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How Building Materials Manufacturers Can Focus on Value Services With a Commodity Product

When you compete on millimeters and price, it becomes a race to the bottom. This week’s guest shares how emphasizing value and building strategic partnerships with customers can help you move beyond price and cultivate lasting relationships.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

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.

Cassie Milam, the Co-Owner and Director of Marketing for The Detering Company, talks with Beth about how to focus on value services in a commodity category.

Meet Cassie

Cassie started at Detering in a hybrid HR/marketing position, which has changed drastically over the past 12 years, and her primary focus for the past 10 of those years has been marketing.

Alongside her father and brother, Cassie owns The Detering Company. It’s a third-generation building materials distributor in Houston. They also own South Texas Brick and Stone, a brick and masonry company that is opening a lumber arm this summer.

To Cassie, the building materials industry is different from any other industry out there. Especially when dealing with raw materials, it can be very un-sexy to sell. And yet, it’s possible to market well. It’s about figuring out what angle to take.

Focus on Value Services in Your Marketing

Beth emphasizes the importance of focusing on value services in your marketing: “When you all have the same type of product, you're just focusing on the millimeters that mine is better than yours — it ends up being a race to the bottom. It's whose price is cheaper. But when you talk about what happens on the front end and what happens on the back end, and you make that the whole project, that whole experience is part of what you do. You're able to have a more strategic conversation that suddenly moves away from price and moves into partnerships.”

Yes, there will be customers who only buy for the price. You have to accept that you won’t be able to get those customers all of the time — but that’s okay. “There are plenty of other people who care about that service [and] those relationships,” says Cassie.

“Whether you’re a homeowner, builder or remodeler, you're really trusting your salesperson to get it right because these are people's literal dreams.” Building and remodeling is expensive, no matter what you purchase, so most customers want someone who is going to be looking out for their best interests.

Leveraging Years in Business Messaging

When it comes to years in business, people are split over whether that’s a value prop or not. Cassie understands why professional marketers think time in business isn’t a value prop, but it is important to include it on the website.

“I think where our number of years in business comes into play is if you do land on our website — because you have Googled exterior doors or crown molding or new baseboards or whatever — that seeing that legacy and history might tickle something in your brain that otherwise would not have happened. And like I said, we're a relationship-based business. I think that people like the idea of doing business with people that have showed continuity, that have been consistent, that have survived multiple downturns and are still out there,” says Cassie.

It tells a story of who Detering is and who they continue to be. “It's such an important part of our story, right? We don't just sell building materials. Anyone can sell building materials, but not everyone is a hundred-year company that's still family-owned, three generations in and is queuing up the next generation. I think especially now more than ever, with all the mergers and acquisitions that are taking place in our market, that it might be relevant to people to buy from an independent, to buy from someone who has been in business for 96, 97 years.”

It’s not their entire message, but it is a tool in their toolbox. It’s a great way to show long-term success. However, Beth points out that this type of messaging takes a lot of skill to write in order to ensure the visitor isn’t doing a lot of work to infer this message. But it can be a great way to showcase what’s unique about your company — if the story is presented in a way that your customers can perceive and digest it.

Make the story thoughtful, instead of the default, and you can show how you’ve evolved and developed over the years in order to continue serving your customers better than the rest. It’s about making the story resonate in a way that showcases how thoughtful you’ve been.

“It's really important that people understand that you can be both — that you can be a multi-generational company that has a wonderful legacy and a great story, and you can effectively market your products to your customers in a way that is going to make them want to buy from you,” says Cassie

Want Even More Insight?

To learn more about creating quality marketing, listen to the entire episode here. You can reach out to Cassie on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn at @TheDeteringCompany.

Remember to like and subscribe to Smarter Building Materials Marketing wherever you get your podcasts.