It's the constant bugaboo of modern life: Paradigm shifts seem to occur with regularity and it's hard to adjust quickly enough to be in the forefront of change. For the building products market, it's becoming clear that the old ways of marketing just won't cut it anymore. Where sellers used to provide the road signs for buyers to follow, it's now the buyers who are posting the signs.
A more informed customer base is, essentially, dictating the direction for manufacturers, suppliers, dealers and builders. Marketing efforts all along the chain must adapt to reflect that change. Consider the following facts:
- A 2013 study confirmed that 81% of American consumers research online before buying, even if they then purchase from a local store.
- The percentage was up 20% from the previous year, and the trend appears solid for the future.
- The growth of technology has made it more difficult to pinpoint the buyer for a specific product.
- Global companies and Green concepts will not disappear -- in fact, their impact on the lumber and building market will, if anything, have an even greater effect on future buying habits.
- If you're not fluent in social-media-speak, resolve to learn the language. Now. Or get help.
It does not matter, actually, where on the chain you are; but if you aren't aware of important trends or aren't currently speaking directly to the end user -- to the homeowner or prospective buyer -- you are missing out on some important sales traction.
Consider the following scenario. A young couple is interested in building their first home. They want it to be energy-efficient, attractive, affordable, stylish and well-constructed. You can bet that, before they ever sit down with a builder, they will have researched below-grade insulation, plumbing pipe specifications, the VOC ratings of various building materials, and the relative merits of a wide range of options. They will most likely be in a position to tell their builder at least some of the specific products and features they want in that new home or addition. In short, they will do their homework before signing the contract.
You get the point. Or do you?
Gone are the days when a builder could offer three quality options to a client and hope for a quick choice. Also disappearing quickly are the days when a dealer or retailer can rely on specific, familiar brands. Today, it's all about choice and customizing.
This is a new road, and the driver is not only going in the opposite direction, but is stepping on the accelerator. In order to be relevant, learn to love the internet. Show the end buyer pictures of your products on your Facebook posts. Learn to tweet with the best of them. Embrace blogging. Update your website to not only be more attractive, but to provide more information. If none of that is your bailiwick, hire an expert.
Strut your stuff, virtually as well as in the showroom. By embracing this new paradigm, you'll be there at the finish line to see the checkered flag.