Ben Uyeda joins the show to discuss how social media influencers can help elevate sales for building material manufacturers — when done correctly.
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 Ben Uyeda, founder of HomeMade Modern.
Ben offers actionable advice for manufacturers on finding the right influencers and how to work with them to build valuable content for both consumer and contractor audiences.
Meet Ben Uyeda
Ben started as an author and designer teaching architecture at Cornell University, with an emphasis on sustainable energy. He then co-founded the architecture firm ZeroEnergy Design (ZED) and FreeGreen.com, a web-media company that distributes green home designs. And today he works at HomeMade Modern, an online DIY resource platform he founded, and works with a variety of building material manufacturers as an online influencer through YouTube and Instagram.
Using Social Media Influencers for Evergreen Content
Ben points out that building material manufacturers need to be thoughtful when searching for social media influencers for partnership opportunities. If you’re not careful, influencer marketing can be very problematic; but if done correctly, the results can last for decades.
The term “influencer” is actually a small portion of the potential value you can leverage from this type of partner. You might think that you’re paying an influencer to buy their audience’s time, but that’s not the most effective way to look at your marketing strategy. After all, you can find your audience with much cheaper and easier tactics, like paying to boost a Facebook post or buy Adwords on Google for regionally targeted marketing.
A truly valuable influencer can create quality content rather than just providing a one-off endorsement of a product. Here’s an example from Ben to illustrate the difference: An influencer could partner with an insulation company and post a quick review validating the product. But even if a hundred thousand people see it on Instagram, how many of them are about to build a house and think about the insulation brand?
This type of influencer marketing actually brings little value to the manufacturer. A better strategy would be to have that influencer leverage their knowledge and background to make a floor plan with an accompanying PDF of recommended products with the reason they picked each one.
The PDF would provide information and expertise right next to the product promotion, which is much more impactful than posting an Instagram story. Plus, the PDF would then be searchable, making it easier for people to find the information when they’re about to make the product decision. There needs to be organic reach, and a quality influencer knows how to get that attention from their followers without paying for it.
If you’re going to invest in a partnership, Ben recommends finding a way to create useful evergreen content, especially if your product is something more technical or higher priced.
Winning With Creative Freedom
To have a truly effective influencer partnership, you need to focus on long-term results, not short-term posts. Ben’s most effective sponsor is Quikrete. They’ve been working together for five years, primarily through Ben’s YouTube channel. When he and his team first pitched the company, they only had about 30k to 40k subscribers, but loved working with the product and promised to win video search for Quikrete over the next few years.
Ben charged them just $20,000 to create ten videos every year. A low price that gained him creative freedom to highlight the product with projects he had a true vision for.
Today, if you search for DIY concrete on YouTube, HomeMade Modern’s videos account for 25% to 50% of the top results. Even though woodworking is a more popular search term, HomeMade Modern’s audience size at the beginning didn’t hinder them from quickly winning the smaller concrete market.
This was possible because Quikrete gave Ben complete creative freedom. He was able to make content that would resonate and interest his followers that didn’t feel pushy or fake. And as a result, Quikrete gained more sales from the DIY market. The partnership between Ben and Quikrete is still going strong — and they are still giving him creative freedom to make quality content.
How to Avoid Product Vanity and Focus on the Long-Term Results
On the flip side, Ben often receive offers for one-off deals. This can be effective for direct to consumer companies that have coupon codes and can track where their traffic is coming from. They’re in complete control because there’s no retailer in the middle, making it a very transactional relationship.
But for companies that have a retailer in the middle, it’s harder to track metrics. You could easily end up overpaying and never seeing a return in your organic numbers. Another common mistake building material manufacturers make when working with influencers is by having too much product vanity.
You may be particularly susceptible if you don’t have an aesthetically-focused product. Ben refers to manufacturers that want to show their audience pictures of the product, even if they’re not particularly interesting. For a recent partnership featuring a new garbage disposal from Moen, he had to draw them away from promoting the product’s design too much.
Instead, Ben created a live video feed shoving a three-pound gummy bear down the disposal. Then, he asked live viewers to send in requests of what to put down the garbage disposal next. This out-of-the-box video was a huge success. After all, which would you rather see: a well-light but boring picture of a garbage disposal unit sitting on a table or a giant gummy bear being destroyed?
Things go wrong, however, when building material manufacturers insist on product vanity. And bad influencer marketing happens when the product is incongruous with the rest of their feed because the paying manufacturer insists on having their product front and center.
When a product is highlighted in the wrong way, you’re interrupting the flow that the influencer’s audience wants to see. This strategy can actually build resentment among followers and it ultimately becomes ineffective marketing. While it might be easier for an influencer to say yes to these product vanity demands and take the money, they’re still going to have to deal with negative comments and you ultimately won’t get the results you want.
