More About This Episode
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 insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.
Luke Hansen is the Founder & CEO of CompanyCam, an app that helps contractors build trust with their crews and customers through photo documentation. He talks to Beth about how he has converted contractors — a notoriously difficult audience to convince — to a new technology. As a bonus, he also provides several other critical pieces of marketing advice.
Solving the Imagery Problem
Luke started in the building industry at his family's roofing company. His father started the company in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1984, and Luke worked for him off and on until his 30s. However, Luke created CompanyCam after struggling with the same pain point over and over again at his father’s company: pictures.
They needed to be able to take before pictures so if there was a dispute once the project was done, they had visual proof to protect the company. They also wanted to be able to plan out the project and show the customer what the end result would look like. Plus, they knew that customers rarely knew what color shingle they wanted. While Luke could take a few samples out to set against the customer’s house, it was time-consuming. The company had already done thousands of roofs. Why not just show the customer images of finished houses that looked like theirs?
The problem was not getting the photos but getting them all in the same place in an organized way. “This was back when people would hand you that tiny micro SD card that you put in the bigger SD card, and then you would put that in your computer and then all the files are named Image_5729.”
After searching and searching, Luke realized that no one had solved this problem yet. So he decided to do it himself, and CompanyCam was born. The goal was to take before, during and after pictures, automatically organize them by location and record who took the picture and when.
“We realized pretty quickly that once you're doing it in an app, you can deliver a feed. We call it the project feed.” Not only did the app provide pictures for clients, but it also became a project manager of sorts, where companies could see when materials were dropped off, when more product needed to be ordered or delivered or even what projects were behind schedule.
“Once someone gets used to that, they don't want to go back. No one wants to go back to knowing less than they know now,” Luke points out. Today, CompanyCam has over 800 million photos uploaded to the app by over 20,000 contracting and building materials distributors.
Imagery Is More Than Fluff
Beth points out that many building materials companies are quick to point out that imagery isn’t important to their product. “People are like, ‘We're a drywall manufacturer or we do subflooring. Imagery isn't important to us. That's just fluffy finishings and surfaces and architectural stuff, and that's not really for us.’” However, as CompanyCam has provided, imagery is so much more than that. It’s QA, project site management, safety, customer service and proof that seeing is believing.
How many more customers can you win over if you can show them what your product looks like before, during and after because you’ve made an intangible idea tangible? It’s visual communication, as Luke points out.
“When you're out in the world building things, cleaning things, fixing things, you're manipulating the physical world. The way to communicate the most with that is with a picture, a video, something that just shows it to you. You can have a hundred questions in your mind that would take us 30 minutes to go through, but if we can just look at it, then we can align really quickly and have this much more of a shared understanding.”
Converting Contractors to Customers
While contractors get a bad rap for being stubborn instead of adaptive (which we’ve found to not be the case, especially post-pandemic start), it’s not impossible to get them to adopt new technology. Contractors were already using their phone to take pictures at job sites, so adoption was already in play. The real pain point was everything that happened after the picture was taken.
“If you're trying to get someone to directly replace what is something of a solution for them with your new solution, you've got to be way better. If you want people to actually say, ‘I'm going to stop using this and I'm going to use this,’ it's got to be 10 times better,” Luke points out.
If you are trying to convert a contractor to your product or software, you need to make the pain point extremely clear. “One is the importance of immediately highlighting the pain that a contractor experiences — or really any audience or customer segment experiences — and how significant the solution is,” says Beth.
This applies to all customer segments, including homeowners. “Homeowners, God bless them, are so gung ho about their projects these days,” Beth says. They don’t know technical terms or what’s really important in non-aesthetic products, but imagery can help manufacturers and building material distributors provide less knowledgeable customers a simple, visual way to choose the right product.
Not only does this make the sales conversation easier, but it also builds confidence with the customer. Imagery shows them that you’ve done this type of project before, answered these questions before and worked on a home like theirs before.
Luke agrees. “You need to understand the problem. You got to own the problem. You got to be able to explain the problem. If they feel like you understand the problem better than the next person, that puts you way up here in that trust category. You're really articulating building trust with the customer. So showing them the work — that visual element — builds trust. Being able to really articulate the problem or the frustrations that they might even be anticipating — that builds trust.”
Trust is essential in converting a customer and making the sale. “The entire game is about trust,” Luke explains. The more trust you can build, the better your chance of converting, selling and making life-long advocates of your brand. “They feel smart. Everyone loves to talk about things that make them sound smart. A hundred times out of a hundred, if someone buys your product and they feel smart because they did, they're going to tell six people.”
