Building Materials Channel Marketing — a review

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Mark Mitchell with his book

channelpath businessI really enjoyed Mark Mitchell‘s Building Materials Channel Marketing book. His point: If you are a building materials or technology manufacturer, you need to think carefully and strategize about the distribution channel — the individuals who eventually purchase your product or system are likely to be influenced by others along the way — and you really need to know how to market your business through the appropriate distribution channel(s).

For example builders may purchase through distributors, consumers and tradespeople might get their supplies at big box stores, architects can specify (or not) your product, and trade contractors often determine which manufacturer to recommend (this is especially apparent, for example, in roofing). Mitchell shows there is often a great divergence between knowledge and power — the ultimate purchaser (who really makes the final decision about which material or technology to apply) often has the least knowledge about it.

channel marketing bookThis environment creates opportunities for some really effective (and inexpensive) marketing, and some really big money wasting opportunities. If you are not careful, you can be pressured (say by big box retailers) into discounting to the extent you cannot make a fair return, or you can waste a small fortune on trade shows which don’t truly reach the people you need to reach — and these losses can be magnified by poor trade show selection or management.

Here is one gem.  First, Mitchell takes a shot at money-wasting building material trade shows.

For the most part, building material trade shows are becoming less and less effective every year. Look around at many trade shows, and you’ll see the shortage of customers walking the show floor. At some shows it seems as if there are more exhibitors checking out the competition than attendees.

He suggests that exhibitors continue to pour money into these events, without truly assessing their value because

  • We’ve always been there
  • The competition will be there
  • What will it look like if we don’t attend

“These are all pretty lame reasons to spend such a large amount of marketing budget,” he writes.

Then, in the next chapter, Mitchell shows us how to “measure the immeasurable” and determine if the trade show investment is really worth the money.

In this situation, the question is how much business can you attribute from the trade show, especially when materials are sold through the channel and you might not actually see the actual purchaser.

Mitchell provides a model.

First, you set specific objectives, which includes defining your most likely influential prospects, and then marketing directly to them to attend the booth. Follow-up is essential.

At the end of six months, or your deadline, tally the results. You will need to talk to the customers, confirm that they are using your product and ask them how many jobs they do per month or year. Almost every building material has an average amount of product that is used per project. Use that average number of units times the total annual volume and convert it to dollars. You can now measure the financial gain against the cost of the show. Of course, this is just a component of your overall sales performance, but it enables you to start to measure the results of those big trade show costs.

Mitchell reminds us that this industry is complex, diverse, and multi-faceted. The good news is this allows thoughtful marketers to gain significant advantages without blowing the wad on expensive methodologies or media. (And, yes, trade publishers such as us can be relevant in the channel marketing process — the key is to understand how to work with publishers to achieve the best results; which we achieve by delivering integrated strategies.)

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