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How Manufacturers Can Reach Architects and Contractors in 2022​​

A crucial key to making your brand an industry leader is by differentiating it from competitors. Identifying your audiences’ wants and needs is a great start, but understanding how to reach them should be first and foremost. The moment your brand becomes top-of-mind for customers, you’re on your way to big success.

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.

This week, Zach and Beth talk with Gerry Messina, a building products marketing executive, who brings industry experience, along with a marketing and sales perspective to the discussion about selling to architects and contractors.

The Problem with Product Marketing in Construction

Gerry Messina joined us on the show because he’s really seen and done it all in the manufacturing industry.

“I started as a mechanical engineer studying engineering, and my first role was in installing manufacturing equipment for a big consumer products company,” he explains. He continued to get an MBA and found his way into marketing.

“And then slowly, I went to the dark side to building products,” jokes Gerry. He’s built up several years of perspective on the industry and pointed out how marketing building materials is drastically different from marketing other products.

“It's funny,” says Gerry, “You buy a $3 kitchen cleaner every six months, there's no risk involved. You don't like the smell or the fragrance — big deal. No loss. And as a marketer, you have so many tools, TV, print, couponing, a lot of point-of-sale data.”

Building materials, of course, are a different game. “As you move into the building products world and start trying to reach the architect or the contractor, these lead times expand. We're talking years,” says Gerry. Most building products are guaranteed (and expected) to last much longer, so the lead times for marketers are also longer.

Gerry also points out that the risk is higher for customers in the building industry, especially when the customer is a homeowner or building owner, who might not know anything about the product. For architects, the wrong product choice could mean that they lose the project or their reputation is negatively impacted.

“So it really takes a different mindset. And a big part of marketing is branding, right? I've seen that in the building products world, the brand, I sometimes call it hidden. So you look at your wall. Like, I'm looking at the wall behind you, Zach and it's nice blue. But the brand that it was, you forget that,” explains Gerry.

In building materials, the end-user isn’t always going to remember or care about the brand name of the decking product or siding their contractor used on the project — unless, of course, the product was a failure, in which case the brand is more memorable (for negative reasons).

And sometimes end-users might not even have a choice.

“Because the contractor was the one who said, ‘Hey, this is the brand you're going to use no matter what.’ So it's tough for a manufacturer to kind of overcome some of those objections,” says Gerry.

Sound familiar? Getting your brand name to become more of a household name requires some storytelling — and a solid strategy so that your name is remembered fondly.

How To Make Your Brand Top of Mind

Creating an impactful brand story is a hot topic here at Venveo, so we picked Gerry’s brain a bit more about how to make a building materials brand distinguishable to audiences. Often, if your product is doing its job in a construction project, it doesn't stand out.

“So it's really about how to convince the influencer,” says Gerry. That might be an architect or design consultant, or a homeowner in residential construction. “So getting in front of them is really pretty key — and keeping in front of them.”

The good news is that these professionals are online, so getting in front of them is easier these days.

However, keeping their attention — especially if you want to show them a new product — is a little more challenging, of course. For many years in the construction industry, there’s been resistance to trying new building materials. “An architect has a reputation and if they find something that works, it's much harder to get them off the spot,” says Gerry.

Installers and contractors could be just as resistant to new products, but we’re seeing some changes and a little more open-mindedness from these professionals, especially over the past two years.

In 2020, ​​32% of professionals used a product that was new to them. In 2021, 27% of professionals purchased a new brand. The many reasons why professionals switched brands last year was for a better quality product or their usual brand was out of stock.

We talked a little more with Gerry through some ways manufacturers might tap into this more open mindset and reach both architects and contractors.

Make It Easy-to-Install:

Supply chain issues have influenced how some contractors choose products for their projects. “It's so hard now for contractors to find qualified people to do the more technical aspects of a window installation,” he explains. “If you can have the product install quicker, maybe pre-install some stuff at the factory so that when it gets to the job site, there are two less steps they have to do, and they can get off the job quicker and get onto their next job.”

Give Them Proof:

Make it obvious on your website and other marketing platforms that your product is easy to install for contractors. “A third-party study would even be better. But if I did a study, I got other contractors who've used it, and they're validating that this product went in well, it performs,” says Gerry.

Make It More Accessible:

Zach recommends offering a Spanish version of their website. Gerry also encourages manufacturers to make videos and installation guides available in other languages besides English. “Because many installers, their primary language is Spanish. And if your product is one of those that, most products are like this, if it's not installed correctly, there could be a real challenge and issue,” he says, “So taking that extra step and putting it in Spanish, I think is a real benefit for the contractor.”

Bring the Factory to Them:

“So one thing that was successful for me was we actually filmed a 360, all-immersive video of our factory,” Gerry explains. “So you're literally standing in this case, on a roof with the contractor installing a product … and behind the curtain, as we sometimes call it, is a real plus for architects especially, who want to know a little bit more about your product and how it's made. And then for the contractors, they want to see what's going and know that they're getting quality products.”

There are some key pieces of content that Gerry suggests, and he says that manufacturers should ensure “data sheets, product samples and Revit models are all easily accessible on your website.”

Offering your online audience installation guides, case studies and easy ways to reach customer service will all go a long way with customers — but check out the top five pieces of website content that we recommend for manufacturers for even more ideas.

Want Even More Insight?

Before Gerry left, we asked him for the one piece of advice he’d give to manufacturers who want to amp up their marketing efforts this next year. And he suggests a back-to-basics game plan: “I go back to something I call block and tackling.”

“Because an architect, they're working on a project, and unless you're coming in with technical data that they can charge their time to that project, they don't want to B.S. over donuts and stuff like that,” says Gerry. “All that kind of foundational, fundamental stuff is really key, and I think many companies kind of want to go off to these fancy things.”

“So before you start doing some kind of Instagram whatever, let's just make sure that your basis is done correctly. And, and I think we all have plenty of room to fix it and make it better,” says Gerry.

You can reach out to Gerry on LinkedIn to connect and talk more about building materials marketing.

Be sure to reach out to us with your questions about marketing building materials via [email protected], and subscribe to the podcast for more brand tips and insights!