Be Much Better, Not a Little Better
It’s not enough to show that you’re a little better or faster than the competition, however. One or two percent better is not worth a contractor or builder’s time to change their process. If, however, you are 10, 100 or 300 times faster or stronger, you’ll get their attention.
“These are seasoned professionals, man.” Beth points out. “It's just day in, day out, blood, sweat and tears, having to be a million people at once. Don't bring to the table, ‘Hey, this is 5% faster than your current solution.’ You literally took my 5% by having that conversation with me. It's now equal.”
Instead of looking at the 5 percent better, take a step back and ask the bigger question: “Why does no one do this way?” That’s what CompanyCam did, and why they’ve succeeded. As Luke points out, “Why not solve the problem at a level higher up? There's so many big, big opportunities up there.”
Beth agrees. “Let's tell them how broken it is and give them a solution at the same time. That's some game-changing stuff.”
Marketing to Multiple Audiences
So what happens when you have to market to multiple audiences like contractors, builders, architects, homeowners, installers, dealers, distributors, building owners, facility managers and developers? Can you use the same type of marketing for each, or do you have to take two wildly different approaches?
Venveo has found that most building material companies target somewhere between four to six different audiences. Every single audience plays an intricate part in the customer journey, and all of them have the opportunity to disrupt the buyer journey for any of the other ones.
While many manufacturers think they have to fracture their messaging so they can tell each audience exactly what they are going to do for them, that’s not always the best approach according to Beth. “The truth is, there's almost always a singular underlying thing that everybody wants.”
Let’s look at the intersection of contractors and homeowners. If the project is an aesthetic installation, the contractor wants the work to look great so the homeowner tells all their friends who did the installation so that when they want to complete a project, those friends call the contractor.
The contractor is often the tiebreaker when the homeowner is stuck between two products, especially when it comes to millennials. Beth says, “Every other generation felt like they had to know the most in the room. The millennial generation loves to be the person that's like, "I don't know anything but I'd love to pay someone who knows it.’ So, millennial homeowners are happy to ask a contractor who's installed tile 75,000 times and say, ‘Hey, am I going to hate this mermaid tile in a year? Is subway tile going out? Joanna Gaines told me that shiplap was great, but now nobody likes her anymore.’”
Homeowners depend on the contractor, and the contractor knows that the product needs to both look good and perform well. The homeowner won’t remember the name of the shiplap brand, but they will remember the name of the contractor who installed it. This is the common denominator. It’s about finding the core important element that several of your audience have in common and marketing to that element.
Not Everyone Wants Your Product—And That’s Okay
While your inclination may be to think every audience segment wants your product, that’s never going to be the case. You don’t have to market your product to everyone.
First, Beth advises digging into your budget. “You want to be your everything to everybody all of the time. Great, that's going to be 70 bajillion dollars in order to hit all of those channels. But you don't have 70 bajillion dollars? No problem. Let's talk about what are the best-case scenarios.”
- Where do you absolutely crush it?
- Where are you a hundred times better than your competitor?
- In what type of environment are you better?
- What's the result that you can deliver that's really significant, impactful and showstopping?
Start there. Then, look at your reviews. Let’s take vitamin supplements for an example.
If a vitamin claims that it makes you faster, smarter, better and richer and causes weight loss, increased energy and improved sleep, you’re going to scoff and say, “Yeah, right.” Contrast that with a vitamin that says, “This vitamin will help your brain work better if you’re in your late 30s, female and use your brain constantly for work.” Now, you’ve got your audience’s attention. Then, they’ll go to the reviews for credibility. However, it’s not always a good thing if every review is positive.
If the reviews are full of amazing comments, then “the ‘this sucked’ review actually gives credence to the positive reviews. There's data to show that one or two negative reviews actually make your positive reviews more believable,” explains Beth.
After all, humans are inherently skeptics. They will never believe a product that has only five-star reviews — they’ll think the reviews were bought or faked. As Luke points out, everyone has a friend that’s a misanthrope and hates every product. “If you don't see that manifested on the page, then you're like, ‘Okay, something’s fishy here.’"
Want Even More Insight?
The best way to win business is through building trust by understanding what that person or audience values. Don't apply your values to your audience. Just because you care about things that are beautiful doesn’t mean that that’s their primary concern. The fundamental element is about listening, understanding what they value and knowing their decision will be based on trust.
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