#88: Navigating a Building Materials Marketing Digital Transformation

by Smarter Building Materials Marketing

Digital transformation isn’t an overnight process, it’s a journey. Here’s one manufacturer who is ready to share insights on what's worked, what hasn't, things to think about and what to avoid when you're going down this path, as well as some of their success.

More About This Episode

In this episode, Zach talks to Steve Booz, VP of Marketing at Royal Building Products about how to get started with your digital journey, what does it take to get off the ground, and what does success look like.

Transcript

Zach Williams:

Digital transformation can feel like a bit of a buzzword, and as an agency, it's something that we talk about here at Venveo, but hearing about it from an actual building product manufacturer is a completely different story. On today's show, we bring on a manufacturer who has gone through the process and is still going through the process of their digital transformation. They share with us insights on what's worked, what hasn't, things to think about and what to avoid when you're going down this path, as well as some of their success. It's just a great show and great reminder of how to actually make digital a bigger part of your marketing and how to actually get closer to your customer in the process. With that, let's get into the episode.

Voiceover:

Welcome to the Smarter Building Materials Marketing Podcast, helping you find better ways to grow leads, sales, and outperform your competition. And now here are your hosts, Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov.

Zach Williams:

All right, everybody. Welcome to Smarter Building Materials Marketing, where we believe your online presence should be your best salesperson. I am Zach Williams. We have a great show planned for you today. We're going to be talking about how to get started with your digital journey, what does it look like to get off the ground, and what does success look like. We've got a great guest with us today. We've got Steve Booz, who's the VP of Marketing for Royal Building Products. Welcome to the show, Steve.

Steve Booz:

Thanks a lot. Happy to be here.

Zach Williams:

Steve, for our listeners out there, maybe you could just give us a little bit of your background. I know you've been in the building product space for a little while. Share with us your journey at Royal and then what your current role looks like.

Steve Booz:

Sure. I've been at Royal for about 10 years, and we've gone through, really, a business transformation journey during that time of growth, both greenfield and acquisition. Then more recently I moved into this role heading up our marketing team where I've tried to embark us into the next generation, so to speak, in terms of marketing activities and taking this digital journey.

Zach Williams:

That's great. I know as we were prepping for the show, I asked you, "Hey, as you got in this role, was this preemptive where people said, 'Hey, our digital presence isn't where it needs to be?' or did you see that opportunity when you got in there?" Maybe talk to us a little about what you were looking at, what gaps you saw and said, "Man, we've got to go to a level that we, that we currently are not at." Talk to us about what that looked like for you.

Steve Booz:

Like a lot of companies, we had a website, we had social channels, and we were doing some of the basics, but like a lot of building material companies in general, we're behind. Building materials is slower than most other industries in a lot of things, but certainly in the digital marketing efforts, for sure, so I saw it as an opportunity to really raise our game and to try to catch up to the rest of the industries in the world while at the same time bringing Royal forward a little bit faster. I was fortunate, I guess, that we were implementing Salesforce for some other business reasons, so I used that as a platform to really start pushing a digital agenda, if you will.

Zach Williams:

Did you hear from your audience, let's say your target audience, whether that was a contractor or a builder or someone of that nature, were they highlighting to areas that they felt like you were behind, or are you pushing that agenda or that narrative with them as you started down this path?

Steve Booz:

Yeah, I think it's really us trying to create a closer relationship, whether it be with a homeowner that's interested in residing their house or somebody that was looking at one of our design tools and needed to find a contractor, more than them coming to us with ideas. It's really what was my vision to create what I generally call a stickier relationship with those people that are choosing to interact with us, whether they found us through search engines or stumbled across our website or through a recommendation.

Zach Williams:

I like to call it getting closer to the customer, like whoever gets closest wins, but I'm curious to know, if I'm a manufacturer, I'm listening to you, Steve, if I want to undertake some sort of digital transformation, which sounds great, but it can feel daunting if you haven't taken that step, how did you assess the first things you needed to do? How did you assess the plan and then go after that and say, "We can't do everything today, but we need to go after these first few things." What were you looking at, looking for to figure that out?

Steve Booz:

That's a great point. There's never a shortage of ideas and definitely not a shortage of paths or media channels that you can choose to go. I did take a crawl-walk-run approach and chose to start small. We did start closer to the Salesforce platform just because that was there, and we tried to connect some of that email marketing opportunities that we have with Salesforce and integrating that back to some of our social channels as well. We took parts of what we already had versus reinventing anything new and tried to start making them work harder for us and create those closer to the customer connections like you mentioned.

088 Large Home New Siding

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Zach Williams:

Are there any metrics that you're looking at to evaluate success? You're looking at obviously things like traffic or lead generation. Are there any big KPIs that you measure and say, "This is what we're trying to drive towards."

Steve Booz:

Yeah. That's kind of the golden goose out there, isn't it, and sometimes sounds like my CEO. "What are your metrics?" "We don't have any."

Zach Williams:

It's easier to ask, isn't it, than actually do it right?

