Selling your Building Materials in the Digital Age: Virtual 'homework'

by Isaac Oswalt on January 13, 2016


The lumber and building market is often slow to change with the times.  It seems that so many business owners are still living by the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”   Meanwhile, many building materials suppliers are complaining about diminishing profits, increasing overhead, and a “poor economy.”  Times have changed, and suppliers of building products can no longer afford to keep using outdated marketing practices that fail to produce consistent results.

Virtual Homework

Every new construction or renovation project is different.  In decades past, the selections of materials were usually directed by the lead architect, interior designer, or project manager.  These professional contractors, rather than the property owners themselves, were the ones actually performing the research or the “homework.”  Lists of possibly three to six options for each material were usually pre-selected based on budgeting constraints, client preferences, and long-standing professional relationships with reputable building industry suppliers. 

Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.  Thanks to the Internet, new trends in building sales and marketing are now dominating.  Clients are no longer held hostage by the preferences of the building products market chosen by their contractors.  Property owners can now go online and conduct the necessary research themselves with ease. 

Sites like and Pinterest offer an overwhelming amount of ideas with just a few clicks of a mouse.  And even more importantly, these sites include multiple images of the building materials used in real-world situations.  In many cases, the consumer is even doing the virtual homework for selecting their materials and finishes well in advance of hiring the contractor, architect, or interior designer.

Be the Teacher

Many individual supply companies in the building industry are finding themselves at a significant crossroads, whether they realize it or not.  While the upper management often consists of an older generation of pre-Internet-age employees, a large portion of their targeted demographic began using computers almost from birth. Too many industry leaders fear change.  As a result, they are slow to transition to digital marketing and social media as more effective ways to enhance their company reputation and increase brand name visibility.

These are just a few simple ways for suppliers to market their businesses online.  These sites are also very image-friendly, allowing business owners to use pictures to “sell” their materials rather than focusing on the traditional marketing language of the past.  Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, each of these options is essentially cost-free, too.  All that it takes is a few man-hours per week rather than a huge financial investment. 

Change or Die

For suppliers of building materials who want to remain competitive while simultaneously striving to be the leading supplier in the area, the transition into digital marketing is critical.  The old rules of “paying your dues” no longer applies as the best method of gaining a significant and loyal customer base.  If your company does not have a strong online presence, it simply doesn’t exist in the eyes of the majority of consumers in the digital age.  Today’s generation of high-spending property owners is now making the lion’s share of the decisions when choosing their building materials.  And this generation is definitely doing their virtual homework as a result.


About Us 21 Handshake


Isaac Oswalt

Owner of 21 Handshake, a strategic marketing company, driven to grow relationship-driven businesses. Futurist in nature, Isaac displays a deep desire to preserve the human element in today's business. Trust being the ultimate currency, his clients appreciate that "new and stronger handshakes" is a success metric in their businesses.

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