How do your message and sales strategy need to change right now to take advantage of the current market we're in? This is a critical question every company in the building product space is asking as we navigate how to do business during COVID-19.
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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 insight on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.
In this episode, Zach talks to Shane McNut, VP of Sales at Nudo, about how his company is adapting their sales and marketing for the realities of the COVID era and how they’re planning for the future.
Changing With the Times
With nearly seventy years in business, Nudo has seen a lot. They produce panel products with a variety of substrates such as plywood, oriented strand board, gypsum and composites, and finishes such as aluminum, high-pressure laminate, fiberglass and high-density polyethylene. Over the years, they have grown to become one of the largest laminators in the United States.
Shane works primarily with two of their markets. One is distribution, where Nudo works with stocking partners across the country in the building product industry, the lumber industry, as well as the sign and agricultural industries. Shane also works on the OEM side, where they partner with manufacturers that are building different units, including the modular industry.
Like any well-established company, they’ve got a solid sales team, strong relationships with their customers, and their messaging is well developed. But in the COVID-19 era, times are changing, and Nudo, just like everyone else, has to change, too.
“It's kind of a struggle, because we really excel when we're out in front of customers. That's where we see our biggest bang. But I think that it's opened up the door for us to look at additional ways to get ourselves in front of customers. Utilizing the online webinars is just something that a lot of my guys were not very knowledgeable on. They didn't really use it as a tool.”
Fortunately, Shane and his team of eight sales managers were willing to jump on the mandatory learning curve, and they’re seeing the benefits.
“A lot of people are either in the office or they're working from their home at the moment. So being able to set up these training sessions, being able to set up different types of calls with the customers has been really easy. Giving them something a little bit different to do has been really nice. And I think they're jumping on board, wanting to interact with these types of sessions.”
And it’s not just their medium that is changing. Zach asks, “Are you pivoting your message at all, in the midst of this? Or is your message staying the same?”
Shane says their messaging has changed, along with the way they reach out to customers: “We've really pivoted to focus on healthcare and the modular industry. We’re looking at ways we can continue to support our customers because we know a lot of them are trying to do the same thing. They want to keep their employees employed; they want to keep things moving. So we're sort of putting a big focus on that.”
Shane and his team spend a lot of time looking for ways to offer value to leads and potential customers. He says he scours LinkedIn looking for articles to share and opportunities to connect in groups and with representatives from companies he wants to build relationships with. Shane is a very big advocate for LinkedIn as a means of making connections.
“It's a great tool to use. You find a key contact and just send them a LinkedIn message. It might not be the right contact, but I'll tell you 90% of the time, they'll respond to you and say, ‘Hey, reach out to so and so, they'll be able to help you out.’ So it's just a really good tool that I think is very beneficial in our industries.”
Letting Change Drive Innovation
Changing your messaging and how you connect with customers is critical right now, but the companies that will fare the best in the current climate are the ones who also adapt to what those customers need. Shane’s team has put together a significant social media push, and the results may be surprising.
“It's been kind of beneficial because it's sort of proactively led us to develop some new panel systems, some new opportunities that we're looking at as a short term help right now, but also as a product line that we can continue to offer down the road as well.”
He’s always on the lookout for information that will spark inspiration. “I found an article...it was in New York. And I saw a picture of all these beds lined up, and it's like a light bulb went off. What about temporary wall systems? What can go in there to help them?”
That single idea has sparked a new product line. “Because you're going to have all these people in there and you want to sort of keep them isolated. So I got together with our new product development team to throw out a couple ideas. And they spent the last week developing a system that we're looking to launch.”
Amidst all the uncertainty around us, companies who can identify opportunities and act quickly will see nearly immediate benefits.
Shane says, “I had a meeting with one of our largest customers yesterday, and I showed [the new product] to them. And they're like, ‘Give me the details, let me get it out to my team.’ We set up a training module that's going to go live on Monday with their entire network, and it's going to hit a couple thousand inside/outside reps with this distributor.”
Take the Time to Build Relationships
Even while we’re all in isolation, the key to selling is building strong relationships. This approach is one we talk about a lot on the show, but it’s more important now than ever because the old ways of doing business aren’t there. Part of Shane’s strategy is not only to find new opportunities for Nudo but also to find ones they can filter down to their distribution partners.
“We probably have over two hundred stocking distributors across the country. We're in every major city. They're really good partners, we try to align ourselves with somebody that's going to be dedicated and support us. So we’re working hard to find the projects that we can filter out those opportunities.”
The same goes for speaking with new customers. “See what they're interested in, get to know them on a personal level. Build the relationship up and that customer is going to stick with you. When somebody says, ‘Hey, I can give you the same panel at $1 a panel cheaper,’ they're not going to jump ship overpricing when you have those relationships built up.”
Zach is impressed. “What I love what you're saying, Shane; you're talking about value. You're talking about building relationships. And that's critical.”
Act on Your Vision for the Future Now
Of course, the big question on everyone’s minds is when will this be over? And what will things look like? Shane offers some thoughts: “I think the healthcare industry is heavily going to change. I think companies are going to look at ways to be better prepared for these types of situations if something occurs again.”
But along with being ready, there is the question of what will happen to all the materials and products built during COVID-19.
“I'm talking to these accounts, and they're talking about six thousand units, they're talking about twelve thousand units that they're looking to build, and once this is all said and done, they're like, ‘What's gonna happen with these twelve thousand units?’”
Launching a new product to be used during a crisis is a great way to bridge the gap, but without planning for the long term, companies will be left floundering once the crisis is over. Manufacturers, distributors and builders should all be looking for ways to maximize their investment and their effort.
Shane sees a lot of thoughts turning toward affordable housing. “I think the modular builders are looking at ways to take those units and utilize them for something else, so they're just not being tore down and used as scrap material.”
The potential for future growth in the modular building industry means Shane and the Nudo team are building and adjusting their marketing strategies now. They’ve created specific links on their website for potential customers in the modular industry to help them more fully explore the applications of Nudo’s products.
“In talking with my marketing person and talking with my president, after we get through this, we're just going to continue to build on that because I really see that as an industry that's going to continue to grow both on a residential and commercial side down the road.”
For Shane, the key to thriving in the current economic conditions, and being prepared for what's to come, is collaboration. “Get multiple people involved in this. Don't try to go out there one person and develop something. You get a couple of people together, brainstorm, bring a team together and really find a solution.”
Whether it’s working with internal sales and product development staff, or having real conversations with customers and truly listening to their needs, growth and innovation are more likely to happen when people work together, even if they’re physically apart like we are now.
Got a Question?
If you have questions about how to pivot your sales and marketing right now, while also planning for the future, let us know! Shoot us an email at [email protected] with all of your questions. And don’t forget to join us on our upcoming webinars. For more information, visit venveo.com/webinar.