#92: How to Launch a Building Materials Product During COVID

by Smarter Building Materials Marketing

In uncertain economic conditions, it’s hard to know how to make a big business move. Many companies are navigating new ways to sell during, since tried and true face-to-face approaches aren’t available. Now imagine the challenge of launching a new product during a pandemic

More About This Episode

In this episode, Zach and Beth talk to Ryan Galick, Marketing Director at Fuzion Flooring, who is doing exactly that. They’re charting new territory, finding new ways to get in front of clients, and launch products in the COVID era.

Transcript

Zach Williams:

We're getting a lot of questions from manufacturers on how they can continue to drive their business forward and succeed during COVID-19. And there's a lot of questions specifically about how do I launch products? What do I do about new products coming down the pike? And how do I effectively reach my audience during this quarantine when things are a little bit different? On today's episode, we bring on a manufacturer who's doing that very thing. They've launched a product in the middle of quarantine, in the midst of COVID and they're doing it successfully. They share some really great strategies on how to leverage virtual selling tactics, as well as video to get in front of their audience and what their partners need from them to succeed. If you're looking for some great strategies and tactics on how you can be successful in the current climate, this is an excellent episode for you. All right, let's get into the show.

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. This is Smarter Building Materials Marketing, where we believe your online presence should be your best salesperson. I am Zach Williams joined by my cohost, Beth PopNikolov, and welcome to the show. Beth, how are you doing?

Beth PopNikolov:

Living that work from home life is how I'm doing.

Zach Williams:

Well, we've got a great show lined up for you today. We've got Ryan Galick, who's the marketing director at Fuzion Flooring on the show with us today. Welcome to the show, Ryan.

Ryan Galick:

Hey, thanks very much for having me, this is great. I've been looking forward to it.

Zach Williams:

So Ryan, you and I connected and you mentioned something to me about the fact that you wanted to get into radio broadcasting. Is that right? Or production6 Oh yeah. At the beginning of my career, just many moons ago, yeah, that was my first program. I went to college for radio broadcasting and then essentially worked my way to a job offer in a major market in Toronto. And when I saw the number, I decided to switch careers.

Zach Williams:

I mean, you sound very official. You have a better voice than I do.

Beth PopNikolov:

You totally have a voice for radio.

Zach Williams:

You totally do.

Ryan Galick:

You know what? That was the weird thing. Well, it's better than saying, you have a nice face for radio because that was always the joke.

Beth PopNikolov:

That's mean.

Ryan Galick:

That was the joke in the industry. Yeah, it's not something you want to hear, but it's still a funny joke. Thanks for that. Yeah. Anytime I talk to anyone about being in radio, they're like, oh, you have a nice voice, and I'm like, no, I'm not that guy. I'm the guy who records and edits. Yeah, yeah. No, it happens all the time, but thank you.

Zach Williams:

That's cool. So tell us, how did you go from radio into building products? Touch just a little bit about how you got into the industry.

Ryan Galick:

Not necessarily a smooth transition, right? I went from radio broadcasting to marketing and advertising design. So I essentially went right back to school after I was done in the radio broadcasting industry, which was a very short period of time. And when I got over there, I learned all the fundamentals of advertising through really great creative directors and graphic designers, typography people. So I really started at the ground level of design and understanding demographics and what goes into the thinking behind what we do. So that was a great foundation for me. And then when I graduated, I basically was willing to take a job anywhere, anyone who would have me because when you're a junior, you get taken advantage of so any type of stability is hard to find. So I got into the lighting industry actually, and I was just designing and pouring out pages and pages of catalog design for a lighting company based out of Richmond Hill, which is in Ontario.

Ryan Galick:

And went from there to a flooring company, pretty major sized company, also located in the GTA. Was there for about 10 years, took a little break, got into sheet metal. Don't know why, I just needed to change, and then came back to flooring. I was lured back in. I was warned when I left flooring the first time, once you're in it, you can't get out.

Zach Williams:

So here's my question then, did you seek out a flooring manufacturer or did they seek you out? Were you like, gosh, I just can't get enough flooring in my life, or how did that go down?

