Grow sales by creating a preference for your building or architectural product

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There are several ways for manufacturers of building materials and products to grow sales. One of the easiest options is to create a product preference among architects, designers, contractors and in some cases, homeowners.

Creating a preference or building desire starts with taking a look at every touch point along the specification journey and leveraging each one to create an authentic relationship.

Relationships create preference.

Like any relationship, it’s personal. Authentic relationships are based on each party being equally invested and speaking frankly to one another. Say “goodbye” to being a faceless corporation and “hello” to building a personal customer experience. Deeper, richer and more meaningful—authenticity goes beyond sales reps, individual products or lines, and even pricing. It creates a personal preference—something that a specifier will defend.

Preference is a good thing. When a specifier engages in an emotional relationship — he or she has seen beyond the building products to the company at large. Specifiers will defend the products that they have a preference for. They will not be moved by cheaper substitutes or faster delivery times. Products may come and products may go, but a relationship will endure the change.

The first step to creating a preference is to understand your customer.

Most of us are so familiar with our customers that we have built a business based on assumptions. It is only when we take the time to understand the deeper motivations of the people we serve that we can make rich, meaningful connections. 

Sales reps may know that a father is anxious to turn his business over to his son or that a small firm is struggling to find skilled labor. They may know that an architect is struggling to make partner at their firm. That is how intimate relationships are built. What do you know about your customers?

Look at your marketing plan through the eyes of the customer profile.

If you want to build product or category preference, as a company you must be willing to look at each customer touch point and determine if it is effectively creating a relationship. Take a good look at your marketing plan and messaging to determine if you are connecting with or merely selling to your customers. Ask yourself, “If I am handing my business over to my son, would these messages be meaningful to me?”

Are all of your marketing materials designed to build a relationship?

It is essential that any building material or product company has a website that is generating leads, a sales team that can drive specifications and an active social media presence. It is equally important to assess them from an emotional level. Are they telling a richer story beyond product offering? As millennials age into decision-maker positions, it is critical that companies look beyond marketing automation to try and define the types of relationships they are trying to develop.

That’s not to say that marketing has to be serious to be meaningful. Check out how an industry giant used social media to become a champion for contractors.

GAF is North America’s largest roofing manufacturer. The company offers so many products that its website is closer to a never-ending bullet point list than an actual company experience. One of the most powerful tactics GAF has used to connect and create a deeply authentic customer experience is its Facebook page. Check this out,

GAF has an astounding 282,541 likes. That’s 100 times more engagement than most roofing companies.

GAF has succeeded where its competitors haven’t by creating a personal relationship with its contractors.  One way it has achieved this is by running a contest that encourages contractors to use the hashtag #ViewFromTheRoof when they upload their view to Instagram. This brilliant idea works on so many levels. It makes contractors feel that what they do is important. It shines a spotlight on their profession in a respectful and meaningful way. And, it builds a community linking roofers from across the country. Plus, it really is pretty badass—the views are AMAZING! All of this makes for a deeply meaningful experience for the customers.

Social media is only one touch point in a customer relationship. Too often, companies use it to promote their products rather than championing their customers. GAF decided to do something different, authentic and engaging. If you were a contractor, whose roofing products would you recommend to your clients?

Creating a preference for design.

Heath Ceramics is a California-based ceramics company that makes beautiful tiles among other things. With a focus on all things being well designed, the company has turned a small ceramics business into a lifestyle brand. 

It’s been able to do this because the company knows its customers very well. Interior designers and architects specify products that speak its language. Heath Ceramics understands what architects and designers want and goes beyond its own product offerings to creating a lifestyle company. It does this by partnering with other like-minded companies to bring a one-of-a-kind product offering to designers.

Saying the company has built a cult-like following is an understatement. You can find its products in hotels, restaurants, museums and homes worldwide. It even won the coveted Cooper Hewitt's National Design Award in 2015. 

What makes Heath Ceramics so successful?

Specifiers love companies that share their stories and live their missions.

Unlike most company histories I read about, Heath Ceramics not only tells its story to specifiers, it lives it. 

The Story of Heath

Since its founding in 1948, Heath's been owned by two families, both driven by design, and sharing a commitment to handcrafted work and a determination to question the status quo.

Heath Ceramics has a mission and invites its specifiers to become a part of it—and does so with passion and excitement.

Every company can find a unique way to forge a relationship with its specifiers, what’s yours?

The best way to create product preference by specifiers is to build a deeper emotional relationship with them. Take a look at all of your communication materials. Can you clearly define your company:

  • targets?
  • voice?
  • tone?
  • messaging?
  • visual language?

Audit your communications and look for opportunities to create an authentic relationship. You will be rewarded with not only more specifications, but a customer base that is willing to defend them.