Green Products, SEO, BIM and More: Takeaways from Whizard Summit

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Twice a year, building material sales and marketing strategy guru Mark Mitchell hosts the Whizard Summit, a two-day intensive in Boulder Colorado. For professionals in this industry, there is no other conference in the world like it. Mark hand picks experts to present actionable sales and marketing strategies, leveraging the latest industry tools and trends and it’s a great opportunity to network and share ideas among attendees who are faced with similar challenges. The Summit closes with a hot seat session where the panel of experts weighs in on each of the attendees individual marketing efforts. The ground rules of the Summit limit one company per category—so while you may learn from your peers, you won’t have a competitor in the room. It also happens to be a good bit of fun.

Every conference we learn something new, although I have to say the Summit in April was one of my favorites. Here are my key takeaways worth remembering:

  1. Stop selling “green”

    Words matter so much when we are trying to sell our value. Are you still referring to your environmentally-friendly products as “green”? The term has been around for more than a decade, and sadly brings a host of negative connotations. We’ve come to associate green products with high cost, questionable durability, and bland aesthetics. As the industry shifted to “sustainability” and product lines expanded to include a broader range of colors and finishes some of that perception has waned. But sustainability falls short of the current trend which are products that are both good for the earth and good for our health.

    The term biophilia is the theory that humans are drawn to other forms of life in nature. Biophilic design “seeks to connect our inherent need to affiliate with nature in the modern built environment.” It is the integration of natural elements and products that create health for the individual, building or planet.

    Expert advice: position your marketing to connect with your customers by focusing on health. For example, which lunch-and-learn topic would draw the biggest crowd—Recycled Products Make Good Sense or The Recycling Crisis—How the Built Environment Can Reduce the Damage It Has Done?

  2. Make life harder for your competition

    While you’re crossing out the term “green” from your industry dictionary, take an ax to the term “sales funnel” too. Last year, the smart folks at Hubspot killed the funnel and introduced us all to the “flywheel”. The rational boils down to the fact that the inherently linear nature of the sales funnel model means each sale is a new effort and there’s no forward movement to generate the next lead. By contrast, the flywheel represents the circle of influence model where companies take a holistic look at the prospect's journey, determine the pain points, and create initiatives to solve their problems. The flywheel creates deeply entrenched repeat customers.

    Expert advice: it’s almost impossible for your competition to steal a deeply entrenched customer.

  3. Your worst sales rep might be your website

    Does your website pass the grunt test? If I showed the homepage to my mom would she know what you are selling and why it matters? Most building material companies sell features instead of benefits, creating a website that forces their sales reps to pick up the slack. Websites that lack gated content and calls to actions miss out on opportunities to convert website visitors to true prospects.

    Expert advice: Evaluate your site with 3 criteria: how do we tell our story, how can we grow traffic and finally, what do we need to convert traffic to leads.

  4. Use BIM to eliminate the risk of “Or Equal”

    Building Information Modeling (BIM) is a digital process to design, construct and maintain buildings. Through BIM, the building’s owner has a digital blueprint that includes the make, model and location of every fixture and material in it. Revit is the most widely-used software to create these models. Revit allows specifiers to place your product’s unique renderings into design drawings, making it less likely they will notate “or equal” in their plans. Because the business case for BIM is so strong, it is quickly becoming a mandatory process by many state agencies.

    Expert advice: If you want a head start on your competition, get a BIM strategy. Revit has donated its software to all schools making sure every graduate is BIM proficient. This isn’t a trend that is going away.

  5. If it isn’t in your CRM, it doesn’t exist

    All of those leads living in a sales rep’s inbox might as well not exist, because when that rep leaves, potentially thousands of relationships pick up and leave with them. Ouch. Two guiding principles for CRM success are that it is the management mindset that drives adoption and data quality are everything. Without these, any CRM system is confusing and unreliable.

    Expert advice: CRM protocols should evolve over time. When you first set it up, you may not truly understand the data points your company needs to make it successful. A valuable CRM system is nurtured and finessed as it grows.

  6. Specifiers spend 40% of their day looking for products

    If you want to grow sales, you have to understand who your specifiers are and what’s changing in how they find, select and defend your products. Building material companies lose sales because they do not understand how to position themselves as experts whose products solve problems. Connecting with specifiers is a 360° experience from online, to the materials library with trade shows and lunch and learns in between.

    Expert advice: From Material Bank to Amazon, the specification journey is being disrupted. Millennials are aging into positions of power and they find products in a different way from their predecessors.

  7. SEO outperforms paid search by 2X and social media by 4X

    Every business aims to have a website which prospective customers easily and organically find in search. Search engines like Google offer a free and sustainable source of traffic. The process to enhance your website for this goal is called Search Engine Optimization. SEO aims to improve your website’s page ranking to reduce the cost per lead and increase ROI.

    A lead generating website is one that has a user experience that leverages Google's algorithms. That means you want to design your site so your content—you know, the stuff that your customers find valuable enough to download—works to improve your SEO.

    Expert advice: Create content that someone would actually pay for. Once you’ve spent the time on the webinar or podcast, have a link to the full transcript. Google loves all of that keyword rich unique content and will reward you with a higher ranking.

  8. Is your distribution strategy disruptor-proof?

    If you want to know what killed Blockbuster, look at Netflix. Online sales can’t be stopped. The customer desire for easy distribution drives online sales in every industry. At the moment, 10% of building materials and architectural products are sold online. There is no doubt that this will continue to grow.

    One approach is to sell through a channel with an existing customer base. The benefits of selling with partners like Amazon include increasing your product’s brand awareness; “free” market research data in the form of reviews and analytics; and competitive advantage if you are the first in your category.

    Expert advice: Think about how the Amazon experience can translate to other distribution models. Distributors can provide Amazon-like lockers allowing customers to place an order in the evening and receive a one-time code where they can pick up materials from a convenient spot that’s accessible 24-hours.


And finally, a big shout out to all my fellow speakers from Whizard Strategy, CaraGreen, Venveo, Lead Generation Experts, Market ThriveBIMSmithThe Hunley Group, and Lightbox Strategy at the Summit this year. If you missed it, book your spot for the next Summit before your competitor does. One of the reasons this intensive is so powerful is that with a limited number of attendees—you truly have access to all the experts in the room.


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A Virtual Lunch and Learn:

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SUSAN MILNE

 

If you have a question that hasn’t been answered or would like find out more about how Epiphany can help you get specified, give me a call: 804.377.0106.