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What the Building Materials Industry Needs to Know About ChatGPT

ChatGPT is the latest buzzword in the marketing world, and many building materials manufacturers are unsure of what it means for them. In this episode, we give an overview of what ChatGPT is and what it means for the building materials industry.

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

More About This Episode

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 insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.

Beth, Zach and Steve Coffey, Venveo's Director of Growth, talk about ChatGPT. Zach gives an overview of what ChatGPT is, and then Steve performs a rapid-fire round of questions about how ChatGPT may affect the building materials industry.

What Is ChatGPT?

"ChatGPT stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer. It's essentially a chatbot launched by OpenAI in November of 2022," Zach explains. This chatbot is constantly trained as more and more people use it. It allows a user to ask any question, and it gives you an answer.

While it sounds similar to Google, it can go a step further and provide you with creative responses, too. Zach, for instance, used it to write a rap and send it to Steve. "And it was a very good rap," Steve confirms.

However, Beth warns us to not be fooled by ChatGPT being called a chatbot. "A chatbot isn't anything revolutionary, and if you didn't know that ChatGPT was utilizing some new technology, it might not seem really significant to you." It can be used in unique and powerful ways, as Mint Mobile has proved with its new ad.

202 What Is Chat GPT

Concerns With ChatGPT

There are some concerns with ChatGPT. While Siri is technically AI, ChatGPT is on a very different level. Many people are concerned about the future if it's trained on bigger and bigger models. One of the companies concerned is Google. After all, with ChatGPT, there's potential for people to bypass Google and get the information they want through ChatGPT without having to pay or deal with ads.

Zach illustrates the difference between using Google and ChatGPT with recipes. If you Google, "chicken macaroni recipe," you'll get four recipes. When you click on one, you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to get to the recipe because that article added a bunch of extra information for SEO purposes in order to rank on Google.

If you use ChatGPT, you can ask for four recipes using chicken and macaroni, add in clarifiers such as "gluten-free" and a time limit, and the chatbot will spit them out with no ads or extra information to try and wade through.

Bing, on the other hand, recently said they are going to incorporate ChatGPT into their algorithm. Microsoft, Meta (formerly known as Facebook) and Google all have AI, but nowhere to the extent of ChatGPT.

The Impact of AI

As Steve points out, many of us don't realize the extent to which AI impacts our day-to-day lives. We all use search engines all the time, but that's only the surface. "I don't think we fully grasp how much AI already makes decisions for us, how integrated it is, even in the building materials industry — just getting a product from point A to point B, the technology that's used, all the aspects of technology that's from the individual purchasing, to all the way to getting the technology to build it, to getting it to the end result."

ChatGPT provides AI in a way that's more accessible, especially compared to Google, which has become almost inconvenient with ads and bloat. Zach agrees and goes a bit further to say that today's version of Google is one of the reasons that AI, like ChatGPT, has been created. "If you compare Google to 2015 to Google today, the search UX is not where it once was. It's like there's 500 pixels of ad space, which you make money on ads, right? Because that's where people get information. I'm not saying it's not smart to do that, but people are like, 'Eh, I gotta go sort through that' versus just like, 'Give it to me immediately.'"

After all, speed kills. Spotify was able to outpace BitTorrent and Napster because people could get their audio faster.

There is always a fear of what will happen when new technology becomes popular, but Zach isn't too worried. "I do think that any time there's been [a] major influx of new technology, like if you take the internet and the iPhone, for example. [With] those two things, people have had the very same reaction — like, 'Oh my gosh, this is going to kill a bunch of jobs.' And it's actually been the opposite. More job creation has happened from this."

He's also not concerned about the ability of ChatGPT to write content: "I think that the importance of originality and personal brand development is only going to increase. You're never going to get rid of the importance of authenticity and expertise." However, with Google's push for paid ads and SEO, it's hard for users to find authenticity in results.

What Does This Mean for Manufacturers?

Our data shows that manufacturers are the number one source of information for their audiences, including architects, builders, contractors, tradespeople, designers, etc. Now, more than ever, the quality of information you are producing — along with the level of connection and reliability you provide your team — is exceptionally important.

Rapid Fire Questions

Steve came up with a list of questions for Zach and Beth about the impact of ChatGPT on the building materials industry.

