#97: How to Market to Interior Designers

by Smarter Building Materials Marketing

Interior designers are constantly changing in their design techniques and methods. As a building material manufacturer, you've got to stay ahead and stay alongside of those shifts to make sure that you can help and be a part of the specification when it comes time to the sale.

More About This Episode

In this episode, Zach talks to Nicole Panko, Director of Marketing & Design at Vetter Stone Company, who has undergone a massive digital revamp to help improve their presence so they can be front and center with interior designers to help them grow their sales.

Transcript

Zach Williams:

If you're targeting interior designers, this episode is a great one for you to be listening to. Interior designers are constantly changing in their design techniques and methods and what they're trying to accomplish for their clients. But as a building material manufacturer, you've got to stay ahead and stay alongside of those shifts that are happening to make sure that you can help them and be a part of the specification when it comes time to the sale. On today's episode, we bring on a manufacturer who has undergone a massive digital revamp to help improve their presence so they can stay current to be forefront front and center with interior designers to help them grow their sales. It's an excellent episode and reminder for how to leverage digital if you're going after this audience. Let's get into the episode.

Voiceover:

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

Zach Williams:

All right, everybody, welcome to Smarter Building Material Marketing, where we believe your online presence should be your best salesperson. I am Zach Williams and we have a great show lined up for you today. We've got Nicole Panko, who's with Vetter Stone on the show with us today, and she's going to be talking with us about their marketing, what they're doing, and how they've been able to make the leap to digital and how they're targeting different players in the channel. But before I go too far, Nicole, welcome to the show.

Nicole Panko:

Hi, thanks for having me.

Zach Williams:

So Nicole, for our listeners, why don't you share with everyone your unique background and how you got into this space and building products.

Nicole Panko:

Well, my background is actually in commercial interior design. I was doing that for the past 13 years, 13-plus years, and I loved it, but an opportunity came up to switch gears. So I thought I would give it a try and change things up.

Zach Williams:

So Nicole, I'm really excited to talk to you because your background is an interior designer. When you were brought on board, were you asked to market to people like yourself or are you also targeting other players in the channel like let's say architect.

Nicole Panko:

Yes. Part of what intrigued them about bringing me on board was my background in the architectural field and switching gears and marketing to who I formally was in addition to architects and other specifiers. But we also market to homeowners and contractors and masons as well.

Zach Williams:

So everybody, everybody in the channel, you market to them.

Nicole Panko:

Everybody has a need for stone .

Zach Williams:

And are you targeting both residential and commercial products?

Nicole Panko:

Yes, we do everything from just fireplace in a home to full-fledged commercial buildings, the entire exterior or interior. We do it all.

Zach Williams:

When you were brought on board, you've mentioned you've been there a little bit over a year. Were you given the directive to say, "Hey, we've got to go digital," or did you make that decision to say, "Hey, I know that we're trying to target all of these different players. We've got to double down and focus on our online presence." Talk to me a little bit about that decision making and what went into you all overhauling everything online for Vetter Stone.

Nicole Panko:

Well, the leadership knew that they were falling behind digitally and they really weren't doing any marketing. They didn't even have anybody in that position. So the stars aligned and I was in the right place at the right time and we struck up a conversation and they basically created the position for me based on my background. But they had been wanting to do a new website and they had taken the first step and they had brought a brand agency on board to create the website. And then they had put the brakes on it and waited for me to hop on board and run with it.

Zach Williams:

That's great. So talk to me a little bit about that process. You obviously tackled the new website design. What are some of the things that you in your website design discussions you said, "Hey, we absolutely must have these things in order to be effective in marketing to interior designers."

Nicole Panko:

Well, one thing was just having everything available online. The past website was pretty bare bones, just a few pictures that were, you could tell, not professionally taken and that was about it. So we knew we needed a sample request form, a form just to contact us with general questions, and we needed that gallery of the beauty shots that captures your attention. We didn't even have the history and who we are and here's how we operate and our specs and details and all that stuff. So there was quite a bit of behind the scenes and a lot of gathering of information before that website went live.

Zach Williams:

That's impressive. Yeah. What I find interesting when it comes to website design, this is just a comment because we do quite a bit of web design and development for building product manufacturers is that oftentimes it uncovers areas where you haven't thought about from a content standpoint or you say, "Oh, well, now we need to collect all our specs. We need to collect this content. We need to have this history," as you mentioned about your business. Was that a pretty challenging thing to collect all of that and were you also looking at that through the lens of an interior designer saying, "No, I know an interior designer would want this information presented in this way." Were you advocating for them in this process? Was there any kind of rub or was it across the board, yes, let's take Nicole's directive here.

