More About This Episode
The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.
This week, Zach and Beth talk with Brett Thorne, operations officer at Thorne Lumber and host of the new podcast Building the Future. Brett has seen the building materials industry from the inside and offers his insights into the issues lumber dealers and their customers are facing.
The Future of Building Construction
Brett Thorne is the operations officer in his family business, Thorne Lumber, which was started in the 1980s. Thorne Lumber has three locations and has worked with contractors, construction professionals and DIYers in Missouri for the last few decades.
“Our typical customer is somebody that's doing this for a paycheck, somebody that does it for a living and that's about 70%. And then about the other 30% is the do-it-yourselfer or the weekend warrior or maybe even the homeowner or walk-in style customer,” explains Brett.
Brett started his Building the Future podcast about a year ago, as a way to cover the building materials industry, to educate listeners and to support the industry’s growth.
“I've always selfishly thought it was an opportunity for me to get to know people and to understand different sectors of the industry better. I thought, why not do it publicly? And that way everybody can take the journey with me,” says Brett.
His podcast covers a few topics in construction, and Brett breaks them down into three categories:
- Products and materials used in-the-field
- In-the-office tips for industry leaders and training professionals
- Industry support groups and associations, like the National Association of Home Builders
“I finally rolled it out, January of last year, and I tried to cast a very big net to try to figure out what the industry was looking for,” says Brett. And his listeners have engaged with the podcast in a big way.
“I got a ton of feedback and a ton of new listeners that were not pro-related at all. These were homeowners that people were wanting to learn themselves,” says Brett.
And we could all learn from the Building the Future podcast because Brett is touching on the biggest problems that people in the industry faces today.
How To Navigate Shifts in the Industry
The pandemic shifted how the construction industry operates, from the supply chain to how brands market to their followers. In-person industry events and trade shows aren’t an option for us right now, and building materials brands have had to pivot in their selling strategies.
“I think it is really shifting the way that they go to market,” says Brett. “They're going to have to connect with [customers] in a different way.”
Brett sees the main issue as communication: “Communication is so critical right now ... really staying on top of things, being in front of the problems and communicating that.”
He recommends that professionals get proactive and start asking a few more questions about their business and marketing strategy. Questions like:
- What are lead times looking like (especially on special order items)?
- How will I communicate lead times with my suppliers and customers?
- What resources do I have to keep customers informed?
From there, building professionals can build a better, more informed strategy for selling. “It's got to have multiple vehicles to communicate that with your suppliers, taking advantage of Zoom, FaceTime and all of that,” explains Brett.
For manufacturers, Brett suggests “using every resource you can to be proactive in your projects and to stay ahead of the issues that everybody's facing.”
3 Manufacturers Who Are Selling the Right Way
There are a few manufacturers that have caught on to these industry changes, and Brett helps us break down what makes them so successful. (Hint: It comes down to a strong digital presence.)
Over the last decade, Milwaukee has been increasing their market share. They were really well-positioned for the pandemic because of all of their digital assets and their focus on online communication.
“Milwaukee is one that I think has done a very good job on their virtual presence,” notes Brett. Milwaukee makes it easy for its audience to keep up with new product launches and offerings.
The brand does “a phenomenal job at involving the dealers and the end-users of what's out there and what's to come, and keeping everybody tied in on their product lines,” says Brett.
Mid-Am Building Supply
He’s also been impressed with Mid-Am Building Supply, a regional wholesaler. “They've really stepped up their online presence and do a great job at selling their company,” he explains.
The wholesaler is successful because they tell people upfront what they’re all about: “Reminding people who they are, talking about their tradition and where they've come from, talking about their marketplace, who they service. And then also talking about the different lines that they rep,” Brett explains.
“Another one I think of is Simpson Strong-Tie,” says Brett. “They've got a lot of online presence and a lot of tutorial videos, and they've even got users in the field showing their products being used.”
Each of these brands has a strong presence, but Simpson Strong-Tie’s YouTube channel showcases just how social media can help build a brand’s online presence.
Simpson Strong-Tie has a library of videos for professionals, contractors and DIYers to learn from. The videos are successful because they’re informative, digestible and relatable. “That's an actual builder there using their products,” explains Brett.
The videos work well because they’re straightforward and concise — most videos are under 5 minutes long. “It's really important for you to be educating your audience about how to install or use your product so that your product doesn't get wrecked from the spec because that installer or that pro isn't familiar with it, and you don't have the content out there to support it,” explains Zach.
And having a way to share those videos, through email marketing and other social media platforms, just spreads that message further.
“And I think it's good inspiration for any manufacturer out there, who's trying to find ways to not only engage and provide value but do it in a way that people actually want it,” says Zach. “It's not promo-centric, it's value-centric.”
How To Communicate To Your Audience Efficiently
We asked Brett what he thought manufacturers should focus on (besides educating their followers).
“I think probably what we need the most from the manufacturers is we need information, but we need efficiency. We really do,” says Brett. “I still need that information, but I need it streamlined.”
So what does that efficiency look like? There are a few things manufacturers can put into place.
- Cater to your customers’ immediate needs with a chat function on your website. “That way I can submit what it is I need. And then hopefully I can have somebody respond back to me right there, to where I can get my information where I'm not waiting or I'm not going to have to come back and check email later,” explains Brett.
- Make new product launches easy to understand and access. Video is a great solution for brands because they make it easier for your customer to get information whenever they need it. “Then you can go and watch it at your leisure,” explains Brett.
- Invest in communication and your marketing strategy. “Be very deliberate with your message,” Brett emphasizes. “People are putting out a lot of fires right now. So be efficient, be deliberate with your message, get us the information we need. Keep it short and sweet.”
Want Even More Insight?
The best brand strategy is one that is straightforward, by using a strong message and the right platforms for sharing that message.
And Brett’s podcast does a great job of digging into the industry’s issues and setbacks, which helps brands determine the exact solutions they’ll need to provide to their audience.
You can listen to the full interview with Brett for more insights, inspiration and solutions.
If you have a question for us on how you can make your digital presence your best salesperson, send us an email to [email protected].