Episode 85

#85: Building Your Building Materials Brand on Social Media

by Smarter Building Materials Marketing

Social media can be an incredible tool to build awareness. It drives business. It helps you reach out to new prospects, grow company culture or even can help you in recruiting. Here’s how one manufacturer’s organic social media efforts have done all three.

More About This Episode

In this episode, Zach talks to Ryan Chandley, VP of Sales for Thomas Concrete, about how they’re using social media to not only drive brand awareness but also separate themselves from the competition.

Transcript

Zach Williams:

Social media can be an incredible tool to build awareness. It drives business, it helps you reach out to new prospects and even can help you in recruiting which is why I'm excited about today's episode. We bring on a manufacturer who has done some really interesting things on social media to brand themselves that's not only driving awareness but also separating themselves from the competition. The tactics that this manufacturer shares are super smart. And honestly, they're super easy to execute. You just need to put some effort to it. I think the insights that they share apply to every single building material manufacturer out there. 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 a great show planned for you today. We've got Ryan Chandley, who's the VP of sales for Thomas Concrete, on the show with us today. And we've got an awesome topic, which I'm excited to dive into. But Ryan, before we dive into that, why don't you give our listeners a little bit of background into who you are, your role at Thomas Concrete, and how you've gotten into building products?

Ryan Chandley:

Sure. I started at Thomas Concrete here a couple years ago. But a little further back than that, I've been in building materials for over 20 years. So started in south Florida where everyone knew a ready-mix company down there by the name of Rinker Materials. Everybody knew them by their big orange trucks and that's how you always knew how they were. So I got a good taste of what a marketing experience really should have been like from a very young age. So coming into the industry, it was just a very unique business model. They had a ready-mix plant, which had a bit of materials warehouse at every ready-mix plant. So a very unique business model, great opportunity to really get bought into the ready-mix business at an early age.

Ryan Chandley:

And so I started out driving a ready-mix truck and went through the process as a trainee really learning every aspect of the business. So for me, I look back now and just think, "Wow, how fortunate was I to get the opportunity to learn every aspect of the business before doing what I'm doing today?" So really gives me a great perspective when I look at our customers, when I work with our employees, and how to really approach a marketing sales operations technical situation. It really just gives you a great well-rounded view on how to handle things. And now as the vice president of sales-

Zach Williams:

You've seen it all.

Ryan Chandley:

Yeah. No, it's been great. It's been great.

085 Building Brand Loyalty for Commodity Products

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Zach Williams:

Do you ever miss driving that truck or do you ever get the chance to do it?

Ryan Chandley:

No, I actually let my CDL expire about six years ago unfortunately. But up to that point drove off and on, even up to that point. So I really did enjoy driving the ready-mix trucks.

Zach Williams:

Oh, that's great. And so now you're at Thomas Concrete. Tell me a little about what you all do, who you sell to, your business model. Can we dive into that a little bit?

Ryan Chandley:

Absolutely. So we really have a diverse customer base. We reach every segment of the construction market from CODs to large general contractors, subcontractors, public works, DOT, as well as the biggest track home builders in and around the Southeast US. So it really is all-inclusive. So part of the fun for me is what we do every day. We have that variety of customers who have such a variety of needs. Our vision is to be perceived as the best in the industry. We are the concrete specialist and that's not self-proclaimed. We have to earn that every day. So it is being best in safety, best in customer service, best in quality. Having that mindset just allows us to be able to integrate that into the way we work and the way we present as Team Thomas, and it leads to financial results and so forth. So it's been a great opportunity for us to build that brand as Team Thomas.

Zach Williams:

How are you differentiating? Frankly, forgive me if I'm overstepping here, but you've got a bit of a commodity product. And there's probably some differentiating factors in your concrete, the actual makeup, and forgive me, but the science behind it. What makes you all different? Is it your go-to market strategy? Is it the way you work with customers? Is it who you hire? Talk me through those differentiating factors of your business.

Ryan Chandley:

Sure. No, I just think it's simplified. It's to be the closest to the customers and to give really actively pursue that sustainable society down the road. I mean, it really is. We look to become part of Team Thomas. We want our customers to have that relationship with us so we can really build and move forward. I say it all the time, I want to find ways to help our customers make more money. And other mid businesses do that unless you're a financial planner. And if you can do that, you put yourself in such a different position.