Nicole Panko:

No, absolutely. As a specifier, I have used many other manufacturers' websites from carpet, tile, even paint. Everybody had everything available at your fingertips. It's way easier to go onto a website, click on the color samples that you want to order and they magically show up at your desk.

Zach Williams:

It's the dream, right?

Nicole Panko:

Yes, exactly. So I knew what the end user wanted and the easier we could make their life and the more information we could have at their fingertips, the better off we were going to be.

097 courthouse interior

Source

Zach Williams:

I'm curious to know, when you were actually practicing architecture, interior design, were there manufacturers that you would stay away from because frankly their online presence was too difficult to use? I'm not asking you to name names. You don't need to name anybody, but I'd be curious to know if you found a product and you thought wow, that might be interesting, but it was really difficult from an online standpoint. Did that ever influence or impact your decision making around whether or not you would specify them?

Nicole Panko:

Yeah, unfortunately it did because things moved at such a fast pace and things were always due yesterday, that if I couldn't get the information right now, I was going to move on to the next thing that could get me what I needed in that moment. So it was very important to have everything available on our website. And we're still working on it too. We're constantly adding. We have a whole other phase two of stuff that we want to add and it's in the works still.

Zach Williams:

Can you share what some of those things are? Am I allowed to ask you that or is that secret?

Nicole Panko:

I don't think it's secret, but just having a whole careers page, if people want to apply, because we're constantly looking for help in the plant and the quarry. So having positions listed on there. That's what I'm currently working on. Even adding more spec information. We're actually going to be carrying even more colors that we're going to be distributing and getting that up and running and constantly adding photography. Our Project Gallery could be so much larger than it is because we just, we have so many projects out there, but we just haven't collected the photographs. So that's something that we'll constantly be growing as we complete projects.

Zach Williams:

So as I was looking at your site, you actually, you've got a couple of different lead gen opportunities. I think it's always important to think about what's the end action you want a user to take. So if it's an interior designer, you want them to obviously specify or choose your product, but you're also looking at what are the leading indicators that you can do to get them to that point. So you've got request a sample, for example, here on your site as well. Is that one of the main things that you're measuring or what are some of the different metrics that you all measure to say, "Hey, our site is performing well or these are the actions that we're trying to drive at that we know are going to have a direct impact on our business."

Nicole Panko:

Yeah. That sample request form and there's also a similar one that just contact us. Ever since we made that live, we've had quite a bit of traction from that. So all of those are generated and sent to me and then I disperse them to the sales rep in that territory. Just even getting feedback from them and saying, "Okay, when this came in, did that lead to an actual sale," and we had a pretty good percentage with that. Yes, most of them do turn into jobs. So it's been a great way to track things.

Zach Williams:

What were some of the challenges that you ran into Nicole? You came in and basically turned this thing on its head. Can you share with us a story or just a little bit of insight into what was the process like for you? What were some of the difficulties that you ran into? And the reason I'm asking is because there's a lot of different manufacturers who listen to the show and they're in different places in their digital journey. I'd love to hear from your perspective what was that like for you and what are the challenges that you had to overcome to get where you are, where your marketing and your presence is being led from your online presence?

Nicole Panko:

Well, I guess one of the hardest things coming in I would say as an outsider is that Vetter Stone has been such a small family-owned company that many of the employees have been there for a very long time and they were very set in their ways of doing things. I found out very quickly that there was an internal jargon and almost everything had two or three names. Coming in not knowing that was very difficult to turn all that into a website and to get people to just hone in on one name for each product and just sorting through the years of different, like I said, names and patterns and jargon. So we did a little bit of restructuring as far as product categories and even changed some of the names. We actually, I think we changed all the names on the patterns.

Nicole Panko:

We did change a couple of the color names to simplify and they did trust my instincts on that. When we came in, I said, "Look, why are we doing this when this is the common sense version that people who don't know this world would lean towards?" Does that makes sense?

Zach Williams:

Yeah, it makes total sense. And now that you have the site up online, that's a whole new thing. That's the finish line? Like, "Oh our site's up online. We're done." That's really just the beginning point because now you've actually got to drive customers, right?

Nicole Panko:

Right.

097 home exterior firepit

Source

Zach Williams:

What are you all doing from a digital marketing standpoint and customer acquisition standpoint to drive awareness with the right audiences online?

