reputation as a building supply company that takes care of its builder clients.
Online Search Ads
While SEO and organic traffic are great (and absolutely necessary to succeed with online marketing), paid advertising is also an integral component of your strategy. One way to do this is through traditional pay-per-click (PPC) ads.
This is one of the oldest forms of Internet advertising and is most popular through Google AdWords. In fact, AdWords is Google’s primary source of revenue, so you know this is a big deal.
What exactly is PPC marketing?
These are the ads you see at the top of a Google search results page. They’re marked with a small box that says “Ad” and are placed directly above the results that ranked organically for SEO.
Ad placement is determined by bidding for specific keywords. You only pay when someone clicks on the ad and goes to your website directly through that link.
PPC ads can be extremely effective because you’re getting the people who are actively looking for brands like yours. Just as you did with your SEO keywords, you’ll need to find relevant, targeted keywords for your ads.
You might use ads to push a specific campaign or consistently tweak a more general, ongoing marketing effort. Using PPC ads also allows you to perform A/B testing.
A/B testing is when you test out two different ads for the same campaign and see which one performs better. Then you focus your resources on the higher performer.
Like many online marketing initiatives, you can quickly measure your ROI to determine the effectiveness of your PPC ads.
Social Media Ads
Another way to expand your online reach and brand awareness is through social media ads. I’m going to talk more about leveraging social media in just a minute. But before I do, know that not only should you have a strong social presence, you can also use various social platforms for ads as a great way to reach more builders.
This is quite a large topic considering that there are so many social media platforms out there. Our survey showed that Facebook is the most popular among the builders we interviewed, so if you’re just getting started, that’s probably the best place to go. Plus, Facebook actually outpaces Google for the amount spent on ads.
Now there are certainly pros and cons to each platform, but let’s focus our attention on Facebook for now. You can spend as much or as little as you want to get your ad displayed. Like AdWords, ad placement is based on a bidding system.
Here are some examples of the kinds of ads you can purchase on Facebook:
- Link click ads
- Video view ads
- Page promotion posts (to grow followers)
- Carousel ads (for multiple products)
- Lead ads
What’s really great about Facebook ads is your ability to hyper-target your audience. There are so many variables you can look at, including recent purchasing behavior and life events. You can even create your own custom audience.
Get creative, test some campaigns and get ready to reap the benefits.
Becoming a Social Media Leader (It’s Not as Hard as You Think)
Now that you understand the potential ROI of Facebook ads, let’s talk about your broader social media presence. Social media outreach is the next big thing in marketing and is changing the way building material companies are doing business.
And just so we’re all on the same page: By social media, I’m referring to interactive platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Building material companies who use social media are using it much like everyone else, but with more purpose — meaning they’re not refreshing their homepage every five minutes just to see what everyone’s up to. The smart ones are joining professional groups to socialize, swap ideas and humanize their business.
For social media sites to help your company, you need to become what I call a “social media leader.” Metaphorically speaking, you’ve got to start sitting at the cool kids’ lunch table.
So how do you do this? Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen overnight and requires work and daily upkeep. If your marketing team is already overburdened, it may require you to hire a social media professional so you can focus 100% of your time on running your company.
The plus side is that once your social media presence is running, your company can establish and maintain personal and professional connections with past, present and future clients. It all goes back to building an ongoing pipeline of leads. Suffice it to say, the ROI of social media can benefit your business for years to come.
Here’s a quick rundown on how to get started to put you on the path of becoming a social media leader.
Create an Authentic Website
Put some work into this. Hire a web developer if need be to make your website look current and fresh. Have links on the website that go to management’s LinkedIn profiles. If they don’t have one, it’s time to make one.
Why? Regardless of what your company name is, many builders like to triangulate the information they find out from your About Us page with LinkedIn profiles. Is it a little stalkerish? Maybe. But it’s what people do.
What does all of this have to do with becoming a social media leader? When people see your company commenting on or making posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, they feel a need to verify that your company is legitimate, especially if you’re offering a new type of product.
When they see that your company is real and authentic, they’ll be much more likely to give credence to anything your company has to say over social media in the steps to come.
It’s a great big circle. In the end, having a solid website and professional profile is much the same as passing a background check with an employer. You obviously need the website for your business, but for the purpose of becoming a social media leader, you also need it to prove your industry credentials to your social media leads.
Find High Profile Users and Start Following Them
This could be a local designer that has a lot of clout, a prominent person in your community that a lot of people like and listen to, or it could be a large builder with whom you do business. You can even follow your competition.
Once you have befriended a few industry influencers, start commenting on and sharing their posts. This exposes you to new people you would otherwise be unable to reach.