Zach Williams:

Do you have any stories about that? Is there any customer that, I don't know, in the back of your mind you go, "Oh, this one really resonates with that." You've connected with this as "Man, this is why I love working with you all."

Ryan Chandley:

I'm sure I can give several examples, they're probably a little proprietary in most of those, but it's really just by helping them find solutions.

Zach Williams:

That's good.

Ryan Chandley:

We can help them take any situation, change it in or help them really dive into what they're looking for and let our offering help them with that solution. And it's been a very good opportunity. But even for us, recycling efforts, I mean, CarbonCure Technology which is just a phenomenal opportunity to help people provide a greener product. It's just been good for us as well.

Zach Williams:

So one thing in our talking about and prep for the show, which I'm excited to dive into, and you've already kind of alluded to this a little bit Ryan, is Team Thomas. Which, you sell concrete, you're probably always trying to recruit, you're trying to market, you're trying to sell. Talk to me about what you guys are doing on social media because I think it's really interesting.

Ryan Chandley:

Well, I think you're seeing more and more of it. I mean, you really are. But, I think for Team Thomas, it really is who we are. We're culture. We are Team Thomas. That's operations, sales, technical. It all comes together as one team and that's how we truly perceive it and that's the perception we want to have in the market as well. I'm VP of sales. It means nothing to our customers. Our customers should know us as Team Thomas, and that is truly what we're going for. And I think that's what is perceived back to us as being the concrete specialist is Team Thomas. So we have a couple hashtags on social media, #teamthomas. We have #seenthomas where we actually will have ourselves and other customers will take pictures of our signs, our logos, our branding out, and actually post it on social media along with what we're posting. So it's pretty cool to see customers and even the public interact in that messaging. So it's pretty cool.

Zach Williams:

Are people literally out there and they take a photo or they see your trucks out in the wild and they're hashtagging, is that correct?

Ryan Chandley:

Absolutely. There'll be on where we're pouring on the job site. They'll pull up, take a picture and hashtag it as #seenthomas about a job site. So it's exciting to see that kind of branding out by the public even or friends and family or customers just where it's not us doing the picture taking and posting. It's that much more exciting.

Zach Williams:

It's that user-generated content, right?

Ryan Chandley:

Absolutely.

Zach Williams:

So did this come about organically or were you all thinking, "Hey, we've got to find a way to take what's really recognizable about our brand, our trucks," and your branding line, your brand, and say, "How do we make it fun to be a part of Concrete even if you aren't necessarily buying from us?" Talk me through that decision. Was it organic or was it really strategic?

Ryan Chandley:

Yes, is the answer. Do you like that, Zach?

Zach Williams:

Yes.

Ryan Chandley:

It really is. It's both. Because I think essentially you want that to be organic and you want it to just happen. You want people to have fun with it. And I think that's kind of what we're doing now is we're into a part now to where it's fun. It's fun to represent the company like Thomas Concrete where they're recognized for what they do and recognized for what they do for their customers. And so, that interaction has been a great opportunity to grow that brand of Thomas Concrete. And we see it. We see it in our relationships with our customers, we see` it with our interaction with our own employees and with the public now. So it's been a great opportunity to really show who we are and what we stand for.

Zach Williams:

Do you have any customers that come in and say, "Hey, I saw somebody hashtag you," or "I saw somebody mentioned you." And that's how they discover you just from that #seethomas or #teamthomas hashtag?

Ryan Chandley:

Absolutely, every day. Yeah, absolutely-

Zach Williams:

Do they really every day?

Ryan Chandley:

Absolutely every day. We'll have people either text or hit me up on LinkedIn or hit our employees up on LinkedIn or say call our inside sales group and say, "Hey, I saw your truck going down the road the other day and I know you guys' trucks are always clean looking and you must have a great product. We just need to get with you." I mean it's amazing. It's awesome. It's an awesome experience that way.

Zach Williams:

It almost sells itself, right?

Ryan Chandley:

Yep.

085 Building a Social Media Brand

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Zach Williams:

So Ryan, that's pretty fascinating what you guys are from a social media standpoint. What else are you doing to market Thomas Concrete and sell more effectively in the different markets that you're targeting?

Ryan Chandley:

Yeah. I think exposure is the key. So whatever media platform you used for that, don't give up on that media platform just because somebody else did. And I think that's one of the things that a lot of times people will go away from direct mail or they'll go away from something that has worked great in the past because nobody uses it anymore. It's not seen as an advantage. I think really the part for us has been to find those media outlets, the strategic for your business. So for us it may be one product, one offering, that would impact much more on paper than it would online or face-to-face. So really, it's just not giving up on something that somebody else has failed at and using that as an opportunity to share what you have in a way that maybe somebody else didn't.

