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How Building Materials Manufacturers Can Use Upstream Marketing To Increase Product Sales

A lot of manufacturers target their buyer audience in marketing, and cater their message just to them, whether that’s homeowners, suppliers or contractors. But that strategy can fall short, and there’s a potential to miss out on sales if you’re only marketing to the person who writes the check.

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.

Zach and Beth sat down with Angela Ballisty, the Global Director of Marketing for Lonza Wood Protection. Angela gave us some great tips on how manufacturers can effectively engage with wider audiences by using pull-through marketing and upstream strategies.

Selling Solutions Across the Supply Chain

Angela Ballisty has been with Lonza Wood Protection for 10 years now, but her background is in law. She started with Lonza as part of their in-house legal counsel, and her role there has helped shape the way the company sells to the wood product supply chains.

133 Selling Solutions Across the Supply Chain


With her legal background, Angela has been a valuable asset for Lonza and its marketing efforts. Her role requires being “heavily involved in strategy and planning, and really, working with the business on evaluating risks and opportunities,” she explains.

Lonza was recently designated one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies, and is recognized for its “high standards of corporate integrity and respect towards its customers, suppliers, business partners and other stakeholders.”

Lonza supplies solutions that protect wood products from fire, moisture damage, insects and decay. “Our customers are manufacturers of wood products, so treaters, sawmills, engineered wood manufacturers, fabricators,” says Angela. “Basically, any company in the wood product supply chain that's really looking to add a feature to wood, make it more valuable, more durable.”

Because Lonza sells a technology solution that’s added to a building product, the company’s message spans across a few audiences, including sawmill businesses and pressure treaters … but also a few other professionals in the building materials game, including “architects, retailers, contractors, specifiers and pretty much touch all points of the supply chain of people that are using our customers' products,” she says.

That kind of marketing is a long-term strategy, what HubSpot and other marketers call upstream marketing. “It allows for marketers to conceptualize a timeline for future releases based on customer segments,” according to HubSpot. We talked with Angela about how Lonza handles upstream marketing across all of their customer segments.

Marketing to Multiple Audiences

When creating a message for multiple audiences, Lonza has a few methods that are effective at engaging potential customers. Manufacturers can use a few of the marketing ideas and strategies that Angela talked through with us.

Education + Awareness

Lonza offers continuing education courses to help inform and create awareness about their wood protection technology. “We do some of those activities directly, throughout both the commercial and retail chains, participating in trade shows and things like that,” Angela explains.

Marketing as a Service

One of the most effective ways that Lonza reaches their audience is by helping their customers promote Lonza as a benefit, “and partnering with our customers to really help them promote benefits down the supply chain,” explains Angela. “We offer, as a service to our customers, a lot of marketing communications materials, messaging support to help them really talk about what the features that our technology puts into their products.”

Promotional Planning

Lonza acts as a partner to its customers throughout the sales process. “We have sales and marketing folks that will sit with our customers in pitches to architects or retailers, and actually be part of their direct sales efforts,” says Angela.

The team at Lonza also walks through a promotional plan with their customers, “where we basically will walk through a strategic plan for their business and the promotional support that goes behind it,” explains Angela.

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Serving Up Insights to Sell More

Sometimes there’s nothing more helpful in the sales process than solid data, and Lonza offers that kind of insight to their customers, too.

“We conduct a lot of market research, and we also just generally gather trend data from sources that are out there in the marketplace,” says Angela. “And we'll use those insights and take them to customers, or even to architects or retailers, or dealers down the supply chain and help them develop promotional programs and business strategies using that information that we collect.”

That kind of hands-on support and valuable information has made Lonza a go-to resource for their customers. “We have retailers and customers that rely on us for information, in addition to some of the practical design support that we give them,” says Angela.

How To Sell More Solutions to More Customers

Manufacturers have a lot more to offer their customers than just the products they sell. According to Angela, the partnerships that Lonza cultivates with their customers are key to long-term success (for everyone).

“Having somebody that so closely understands their business and can speak intelligently about the products that they're selling is highly valued, from the perspective of our customers,” she explains.

And the relationship goes both ways. “We get direct feedback,” she explains, which can sometimes be hard for a company’s marketing team to gather. It’s difficult to measure the impact of a marketing message, “but we do get direct feedback,” says Angela, “[and] we can see when they win business because of the information that we give them.”

So how can building product manufacturers approach partnerships more successfully? Angela recommends a careful approach, and points out that “you need to make sure that you're not stepping on your customers' toes obviously.”

But the bigger loss is not having those conversations, because there’s plenty of opportunity to be had. “Whether that's information that drives your messaging to improve the sales pitch, or if you're getting information to drive R&D from an innovation standpoint, those conversations are incredibly valuable,” she says.

Those customer conversations also help to guide Lonza toward new product development, because it tells them what end-users want. “[I]t doesn't do any good just to make something new for the sake of newness,” says Angela. “We won't put any money into the wood production business if we don't think that we can sell whatever we develop.”

For Lonza, that involves in-depth research and extensive studies across the supply chain, to discover what the industry needs as far as new wood technology and products go.

There’s also a lot of day-to-day leg work that Lonza does to gather that insight. “We are heavily involved in industry organizations. We are very active in a lot of the industry initiatives and promoting wood products over others, we're just part of the day-to-day conversation,” says Angela. “And then, we're also meeting with the participants at all levels of the supply chain, so getting that direct feedback is very helpful.”

That approach to marketing involves some different strategies for Lonza. “We do promotional materials on our customers' products,” explains Angela. “We do promotional programs for treated wood. A lot of that is associated with a branding approach that we use, which is that we license brands for our customers' products downstream.”

This approach is effective in a couple of ways because they’re not having to spend the time making a connection with a manufacturer, since “it's obvious from the branding,” says Angela. “And it opens the door a lot quicker to get in and speak to the people downstream. In addition to creating some credibility on our part, and to show that yeah, we actually do have products in the market, we're not just some fly-by-night ingredient.”

Want Even More Insight?

The kind of innovation that Lonza strives for requires organization and diligence, but the real-time feedback they get from customers has helped the company determine the direction they go. According to Angela, “Nothing really beats going out and spending time watching retailers and their stores, and spending time with contractors and hearing what they're having to say,” she says.

When manufacturers take the time to listen to their customers and understand their perspective on the products they use, the payoff can be huge, “to really be able to take a technical project and translate it to real-world performance,” says Angela.

Listen to the full interview with Angela for more great ideas.

Check out Lonza Wood Protection and its approach to product innovation. You can also get in touch with Angela at [email protected].

Reach out to us via [email protected] if you want to talk more about effectively marketing your products upstream.