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.
Dennis Comstock is the founder of Builder Brigade. He talks with Beth about what homeowners need to know in their home-building process and why manufacturers should care.
Dennis and the Builder Brigade
Builder Brigade started as a woodworking account on TikTok for Dennis to post videos about his house being built. The more Dennis shared, the more he realized how much non-information homeowners have when they’re having a house built. He started sharing more about the lessons he learned during the process, as well as what his friends learned during their home-building processes.
His next step was to create a checklist that summarized everything he was talking about, and his audience loved it. That led to creating more content specifically for homeowners. And that led to homeowners, builders and contractors reaching out to him with tips to share with his audience.
With the Builder Brigade, Dennis has created a community.
Dennis started on TikTok, and once a few videos went viral, he started pushing videos to Instagram as well. “Now it's just one of those things where you just make the video once, and you can just push it across all the different platforms,” he says.
At the time of recording this episode, Builder Brigade has 282,000 followers on Instagram and 554,00 on TikTok. His TikTok videos have over 9.5 million likes. He achieved all of that without trying to. He simply created content in an interesting way that answered questions people already had.
Creating Short-Form Content
There’s no big team behind the Builder Brigade. It’s just Dennis and his wife. They create all of the content on their platforms, and they have a few key pieces of advice.
First, the first three to five seconds are key on a video. You have to capture the viewer’s attention in those three to five seconds and then offer them good, valuable information.
The biggest mistake Dennis sees is when someone spends those first three seconds frozen in front of the camera about to speak. By the time they do, the viewer is already swiped away.
Second, keep the video as organic and real as possible, “almost like you're sending somebody a video through text,” explains Dennis. Real talk combined with valuable information is going to have them either save the video, send it to a friend or both.
You need to think about the sound bit you are leaving viewers with. That’s what makes the video shareable and gets people repeating it.
“So often, what happens to short-form content is we just see the time limit, and then we use the time limit as the pressure versus understanding [how] we should just be talking about one thing so it fits into the time,” says Beth. Don’t look at the time limit as a challenge of how much you can fit into 90 seconds. Look at it as advice from the platform who knows how long someone is going to be willing to watch your video.
Dennis has a process he follows when creating content. He begins by writing out a few paragraphs on the question or topic. Then he shortens it pass by pass until it’s down to only a few sentences. He saves the information he cuts to use for other videos.
People would much rather receive information in short bursts so they don’t get overwhelmed. “If you're talking about something you talk about all the time, you're going to just barf it out as fast as you can, and they can't receive it. It's just too much,” Dennis explains. That’s why it’s so important to plan out what you want to say ahead of time. It keeps you out of the weeds and your content focused.
“We’re in the information age. You can get as much information as you need at your fingertips,” says Dennis. People have so much information, but they don’t know what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s helpful and what’s not. The goal, according to Dennis, is to “give the audience somebody that they can trust and know that they're going to get good, valuable information.”
The trap that manufacturers fall into is trying to fit all of their features and benefits into a single 90-second video. That’s completely overwhelming for viewers. In fact, it’s a great way to lose followers and viewers.
Dennis advises manufacturers to stop overthinking it. “You can over-think it and think like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to hit all these things.’ No, you definitely don't. You literally only have to hit one thing, and if that one thing gets the message across enough to sell your product or get the point across of what you're trying to make, that's all that matters.”
There’s no limit to the number of videos you can make. If you have 12 benefits to talk about, make 12 videos.
If you’re having trouble, write down what you’re trying to say like you’re going to send an email to your 10-year-old. Then, take away as many words as you can to make your single message as tight as possible. After that, you can get creative on how you explain that single message in a video.
“There's a great saying in copywriting — that you spend twice the amount of time editing that you do writing,” says Beth. You have to get all the information out so you can edit it down.
If you’re struggling to create headlines and hooks, Dennis suggests looking at BuzzFeed headlines. “They're a little bit too far on one side, but it gives you an idea of the captivating headlines that are going to make you want to click and watch.”
