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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 and Beth talk to Daniel Gills, Vice President of Business Development at Yale Locks and Hardware, about how big manufacturers are using digital marketing not just as a way to reach new customers, but also as a driver for product innovation.
Innovation in a Classic Industry
Yale Locks and Hardware is part of the ASSA ABLOY group of companies and, as such, is involved in conversations with architects, designers, builders and security professionals about everything to do with doors and locks.
Historically, choosing locks may not have seemed like a priority to construction customers. Locksmiths are frequently the last person on the job site, there to install a simple mechanical key and cylinder before the building is put into operation.
While Yale Locks offers a number of standard lock product offerings, where they see the greatest opportunity for growth is in the changing conversations around how locks are selected and what they’re expected to do.
Instead of being functionally driven, new locks are, these days, driven by design. Many times, new product offerings crop up when a customer asks for a one-off design, which Yale then takes to market.
The push to design-based innovation means that Daniel’s team is having more conversations with designers and influencers, looking for needs and trends, instead of simply focusing on what a lock can do.
Even Invisible Innovation Needs Collaboration
While we’re aware of new advances in wireless lock technology, it may surprise you to hear just how prevalent these product offerings are becoming. While traditional mechanical locks still dominate the marketplace, Daniel says as much as 30% of their products are now wired and connected to the building system in some way.
While this degree of innovation may feel nearly invisible to many end-users, it has changed the way customers purchase and the way suppliers need to market and collaborate with other suppliers.
By entering the electronic lock marketplace, along with providing smart locks and other wireless features, suppliers like Yale need to either find new partners to collaborate with so that their products all integrate seamlessly, or else they need to become big enough themselves to provide all facets of the system.
Daniel sees the change as being part of the growing expectation for convenience. Historically, among lock suppliers, security and convenience were considered to be mutually exclusive. Those days are gone. Today’s building owners and operators want the confidence that their building is secure while choosing options that work right out of the box.
Influencers Aren’t Just a Buzzword
It feels like we talk about influencers a lot in marketing, to the point where they become another buzzword. But influencers are more than the people endorsing your product on Instagram. They can be the gatekeepers to your company’s access to an entire market or project.
The upside is, if you can win an influencer’s trust on even one aspect of a project, they’re more likely to recommend all of your solutions. For an organization as big as ASSA ABLOY’s, the philosophy is, if they can get an influencer to buy-in to one of Yale’s custom solutions, they’re more likely to be able to present the entire set of door and building entry product offerings.
Influencers can also help on the development side. They frequently have their finger on the pulse of customer demand. Connecting with these people and soliciting feedback during the product development phase can help make sure your design team is actually putting together a product people want to buy.
Daniel cites an example where a customer was looking for a commercial product in a matte black finish. While this finish was widely available in the residential market, it had to be made for the commercial market. By developing something customers were already familiar with and introducing it to commercial applications, they launched what is now their fastest-growing commercial product.
Innovation Only Counts If You Actually Count It
Daniel credits Yale’s success to its historic and ongoing philosophy of innovation. They have always been willing to take risks and provide added value to customers asking for products they couldn’t find.
But he’s quick to point out that the only way to know if your innovation is earning market share is through analytics. Yale, like many other companies with a significant marketing budget, spends most of its money on analytics, both in terms of competitive market analysis and also in analyzing the impact of their digital marketing efforts.
Not only is his team looking at what is happening in the marketplace, but they’re trying to get ahead of the curve (the so-called “bleeding edge”) by understanding what customers are looking for online. He and his team work carefully to analyzes what online searches are happening, how those searches drive digital traffic and, ultimately, become leads.
The Changing Face of Hardware Marketing
Daniel admits that hardware marketing still has a significant physical component. Whether that’s face-to-face meetings at tradeshows, sales calls with designers and architects, pop-up shops and catalogs in the mail, these channels are still a big part of their strategy.
But their digital footprint is growing and continues to grow. The key is acknowledging the speed at which digital prospects want their information. They don’t have time to flip through an entire PDF catalog. Daniel tries to keep his digital marketing as application-based as possible so that people can see products in real-life applications similar to their own needs.
Tools like configurators and visualizers are a great way of letting prospects test out a new product without having to physically hold it. And these tools have the added advantage of being flexible enough to accommodate new products in nearly real-time, rather than traditional methods that would need a complete catalog reprint. Marketers can take real data from these tools, to see what prospect uptake is on new products too.
Even Big Companies Start Small
As Daniel puts it, digital marketing can feel like a “PowerPoint word.” It’s something many companies say they’re doing, or should be doing, without fully understanding what it is.
Even the biggest companies should start small when it comes to digital marketing. Take a look at the base of your footprint: your website. Is it easy to use? Are your contact information and location easy to find? Daniel says to start by analyzing how people are finding you online and what message your website is giving them when they arrive.
His key takeaway when it comes to digital marketing is communicating to the customer that you understand them and their pain points as they relate to your products and services. Once you’ve done that, focus on what makes you unique, including not only your products, services and price but also value adds and philosophy.
Even big companies should be tackling digital marketing one small step at a time, to ensure they have the processes they need in place to drive sales, innovation, and success.
Got a Question?
Get in touch with Daniel via email at [email protected].
If you have questions about how to keep your digital marketing nimble, even as you grow, let us know! Shoot us an email at [email protected] with all of your questions.