Influencer marketing is about giving people what they’re looking for. They want to be entertained, educated and informed.
Reaching Consumers vs. Contractors
As a building material manufacturer, you can use social media influencers to help bridge the gap between two audiences: consumers and contractors. It’s important to realize that you need to win each audience over in different ways.
Ben points to a decking project he worked on with the Western Red Cedar Association. As a designer, he didn’t want to do a regular deck but instead had an idea for a floating deck over concrete using expensive 6x6 cedar posts.
Originally, contractors thought the product was wasteful. However, once they realized the project could be completed with just one person, they realized the product was actually more cost-effective since the project used better, thicker, more substantial materials with the upfront cost being offset by the reduced labor cost.
When pitching to contractors, Ben won them over by explaining the justification and value. This is important for a lot of different manufacturers, especially when pitching a product that requires a new installation process for contractors.
Oftentimes, a homeowner might see a cool demo and ask their contractor if they can do it. If the contractor doesn’t want to use the new product, but the client insists, they will likely go straight to YouTube to see how installation works, giving manufacturers a huge opportunity to broaden their reach with the right video content. You have to get right to the point because the viewer is probably on their phone in the field. If you don’t have good videos, the contractor could refuse to use the product in the build. But if you have strong content, you can win over the contractor and get them to agree with the customer.
How to Get Started With Influencer Marketing
Ben first recommends deciding on your target market. If you’re a regional company with a climate specific product, you don’t need national figures — it’s a waste of money.
When choosing an influencer, also consider the value of their content, not just the size of their audience. It may be more expensive to have an influencer create content for you, but you’re actually commissioning production. Be sure to see if you can get the rights to everything they create for your brand so that you can also use it on other platforms and ad campaigns. Not all influencers let you do this. The ones that do are more expensive but you’ll get the most out of your marketing. You should also find influencers who would use your product organically and have expertise in your industry.
Always be honest about your product and understand whether or not it’s something consumers truly care about. If you manufacture insulation or HVAC systems, people probably don’t care what it looks like, but they may be interested in the product’s performance. Recognize if it’s really interesting or if it’s something people simply need, then build your marketing information around that perspective.
If you make something unique, a knowledgeable influencer can really help you capture market share. People are intrigued by houses that are built differently so if you create something like structural insulated panels, you have an automatic novelty factor. But you could run into problems if your potential customer’s contractor won’t take on the project because they can’t build the house efficiently with your product.
Here’s where an influencer comes in. They can create an online kit, complete with an architectural plan. It could contain a whole package of content around your materials, even if it’s just for a small, 300-square foot workshop in a backyard. Get even more specialized and hone in on a specific keyword phrase, such as accessory dwelling units in California, since they have new regulations on those types of buildings.
Then you could create quality web page advertising “free plans for accessory dwelling units in California.” People searching for those terms will quickly find your page. Since you’re delivering content they would otherwise have to pay for, they’ll think you’re great. Plus, you’re already saving them a few thousand dollars by avoiding hiring an architect so they’ll be more likely to utilize your product for their project.
For an aesthetic project, think about DIY videos that will entice homeowners. A stone veneer manufacturer, for example, could work with an influencer to post a firepit project or show viewers how to transform their fireplace with a modern upgrade. In this case, visual content makes more sense and an influencer with a good-sized audience can do the project for you.
Awareness Doesn’t Automatically Equate to Sales
One of Ben’s most popular projects is a DIY spiral staircase made out of plywood using a CNC machine. Across all channels, the video has been viewed between 50 and 100 million times. However, only about 2 million views are on Ben’s channel. Other outlets like Business Insider, 5 Minute Crafts and Bored Panda also distributed the video.
While they certainly created a lot of awareness around the project, those numbers don’t necessarily mean they sold a lot of plywood or CNC machines. The bigger your numbers get, the less valuable per view they are. And while CNC did sell a lot of product thanks to the video, those sales came through smaller outlets like design blogs and Make magazine — not the videos on Facebook.
Big numbers are great and definitely hard to get, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re moving the needle financially. So don’t worry influencer content producing big viewing numbers. It’s much more important to make effective sales numbers.
Working with an influencer can be rewarding for building materials manufacturers if you pick the right person who can create valuable, interesting content. Try to give your influencers some creative freedom to use your product in a way that will resonate with their audience. And make sure you are focusing on the right numbers — sales and not views.
If you enjoyed this podcast and want to learn more about marketing for building materials manufacturers, check out our other podcasts on how to use your Instagram to grow sales and the best way to use video. Have questions or thoughts on this week’s podcast? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at [email protected].