Whether you’re a small business or an international manufacturer, you hear a lot about social media and how to get customers to follow you, like your content and engage with what you’re sharing. But greater value may come when we go after very specific, unique people that meet your ideal customer profile. Here’s how one manufacturer does just that.
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The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insight on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.
In this episode, Zach talks to Josh Neuberger, Director of Marketing at Uzin Utz North America, about social media and how you can actually create one-to-one connections to help you drive sales and grow awareness.
Leveraging the Social Part of Social Media
Uzin Utz is a German-based company with three major brands: Uzin, Pallman and Wolff. With offices and distributors around the world, their approach to sales and marketing might feel out of reach for many small business listeners and regional manufacturers, but in fact, they struggle with the same challenges everyone does in the building products industry.
Josh says their marketing strategy focuses on educating and building relationships all the way down the channel, from the distributors to the architects to the contractors. They’ve got a dedicated and experienced sales force, but like a lot of businesses, they’re learning how to take their sales and marketing into the digital sphere to build better connections in target markets.
“What we found is, as we started to engage with the customers and engage with contractors [on social media], it really became a platform for selling,” says Josh.
And while many manufacturers may have tried to use social media as a means of promoting their product, sharing educational information or promoting events, what Josh and his team found is that the best results came from organic interactions.
“It became a platform in educating customers, not just necessarily with the outbound message, but through sidebar direct messages. And also just commenting on posts, which then leads to a conversation about ‘Hey, I didn't know you had this product,’ or ‘I didn't know that this is available,’ or ‘How can we do this?’”
The key here is that not only is the Uzin Utz social media team pushing out their content, but they’re also responding to what customers and other social media users have to say.
Josh says, “It's really been an extension of our sales force. We've been able to take this digital platform and help out the sales force in whatever region that that contractor or distributor or architect is reaching out in, and provide that one to one interaction.”
For Josh, the growth of their social media strategy has been a gradual, experimental one. When they started, platforms like Facebook weren’t widely used by manufacturers in the building materials space, but Josh’s team identified a stronger presence among contractors who were eager to show off their work.
“So we kind of said, ‘Well, what happens if we share a project?’ And so we shared a project, and we got some pretty good positive feedback from the contractors,” Josh remembers.
From there, the goal became to help more contractors share their work, while still highlighting the Uzin Utz brands. They created social media contests, where contractors could submit pictures of recent projects, and Uzin Utz would share those photos through their social media channels, and pick winners from among those who contributed.
Josh says, “And it kind of just snowballed. We had contractors saying, "Okay, how do I enter into this contest? What do I do? I didn't know that person was using the product." And then what happens is we started to see the contractors talking to each other on whatever post that was.”
Fostering an opportunity for conversation, even if it doesn’t involve you directly, is a great way to build community. Uzin Utz developed a formal process, including a dedicated email address and content guidelines, for contractors and sales reps to submit pictures, and the result was enthusiastic participation.
Make It Personal
Zach wants to know if Josh and his team are going beyond giving contractors a space to connect and learn, and specifically targeting prospects they want to connect with via social media:
“Are you using it and saying, ‘Okay guys, here's our list. Here's my territory, here are the contractors that we currently don't sell to or we don't sell enough to.’ Are you giving that information to your marketing team or your sales team and saying ‘Let's leverage social to begin conversations with those people as well?’ Is that a part of this strategy?”
They are, and in fact, they’re seeing good success with it, in part because the personal aspect of social media still remains.
Josh says, “If a salesperson walks into your door, a lot of times they get kind of shot down or they get ‘Okay leave the brochure.’”
On social media, their overtures to contractors generally result in a positive response upwards of 75-80% of the time. For Josh, he sees the keys to this approach being threefold.
First, connections have to be genuine. He says that’s not hard. “The work that is being posted on social media from contractors, it's craftsmanship.”
By beginning with a sincere conversation starter, and following up with an offer to help, by either sharing information or providing free product samples, social media marketers are able to build rapport. For Josh though, it’s important to make sure you’re not just a faceless entity behind a corporate account.
“We always get them in touch with the local territory manager, so that we take that digital sales front or digital sales approach, and we blend it together with an actual live person.”
Creating Content That Fits the Channel
Uzin Utz is clearly a believer in social media sales and marketing, but it’s important to remember that every platform has a different set of users and expectations. So while we often talk about “social media” as a whole entity, manufacturers using it effectively have strategies and voices for each channel.
For Josh’s team, YouTube is a very outbound-focused channel. They use it to host training and installation videos and make it available to be shared with prospects and customers once the conversation is already underway.
LinkedIn, with its business-oriented focus, is kept, as Josh puts it, for more “executive” content. They’ll share press releases, community involvement, significant new hires and high-end product showcases.
The most free-form and organic content goes to Facebook and Instagram. Josh says Instagram has become the more significant platform of the two for them over the last few years.
“In the flooring trade world, Instagram is definitely a platform that a lot of contractors use. It's easy. Everything's right there, a lot of the sites that they're following just kind of automatically come up.”
With Instagram’s algorithm targeting, it’s easy to gain visibility with contractors who are already following accounts similar to yours. “All the photos of people on vacation and birthdays and kids and all that gets pushed to the side because, with Instagram, the way that it feeds, you're always looking at stuff that's relevant to yourself.”
But How Do You Do It?
It’s great to listen to Josh and Uzin Utz’s success: Implementing it may feel like another thing entirely. For Josh, the two most important parts of making sure social media are fully adopted by the sales and marketing teams are setting the tone from day one and ensuring support for the program goes all the way to the top.
“During the onboarding process, we take the employee through the marketing department, explain the resources that are available. With the support of the vice presidents in each brand, they have basically said, ‘This is a tool that you need to support. And if you're not supporting it, the marketing guy's gonna let me know, and I'm going to get on you a little bit.’”
The good news is that it’s easy to get this management support when you can show results. “I kept kind of pushing them and pushing them and saying, ‘You know, please understand that this is not just for the marketing department just to look good.’ I said, ‘We're truly getting leads from this.’”
As the program has grown, the social media team has set standards for the types of content they want, and what information contractors and reps need to provide. The goal is to gain interaction, so being able to do things like tag contractors and designers as a means of signal boosting is important.
“We need [to know] the contractor. We need the products that are being used in an interesting project, whatever that may be. Can we tie the distributor in? If we can tie the distributor in, do they have a Facebook account or Instagram account? That way we can give them some notification that makes them feel good as well.”
With a genuine focus on building greater community and highlighting not only their own successes but those of the players throughout the channel, it’s a formula that drives growth.
And Josh’s ultimate advice to manufacturers? “If you're thinking about taking that next leap on social media, I would say just go for it. Are you going to make a mistake? Yep, you're going to make a mistake. But the nice thing about the digital age is you can delete your mistake. We have some very short-term memory when it comes to Facebook and Instagram. Things kind of blow over.”
He says it’s important to equip the people who run your social media with more than just a manual when it comes to your products. “The last thing you want is kind of cookie-cutter textbook answers where you just copy-paste from the website. You want a little bit of a feel to it.”
Once again, that personal touch is the key to success.
Got a Question?
If you have questions about how to get started on your social media marketing program, let us know! Shoot us an email at [email protected] with all of your questions.
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