People who see your posts may check out your company’s account out of curiosity, and, once they do, ideally it will pique their interest in your products. This does two things:
- It gets more people following you.
- It further brands your product by associating yours with the high profile account.
You want your building material company to be considered an industry expert, and to do this, you have to network with other industry experts. Yes, the old meet-and-greet has migrated to social media.
Build your audience by leveraging existing influencers’ audiences and you can quickly grow your online leads.
The content you share should be both your own (your images, your blog, which I talked about earlier) and from other places — including the influencers you already follow. You can share anything, just as long as it supports the brand you are trying to build. You could share:
- High profile account posts — it doesn’t always have to do anything with your company.
- Other brands you feel complement your own.
- Interesting articles you found on the web.
- Building project ideas.
- Updates for customers.
- Behind-the-scenes look at your office.
- Promotions or giveaways.
Get creative and see what types of posts perform well with your demographic. You can also experiment with the time of day in which you get the highest exposure and engagement.
Also try to follow the 80-20 rule: Your content should be 80% value and 20% marketing.
Be Unique, Insightful and Real
If you’re on Facebook right now, you’ve probably been irritated by a friend who shares and shares every single day, anything and everything. This is what you want to avoid.
It’s a delicate balance between noise and silence. You don’t want to become the account that people hide because they get tired of seeing you show up in their feed, nor do you want to become the account that people forget all about.
So where’s the balance? What’s the magic number?
There’s a lot of research that has tried to come up with the perfect number of posts, but there’s no need to make this more complicated than it needs to be.
To begin, aim to post 2-3 times per week on most platforms. But as a general rule, simply share and post whenever you have something interesting to say.
If you and your marketing team are truly engaged with your builder customers, you can start to get a feel for what they’re interested in hearing about (and what they’re not). Again, it’s all about providing value in a personable voice that matches your company’s overall tone.
Engage, Engage, Engage
The object isn’t only to share whatever it is that you post. Even though you may spend a lot of time finding relevant topics to share with builders, sharing isn’t the end goal. The end goal is to start up a conversation with your leads and customers.
Whenever you have a conversation, you have an exchanging of ideas, and whenever you have an exchange of ideas, you have a relationship — or in this case, a community. The idea is to get as many people involved in the conversation as possible so that you can show up in as many feeds as possible. More exposure equals more friends, which equals greater impact.
When people comment on your posts, make sure to reply. To every single comment, if possible. You want to get plenty of likes, but comments are important as well. Replying to comments is how you engage with your community, and will make you seem more in touch with them, as well as more approachable.
You need to do this often. In fact, this is what you want to spend most of your time doing while focusing on social media.
Social media is also a great place to incorporate stellar customer service. In fact, you have to because people are more than willing to voice their concerns over the public Internet. Instead of shying away, embrace the publicity and show them exactly the type of service your company provides.
Not only can you win over existing customers who may have complaints, but your transparency can also be attractive to prospects and leads. Once that happens, you’re in. They likely won’t even consider going to another supplier from that point on as long as you give them a good experience.
Reimagining Your Trade Show Interactions
Creating a marketing strategy specifically for your trade show interactions is a great way to bring in new builder clients. In fact, more than 48% of our survey respondents cited trade shows as a way they discover new products. Trade shows are also a great way to target a high concentration of small- and medium-sized builders in one place.
So how can you ensure you’re maximizing your trade show ROI?
First, recognize that you’re actually trying to capture two separate audiences. Of course, you want to bring in new customers. But you also want to keep your existing clients happy and avoid them being lured away by the competition.
You can do both of these things with five trade show-specific strategies.
Understand the Builder’s Intentions
Like any good marketing strategy, you need to consider the builder’s goals in order to achieve your own goals at a trade show. If the show is part of a larger conference with education and networking opportunities, you better believe that those events will be at the top of attendees’ priority lists.
When they finally reach the trade show floor, they’ll likely stop by to see any existing suppliers. Then they’ll probably hit up any booths that they previously researched for specific products. Why? Builders want their problems solved.
So they’re looking for better ideas, better products and better relationships that can help make their jobs easier. When you talk to a builder at a trade show, always make your pitch from this direction. Have your team prepare notes and even practice talking points in advance.
When you’re at a trade show, you need to quickly pivot from person to person, and you’re much more likely to make a meaningful connection if can relate and offer a solution to their needs. Brainstorm specific benefits that would be relevant to builders in different specialty areas.
You can also have some talking points prepared for your existing customers who stop by, whether it’s information on a new product launch or a new automation in the ordering process. This is the place to make personal connections, but you’ve got to have your game face on in order to do it successfully.
