While You Have Been Busy Advertising, the Marketing Landscape Has Changed

By Jack Leary


You may not have noticed, but while you have been marketing your LBM business the way you always have, running ads via print, radio, billboards, and maybe cable TV, our industry has been undergoing a transformation. Our marketing landscape has changed because the worlds of offline and online have collided. Advancements in technology, shifts in customer expectations, and the rise in digital commerce have contributed to the transformation. In this digitally connected world, your customers and prospects can shop anytime and anywhere for everything.

Customers First

Your customers have much higher expectations than they did even five years ago, and they expect LBM dealers to operate the way they do—in real time. Customers can react quickly to your LBM business—positively or negatively—through online, mobile, or social channels, putting them clearly in control of how they interact with your business. Today’s customers are no longer just a postal or email address. They are now a cookie ID, mobile number, IP address, Facebook account, Twitter handle, or a house account number. As a result, every decision you make must be based around the customer. Understanding how and when they want to be communicated with, what types of offers they want to receive from you, and via which channels are keys to successful marketing today.

By the way, when I say offers, I don’t mean discounts! I mean things your customers will consider valuable. I have conducted and reviewed primary research studies for many companies and leading brands and have observed that unless someone is buying a pure commodity, price is never the No. 1 factor in their decision process and typically number three or four in the purchase hierarchy.

The new path to purchase is not linear. It reflects how the customer is influenced and motivated by numerous influencers, as well as how the customer uses digital tools in a more interactive way for research, purchase, and sharing of information, including their experiences.

Your Customers and E-Commerce

Your customers are going online more than you might think to look for information on hardware, home improvement, or building material products, and they are buying online too! According to a recent study conducted by the Farnsworth Group, 71% of pros use the internet at least twice a week to research LBM products, with 31% using it daily. Fifty-six percent of the pros surveyed are using the internet to purchase hardware, home improvement, or building materials at least once a week. As a result, your business needs to understand the various customer touch points that exist and that they are on 24/7 with multiple devices, seeking information and purchasing via multiple channels. Can your business tie together interactions, from online, to in-yard or store, to mobile? It is more important than ever in order to remain competitive!

Marketing Has Gotten More Complex

We have all heard the story about doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Successful marketing can’t be accomplished today by using your grandfather’s old marketing tactics. The traditional marketing funnel is now obsolete. It was developed when your customers were passive and received ads and messages while sitting on the couch, and they could be moved over time from awareness, to consideration, to purchase. Now they receive messages on their phone or tablet while sitting in their truck, on the jobsite, or driving near a competitor. That means there is a lot more for you to consider in your marketing planning.

The marketing funnel still exists, and as marketers you still need to move a customer through the various stages of the path to purchase, you just have to do it on their terms. If you think all of this has made marketing more complex, you are right! Advances in technology have caused savvy LBM marketers to shift from a “push to a pull” approach. This means you should consider all options from a precision targeting standpoint to promote your business.

So as LBM marketers, you need to recognize that there are new marketing requirements that pertain to today’s more complex marketing environment.

It’s not just about the channel though; it’s about how you are engaging customers and how they want to buy from you. In order to create an end-to-end, seamless experience for your customers and prospects, you need to understand all of the potential interactions along the path to purchase. To accomplish this, complete customer information is essential, because it enables an all-inclusive view of customers and their interactions.

Using Customer Data

So how well do you really know your customer? Not all customers have the same needs, wants, and behaviors. Leveraging your customer data and doing some analysis is not optional in marketing anymore. It is foundational to understanding them and developing a well-grounded and actionable marketing plan, as well as to remain competitive.

If you pay attention to it, data will help you make better marketing decisions, and by better I mean things that are measurable. Data can help answer questions like:

          What makes your “best” customer unique from an average customer?

          In which segments should you be investing more? Less?

          What types of information do your customers want to see from you…be it product, technique, code changes, info about your company and changes within, etc.?

          How do they want you to communicate with them? Via which channels?

          How often do they want to receive communications from you? Via which device? 

          Which touch points will be the most effective in reaching and engaging with your customers?

Do you have the tools you need to help answer these types of questions? While effective marketing in general may have gotten more complex, answering these types of questions for your business is really not.

In order to effectively market to your customers and targets, you need to understand all of the potential interactions along the path to purchase, as well as the financial impact of each interaction. That means you can’t look at just one channel, you need to look at them all. But keep in mind, not all interactions are meaningful!

Today’s LBM marketers need to be concerned with the interaction between the business and the marketplace. This involves having a well-defined strategy to balance the goals of the business with the expectations of your customers. If this seems like a daunting task, there are many third-party service providers that can help. If you aren’t sure where to begin, here are some things to consider as part of your marketing efforts:

          Have you defined and quantified your marketing business goals?

          Do company tools help to understand the customer and deliver the expected level of customer satisfaction and engagement?

          Do you have a data collection strategy?

          Can you attribute the majority of transactions to a customer record?

          Do you have a customer segmentation?

          Are you getting actionable insights from your data?

          Can you give salespeople a 360-degree view of the customer?

          Can you track customers from first interaction all the way through the entire customer lifecycle?

          How do your customers interact with the business?

          What channels do they use? Would they use?

          Do you have a customer feedback loop? Is someone listening?

          Do you know your customer preferences? What types of offers do they want from you?

          How are you relevant to your customers?

          Are you able to tailor offers to individuals or your best customers?

          Can you personalize the experience based on a customer profile?

          What metrics have you established to measure the ROI of your marketing efforts?

          What new marketing strategies can you develop based on the ROI goals of the business?

This list is not all inclusive, but it can help you get started. Nurturing a customer relationship requires that you truly pay attention to what, and how, your customers respond to your efforts. You can do that by creating effective programs that will keep your loyal customers interested in what and how you are marketing to them.

This article was written by Jack Leary Sr. vice president & partner at Impact 180 Consulting Group. Feel free to contact Jack at leary.jack@impact180group.com