Zach Williams:

Oh, I've talked to a number of manufacturers who are getting back into direct mail because no one's doing it. It's like, "Oh, no one's doing it. Well..." It's the same reason why people go during let's say a recession and people pull back on marketing, for example. But there's literally less people doing something, that means there's more opportunity for you. Why not go for it?

Ryan Chandley:

It sure relates back to when you were a kid and you want to run to the mailbox and get the mail. So there are still those people in every office who want to get that mail. They want to see what's next and what's coming out or what's coming. Yeah, it's still an opportunity I believe.

Zach Williams:

I joke with people all the time about the changes that are happening within digital where you used to get an email with AOL and be like, "You got mail." And you're so excited. And now it's like, "You've got mail," and it's like an anxiety attack. Remember when you first got a cell phone, you were so excited when somebody called you? And now your phone rings and you're like, "I can't take it." Isn't that so funny?

Ryan Chandley:

It is.

Zach Williams:

So going to those places where people aren't, is super smart. But I mean, you guys have very well rounded social media. You're on LinkedIn, you're on Instagram, you're on Twitter. You mentioned you're constantly trying to find new areas to build exposure. Is that right?

Ryan Chandley:

Yeah. It can be as simple as new hashtags. But I mean everybody overlooks that, but just even rebranding under a different hashtag or finding a group that has a different exposure than what you typically have gotten before. And a lot of that's come up as we've grown and gotten exposure on LinkedIn or Twitter or Facebook, is people following you. And then you'll get questions from people in similar or non-similar industries, and you'll be amazed how much ties back and forth. "Oh, well I know someone that does this, and here's what they've done. And I just saw your LinkedIn post." Or "I saw your Twitter the other day and you were friends with another friend of mine on Twitter." And that's how they got the information. So that kind of exposure just really is amplified with social media now.

Zach Williams:

Are you using Instagram and Twitter for sales as well outside? I mean, granted, you're definitely using LinkedIn for sales. Are you using other social media platforms for your sales efforts?

Ryan Chandley:

Sure. I think now is where you can really start to get specific with offerings. It's not to the point yet where we're having a specific sale online or Twitter or LinkedIn or Instagram, but I think you're working there. I think there are offerings. Now, you can really push some of that very specific exposure even for a specific product to a specific market. So now you're really reaching out and branching out into the specificity of really reaching that one market or segment or customer. So not just in ready-mix. I mean, you can do this through all building material product lines. And I think that to me is some of the exciting part is seeing which one has the most benefit. Well, what can you gain the most out of for just such a little effort? That's the cool part about it.

Zach Williams:

Yeah, that's true. I was actually speaking at a sales event this past week and the very first social media platform that we spoke about for sales was Instagram. Because especially if let's say you're targeting a builder or an architect, so many people in that audience, they will literally go to Instagram for inspiration or that's how they grow their business. So if you're a manufacturer and you're like, "How do I get in front of these people, this audience?" Well, where are they spending their time? Where are they trying to grow their business? It's on those platforms. To your point, if you can, number one, establish a presence, build awareness, and then ultimately create connection with those people and go into that DM, that direct message. That's where that conversation can start.

Ryan Chandley:

Well, I think when you hit it there when you said "Talk about connections and direct messaging." I mean LinkedIn is a great portal for that. It gives you the opportunity to really gain exposure and have people reach out to you who may not know you. They may be across the country, across the world and they're able to reach out to you on a specific building product that they've heard about or maybe they've had very little experience with and they want to know more about. And then they're able to share that information with others throughout the marketing network. So it's pretty cool.

Zach Williams:

That is cool. I mean you always want that self-discovery. You want to be found. If you have to reach out that works, but it's always nice when someone finds you. Like you mentioned, people find you on social media, they found you via hashtag or something like that, or even just on exploration on LinkedIn. That I think is just proof of reason why you need to continue to build and experiment on social because surprisingly people are going. I don't know if you follow what Google is trying to do and LinkedIn is trying to do, and they are in some cases, they're starting the ability for companies to integrate lead generation right into those platforms. So you don't have to go to a website after seeing them, you can literally go on that platform and go, "Oh, I want to talk to somebody at that company." Isn't that wild?