Can I get rid of my content writers to save money?

Many people are wondering if this new chatbot can write content for them, saving them money on writers. Zach thinks a great use for ChatGPT is to quickly test new content pieces.

"Let's say you sell a roofing product, okay? And you're like, 'Hey, here's my content calendar for all the things I wanna produce this year. What is going to hit the most? What's going to work the best out of all this content?' Instead of going and giving this to a writer out of the gate — all of the content ideas and working through that — I would produce most of them pretty quickly, review them internally and then rapidly execute and promote them. From that, I would then go, 'Okay, of those 20 ideas or 20 content pieces, which ones perform the best?' And then I would go back to my content writer who's got the A-level expertise, and then get them to take it a step further."

In essence, ChatGPT can be used as a tool for writers to quickly find what will work and resonate with their audience. But it doesn't mean [to] get rid of all of your writers, especially not right away. Steve agrees, "I think the evolution of good content can be speeded up with the technology."

It's a great way to get rid of writer's block. Zach recently used it to find ways to describe the word scale. He put into ChatGPT, "Give me 10 different ways someone could describe scaling a business." One of the answers he loved was "outpacing cost," and he ended up using it. So while it won't get rid of Venveo's copywriter, Zach and the team will use it to help improve quality and speed.

What if it produces copy that reads better than what my agency has given me? Should I use what the chat spits out versus what the agency wrote?

Beth suggests having a conversation with the writer of the content. "What you're going get from AI is going to be about B-level writing. It's not bad, and honestly, it's going to be about average because it's just a summary of what's already out there and then put into readable casual language, so I would ask the question, ‘Why does it read better and is the information as accurate?’"

There are a few reasons that it might read better. One is that it seems clearer because it's closer to casual, conversational language. It might be less technical, more relatable and more engaging. However, it's more important that the information is accurate and no essential information is missing.

You may need to simply have a conversation with your writer or agency about marrying the two, meaning you need the first-hand information and experience that the agency content has with the conversational, relatable voice of the AI content.

Don't forget to consider the expertise of the agency as well. They'll know and understand how the content will interact with Google's algorithm better than AI, so their content will be written in a way that works with SEO rules. ChatGPT may only be focusing on the verbiage, so it won't rank well in searches.

Remember Zach's recipe example from before? ChatGPT may give you some good recipe ideas, but if you get the recipe from someone with clout, you'll probably trust that recipe a little bit more. "If I was to say, 'Hey Steve, give me recipe ideas,' you're going to go to ChatGPT. If I'm like, 'Hey Steve, what would you do in the scenario, what's the right roofing material or what's the right application of this product?' you're going to go seek out the information because you still trust Google and the sources that it gives you in your own decision-making," Zach points out.

How can manufacturers' sales teams utilize this technology?

There are pros and cons when it comes to your sales team using ChatGPT. One of the big dangers is that your sales team could veer away from your company's brand and voice. Sure, it could give them five email headlines that would win CEOs, but they may not be in alignment with the marketing team's direction. Answers from ChatGPT could veer you away from your brand strategy.

"I think the danger in sales teams using it is because you can do a lot of things, and you can do it really quick and quickly get down into this vortex of information that you're getting and using in your sales tactics with it," Steve says. "Obviously, I'm speaking from experience. And I think it's important for you to reign that back into the overall marketing strategy of the brand and make sure that you're in alignment with it."

It can, however, help your sales team potentially refine their sales pitches. For example, they could ask, "How can this phrase be more relatable?" about a phrase they are using in their sales pitch on LinkedIn. Then they can A/B test those responses to see if any of them get more of a reaction from their targets.

Want Even More Insight?

Zach predicts that in six months, the conversation around ChatGPT and AI will look very different. Similar to when smartphones started to get popular in 2008-09 and Zach knew that they were going to be really big, he feels the same sense of something big on the horizon here.

The biggest takeaways from this conversation?

  • The importance of brands building personal brands within their organization is going to become exponentially even more important.

  • Influencers aren't going anywhere because they have more clout than bots.

  • ChatGPT can help your writing team, but shouldn't replace it.

To learn more about ChatDPT and AI writing, listen to the entire episode here.

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