Nicole Panko:

Well, right now we are working with a digital marketing firm and we're doing an online campaign. They are currently controlling our social media and they're running ads and we're doing SEO and SEM and pay-per-click ads. All of that has been a whole new world for me, but I've definitely learned a lot through that process. And every month we sit down with them and they tell us our results from that previous month, like you grew this many followers, you had this many pay-per-clicks, you had so many people visit your website from a Google search. So they have a lot of analytics that they are able to present to us at the end of every month. So it's been really fun to see that grow.

Zach Williams:

Are there any metrics or piece of data that you all look at specifically, you're like, this is the big metric point that we want to look at that we measure our success on or is it a number of different ones?

Nicole Panko:

Well, it's basically if any of those leads turn into sales, if they actually turn into jobs or specifications. It's a little hard to track that directly without communicating with the sales rep who is doing that job. So it's just a lot of communication and finding and remembering where things came from and following them all the way through.

Zach Williams:

That's great. And so I think you mentioned a minute ago, you're doing social advertising. I'm really curious why social advertising because a lot of people think, oh, well, my audience isn't on social or I don't see the value and benefit of that. And my response is, man, if you're targeting the architectural design community, you absolutely 100% need to be on Instagram. You need to be on social media because that's where a lot of them do their inspiration research. That's where they're finding new products. Can you speak to a little bit of that, Nicole, from your standpoint as an interior designer, as well as somebody who's now in the manufacturing space, what you're seeing specifically on social?

Nicole Panko:

Yes. Well, like you mentioned, most of the designing people are online. They're looking for inspiration. They're looking for ideas. They're looking for something to spark their next project. Even if they see something now online and it gives them an idea, they may not have a project for it right then and there, but sometime in the near future, the opportunity may come up and they're like, "Oh yeah, I remember seeing this picture from Vetter Stone and that's exactly what I'm looking for." And it just leads them to their next phase of design.

Zach Williams:

Smart, right? I was actually looking or I was talking to another manufacturer recently and they were sharing about their social media presence and how Instagram has been vital to them and growing connections with interior designers and architects, because a lot of conversation actually happens within social media with these different audience types. Are you seeing any of that on your end as well? Are you seeing people actually engaging with you in conversation when you're posting on social media? Do you have any insight there or is it most of it happening once they reach the website, maybe they've requested a sample or something like that?

Nicole Panko:

No, we do have a lot of people come in and actually it's been kind of fun because we've had several projects in New York City. And when I post about them, a lot of times I try to tag whoever the developer or architect was. One time I actually had this architect out in New York comment back in a private message, "We love Vetter Stone. We use it all the time. We have it on so many projects." And this was an architecture that we hadn't even had yet on our website.

Zach Williams:

Oh wow.

Nicole Panko:

And I went to their website and looked through their gallery and that was like hitting the jackpot. They had our stone on so many projects featured on their website. So it was crazy, the domino effect there. So then I reached out to them and their photographer and purchased the rights to those images and now we have them on our website. So it's a kind of fun dialogue.

Zach Williams:

That's really cool. That's one of those ones where you almost get so excited you want to respond immediately. "Hey, can we please use those images of yours if you don't mind," because they just have such a plethora. That's really cool. So I'd love to hear, just to wrap things up. Nicole, what advice would you give any manufacturer out there who's saying, "Hey, I want to improve my digital presence and interior designers and architects play a big role in that." What advice would you give them and even speak to maybe some of the misconceptions that manufacturers have about how to market to these different audiences?

Nicole Panko:

Well, I guess it's all about telling your story and building relationships. Nobody wants to be sold to. If you have a quality product with a really cool story, I am fascinated by the story of our company. It's literally nature-made. It's grown right in the earth. There's no two inches that are alike. Everything's so unique and has such a cool history with every piece. Telling that story and then showing them visually different ways it can be used not only in the traditional sense that people think of stone, but it can also be very contemporary and you can totally play with the style. And having those images, because architects and designers are obviously very visual people, and just the smallest little photo could spark an idea for them. So yeah, just building those relationships and having rapport and educating them.

Zach Williams:

That's great. This has been awesome. Nicole, thank you so much for coming on the show. If someone wants to connect with you, what's the best way for them to do that?

Nicole Panko:

Well, they can go to our website. It's vetterstone.com or they can email me directly. It's N.Panko, P-A-N-K-O, @vetterstone.com.

Zach Williams:

That's great. Again, Nicole, thank you 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. Thanks everybody.

Voiceover:

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

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