Steve Booz:

It really is. It really is. You ask five people what the industry norms are and you get six answers. It's a bit of finding our own way and sometimes measuring against ourselves, and at least if we're progressing and doing better, what we're doing well, and sometimes it's continuing to ask people throughout the industries, "What are good rates?" We look at, obviously, our website traffic, and we just redid that for 2019. Then so, of course, that went up. We look at our social media engagement, how many more people were engaging. We just redid our Royal Instagram, for example. We originally had that set up by a couple of our product lines and consolidated it into one voice, one brand, so that's been beneficial us. We evaluate our search engine marketing words, what we're buying, what's doing well, what's performing well, and then our conversion rate from those words that we're buying into heads to our landing pages that we create to our general website.

Steve Booz:

Ultimately, we want to be able to, going back to that getting close to the customer, create a path, if we can, to attract the customer and their journey and how they've interacted with us all the way through to a sale, potentially even a warranty registration if we can. It's tough as a building company because we don't know who buys it.

Zach Williams:

Yeah. I mean, that's true. I mean, you could have a homeowner who found your product and then a contractor who ends up buying it, but you're selling it through a dealer. That elusive footprint, or as we call it, closing the loop, is the... like that's the holy grail. I think that's getting... I don't want to say it's easy, but it's getting easier, especially with the data available. I think it's smart you guys are integrating things like Salesforce. Are you toying at all with the idea of going direct, or are you pretty tied to your dealer network, especially within this digital transformation?

Steve Booz:

We're definitely tied to the dealer network, and we're tied to our contractor partners as well. We're not in a do-it-yourself world. Vinyl siding, exterior trim, decking need professional contractors to install it, and so it's always a challenge to attract a homeowner and pull our brand through because you've got that gatekeeper of the contractor who may or may not be familiar with our brand or he may prefer to buy from somebody else in town that doesn't necessarily carry our products. There's definitely roadblocks along the way, but more for logistic purposes and the installation purposes. We're tied to the network that we've got.

Zach Williams:

That's smart. I know you mentioned there you might have a contractor who's not familiar with you. Do you do anything unique within your marketing to, say, create that loyalty or create that brand preference with a contractor who may be introduced to your brand from, let's say, a homeowner. Homeowner's done research. We see this across the board in building products. Homeowners are doing more and more resources are more and more educated. They're bringing product ideas to that contractor, that installer, that pro. Is there anything there that you're doing to try to create that relationship with that contractor so that they don't go, "Oh, don't try Royal. I'm familiar with this other product," but it's because they're reluctant to change. Is there anything unique you guys are doing?

Steve Booz:

The building products world is slow to change for sure, and as a quick aside, but I actually sit on a committee for the National Association of Home Builders, and we've identified innovation adoption as one of the things that we would love to have go faster in the builder world.

Zach Williams:

Wouldn't that be great?

Steve Booz:

We don't have any answers yet, but we are working on that.

Zach Williams:

That's great.

088 New Patio Blue Siding

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Steve Booz:

But back to your question. We're trying to engage mostly through social channels with all levels of audiences. We try to engage the pros and what's important to them, whether it be at a brand awareness level, whether it be a new product introduction level, or even just benefits of working with our products at the same time that we're trying to engage with these homeowners. We have an Instagram account that's more of a blog, more of a design blog we call it, LiveAbode that is more focused to the homeowners versus the Royal Instagram account is more focused to the pros.

Zach Williams:

Have you had any aha moments through this process, Steve, where... I know you've been in this transformation over the last two years or so. I there anything you've seen happen you go, "Man, this is just proof that we need to be doing what we're doing," or, "Goodness, look at this change that's happening in the space that we need to take advantage of." Do you have any of those moments that you can share with us?

Steve Booz:

Boy, I wish I did. I don't know that I've got any yet, but I'm looking for the first one. We've thrown a lot of things out there, and we've tried a lot of different avenues this year. We did some pre-emailings, email marketing campaign for the International Builders' Show. We, of course, sent our post-show mailings for those who stop by the booth, but try and do different things to bring people into the booth, try to do different things to bring traffic, and really, until you find that silver bullet, which I don't think I've found yet. We're still working on it.

Zach Williams:

That's good. If we're talking about crawl-walk-run a little bit here, Steve, you mentioned maybe not bite not more than you can chew at the beginning, what does your plan look like currently? You've gotten off the ground. You've got that new site. You're trying some email marketing. You're making sure you're integrated with Salesforce. Where are you currently in that journey? Maybe we can dive into where you're headed so we can paint the picture for your vision for where you think what's possible for Royal Building Products.

Steve Booz:

Yeah. We're just starting to walk, I think. We definitely have a long way to go. We are just about to kick off a project to really define a customer journey. If you've ever been through that process, it can look like quite the if-then diagram at the end of the day. But we really want to try to identify at all steps of both the homeowner and the pro, so we'll have a homeowner track and a pro track of what's important to them, what's interesting to them at different phases of their buying.

