#90: The Value of Your Building Materials Branding

by Smarter Building Materials Marketing

Your brand is becoming more and more important in today's marketplace. There are so many different ways to find products, so creating a brand that's not only memorable, but speaks to your audience's pain points is critical.

More About This Episode

In this episode, Zach talks to Rich Pond, Chief Marketing Officer at Prescient, about how they’re driving business by focusing on the value proposition and how they communicate it in a way that actually moves the needle for sales.

Transcript

Zach Williams:

Your brand is becoming more and more important in today's marketplace. And the reason being is because there's so many different ways of finding products. There's so many different ways to source products. And creating a brand that's not only memorable, but speaks to your audience's pain points is critical.

Zach Williams:

On today's episode, we bring on a manufacturer who is driving their business with brand first. So thinking about the value proposition and how to communicate that in a way that actually moves the needle for their business. We've got some incredible insights I'm excited to share with you. Let's get to 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, and we have an awesome show lined up for you today. We're going to be talking about your brand, specifically your brand in relationship to your target audience. How do you get them to perceive your brand in a way that matters to them, that gets their attention, and frankly is something that they want?

Zach Williams:

And we've got a great guest with us on the show today. We've got Rich Pond, who's the Chief Marketing Officer of Prescient, on the show with us to talk about this. Welcome to the show, Rich.

Rich Pond:

Thanks, Zach. Good to be here.

Zach Williams:

So for our listeners, why don't you just give us a little bit of your background and how you ended up in building products and then what you do at Prescient?

Rich Pond:

All right. Sure, Zach. So I did have about 25 years of food and beverages marketing, working for a variety of companies, such as General Mills. Then one division called Adams, that was owned by a multitude of companies from Warner Lambert to Pfizer, then Cadbury, and ultimately Kraft bought us. Then I moved on to work for BP running the Castrol Motor Oil business for the Americas from a marketing standpoint, where I first started to get into B2B marketing.

Rich Pond:

And then about a year and a half ago, I joined Prescient. It was a very different move, to be heavily business to business marketing, but in the construction industry. And I came really because of the opportunity that Prescient represented in this $10 trillion industry. It's a new way. I'm sure we'll talk about it. But a new way to plan, design and build multifamily residences, using a lot more technology, advanced manufacturing principles. And we have a vision that's global that we expect to take this technology. It's very applicable around the world. And while we needed to start in the US, it is a startup to get profitable momentum. We have a global brand vision that we want to attack. And having been a global marketer most of my life, I'll be able to do this here in the construction industry.

Zach Williams:

That's very interesting. And so tell me if I'm wrong here, you're basically in startup mode. Is that correct?

Rich Pond:

That's right. We're still in somewhat of a startup mode. We're growing at about 50% per year. We've been in business for over seven years now. It's about seven and a half years. But as you know, projects take years to happen. So, in your first couple of years, you're just starting to make a dent on it. We did a lot of work in Denver. We built over 20 of our 46 buildings were in the Denver area where people saw us and we had momentum. And now that's spanning out. We've got a number going up in Atlanta, Florida, California. We're in 14 states so far. So again, we're doing it state by state and we're looking forward to doing it country by country.

Zach Williams:

Who do you target? Who's your target audience? Because I know we're going to talk about brand here in a minute, but who are you actually marketing to?

Rich Pond:

Great question? Well, functionally, our targets include developers, GCs and architects. So all three of those areas could, any one of those could bring us into a project. However, when you really start to segment those groups out, we are targeting more of the midsize, from a size standpoint, of those groups who are also looking for new ways to do things, who embrace a new approach, who are a little bit farther out on the risk/reward scale, that understand doing it the same way by their old processes and just optimizing their current approach is not the way they want to go to market or a tackle a project.

Rich Pond:

So it's a definitive segment of those three different groups. People who really do embrace new approaches, and champion that. And who frankly, are willing to work with us. We're far from perfect yet either. When we do projects with people, our second one is much better than the first one with them. They learn, we learn, and as we do five, six, seven, then we can get really in a groove with that GC, developer or architect. And so that's the slice that people were looking for, is a midsize that want to do things differently and embrace technology and new approaches.

Zach Williams:

How niche is that? How niche is that group in terms of size? Now, to me, I could be totally wrong. That feels like a very small group of individuals that you're like, that is my target audience right there. And I'm not saying that's bad. I think it's actually really smart. But how big is that group of people, do you think?