Make Everyone Feel Special
Another part of a strong trade show strategy is to really personalize your conversation with each person — in other words, make them feel special. This can end up being a key differentiator between you and your competition when it comes to some of the smaller builder companies. You can really impress them just by asking them specific questions about their business and — wait for it — any problems they need help solving.
You can also reach out to specific builders that you want to meet with in advance of the actual trade show. Check to see if the one you’re attending has an app where you can directly message individuals. Otherwise, reach out the old-fashioned way by searching the attendee list and giving your prospects a call to set up a time to meet. You may be surprised at the positive response you receive, especially if you focus on companies other than the biggest builders out there.
You can also do the same for existing clients. Remember, your competition will be there too, and you want to use the trade show as an opportunity to solidify your current relationships. So set up times to meet with those builders as well. If they’ve been having issues lately, say a shipment was delayed or you ran out of stock, use this as a time to smooth things over.
Also, consider handing out some VIP swag or hosting a dinner or event for some of your best clients and leads. Above all else, put forth the effort to really personalize the conversation, make them feel welcome and ask about upcoming projects. Both existing customers and new leads want to feel like they themselves are adding something with their presence.
Signage Is Key
Beyond talking to researched leads and current clients, you can also strategize to turn totally cold leads into warm prospects at your next trade show. The key is to have a standout booth that attracts attention directly from the attendees’ footpath.
This translates into offering a solution straight from the get-go. Don’t use your standard logo and tagline. Instead, create one that specifically targets the builder audience for the trade show you’re attending. Highlight your product’s key differentiators. Does it install faster? Last longer? Look better?
Next, think about the flow of traffic around your booth. Position your main signage in such a way that most people in the flow of traffic can see your sign. You’d be surprised at how many trade show veterans don’t consider their signage from the point of view of someone actually walking the trade show floor.
And if you sign up early and get to choose where you want your booth (or you can pay extra for prime real estate), be smart about where you pick. Obviously, the most coveted location is right by the main entrance. But other hopping spots include booths near food and restrooms. Intersections and corner booths also tend to get more attention — just be sure to maximize that opportunity by opening your booth up on both sides.
Demonstrate Your Industry Expertise
We know that demonstrating your industry knowledge brings a lot of benefits, especially when talking to builders. There’s no better way to build trust and strike up a strong relationship than by showcasing your expertise — not only in your specific product category but in the industry as a whole.
So if your company focuses on green roofing materials, make sure you can not only educate your leads on your product niche but also on green building trends, best practices and pitfalls as well. Builders may not only have questions about your product and its alternatives, but also about other green products you recommend be used in conjunction with yours.
Educating your trade show team to be experts is especially important if your product category is relatively new. On the one hand, you’ve got an automatic differentiator. On the other, you have more ground to gain in terms of bringing new clients on board. Get those talking points together and hone that elevator speech so that you get to the point as quickly — and convincingly — as possible.
Always Follow Up
If you didn’t know this already, your job doesn’t end when the trade show does. If you want to get true ROI from your trade show efforts, it’s essential to follow up with all of the leads, prospects and even existing customers that visited your booth over the coming days and months (yes, I said months).
This process actually starts while you’re at the trade show. I already mentioned taking advantage of any technology or mobile app offered by the show’s organizer. This can oftentimes help you quickly get your booth visitors’ contact information. You can use an app to scan their badges to automatically receive their information or do the same for their business card.
You can typically link all of this information directly to your CRM to start the follow-up process. But you can’t stop at automated emails.
We’ve seen success with building materials companies take the time to also connect over social media. For your hottest leads, whenever you send a message through any channel, referencing something you actually talked about and including helpful information is much more effective than just sending over information about your products. This might go without saying, but the goal should be to build and elevate the relationship … not just go straight in for the sale.
It’s also worth noting that you may need a fair degree of patience, especially with new leads. Even if a builder is excited about your product, they may not be ready to use it right away. Don’t give up on your follow-up process just because you don’t get an automatic order. Working on immediate sales must be done in conjunction with building a pipeline of leads. By creating a long-term marketing strategy for your trade show leads, you can develop a self-propelling engine that builds your sales over time.
Growing Your Existing Builder Relationships
You’ve built this super-machine to bring in web traffic, maximize your in-person prospects and convert your leads into sales … now what?
If you have any experience in sales, you know that a paid invoice isn’t the same as a happy customer, and it certainly isn’t the same as a repeat customer. Just as you’d nurture a lead, you also need to nurture existing customers.
This can build loyalty and ideally grow your brand’s prominence in the builder’s portfolio. Plus, if your builder has a showroom or model home that lets homebuyers pick out the finishing touches, the sales staff will be more likely to push your product if you consistently reach out and provide value.