Steve Booz:

Being a siding company, especially from homeowner perspective, it's a once-in-a-lifetime sometimes purchase. It's not something that you're doing all the time or some people may never actually encounter until later in life, so it's not normal to them. What we need to figure out is really going into the psychology of their buying decision, what's motivating them to look at the exterior of their house, what do we have from a design perspective that we can help them and really started attracting them to our brand.

Zach Williams:

Is that impacting the content that you're planning as well? If you think about the tools of your online presence or the tools on your site, are you looking at that customer journey, which we're pretty familiar with, are you looking at and saying, "Man, we're missing X, Y, and Z part of our site," or, "We need to really think about adding this additional component," to help each of the different audiences you're talking about, whether that's a pro or a homeowner, create less friction in that journey?

Steve Booz:

Yeah. Education is going to be key through all that. We've got a decent photo gallery, for example, so that takes a lot of the homeowner hurdle out of it, but we're looking at tools, some even using some artificial intelligence to allow you to look at your house with our products on it within a couple of minutes versus what takes a couple of weeks right now to accomplish. Using technology to help accelerate that in today's "I want it now" mindset of people is really what we need to figure out to get.

Zach Williams:

Yeah, I like that. We talk a lot about friction on the show, and friction is just a fancy word for "I don't think it's very convenient or very easy." Amazon has kind of ruined us. It's like I can be in my bed lying in bed at night and go, "Gosh, I need XYZ," and then it's at your doorstep the next day or two. It's infiltrated everything. Creating an online presence and going through that transformation you're talking about to make it easier for people to choose and buy and find the right products, we harp on that a lot, but I really appreciate you just sharing with us about this, Steve, because it's unique. It's a unique journey that you guys are trying to go down. When you look at where you're headed, where you're going, what do you see as the greatest opportunity for, not just for world building products, but for manufacturers as a whole. If you're looking at the overall digital landscape, where are you all trying to push the envelope? No pressure, right? No-

Steve Booz:

No pressure. Wow.

Zach Williams:

No pressure.

Steve Booz:

I think where we all want to get to is being able to drive our brands, to drive our products, to make people aware of them. I can't tell you how many people have... I've got some of our products, like our decking product on my house, and so we'll have people over for the kid's graduation or whatever party or neighborhood event, and people look at the product and say, "Wow, what is this?" to the point my wife laughed at me, but I put samples out one time just so people could see what they're walking on with our deck.

Zach Williams:

That's cool.

Steve Booz:

A little guerrilla marketing there, but it's really trying to create those connections and get that information out there in a world that's just full of so much information, and how do we help people navigate to what is most important to them the quickest way possible.

Zach Williams:

Yeah. I mean, we're so distracted as people today. I think about all the options. I mean, just think about TV. 10 years ago, you had TV. Maybe you had satellite. Now, it's like you have how many different stations or programs, whether it's Netflix or Disney Plus or Hulu, whatever it is. As a manufacturer, you've got to be really on point with your message and your marketing to keep somebody's attention. I think that, to your point about that customer journey map is why that's such a smart idea and creating content that care about and that they like is also super important too.

Zach Williams:

I'd be curious to know Steve, if I can just be candid with you, what mistakes have you made? If you look back... and maybe don't view them as mistakes, but hurdles that you've run into that you can share and say, "Hey, if you're going down this path, if you're trying to up your game, these are some things to be aware of and to look out for."

Steve Booz:

It's been pretty good. We've had a real open mindset to this whole thing and not knowing what's going to work and what might work. I guess that's actually probably the biggest learning is to have that open mindset and, by the way, have your peers and your upper management mindset in the same place that they're not expecting this whole "abracadabra, poof, everything's completely different tomorrow" kind of atmosphere. We've been at this place for a while. It's going to take a while to get out of it as well.

Zach Williams:

That's good. That level-setting expectations and just knowing that, "Hey, we're going to learn as we go. We may fail, but we're going to learn from that failure," I think is really smart.

Steve Booz:

That's right.

Zach Williams:

What advice would you give a manufacturer listening today, Steve, that says, "I need to improve." I know you've given a lot of good insight, but what simple advice would you give in saying, "I need to go from to crawl, walk, run in this digital journey," what would you tell them?

Steve Booz:

Really, I found some good help. I figured out pretty quickly that my team didn't have the experience doing it, and that's fine. They've never done it before. That's not a knock on the team. But there's people out there that do, like you guys, and there's people out there who are experts in this and can help you with along, and don't be afraid to seek that out and find that out.

Zach Williams:

That's great. Well, Steve, this has been awesome. Thank you so much for just being super candid with us and sharing your story. If someone wants to connect with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Steve Booz:

I'm pretty well-known on LinkedIn these days, so Steve Booz. There's not a whole lot of us out there, so you should be able to find me at Royal Building Products.

Zach Williams:

That's great. Well, Steve, thank you again for coming on the show. If you want more great content like this, go to venveo.com/podcast. Until next time, I'm Zach Williams. Thanks, everybody.

Voiceover:

You've been listening to Smarter Building Materials Marketing with Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov. To get the resources mentioned in this podcast, visit venveo.com.podcast. Thank you for listening

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