Rich Pond:

Yeah, well, frankly, I haven't been able to quantify it, but we haven't run out of them by any stretch. And if anything, they're increasing because you know the industry, you know the challenges it has with cost just skyrocketing two or three times the rate of inflation, and people not being able to afford higher rents. So 50% of the people are paying more than 30% of their income on rent. It's not sustainable.

Rich Pond:

So some people are being pushed there. But you also find, again, frankly, younger folks in the industry are more likely the ones to be our champions. And it's not universal, and I hate to generalize like that. It's very unfair. Some of our biggest champions are my age even, almost adults. But there are also, within firms, those younger ones who are often the ones that are looking to do things differently.

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Zach Williams:

So I think it's really fascinating. You're talking about who you're trying to target. It's not everybody. But you're not trying to go after every single person. And the one thing we see is a lot of manufacturers, they want the entire market. And I think it's to your benefit, and kudos to you all to say, "Nope, not everyone's right for us." I like to think about positioning as oftentimes like a fine wine. Meaning like most people might not like it, but the few that do, love it. And from your standpoint, you're like, "Nope, we're not right for everybody. We're not right for these people who are too big or these people who are too small. We want to play right here with people that want to be innovative and forward thinking."

Zach Williams:

I'm curious to know, did you always think about your audience that way? Or did you self discover over time? Like this is the right audience for us.

Rich Pond:

No, we did not always think about the audience. We used to chase every deal, whether it was right for us or not. I should also include in that target audience definition, people who will also embrace standardization for the benefit of efficiency, because that is an important consideration. I talked broadly about a new way of doing it, but if you only want to do bespoke buildings, every room is unique and differentiated, then you don't want to use our system. We're not going to be able to add value.

Rich Pond:

So it was probably about a year and a half ago, both when I joined as well as our head of business development and design joined, came with a very different attitude. But rather than chase every product, we had this big pipeline of hundreds of millions of dollars in our pipeline. And we were closing one to maybe 2%. So it was a lot of wasted activity.

Rich Pond:

Now we are very clear about who we're chasing. Our closure rate now is 30 to 40% of the projects that we pursue. We also don't, at the moment- Now we can do smaller projects, but we're not doing anything less than a hundred thousand square feet. Because again, it's just, we add less value to smaller projects. It's not worth all of our organization's time, when we can be doing millions square foot projects, certainly two, three, 400 square foot, thousand square foot. That's hard. I got to say. I get requests all the time and from the website and these guys very eager to build with us and say, "Sorry, but until you have something like this, we can't."

Rich Pond:

But as you know, the key to strategy is being able to say no, to know where you're going and where you're not going. And when we're able to just cut it off, these relationships, because it gets intriguing when you're on a 60,000 square foot project and you want to keep moving forward, and then you find this issue or that issue. But you lose so much time on the road ahead, particularly on the upfront business development and design so critical to our delivery. It's a lot of resources and we just don't have that much. We're still working. We're aiming to be profitable by the fourth quarter of this year. We have to be very choosy under where we're going to dedicate those resources. And they've got to have payoffs both for us and the project.

Zach Williams:

I mean, that's brilliant. I like to say sometimes a no is a strategic yes. You're saying no to a lot so you can say yes to the right things.

Rich Pond:

That's right.

Zach Williams:

What I want to dive into with you now, Rich, is you mentioned you worked for a bunch of different companies in the B2B space, not just building products. You've worked with large brands. Talk to me about branding for Prescient. You know, clearly you have a vision for where you want to go globally, longterm. How are you arriving there? How is your approach? Talk me through that process a bit of why brand is so important to you, even with such a niche audience that you're trying to sell into.

Rich Pond:

Yeah. Well, great question. As we were talking a little earlier, everybody's got a brand. We're all working for some brand, some company, a brand, and either that brand is the byproduct of unorchestrated actions and could be somewhat confusing or unclear, or a brand is clear about what it wants to be and where it's going to go. And it can then be more overt in its behavior, so that communication, brand experience are aligning much better than the random collection of activities that naturally happen in the B2B environment.

Rich Pond:

So, the last brand I was part of was Castrol. And we had a tagline that it's more than just oil, it's liquid engineering. And we were a solution company. We wanted not only to be known as a great brand at oil, but also a solution, particularly in the B2B space, for factories that needed everything to be lubricated and efficient. And so that was our liquid engineering, a much broader promise, than this is the best motor oil that meets that spec for this dollar amount. Because then you get down to very transactional relationships.