How can you do this? I’ve got some ideas for you. Hopefully, you’re already doing these things. Whether you are or not, perfect the process and continually push your company to optimize the customer experience.
Offer Top-Notch Service and Support
All of your builder customers, both new and old, should receive ongoing quality service and support. Builders need to trust that you’ll have what they need in stock and deliver it on time and in good condition. Not only that, they may need help when labor or installation issues arise, so it’s vital that they have an existing relationship they can count on.
The key here is to continue to be a resource for them. Just as you researched their problems and created a relevant solution during your initial pitch, don’t stop providing this service. It’s vital to keep the conversation going and maintain constant awareness of each builder’s needs.
This commitment can’t just come from a single person or department within your company. You need to get every employee on board so that you can be the very best supplier to your customers. Don’t just meet expectations — exceed them at every customer touchpoint available.
If one of your builders calls customer service to clarify an installation issue, have your support team follow up the next day to see how it went. Gestures like these are becoming increasingly uncommon, but at the end of the day, they can give your customer a truly positive experience.
And if your customers are happy, they’ll tell others within their professional network about the quality of your product and service. So it’s really a win-win for everyone.
Take the time to review how your company’s employees reach your customers and how each of those interactions can be improved with the builder in mind.
Provide Benefits Beyond Competitive Pricing
Obviously, pricing is extremely important for builders when it comes time to pick out the materials for their latest project. In fact, numbers are extremely important in terms of both dollar amount and timing — including delivery time and installation time.
After all, everyone’s resources are extremely limited. But that also means that builders are looking for other benefits that can help them in all aspects of their jobs.
In short, price isn’t the only thing they’re looking at (though that’s certainly important, too). It’s also side perks that provide real value, like customization, customer support, distribution and delivery.
Even if you manage to offer the cheapest price on your product, builders will start to care less if you don’t deliver on these other important factors. For example, what good is saving a dollar per square foot of material if it doesn’t reach the job site on time? Or you don’t have enough quantity for the builder’s project?
It’s important to shoot for a 100% fill rate so that your builders have a positive experience each and every time. If you can do that, you’re much more likely to have a devoted repeat client.
You also need people on your team who are on the ground reaching out to your builder customers on a regular basis. Maybe you have your sales rep making on-site visits. Don’t just have these be a formality — make these interactions helpful.
You could even schedule them when the builder is installing the product on a project so that your rep is there to answer questions, especially if the product is a new one.
A little extra attention and service can go a long way.
Give Honest Advice
If you’re going to build a lasting relationship with your builder clients, you have to go into with the mindset of being truly helpful to them. This really goes back again to differentiating your company (not just your product) by providing irreplaceable value.
Maybe a builder is considering using another product to replace yours. What are the pros and cons of making a switch? It’s fine to make a legitimate case for your product, but at least be honest about it. If the competition is offering a better deal or service, is there a way you can match or exceed their offer?
In the event that the competition truly does fill a need you simply can’t match, it’s ok to acknowledge it. Whether you’re losing one product line or an entire account, be graceful about it. And always offer your support even if they’re not a client anymore.
The builder will be surprised at your generosity and be eager to reach out when the next opportunity arises.
You never know when the client will need your product again, so you don’t want to burn bridges. Plus, word of mouth recommendations are just as important as your strategic marketing leads. Just because a product might not be the right fit for one builder doesn’t mean they won’t provide a reference for you to another colleague.
Educate and empower your staff to be honest in any situation so that your company is known as being a trustworthy expert in the industry. It also helps to develop that rich and diverse pipeline of builder contacts, both formally and informally.
Ask for a Testimonial
Speaking of recommendations, you can take the power of word of mouth one step further by asking your best clients for a testimonial. I mentioned briefly that these can be included on your website as a step in the lead generation process.
Now when I say “best,” I don’t necessarily mean your biggest customers. Obviously, you need to pick builders who are excited about your materials. But you also want the testimonials to provide inspiration for different types of projects your product can be used for.
Think about the story you want to tell and choose a diverse selection of strong customers to request a testimonial from. Give them a little bit of guidance because the idea is to give your product credibility.
But beyond that, people like helping others. And they also enjoy being singled out — after all, asking someone for a testimonial is basically telling them that you want to hear what they have to say.
And if you’ve learned anything about the key to successfully growing your sales to builders of all sizes, I hope it’s the winning combination of providing real value and making personal, emotional connections.
Ready to learn more about how your building material company can take your builder marketing strategy to the next level? We’d love to help. Send us an email at [email protected] or talk to one of our experts on the phone at 1-(800) 285-3994.