Data helps us connect the dots between the different parts of an organization, whether that's product development, marketing, sales or customer service. Data plays a bigger role in a lot of the decisions that today’s manufacturers make — are you using it to your advantage?
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.
Bob Sanders, Director of Sales at Shouldice Designer Stone, works for a manufacturer that spends a considerable amount of time deep in their business data. They’ve used insights from that data to improve everything from their customers’ experience to their manufacturing processes — all helpful information if you’re planning out your own marketing strategy for 2022.
New Ways of Doing Business in an Old Industry
When we spoke with Bob for this episode, he was about to celebrate an anniversary at Shouldice Designer Stone.
“I’m five days away from my 18th year with the company, so I'm very excited for that milestone,” says Bob. “One thing in our company is we have a lot of long-tenured employees, as well as the new crop that is coming up to teach us new ways and things like that on how to do business and how to talk data and things like that.”
Staying innovative and on top of trends has helped Shouldice find success over the years. “The industry we're in is a very old traditional industry within the masonry world, within the building supply. We try to find new ways of doing business and connecting with our customers,” Bob explains.
There are two segments to his company, Shouldice Designer Stone and Fusion Stone. Those segments allow Shouldice to have a foot in both the contemporary and traditional worlds of masonry. “On the Shouldice side, we are the traditional masonry side that requires a mason. You're installing the brick and the stone, whether it's on a home or a government building, a school, office tower, whatever that is and you require specialized trades for that. That industry has been around forever,” Bob explains.
Fusion Stone is a DIY masonry product that is mechanically fastened to walls. “We are about 12 or 13 years in on that product line. What it's enabled us to do is talk to all segments of markets. We talk [to everyone], from the architect to a builder, to a designer, to the mason, to our consumer now and then through our dealer networks, and our distribution,” he explains.
Those conversations don’t just help with sales. “What it's really done for our company is, we're educated on all aspects of the building industry, whether it's commercial, industrial, institutional or residential. We're very fortunate to have our feelers out to all sorts of customer groups and markets out there,” says Bob.
Even before the COVID pandemic, Shouldice looked for alternative ways to reach out to their audience online, but they hadn’t felt much pressure to change how they were doing business.
Until 2020, which forced many of us to pivot in how we reach out to customers. “What it allowed us to do was it pushed us into that corner and [we] realized with our external sales force, our inside customer support and with our marketing, we had to pivot fairly quickly, like most people did, on how to keep in contact with that customer,” says Bob.
Like many manufacturers realized during the pandemic, customers were spending more time online while they were stuck at home. And those customers were researching and shopping for building materials. “They still wanted to hear from you. They typically don't reach out to you,” explains Bob. “It's our responsibility to reach out to them and so we found it in a multitude of ways of reaching out to them through that.”
What The Data Tells Us
Building a strong digital presence takes time. It’s a process that starts with the support of data-backed research, especially around how your customers want to engage with you online. That kind of information is truly valuable and helped Shouldice determine its own sales and marketing strategies during uncertain times.
“The one thing that we've really learned through the data is to embrace the different ways of doing business,” says Bob. “I think COVID has forced many of us into that. When you come from such a traditional industry like ours, it's a relationship-based industry. It's a lot of older generations within the industry, whether it's trades, masons, builders, etc.”
But that’s the value that younger generations, brought up on the internet, bring to an aging industry. A website and social media presence offer manufacturers more ways to connect with customers and a wealth of information on their shopping behavior.
“The data doesn't take away from that relationship,” says Bob. In fact, the data provides you with a few benefits:
- Data helps with communication: “If we used to see a customer once a month, and it's a debate we've often had, do we need to see that customer once a month? Maybe that customer we can speak quarterly and provide better information to help them drive their business,” says Bob.
- Data helps with your customers’ pain points, and can “help them within their problem-solving, the challenges, products that they're looking for, and things like that.”
- Data gives your business a roadmap. “At the end of the day, we want to be better today than we were yesterday. We want to grow more today than we did yesterday, so the data helps point us in a multitude of directions,” explains Bob.
Starting Your Own Data Journey
If you’re running a large firm, the data that you get back on sales, social media campaigns, product development and other aspects of your business might be a little overwhelming. So we asked Bob about the best place manufacturers should start when they begin mapping out a data journey.
Shouldice utilizes an enterprise resource planner (ERP) and customer relationship manager (CRM) to track and manage data across company operations. Everything is handled through dashboards that analyze and report on all of that intelligence.
“It's a company-wide program that we have and you could look at it and say, ‘Oh, my goodness, info overload,’ but everything that comes into the company is pulled through in those various programs, which ultimately lands in the business intelligence,” says Bob. “It's broken out, behind the scenes, obviously. It's been written to accommodate what we require and from analyzing everything from sales, and quotations, and product development, and marketing and competition.”
That information helps individual teams at Shouldice with their decision-making, and the company meets regularly to report back on performance. “We touch on all of that over a quick 15-minute round table with many members within administration and management, and then other times through the week, when you deep dive specifically into certain aspects of that information.”
If you’re not able to start with customized company dashboards, you might begin your data journey with a CRM. “Really, where we started is through CRM. It's those everyday conversations that you're now logging, tracking with your customers,” says Bob.
“It just becomes lost, so my advice is ... to collect those conversations, collect that information and build that profile and build that file of your customer. You know your customer very well, but get that file going and understand from that,” says Bob.
“Then from there, then you explore a business intelligence platform that you can now start to pull through all of that information that gets dumped into business intelligence and it starts to segment things,” he explains.
Starting with a CRM can help manufacturers start to navigate big decisions in their company, and can deliver insights on what the best next steps are for your team. “You have to be able to decipher that information and where it's going to help you be better, essentially,” says Bob.
Want Even More Insight?
Data has offered a host of benefits to Bob and the team at Shouldice. “I think one of the biggest things it's done is we become more transparent within the company, within ourselves,” he says.
That transparency has made it possible for the firm to streamline a lot of its processes, as well. “What we gather out of our data is we're able to talk in different terms with our customers and tell them where they are with our business up to the minute and help them improve their business,” says Bob. “When they improve, we improve.”
Listen to the full episode for even more great advice on how to use your company’s data more effectively. You can learn more about Shouldice Designer Stone and Fusion Stone online.
When you integrate data-based decision-making into your marketing, everyone wins. Chat with the team at Venveo to start your data journey today.
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