When Dennis was at IBS, he was blown away at all of the vendors who asked him to tell homeowners about everything they had to offer. And he’s also asked by homeowners about what cool products they could have on their house.
“I just want to yell at all the companies out there — your customers are excited to see what you have to offer,” Dennis says.
The biggest red flag in manufacturers’ content videos is reading the side of the box. “Tell me your product's bulletproof, but don't tell me that it's made out of this certain material because that just doesn't relate to a homeowner.” For example, don’t say the product is polyurethane. Say it’s paintable and waterproof. Use easy-to-understand language that clearly tells the benefit and results.
Why You Should Target Homeowners
It’s understandable that manufacturers who focus solely on the commercial space don’t want to target homeowners. However, many manufacturers that could target homeowners don’t because they don’t think homeowners have buying influence. That’s not what Dennis is seeing, however.
“I'm seeing that now, more than ever, the builder doesn't have the time to explain and say, ‘Here's every single option that exists for your home.’ They would much rather have the homeowner be like, ‘Hey, is this is an option? Can I add this to my house?’ And then the builder can say yay or nay, get educated more on the product, reach out to the company and then that becomes another avenue for sales.”
Beth isn’t surprised. “It's no secret that more and more consumers are moving into a desire to educate themselves on products, and when I say consumers, I mean everybody across the channel…now, most data shows they're somewhere between 85% to 95% of the way decided by the time they're ready to have a conversation with somebody at the manufacturing level.”
If a production builder hears 10 homeowners saying they want a specific siding, it’s likely they’ll move to that siding to address consumer demand. When manufacturers create short-form videos, they can sell their product directly to the homeowner, who goes to their builder or contractor and sells it to them for you. It’s almost like having a virtual sales team selling for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Another benefit to selling directly to the homeowner is the shortening of your sales cycle. Sales cycles can be really long, and anything you can do to make that shorter helps. Educating the homeowner and making sure the builder gets the same message your homeowner saw in your videos can reduce the strain on the builder.
Builders have so many things on their plate, and having their homeowner pick a product that they’re already educated on saves them time and effort, especially when you consider how many decisions homeowners have to make on products they may not have normally heard of before.
Plus, there are so many manufacturers making insanely cool products that homeowners would love to have in their homes — if only they knew the products existed. Builder Brigade can only talk about so many products in a day.
Social Media as Consumer Research
Social media often gets a bad rap, but there’s untapped potential. When you see products go viral, that’s consumer research. That’s the voice of customers saying, “Hey, we really love this product and want more of it.” You can use that information to build out a product roadmap, and you reached the starting line without having to pay for external research.
(If you want more cheap research, check out Dennis’s homeowner checklist PDFs. They have all the questions homeowners have organized by product category.)
“And it's more real, and you have the comments to back it up because if your product sucks, they're going to let you know in the comments,” laughs Dennis. “Social media has its goods and bads — but a good product, nine times out of 10, is just going to do great in the comments. And then, it just ends up selling even more because everyone can agree [that] we don't have time to deal with crap right now. So is it good? Everyone agrees it's good. Boom, let's buy. Let's keep it moving.”
Who’s Winning With Homeowners?
The builders and installers who are winning with homeowners are being the most transparent and available. And the good news is that social media can be a great way to open the door to both transparency and availability.
People want to work with and buy from someone who is real, who will answer their questions and answer their phones. It’s all about communication.
Want Even More Insight?
Dennis leaves manufacturers with advice on one thing he would do to see success: “Short form content. I would go hard on 10 videos. Watch some other videos in your industry [and] see what they're doing, not necessarily replicate them, but see what works and what doesn't work. And I would lean towards showing behind the scenes.” People love to see how the sausage is made. It’s more fun than seeing a talking head just listing benefits.
To learn more about targeting homeowners, listen to the entire episode here. You can reach out to Dennis via email at [email protected].
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