Ryan Galick:

Yeah. Some people that I worked with, yeah, gave me a call.

Beth PopNikolov:

Gosh, you really were being brought back into the family.

Ryan Galick:

Yeah, pretty much. Yeah. You just can't escape. And I was warned about that and I said, "No, you won't get me." But they got me. Yeah. No, I never had any aspirations to join the flooring industry. It's actually one of the things that I never really paid attention to until I got into the industry itself. We're always looking straight forward and the cheapest renovation is painting, so you do that and you feel good about yourself and you move on with your life. But I mean, changing your flooring is such a huge decision, but it has such a huge impact on your home and the value and all these types of things. And until I entered the industry, I didn't even really notice. I mean looking down was the last thing I was doing.

Beth PopNikolov:

You think flooring doesn't matter until you see green carpet and you're like, who let that happen?

Ryan Galick:

Yeah. I mean, you buy a house that's maybe 30, 40 years old and it comes in with the rose-pink carpet, like you said. I mean, I've seen carpet in bathrooms, which is like, what the hell is going on?

Beth PopNikolov:

Who let that happen?

Ryan Galick:

Well, it was just a different time.

Beth PopNikolov:

It's a different time where mold didn't exist.

Ryan Galick:

Yeah, where we didn't know anything. We didn't know any better. And now we do, and everyone's gone hard surface. But it's actually a very interesting industry to me and I've been in it now for over 10 years and never would have thought I would say that, but I'm proud to say it.

Zach Williams:

That's great. So tell me, who do you all market and sell to?

Ryan Galick:

We sell to anyone and everyone, but mainly, our focus of late has been trade, builder, interior designers. We've been putting a lot of time into trade shows, making sure that our brand is out there. And recently in January, when we were allowed to have trade shows, we were at IDS Toronto, which is the interior design show, and we basically got our name out there, gave out some free drinks and lured everybody into our booth. That was effective. We had plans on being in Vancouver this year, but I think 2020 is canceled. There's no trade shows that we can go to really, so I know there's been a lot of attempts at virtual, which stinks, but essentially we've been trying really hard to get through to that market. And at the same time in the background, which I regret not having this prepped in time, but we were just on the cusp, was having a very effective website so we could communicate with the consumers directly as well and have a better virtual offering for them.

Ryan Galick:

So those are the main people that we're after, which is very unique to most flooring companies like us. We're a distributor so that's mainly what our focus is.

Beth PopNikolov:

So you said a couple of things that I think we just have to touch on considering COVID-19 is still really affecting the industry and how people sell or how they can't sell and market. So you said you guys did a lot of trade shows, you're obviously not doing that now. What effective pivots have you made to continue to be able to reach even new customers while everything has been driven online?

Ryan Galick:

Oh, great question. One of the main things that we've been focusing on is video product launches. So luckily, we discussed earlier, I was in radio broadcasting and the reason why I'm happy that it lends itself extremely well to video editing, right? It was so seamless of a skill set that we applied that skill within our office. So typically, when we launch a new collection of product, we send our territory managers out on the road to go visit their customers and hype up the product, get some excitement going. Hard to do right now, actually, near impossible. So what we did was we thought, you know what? We'll launch virtually. So we had a couple of videos that we planned out. We went to the showroom, we distanced and we filmed and I took it home and I worked on it at my kitchen table, launched it, and it's been a huge hit.

Ryan Galick:

So that's with our retailer base, and some of them have their own websites so they'll push our products through there. Some are offering curbside, some are offering web meetings for consulting on a flooring decision. So everybody's got their creative ways of going about it. That's a tool that we've tried to provide in order to help during this time, because we obviously didn't see it coming. In the background, we're developing our digital presence, we're scaling it up quite substantially and hoping to surpass the competition in a very short period of time. So we're excited about that. I don't want to blow the lid off yet, but our website's going to be completely overhauled and very awesome, very interesting and very cutting edge. So that's the thing I wish we had ready right now because ordering samples, I think, is a big deal for consumers and they can't quite do that right now on our website, but that would have been an extremely effective thing for us to have, which we're working on and we're almost there.