Ryan Chandley:

It's great. I think one of the things I tell my team all the time is "Be the one that people want to reach out to, not the one they have to reach to."

Zach Williams:

There you go.

Ryan Chandley:

That is such a key because a lot of times you have to do certain things, but man, do you get so much more if somebody wants to reach out to you. If they really want to have contact with you, you gain so much more than when somebody has to make a call. It just has a negative connotation to it.

085 Make Customers Want to Connect

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Zach Williams:

Can I be real with you for a moment? You are so upbeat and positive, energetic about Thomas Concrete. I'm sure you hear that all the time, but it's not fake at all. I don't know if you're like when you're hiring people or if this is just a part of your y'all's DNA, I don't know. Even looking at your social media posts, there's tremendous excitement around your company and around your brand.

Ryan Chandley:

Yeah. I mean we have one of the highest retention rates in the industry. And I think it's because of things like this. We're allowed to really reach and grow both individually and, once again, as a team. We work together with operations and technical and credit and sales. They just all work together, and that doesn't happen in a lot of companies. So that teamwork is truly... I think it shows through in just about everything we do.

Zach Williams:

Yeah. It's funny. I was talking to somebody recently about teamwork and comradery and about building the right culture. You can't force those things. You can talk culture all day, but you really can't force it. It's either in your organization or it's not.

Ryan Chandley:

No, no. I shared it before. It's one of those things if you are internally the person people want to reach out to not the one they have to reach out to. That creates such a different culture because we all have to rely on people for different things. How much more fun is it if people want to reach out to you to have a conversation with you versus they have to? If you just take that one thing, it creates such a dynamic difference in the way you do business and the way you interact inside.

Zach Williams:

It's true, because I mean at the end of the day people may be buying concrete from you, but people want to work with people. People buy from people. And if you're a negative Nancy or your absent Al, you're not online at all, that makes it harder to buy from you. And I don't think people realize how important it is to know who a person's like before you actually talk to them. We now have that ability. When you get a resume, what's the first thing you do when you get a resume? You're not reading that resume. You go find that person and you Google them because you want to-

Ryan Chandley:

You Google them. That's funny, isn't it?

Zach Williams:

Right?

Ryan Chandley:

Yeah.

Zach Williams:

Are you challenging your sales team to use social? Are you pushing them and encouraging them to be on there and be active? Or is it more of a, "Hey, I encourage you to do that, but I'm not going to push you too hard."

Ryan Chandley:

So it's not mandatory. I think it is key that they're self-aware, that they understand the benefits of it themselves before they go out and are forced to do it.

Zach Williams:

Yeah, that's true.

Ryan Chandley:

So I do promote it, yes. But I don't enforce it mandatory.

Zach Williams:

One way I think it's smart to encourage people to do it is if you show a couple of people like, "Hey, look what John did on social media and look at the results he got. And look what Bill did and look at the results he got." And when everyone else is like, "Well, why am I not doing that?"

Ryan Chandley:

Yeah, it's amazing how many customers you gain through that social media platform. And so as soon as they start, they start to see the benefit immediately. So really I just make them self-aware. "Looks what's happened. Look what you can do from it. Here's what I've experienced," and share those experiences. And once again, the positive far outweighs any negative I've ever experienced because I can't think of one right now. So I just think the positive out there is so great. It's a great opportunity for everyone.

Zach Williams:

That's cool. Well, Ryan, to wrap things up, I'd love to know what advice you'd give any manufacturer out there, regardless if they're in concrete or any other building products category. What advice would you give them if they're trying to better leverage social to grow their marketing and sales and overall presence?

Ryan Chandley:

It's funny you say leverage, that's one of the things I wrote down. I mean, they really challenge that segment in the beginning stages. Just understand those different social media platforms and use those as a leverage point. And like I said, if it's not social media, maybe it's other media platforms. Just because they haven't worked for others doesn't mean they can't work for you. And so I really think it's taking the opportunity to develop all media platforms and find out what works best for your business.

Zach Williams:

That's awesome. Well, Ryan, 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 it? Are you just going to tell us to go to social media because that's what you-

Ryan Chandley:

Absolutely. They can hit me up on LinkedIn. I'd be more than happy to start a direct message with them. Any questions I can answer, I'd be more than happy to have a discussion with them.

Zach Williams:

Awesome. Well Ryan, thank you again. And 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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