Rich Pond:

And so that's, again, what we're trying to do here at Prescient is to build a brand that is seen as the smarter way to plan, design, and build. And so our messages should be around that smarter way, education, clarity, transparency, collaboration, as well as the overall brand experience. Now, I'd be kidding you to say I've got it all aligned, that our whole design [crosstalk 00:10:22].

Zach Williams:

Sure you do. You've got it all figured out.

Rich Pond:

We are working on that. I used to hate this phrase, but it's a journey, which is somewhat of perhaps an excuse for not being where we are today. But we know where we're headed. And it manifests itself in some of our longer term relationships that we have already with people, where, again, we listen, we get often- We're going to talk about success factors, but what's working best for us is to have our successful customers preaching our benefits to their peers, whether we bring them on stage or whether they do it randomly.

Rich Pond:

And that's happened through our organization's ability to listen, to receive feedback, to act on that feedback, and to be seen, as of this next project, that we are better. I was just at a meeting with a customer yesterday that talked about how much better the second project was than the one they did 18 months ago with us.

Rich Pond:

And so that's building loyalty. That's building loyalty by the way we behave. And there's a phrase that we use a lot in consumer marketing called irrational loyalty. And that's what we want to achieve with our brand is that we get people to fall in love with the brand, with our delivery, with who we are, the way we're behaving. So they're not going to worry about a dollar or two per square foot cost. Because we're adding so much more value through continuity, through relationships, through continuing to improve. To know that if this is our fourth project, and maybe we were about the same as some other option they had cost. But they know if they do the fourth project with us, and the fifth and sixth, that seventh project is going to be much more efficient for them and add a lot value to them.

Rich Pond:

So they're not going to be quite as cost-focused and transactional as we do these projects, knowing that we're going to do our best to drive our costs down, and of course their costs down, and our timelines down, and their timelines down.

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Zach Williams:

What I love about what you're talking about here, Rich is that so much of what we think about brand is the mushy, like the feely things about the brand, but everything you're talking about from a value proposition standpoint revolves around service, technology, efficiency. And it makes me think about what Jeff Bezos says, where he says your brand is what people say about you when you're not in the room.

Rich Pond:

Great point, yeah.

Zach Williams:

That is so critical. And on top of that, there's an emotional component to your brand. Like if you're not evoking some sort of emotion on the part of your audience, they're not going to remember you.

Zach Williams:

And so what I'd love to know from you is what are you doing- Now granted, you've got a great value proposition, but what I want to know is what are you doing to create emotion on the end of your target audience? How are you evoking and creating emotion in a way that, maybe it's not something where it's going to make them cry. Hopefully it does one day, because they're so happy working with you. But what are the things that you're thinking about from an emotional standpoint when it revolves around your brand?

Rich Pond:

So some of it had to do with, when I first joined, like you would typically do, any brand manager would, we did a look at the brand. Where was it? What did it stand for? We interviewed all our key customers, all of our leadership team, and the market in general to assess where it is we want to go. And we did a brand strategy project. And we kept some things the same, but some things we saw we really needed to change.

Rich Pond:

We had a perception in the market that we were just a steel framing company, which is very narrow, not a lot of value added, nothing about the planning, nothing about the designing, which is all the real partnership elements. And nothing about software. Steel, it was all about steel parts. And that's a commodity. And so we said we really need to elevate our brand and be seen as something different.

Rich Pond:

And at the time, all of our visuals, our actual logo, it took a lot from light steel. And so we were almost subconsciously reinforcing that we were a steel company as opposed to steel is an enabling, a beautiful technology, but it's an enabler to us to use our software, to leverage them, to drive all these efficiencies.

Rich Pond:

And so we changed our graphics. And that might seem perhaps trivial, but we moved them, I believe, much more contemporary, much more towards software. We have a deep, almost purplish blue as our brand color, but we also accentuated with the neon green. And so there's a modernity to it, much bolder a logo, as opposed to thin steel sticks creating our brand, which I found difficult to read in many instances. This is a bold new start.

Rich Pond:

So it starts to create an imprint of who we want to be, which is a technology company that has a better system for planning, designing, and manufacturing buildings. So it starts there. And then it needs to be reinforced through videos, through employee testimonials, through as many ways that you can reach people's hearts.

