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The Winning Marketing Pivot for Building Materials Companies in the Midst of COVID-19

In the midst of COVID-19, there is a strategy that winning companies will use as they pivot their marketing and sales. Let’s walk through a couple of things to grow awareness and close the door on the sale, whether it's today in this marketplace or post-COVID tomorrow.

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 talks about the winning pivot for building materials manufacturers in the midst of COVID. We’ll be sharing with you some things that we're seeing in the marketplace today, and how you can be using the data available now to continue to navigate today's situation and help your organization grow in the future.

Managing Customer Anxiety and Capitalizing on Restlessness

077 Managing Customer Anxiety and Capitalizing on Restlessness

The very first thing you have to do is understand what your audiences need in the moment. Your audience's need right now in the midst of COVID is very different than what it was pre-COVID and post-COVID. There are two things that your audience is feeling: anxiety and restlessness.

The anxiety that people feel is from uncertainty: They don't know what's going to happen. We're not familiar with this scenario; we've never been through it before. And we're trying to figure out what to do. COVID hit us and nobody was really prepared. Nobody understood that this was going to go down. And that level of anxiety and uncertainty is continuing to build.

So you need to deal with that by making yourself ever-present; be that reassuring voice — that reassuring presence — to your audience. To deal with the anxiousness, to reassure people in your message, you need to make sure you pivot your message around that.

The restlessness is happening because people are stuck in their homes. They're literally stuck in their homes; they cannot leave. All they can do is be on their computer or their phone and watch television. This is an extrovert’s purgatory: They need to be around people.

But this restlessness also leads to a need for quick successes and gratification. In today's situation, people can change the channel or watch whatever they want on Netflix immediately. They can be on their phone and get whatever they want. They can order from any restaurant and have it delivered to them immediately.

If your company, your sales and your marketing are not built around ease, if your business has some friction points, that restless component that people feel is going to be exacerbated. Now is the time, more than ever, to remove those friction points in how you market, position and sell.

Your website and all your content need to be super easy to use. Companies should be providing different ways for people to engage or ask questions, whether that's chat or phone or email, or any type of information online.

On the opposite end, there's actually tremendous opportunity because what restless people are actually wanting is connection. So if you are the manufacturer or the organization that's providing that connection point for the industry, whether that means you're holding virtual webinars or virtual get-togethers or ways to build community on social media, this is excellent opportunity to build connection.

People are going to remember you. They may not necessarily remember every little marketing campaign that you did, but they are going to remember the feeling that you brought them, particularly if you brought them a sense of hope in this journey that we're all going through. If you can be a conduit of connection to people, that's going to have a long-lasting impact, not just right now in COVID and in post COVID, but long past the season that we're in.

Understanding How Your Audience Has Changed

077 Understanding How Your Audience Has Changed

The way everybody is selling right now is changing. We're leveraging technology in a way that has never been done before. Everybody who's got a large travel and entertainment budget has seen those expenses fall through the floor. People have to sell virtually. They're selling on Zoom, they're selling over email, they're finding ways to use social.

If you look at Zoom, they added 2.22 million monthly active users so far in 2020. In 2019, they had 1.99 million in total. Three months, they've done more than they did all last year.

What's interesting here, and something to think about, is how your audience has changed not only right now in this moment, but how they are going to change in the future? What are they going to carry over post-COVID? Are they more comfortable with being sold to virtually? Are they more comfortable with doing the research without talking to an actual person?

Look at these indicators, look at how people are changing and bring that into your marketing, into your education and into how you train your team. What training does your team need to serve your customers? Not only should your marketing and messaging change, both post-COVID and right now, but what does your team need to support that?

The other thing that we see is happening is from a data standpoint: There are massive increases in search demand right now. People are at their homes stuck in front of their computer. They're trying to find new products or trying to research projects they want to take on. That's true for homeowners, contractors, builders, general contractors and architects across the board.

If you're a manufacturer, you know people are often hesitant to try new products. And this is a tremendous opportunity for you because they're stuck at home and they're doing more research. The likelihood that they may try your product is greater because they're willing to do the research now and learn about your product.

Make it super easy to get samples in front of them. Maybe consider not charging people because people don't want to spend money right now. Maybe make things free, maybe reduce friction, but do what you can to get the product in their hands because if you can build your pipeline now, you're going to be in an incredible position to grow sales.

For example, one thing we're doing at Venveo, is we're capitalizing on search intent with all of our clients. We're trying to get as many people through the door because not as many people are advertising. So our cost per clicks is down, but our search demand is up.

And while people may not be converting the actual sale right now, that doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. So we're creating subset audiences within the different ad platforms, labeling them COVID Audience, and acknowledging they may not have a typical buyer journey of say 30 days, but they may convert in 90 days.

What this means is we're elongating our customer journey process to make sure that we're still closing the loop and getting the sale with COVID audiences and converting potential customers, because we're viewing them as a very specific subset and very specific data set of individuals that could be our customers.

An Opportunity for Innovation

077 An Opportunity for Innovation

Now is the time to innovate how you build awareness and drive sales with your customers. Your number one goal right now should be to be incredibly agile and nimble in your marketing, your messaging, your positioning and how you sell. If the level of speed that you're being pushed into is not making you feel uncomfortable, you're not moving quick enough.

Innovation also includes finding ways to educate your sales reps on how to use new technology and to develop content that's all focused on this scenario. If you're not rewriting content, tweaking content on your site, looking at your social posts when it comes to this COVID scenario, and dealing with what your audience's needs are and adapting very quickly, you're missing out on tremendous opportunity.

What's also important to note here too, is that innovation is not just marketing and technology innovation, also branding innovation. Innovating your messaging and your mindset and helping your audience and your customers do the same thing is critical.

When we think about COVID and what's gone down in the last month, it feels like a decade. It feels like an eternity. It hit everybody by surprise, and so everybody's had to be reactionary to this moment. But COVID-19 is going to end. There is a time when this is going to pass. Do not let that next transition hit you by surprise. Begin planning for it today.

If you follow the path of other recession innovators, if you look across the board at what happened in 2008, there were four key steps that, according to Bain and Company, every major innovator out of the last recession undertook. There was early cost restructuring, balance sheet discipline, aggressive commercial growth plays and proactive M&A.

If you look at Samsung in 2008, they started investing heavily in R&D. They rebranded as a sleek and innovative company, comparing themselves to Apple and the iPhone. They also divested underperforming divisions so they could focus on their core businesses. They saw the opportunity as massive.

Look at Stanley who's also in the building product space; they positioned themselves to acquire Black and Decker back in 2009. Even though Black and Decker was much larger, when valuations dropped, Stanley was in a place to jump on the opportunity.

This is an opportunity. But the key is to make the pivot now is to understand what your audience needs are, how they've changed and then make a decision on how you need to innovate across the board to capitalize on this opportunity to build awareness and drive sales.

Got a Question?

Speaking of building awareness and driving sales, we've got a great set of webinars coming up. Next week, we're going to be holding webinars on how to build awareness effectively in today's marketplace, how to capitalize on all the increase in search demand. And the second webinar we'll be holding is how to use technology to sell to your audience in today's marketplace. If you want to sign up for either of these or both of these, go to

If you have questions about how to make your own pivot, drop Zach a note at [email protected]. We're here to help. We're here to assist, and we believe that there's a brighter future tomorrow. We just need to protect our mindset and look for the opportunities in front of us.