May 9, 2022

Pour the Foundation First: A Strategic Plan for the Brand

Strategic Planning

Best Practices for Building Products Manufacturers

When construction crews set out to build any kind of building – a massive office tower, a new school, a church, or a sprawling factory – they start by pouring the foundation.

The same rule should apply to your building products brand when you begin developing a marketing plan.

It requires introspection, research, and the development of specific insights and perspectives to guide your brand’s efforts as it engages prospects to win new business.

BLD Marketing recently sat down with its president, Dave Sladack, for an inside look at the agency’s strategic planning process, what is required, and why it works.

QUESTION: BLD’s approach to strategic planning for a building materials brand starts with an exercise called audience task mapping. What is it, and why is it critical?

ANSWER: Any strategic marketing plan must start with a solid understanding of your target audiences and what will resonate with them. Our audience task map exercise drives key stakeholders within the company to take a deep dive into specific target audiences.

We moderate a workshop that brings cross-functional teams together to gather insight. This can be everyone from C-suite executives to sales and marketing professionals, engineers, product managers, and customer service specialists. It’s important to get this broader perspective on audience needs, their pain points, the barriers they face, and more.

At the conclusion of this session, we take all the feedback we’ve gathered, distill it, and provide our clients with a completed task map that crystallizes the thoughts and perceptions of our target audience. This completed task map begins to demonstrate to the client’s brand what it needs to do to turn prospects into customers – from their current attitudes and behaviors to how we seek to transform both and the task before the brand to drive conversion.

QUESTION: BLD also creates target personas as part of the audience qualification exercise. What are these target personas, and why are they valuable? 

ANSWER: BLD Marketing’s deep experience in the building and construction space has enabled us to craft and perfect detailed personas of construction stakeholders – everyone from architects and designers to contractors, developers, remodelers, specifiers, building owners, engineers, and more. These are valuable because they put a face to our target audience.

The personas look at demographics, media consumption habits, pain points, and other data that can inform a solid marketing plan. This is all drawn from industry research. 

QUESTION: The next exercise in the planning process is something BLD calls mapping the customer journey. How does that work?

ANSWER: We need to map out the ideal journey we seek for prospects to take so that we can transform them into customers. To do this, we focus on a specific target audience and analyze each step of the journey, considering what the customer is doing, thinking, and feeling while in that stage, while also describing pain points they may be experiencing. Further, we are mapping out the best ways the brand can interact with the customer at each stage. The end result is a stage-by-stage breakdown for how we can establish a desirable customer journey beginning with the point when a customer recognizes a need, all the way through the purchase and/or specification experience. All of this is supported by research and data points.

Customer journey mapping is also critical when it comes to a brand’s digital experience. Construction stakeholders of all kinds begin their buying journey online, and they dictate the terms of that journey given that it is a self-guided tour. What journey do we want them to take when it comes to experiencing our client’s brand online? How are we driving prospects to the digital hub we will create? What do we want them to do when they get to that hub? How are we educating and engaging them in a meaningful way? What actions do we want them to take? How can we best measure that activity? This helps us map out the marketing activity that will be necessary to create the optimal digital journey and ensure the brand’s digital marketing ecosystem is a rich experience for the customer. 

QUESTION: All of this leads to something BLD likes to call message laddering. How does that work, and how does it help articulate a brand’s voice?

ANSWER: This exercise takes all the work we’ve already done and begins to weave it into a solid, discernible narrative for the brand complete with message cues and value propositions that will resonate with our target audiences.

We begin with positioning statement and then apply it to various audiences. We then determine the value proposition for each audience, considering each audience’s individual needs. While it is critical to represent the brand in a consistent way across audiences, we need to ensure we’re customizing the message to address a particular audience’s pain points.

From there, we move into what’s called benefit laddering. We identify the attributes that our client brand brings to the table, and then we ask a series of questions. What is the benefit of that attribute? What’s the emotional byproduct of that brand attribute? We then crystallize what our client’s product or service does, what that provides to the target audience, and why that is important or relevant to that same audience.

This lays the groundwork for a formal creative brief that will guide the development of a creative campaign and all the assets that come with it.

QUESTION: BLD then takes the prospect through something the agency calls a strategic decision map.

ANSWER: This “plan on a page” enables us to assist a building products brand in looking comprehensively at how they should deploy their resources to drive results for their marketing plan. We take a specific audience, and we map out the different stages of engagement that are necessary to drive business – from awareness, to education, to conviction, and to action. What are the desired actions at each stage? What marketing plan elements are necessary to drive the right level of activity, and how will we measure success? We then assign an investment percentage to each stage, ensuring that we collectively understand the road map we’ve created, our ultimate destination, and how we will get there.

QUESTION: Why is it so important take these multiple steps in the planning process? How does it help to generate success for a brand?

ANSWER: The rule on a construction site also applies when building a brand: “Measure twice, cut once.”

The strategic planning process we’ve developed here at BLD Marketing does require time and investment, but it is well worth it. Both the agency and our clients come out of the process with a clear understanding of the brand’s value proposition and differentiators, its target audiences and their key attributes, and how we can drive awareness, engagement, and conversion with prospects. That helps a brand better understand itself. It also enables us to develop and deliver a measurable marketing program that is engineered to generate success and ultimately drive business.   

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