Ryan Galick:

But to me, I think that's the new norm.

Zach Williams:

True. I want to ask you a little more about this video product launch. So talk me through step-by-step, what did you do? You said, okay, we got to launch this product. We're going to record a certain kind of video. Break down, what's the video? How did you edit? And obviously, we'll link to this in the show notes, but what would your edit look like? And then how did you actually promote this to the right people? And then how did you measure it? So basically, walk me through the whole process, if you can.

Ryan Galick:

Sure. Absolutely. I don't know if I can finish off the end part because we just sort of launched it, so we're tracking, but we don't have any substantial answers yet. But the process of how we would put a video together would be, okay, what's new? What's exciting? What's the product that's launching that is in the pipeline? We'll take a look at it, we'll understand what's the key differentiation of this product versus others. I think that's the key. You don't want to just throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks. We sell new stuff, we launch new stuff because we have a story to tell. So working with Kim Downey, who is our VP of supply chain and product management, her and I worked on basically the content, so she knows the product quite well. She sources it, and so she wrote up basically a loose script.

Ryan Galick:

We compare notes, we did all this virtually and we just wanted to make sure the only day that we had to get together was for shooting. Looked at the script. You basically just want to outline, what's interesting about this product? Why should I care? Because you sell a lot of hardwoods so why does this one matter? And so we spend a lot of time trying to point that out. Also, sort of do some brand building because there's a lot of noise in the flooring industry when it comes to brands and there's not a whole lot of brand loyalty, at least in Canada. I can speak to Canada specifically. Best price or whatever wins a lot of the time so we have to do a lot of brand storytelling, I think. So we did a bit of that; what sets us apart? What makes us different? And just sort of infuse that into the content.

Ryan Galick:

And then as we did that, we essentially did what any good territory manager would do at Fuzion that goes and visits a customer, sits down, shows them the product, does what I just said and explains why us and why this, and how much. We left the how much part out because retailers like to wheel and deal so we like to make them happy. So we don't put anything in print because what's the point, they're going to haggle anyway. But no, it's cool. That's the nature of the business, right? And so-

Zach Williams:

And how'd you promote it?

Ryan Galick:

Essentially, it was an email that we sent out for starters, just to get our sales staff in the know. You don't want your salespeople to find out last, you want them to find out first. So we just did an internal communication to start because you want to educate your people, give them enough time to catch up and understand so they can control the message. After that, we just launched a couple of weeks ago and a new one, not so long ago, like days. And obviously, you can track web hits. It's hosted on YouTube, on our YouTube channel.

Zach Williams:

Yeah. I was going to ask you, how do I see this video?

Ryan Galick:

Is this a plug opportunity?

Zach Williams:

Oh yeah. 100%. I'm tossing a giant softball.

Ryan Galick:

That's hilarious. Yeah, we have a YouTube channel. We don't have a vanity URL yet because I just started the channel not too long ago, so I think I need to get a certain amount of subscribers, which I'm sure this will help. But if you search Fuzion Flooring on YouTube, you can find our channel. You'll find the videos easily. We also have a designer series where we've interior designers in our area to come in and talk to just general design tips and tricks and stuff for your home. It's much more of a soft sell, that series of videos, and we did those because we know people don't want to feel like they're being sold to all the time. They want to be directed into making a decision that's right for them in terms of design and if that happens to compliment the flooring that we sell, then that's great.

Beth PopNikolov:

That's a great content marketing concept.

Zach Williams:

So I just pulled it up here for our listeners. I love this. So is this the new product right here? Which one was it?

Ryan Galick:

Okay, new one we just launched recently is the Castello, yeah. A little long, we try to keep them shorter, but because these are very content-driven videos where there's a lot of education to be had, I think people are willing to spend a little bit more time. And plus, you know what? We do have some territory managers that have some extremely remote locations that they have to call on. So sending this video out ahead of time and getting an order on the sample boards, they need to put into their shows to sell is always a great thing, because some territory managers have a three hour drive to visit one of their customers, which they can feel neglected and left out, which stinks. So they'll probably give them a phone call, go, hey man, what's going on? How are you doing? How's life? Here's a video.

