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How Unique Experiences in Building Materials Can Create a Full Pipeline

Creating exceptional experiences for your customers can turn first-time buyers into lifelong fans. Here’s how one manufacturer is creating unique experiences both online and offline to win customers for life.

Photo of Zach Williams
Photo of Beth PopNikolov
by Zach Williams and Beth PopNikolov

More About This Show

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 Tom Ellerbrook, Director of Sales at FastenMaster, about how their comprehensive approach to building brand loyalty keeps their funnel full, their dealers engaged and their customers happy.

Build a Brand, Not a Commodity

064 Build a Brand


Regardless of who you market to in the channel, creating exceptional experiences can be a huge differentiator for your brand. Tom Ellerbrook and the sales and marketing teams at FastenMaster are creating lifelong customers by developing unique experiences for their audience, both online and offline.

FastenMaster, based out of Agawam, Massachusetts, is a manufacturer of screws and clips for residential construction. They have a strong brand in the remodeling, decking and lumber building materials industry.

It’s easy to think of wood screws and fasteners as a heavily commoditized product, and yet FastenMaster has cracked the code on how to keep both dealers and end-users coming back for more.

“We're taking responsibility for converting professional contractors."

Tom says, “Our tagline is ‘FastenMaster is Pro Driven.’ Our people and our products strengthen our professional contractors’ business.” FastenMaster is highly focused on the professional contractor and bringing innovation in quality products to market that improves their everyday business.

A lot of this might sound like buzzwords, but by living this mission, FastenMaster is able to drive business all the way through the channel.

Tom says, “If you've talked to a lumberyard, they're trying to bring value and they're trying to improve their contractors' business. And our distributor is trying to improve the lumberyard's business.”

All the way down the line, FastenMaster focused on downstream. This approach has been hugely successful for them over the years.

Convert Your Customer’s Customer

064 Convert Your Customers Customer


By not selling direct and, instead, working with representatives all the way down the channel, FastenMaster is building brand loyalty at every point.

Tom says, “We're taking some responsibility for converting professional contractors. We want to get in front of the best professional contractors in all of our territories and drive conversions.”

But since they can’t be responsible for converting every contractor and showing every contractor the innovation that FastenMaster brings to market, Tom and his sales team understand that they have to educate the channel.

“We'll hold product knowledge sessions. We do a thing called an impact event, which we like to say is a demo day but on steroids.”

The goal is to drive pro awareness to the lumberyard and, by facilitating that training onsite, lumberyard staff also gain an understanding of how to sell FastenMaster products even when Tom’s sales team isn’t there.

The goal isn’t to try to push a partner program or other incentives. FastenMaster’s belief is, if they can convert a contractor to one of their products, that person will never go back to their old way of doing things. Whether they’re saving time, eliminating an impractical step or saving money, the belief is the quality of the product speaks for itself.

Why Zach Can’t Test Drive a Tesla

064 Why Zach Cant Test Drive a Tesla


“So what your saying,” Zach says, “is you're trying to create an ‘aha moment’ for every contractor that may potentially buy from you?”

Tom refers back to Simon Sinek and the moment a customer realizes they’re in for something bigger or deeper. “I've been there, I've seen the moment a pro looks at you and says, ‘Where were you two weeks ago? Where were you a year ago?’” He’d even go so far as to say they’re changing a contractor’s life, even in a small way.

"That's why I don't own a Tesla, because I would never be able to go back."

This “aha moment” is a key marketing strategy for companies across all industries. Even Tesla sends customers out on test drives and encourages them to push the car as fast as it will go, to get the customer fully invested in the product and its features.

“That's why I don't own a Tesla,” Zach says, “because I would never be able to go back.”

Tom is looking to take that same approach and draw in lifelong customers.

Disrupt Yourself

064 Distrupt Yourself


Beth says, “We talk a lot about disruption on this podcast. And so many manufacturers are just kind of waiting for it to come to their doorstep, thinking when it arrives, they’ll be ready.”

