March 23, 2020

Why Can’t More Building Materials Manufacturers Adopt a Needs-Based Marketing Approach?

Strategic Planning

By David Sladack, president of BLD Marketing

Products come and go. New products launch and often quickly get copied. Before long, these same products feel the price pressures to the point where they become commoditized. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Many products in the building materials category have a short window of opportunity to drive a product life cycle at its peak before competitive pressures force a rapid downward turn.

At BLD Marketing, we’ve seen countless clients over the years approach product development in an incredibly insular fashion. The product team – typically engineering-centric with a sprinkle of influence from the sales force – drives the new product pipeline. Often, this process is void of any real input from customers, a look at the macro external environment and trends, and a consideration toward what the market is actually seeking.

And this isn’t unique to BMMs. Ad agencies are guilty of it, too. While many of these agencies consult their clients to focus on markets and customer needs, many still market themselves by simply the services they offer - digital strategy, media planning/buying, content marketing, creative - versus the market expertise they should own. As a result, they also become a generalist, offering no real differentiation or sustainable competitive advantage.

At BLD Marketing, we are different. Long ago, we realized the competitive advantage that can be gained by specializing in a specific category and developing a deep expertise. After all, the services we offer are expected by any client who hires an ad agency to help them with marketing and advertising. What really sets us at apart at BLD is the exclusive focus we have in a particular market segment – building materials – and the talent, tools and insights we develop around that specialization.

We firmly believe that more building materials manufacturers should be taking a similar approach. Within a category, BMMs can and should prioritize their collective efforts throughout the organization – from product strategy and development to their go-to-market efforts and how they structure their sales force.

As an example, let’s use a BMM who manufactures exterior products. BMMs such as this are already typically selling projects into a variety of segments – education, healthcare, transportation, amusement, sports facilities. And many of these BMMs are building quite a portfolio around one or two of these segments – for example, utilizing a strong case study on an airport project to win a job at another.

So why not focus on being a specialist in transportation and creating a comprehensive marketing strategy – from product development, to market insights, to consultative service – demonstrating a specialized expertise in this particular segment? There is incredibly strong value in having this segment expertise. And you don’t have to focus on just one segment. The right kind of analysis that produces the most valuable data points can help a company prioritize those segments where both the BMM and the market demonstrate strong potential. Rank those segments and develop a strategy to focus on the top three or more, based upon the organization’s capability to execute an exclusive integrated strategy for each.

Let’s explore how this could come to life in the case of the airport example:

Product Development – The BMM designs an exterior product to solve specific problems and conditions within the transportation segment, such as a coating that resists damage from jet fuel.

Market Insights – The BMM studies and tracks building trends, regulations and best practices specific to the transportation industry for use in presentations to architects, developing thought leadership opportunities via published articles and speaking engagements.

Consultative Expertise – The BMM’s sales force is structured with specialists who become subject matter experts on one or two industries – like transportation. After all, the architect is already expecting this. According to the AIA's 2018 The Architect’s Journey to Specification, architects want a sales rep to be a trusted advisor. In fact, 97% expect strong product knowledge, 93% expect vast category knowledge, and 88% expect the rep to understand the competitive landscape.

Segmented Promotion – The BMM’s go-to-market strategy includes a dedicated marketing approach focused on this transportation expertise. The integrated campaign features hyper-targeted digital advertising; a custom landing page; thought-leadership publishing efforts via case studies, eMarketing, speaking engagements and articles; and targeted partnerships and sponsorships with media outlets and trade shows.

This market strategy is common in other industries, and we are seeing some BMMs who think this way. These early adopters know that the time for a full, customer-centric, needs-based marketing approach is long overdue in the building materials category.

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