Ryan Galick:

And great, it's almost like a visit. We also have reached out to interior design firms and allowed for them to play them in their boutiques and stuff like that. So we're getting the word out. We're going to be posting on social. The only thing that holds me back is they're seven minutes long, people don't tend to want to see videos like that, so-

Zach Williams:

Well, you could do micro content. One thing we do, we even do this for the show is like, oh, here's a 30, 60, 90 second micro piece of content. If you want to watch the full thing, go to here.

Ryan Galick:

Yeah. So that's probably what we're going to do. Exactly. We're just going to cut it into little digestible bits.

Beth PopNikolov:

So you guys have this really creative thing. I mean, I love this idea of how you pivoted in order to be able to follow through with your product launch. I don't want to skip over the fact that you launched a product during COVID-19 during the whole, the world is on pause, 2020 is canceled. You guys are like, no, we're launching a new product. I would imagine you are one of several manufacturers who had to have that conversation of, we had product launches on the docket for 2020. Do we do it? How do we do it? Is it going to be profitable? Are we going to be able to break into the market the way that we expect? Can you give us a peek into what ultimately drove you to decide to go ahead with a product launch?

Ryan Galick:

Sure. Fear of the unknown is not our primary driver for why we decide to launch product. I think the more you act normal, the quicker we'll be normal. We have new product that's in the pipeline and it can take months to launch and get out effectively, and there's usually a short period of time where it takes a while to gain traction. But the reason why I think we still launch product is because we're alive and well, we're predominantly all employed where there's a lot of our competitors and other companies and friends of mine who have been temporarily laid off during this time. I mean, that's why I feel pretty special because I've been employed the whole time and the way to do that is to have something to do. And we're excited about the product so why kill that excitement by not driving forward.

Ryan Galick:

At the very least, we can do our homework and get it right up to the front door, ready to leave. But we're like, you know what? No, let's do it. I mean, precautions have to be taken with sanitation and stuff like that, things we're not used to, but I mean, that's really the only added fear. I think what also motivated us is that there's a lot of people at home right now and they're just sitting there looking at their house, going, God, I need to do something here, and we fall into that category. I have so many plans for my house. Flooring was the first thing I did because I'm close to it. Yeah, I'm getting my siding done. My roofing was going to get done today. But this is a great time to stay on the consumer because they're probably more excited than ever. They can't travel, and that's usually what we compete with.

Ryan Galick:

When we talk in the flooring industry, there are three types of purchases and one is your car, a vacation and your home. And home usually falls to the bottom because, come on, Hawaii. How can flooring compete with Hawaii? But right now, it can. It's got a leg up and it's because you can't travel. At least we can't in Canada. We're not allowed to leave the country.

Beth PopNikolov:

I haven't had anybody frame it that way.

Zach Williams:

What a great point.

Beth PopNikolov:

That's such a more clear perspective, that I'm tired of looking at my floor, which is what a lot of people are saying. But also, you have to be home for your floors to be redone, right? It's a big time commitment.

Zach Williams:

Well, what do I ask you, Ryan, in this, it's pretty clear you guys pivoted very quickly, as well as stayed on track with your strategy that you're trying to execute. I'd love to hear your perspective on now that you're in building products, you've been here, what? 10 years, right? What are manufacturers really missing right now? Because everyone's asking, what do I need to be doing because things are shifting? From your vantage point, where are manufacturers as a whole, just completely whiffing right now.

Ryan Galick:

Oh, that's great. That's the golden question. Something we're looking at, everybody's guilty in the industry, including us, but we recognize it and we recognize that it's something that needs to be addressed. To me, there's a word that I like to throw around and it's called wait. I think that's what's holding our industry back, but it's a two pronged sort of reason. Wait, I don't want to wait. This is the Amazon era, right? This is the Google era. People want an answer or they want their product at their door. If they're a prime member, they want it in two days. So wait times are always going to be an issue in our industry, but second is the actual literal weight of the item. Shipping a pallet to someone's house, is that reasonable? Is that something that we think we can do? As an industry, we're scared for sure. I say we're all guilty.

