If you are a contractor who would prefer to hire someone for your marketing, you might be best served by becoming an independent building dealer. Companies like Wick Buildings and Lester Building Systems have extensive tools designed just for you, and they provide ample opportunities for their partners (dealers/builders) to become well versed in what is available.
Even if you aren’t one of their partners, however, you can probably learn a thing or two from discovering what they find important.
“Frankly, most of our dealers do not have time to market their business,” said Stephanie Beste, brand manager for Lester Building Systems. “They’re busy from sun up to sundown. We provide value because we can do a lot of marketing for them through our national advertising and our online presence. We also provide personalized marketing consulting free of charge to them. We help them focus on what will bring them the best bang for their buck.”
This same kind of assistance is available at Wick Buildings, where Labecca Schott, marketing associate, noted: “A lot of the new builders coming on know that they need [marketing assistance], they need direction, and they look for assistance.”
Wick Buildings and Lester Building Systems conduct training sessions several times a year and part of that training includes marketing. “New dealers try to attend the first training session after they have signed up to become a dealer,” said Beste. “The training is four days long and they learn our pricing software, about our products, how we do business, and about our marketing programs.”
Each dealer/builder also has an area manager assigned to them who can help with the marketing process.
The services available by dealer/builder networks like Wick Buildings and Lester Building Systems run the gamut. If you plan to set up at a trade show, they can provide display boards, banner stands, literature and samples. There may or may not be costs attached, but if so, they are typically at-cost or discounted.
For newspaper or magazine advertising, the companies provide templates where you simply add your contact information, or they can assist with more personalized design.
Today, marketing is more complex with the addition of online options. Websites in particular are considered a must-have and operating under the umbrella of a larger company can help lift some of the burden by integrating their larger message with your local message. “This is likely the most valuable tool for our dealers because they don’t have the time, resources or knowledge to keep a website up to date. Our website is where we educate the consumer before they are ready to speak to a local dealer,” said Beste.
Wick Buildings works with a professional web hosting service and offers its builders six templated websites that can be customized. These sites then link back to the Wick website which offers visitors special planning tools that would otherwise be too expensive for most independent builders to maintain.
Recognizing the importance of social media, Wick Buildings has made a concerted effort to include it in its marketing efforts. “We’ve put a lot of time and effort into social media the past two years,” Schott noted. “We’ve been doing a lot of research and trying to help and educate our builders not to just marketing but the content you put out on social media and getting their value and investment out of it.”
In one particular case, a Wick builder posted project photos on Facebook that have been seen so far by 2.5 million Facebook members.
Just having someone guide you towards the right practice is helpful. Lester Building Systems and Wick Buildings encourages its dealers/builders to post construction photos on their social media sites. “Customers love seeing construction photos so that they know what to expect, and of course they love seeing the finished product! Customers dream about their building for years before they build,” said Beste. “Customers want to do business with people they know, like and trust. Social media is a way for customers to get to know us before they buy.”
You can also advertise on social media sites like Facebook, but Schott is quick to point out that it has to be done with special care. “You can spend a lot of dollars on Facebook, but where is the threshold, where do you get the engagement?” Schott and Bret Buelo, marketing manager at Wick Buildings, have researched the options vigorously for their builders. “We have switched our strategy to posting quality content, and we’ve seen an increase in overall reach with our Facebook page,” Schott said. “That information is always shared with our builders.”
One unique opportunity available at Wick Buildings is something called co-op advertising. It allows builders to share some of the actual cost of advertising.
”When a builder first comes onboard, they get a set dollar amount of co-op dollars. If they use their co-op dollars within the first six months, we will give them an additional co-op dollar allowance and extend that co-op builder discount for another six months,” Schott explained.
After their first year’s set dollar allotment, builders are given an amount based on their annual sales. “So our builders who have a million dollars a year in sales get more co-op dollars than someone who has $200,000 in sales,” Schott said.
Co-op dollars can be used with any type of marketing or advertising: newspapers, magazines, Yellow Pages, radio ads, shows and fairs, even online advertising. Said Schott: “Our hope behind that is our builders will see the value of marketing and advertising.” RB