But Tom and FastenMaster aren’t waiting. “We communicate with our pro stars every month with an email blast, ‘Hey, here's a new product’ or ‘Here's an old product, but a new application that we came up with.’ Or ‘Hey, just remember, here's a product that can save you time and thus make your make your business better.’”

While many of our listeners may be doing something similar, what makes Tom’s approach interesting is that the communication channel goes both ways, and he is always looking to gather feedback. That feedback is used to develop new products contractors want to use or that will drive innovation.

"There's an affinity towards our brand because of that, and we own that."

“The contractors want to give us that feedback because they know we're going to come up with something better. There's an affinity towards our brand because of that, and we own that. That's something that hangs over our head that we have to live up to every day around here, this office in Agawam, and we take that seriously.”

In fact, Tom is so confident in his brand’s ability to be innovative and disruptive, he’s not even worried about competition from up-and-coming sectors like panelized building, who may try to build all their components, including fasteners, in house.

“We're adaptable enough. We're strong enough in our vision that we can be adaptable and still be competitive. As long as we stay true to our mission, I am confident in the fact that we can bring innovation that a professional contractor sees as valuable.”

New Communication Channels

064 New Communication Channels


While FastenMaster excels at in-person training and communication, they also recognize that times are changing and so is the best way to reach customers.

Zach wants to know, “If you look at that space, what it was 10-15 years ago, you’ll see it's very different today. How are you marketing and targeting an up-and-coming generation of contractors using digital and using different communication methods that they're more comfortable with?”

Along with email blasts and Facebook, FastenMaster has put a lot of focus — and generated a lot of success — with Instagram. Their account currently has more than 37,000 followers. That number alone is impressive, but Tom says it goes further than that.

“I've had made quality relationships with people all over the country, Canada, even Australia, where we've connected via Instagram. It’s made a small industry made even smaller.”

They work with social influencers, like The Modern Craftsman, and hold pro-driven events. “We hosted an event that FastenMaster did with them. The point of the event was to help contractors utilize social media to grow their business.”

These types of events aren’t about sales. “The concept of it was that it was not about FastenMaster. Our products were there, but they were in the background. It was about bringing pros together.” By presenting themselves as experts, and also as connected to industry influencers, FastenMaster becomes a trusted and innovative brand in the eyes of contractors.

Making Plans for 2020

064 Making Plans for 2020


Tom’s sales and marketing plans for 2020 include making sure his teams are strategic and transparent with their channel partners. He wants his sales teams to be open with distributors and be able to say, “I want you to stock this product on your shelf. What do I need to do in order for that to happen?”

But this approach only works when they understand what else the downstream lumberyards are stocking and how FastenMaster’s products align with those and even help drive sales. “Let's find who the lumberyard’s best contractors are, convert them to using this product and drive the pull-through of the innovation. We're highly focused on that right now.”

Tom’s best advice for 2020, and he admits it’s a bit fluffy, is to fall in love with what your customers do on a daily basis. “These people, being craftsmen, they have a skill that I cannot do. I have so much respect for that.”

That respect and love will translate to authenticity in your sales approach. Coupled with persistence, this approach will result in long-term wins. “If you're just going to make a quick buck, people are going to see through it and it's not going to work.”

Tom sees the success of this approach, not only in customer relationships but also in the staff they hire. Many are new or recent graduates with no previous experience in the building materials sector. “A lot of them fall in love with the industry.” And whether they stay with Tom’s team or move on, they stay in the building materials space.

“They're all in a better position now, having worked with us. And they are contributing to the industry overall, which I think is cool.”

Got a Question?

To find out more about Tom and FastenMaster, you can email him, find him on LinkedIn, or visit his personal Instagram or the FastenMaster Instagram account.

If you have questions about how to integrate your in-person and digital experiences to improve your marketing in 2020, let us know! Shoot us an email at [email protected] with all of your questions.

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