Rich Pond:

We did a TV episode called Inside the Blueprint. We had this great shot of one of our main GCs, a big champion of ours, talking about the value we brought, he brings to his children, his children's children because we're an environmentally friendly solution. So we play that. We use that a lot. So you see people speaking about us, our customers, emotionally, and that just grabs a cord with people where they say, "Yeah, I've got to have me some of that. I don't want this transactional relationship. How do I get to be part of that Prescient world?"

Rich Pond:

Some of those are the things that we try to do.

Zach Williams:

I love everything you just said. I think it's fascinating the way they you're trying to approach this, and kind of poke and prod at that emotional reaction. But my next question, you already kind of touched on this, is how are you getting your message out there? What are you all doing to actually make sure that this is heard and received in the marketplace?

Rich Pond:

Well, that's a good question, a tough question, because we don't have a big marketing budget that I'd really love to have, and do a lot more in advertising, communicating. So we leverage conferences a great deal. We are a new technology. We are approached by conferences. We try not to have to pay our way to go, but sometimes you do. But we like to have conferences. And importantly, we like to have conferences with our customers on the stage with us. So we will talk about, the technology. They will come out and it'll be a guy with 30, 40 years experience, and they will talk about the reality of it. There's just such an authenticity to that person whose got all this experience, who was doing it a different way. We'll say where they've had challenges with us, but we'll talk about the future and how they're committed to it. And so it's good for their brand and it's good for our brand.

Rich Pond:

And that has probably been the most effective way of getting it out, is speaking at conferences and being at conferences and having people hear our story.

Zach Williams:

That's brilliant. I mean, it's almost like basically you're speaking, but it's like a testimonial almost. You get them on stage, you set them up, and then you set back.

Rich Pond:

Well, it's true because there's a lot of technology out there. There's a lot of crocks. We've got competitors out that promise a lot and haven't delivered as much. I mean, we've done 47 buildings, I think now, 7.9 million square feet. So it's out there, and we're doing a lot per year. And so there's a reality to it.

Rich Pond:

We were at a technology innovation conference for the AEC industry last July, where I brought one of the customers along. So many people came up about how it was great to see that it was real, because we were wowed by a lot of future technology. But that's all it was, was future technology. You can't do it yet. So yeah, bringing the customer out with us does help bring it home that it's not just a promise, it's not just a vision, but that it's working today, that it's working well for them today.

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Zach Williams:

That's great. So for anybody who's listening to the show and they're saying, "Man, I need to find ways to improve my brand, or I need to think about how I'm positioning with my audience," what advice would you give?

Rich Pond:

Well, first you need to have alignment about what you want the brand to be, internally with your leadership team. I think it always starts, because especially in this industry, I think marketing is often thought of as do the brochures, do they tchotchkes, and were sort of seen as assistants to coordinate schedules. And there's always a role in that. Our old chief marketing officer at Castrol used to say that we've got three roles. That we are a service provider, that sometimes we just need to be a follower. A third of our role is to lead. And when you're having a brand, you've got to lead. And I think you need buy-in and permission to lead that brand.

Rich Pond:

So I'd say, start with your leadership team and work with them and your customers to the degree that you can, to develop that brand platform, that brand vision. And ensure that you have buy-in, because as we said earlier in this conversation part of the strategy is saying no. And so to really refine where that brand is going, you've got to say no to some of the things that these folks might want to do. And if you come back to the brand principle, and it's helpful to have the CEO or board member as your champion, because you're going to need that. Because if there's not times of conflict, well then you're probably not really driving brand alignment.

Rich Pond:

So make sure you've got that leadership team buy-in and you've got a clear vision of what you want to go to. And then talk through, well, what's it going to take to get there. That you can do with a small team. You can use your business development team, your marketing team, your agency. What are the pieces of the puzzle you want to put in place? What are the things you're able to tackle now to start making some baby steps and progress? And what are the big things that you need to do, particularly in customer experience, in order to align that brand experience, to be where you want to go?

Rich Pond:

But I think having senior leadership buy-in is absolutely critical, or you'll get undercut at the first turn and it will be a real challenge.

Zach Williams:

That's super smart. Rich, man, thank you so much for coming on the show today. If someone wants to connect with you, what's the best way for them to do that.

Rich Pond:

They can email me at rpond for Rich Pond, [email protected] That's probably the hardest thing to do is to spell Prescient right. P-R-E-S-C-I-E-N-T. C-O.com.

Zach Williams:

That's great. Again, Rich, thanks for coming on the show. We will make sure we also link to your email and your website in the show notes. If you're looking to connect with Rich, you can go check us out. And if you want more great content like this, go to vimeo.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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