Ryan Galick:

I also, as a consumer, don't know how comfortable I am with that type of delivery. But when I think about it, because gardening is the other thing that I've taken up because what else is there to do? We had soil delivered in one of those really big, like a cubic yard of soil to our house. Have you ever had one of those delivered to your home?

Zach Williams:

No, but if you'd like to send one to me, I'll totally receive it. Yeah, absolutely.

Ryan Galick:

If we were in the business, you'd get it free for life.

Zach Williams:

I'm just kidding.

Ryan Galick:

Yeah, they basically come in this giant bag and it's actually a measurement term, a cubic yard of soil. And what they do is they just drive around town, whoever's ordered one and they have a truck, a giant truck with these yards of soil in these bags with handles and they have a forklift that's attached to the back of the truck. It pops off, it picks up a cubic yard, brings it to your driveway, you mark an X on it and it drops it on the X. So I had that happen last week and it was a good experience. It was pretty clean. I ordered online and that was it. But with flooring, I mean, if we can see ourselves being that way and doing business that way direct to consumer, then I think it's doable, but we're all scared. And the other reason too is that our retailers, without them we are we're nothing.

Ryan Galick:

We do rely on the relationships with our retailers. And a lot of them are either small franchises or family-owned businesses. And so we strongly believe in having their backs. So if we went to direct e-comm, that's a slap in the face. So that's the double edged sword issue, I think, we face in our industry when it comes to that subject. I think there's a lot to be had in terms of if we were ready for direct sales e-comm, that COVID would have been a great time for us to stay afloat, or if not even actually have the best year we've ever had like other companies. But yeah, I don't know. It's tricky. I think that's the major issue. And then when I think about social media and showing the people that are delivering PPE to local hospitals and masks and stuff like that, that's been a good thing to see.

Ryan Galick:

Not all I've been doing it, but the ones that are, I think that that's great. Putting a human approach to what we're all going through is great. That's something that I've seen as going right. But the communication to the consumer, I think has been a little bit lacking.

Zach Williams:

So to wrap things up, Ryan, what advice would you give a manufacturer's listing that's says, man, I'm really inspired by how you're really trying to push things online while still supporting your traditional sales channel and relationships. What advice would you give them?

Ryan Galick:

Diversify, it never hurts. Yeah. To have only one approach is fine if it's been working for a long time until it's not and then you have to start from the ground up, possibly venturing into an area you have no familiarity with. So I think it's just good to diversify your knowledge base. Always keep up with what's new, what's going on. If you're an older person, talk to your nieces and nephews who are tech savvy and find out what the hell is going on, take an interest. You don't need to know it all. You don't have to like it all. There's a lot of the stuff I don't like, but you need to be aware, and technology is ever changing and so are the consumers along with it. I mean, buying and purchasing behaviors are changing every year because technology is getting better.

Ryan Galick:

Technologies are improving and yeah, people change along with it. So to me, I would say, diversify. You can stick to the traditional routes and that's fine, and it'll work as long as you've got deep roots in your community or whatever it is, but it doesn't hurt to branch out.

Beth PopNikolov:

I think that's great advice.

Zach Williams:

That's great. So Ryan, for our listeners, if they want to get in contact with you or connect, what's the best way for them to do that?

Ryan Galick:

Add me on LinkedIn, or you can email me at rgalick, R-G-A-L-I-C-K, @fuzionflooring.com, Fuzion's with Z. F-U-Z-I-O-N-F-L-O-O-R-I-N-G.com.

Zach Williams:

That's great.

Ryan Galick:

You can reach me that way.

Zach Williams:

Yeah. We'll make sure we link to that in the show notes as well. Ryan, man, thank you so much for coming on the show. And for our listeners, if you want more great content like this, go to venveo.com/podcast. Until next time, I am Zach Williams alongside Beth PopNikolov, 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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