Building Materials B2B Marketing & B2C Marketing’s Funny Relationship
In building materials B2B marketing and B2C marketing, two different persona audiences are attracted to products in the same way, but buy them completely differently. So let’s take a look at the situations and pain points each has while diving into some tactical approaches that can be implemented to support them in their buying journeys.
After a rather mind-numbing 35-minute commute on the green line into downtown Chicago, Archie settles in at his desk at Arnett Architecture. Archie is a Junior Architect at the firm and amidst the usual design huddles and consultant meetings, his biggest task for the week is to research and recommend interior finishings to the team for a project he’s part of the team for. This is the first high-profile project he’s been assigned to since joining the firm 14 months ago. In his mind, this is the first opportunity he’s had to make a meaningful impact on the visual aesthetic and physical experience that hundreds of thousands of people will see for this 100 room residential project that overlooks the riverwalk.
Today he’s starting with finding a few of the best suited interior flooring products he thinks match the lead architects vision for the building. These floors will be used in every unit of the 25 story building and Archie is working with a $2 million dollar budget. Archie is constantly reading online and print magazines, watching video case studies of famous projects, and even attended the international builders show this past winter. He’s looking to make a statement for the building and for himself as an architect. He’ll start by creating a list of products he thinks offer the best look to meet the vision of the project, then qualify them by durability, installation type and cost to narrow them down to three final options. He’ll pitch one option as his preferred recommendation, but show his work by having the information for the other two as well. After all of that, he’ll have to wait 18 more months to see his choice implemented.
Hannah just purchased her second home and immediately felt the excitement of closing the deal transition into nervousness thinking about how much work needs to be done on the house. She’s already done her research on the most reputable contractors in town and will be reaching out to get one scheduled, but in the meantime she needs to figure out what exactly she wants them to do.
Her number one priority is to get the floors replaced. The house is covered in shoddy carpet and when she pulled up the edge of it, there was nothing but padding and plywood above the subfloor. She has around a $15,000 budget to get new flooring installed in the house. She’s spent enough time watching HGTV and DIY networks to know what’s in, what’s out, and what’s timeless so that she doesn’t throw her money into a fad. Her research starts online with Google image searches and switches to social media to see what others are posting on Instagram, Houzz, and Pinterest. She definitely gets a feel for the style she’s going for and in some cases was even able to locate the product name and estimated price per square foot. She’ll use this information later on as she talks with the contractors so they can provide her quotes. Once she signs with a contractor, she’s hoping to have the renovations completed in a couple weeks.
It’s incredible that in the building materials manufacturing industry, there can be two wildly different audiences that are both engaged and attracted to the product in the same way, but buy in completely different ways. In the stories above, Archie and Hannah both started their buyers journeys with research based on aesthetics. While their initial research criteria was the same, the channels that they chose to perform that research in were very different. This is the first factor that will separate their consideration paths. After research, the journey shifts drastically as Archie turns to technical specifications and installation features while Hannah considers the availability and cost. Lastly, once landing on the desired product, Archie will expect to see the materials purchased within the next year or so and Hannah will make an order through her contractor in the next month or two.
There’s long been a belief that in business-to-business (B2B) product manufacturing sales, features and value are the main driving factors to a sale. That in the end, the business connections you develop in your network paired with the right value proposition can win any contract. In the building materials space, there is one x-factor for many of these materials that clashes with this belief and that’s visual aesthetic. You see, architecture, construction and interior design are typically initially judged by their look and feel. To that end, many of the professional buyers in this industry are designers who see their work as an inspired art form and each material sourced for a project contributes to a beautiful end result. With that, these professional audiences actually research quite similarly to the way a business-to-consumer (B2C) home owner audience would research starting with aesthetics first.
The biggest difference in Archie and Hannah’s buyers journeys will be the consideration phase. This is where the typical types of B2B informative elements can be supportive, rather than being the first touch point. Now that Archie believes the product is beautiful and could be an incredible piece of the design, he needs to be able to understand how the product can spec into his project. Alternatively, at this point, Hannah will be closer to making a purchase simply based on availability and costs. Archie will dive deeper into installation methods, profile shape, durability, LEED qualifications, cost and value. He will likely need material samples to present with his recommendation. He’ll also look to pull this information into his specs and may want access to technical files like BIM files. These are the types of buyers journey interactions that happens during a 6-10 month timeline in the B2B space. A lot of consideration, vetting, and approval needs to happen to secure a large scale order.
In general, a common missed opportunity in the B2B manufacturing space is a unified corporate brand and marketing strategy. In an aesthetically driven industry, the need for beautiful design extends beyond the product itself, all the way up through campaigns and corporate presentation. High quality products and a professional presentation give the buyer the confidence to become loyal to a brand they are proud to claim association with. This becomes difficult if the brand is underrepresented online, in print, or in the industry and has outdated or somewhat random brand presentation. In contrast, a B2C brand simply cannot get away with this as they need to be in front of their consumer audiences regularly and make a great impression every time. With B2B and B2C audiences in the building materials space like Archie and Hannah each gravitating towards aesthetically pleasing, high quality brands, why wouldn’t a B2B company follow the lead that B2C brands have established? Typically this is due to the industry as a whole simply being an older industry with lots of strong networked ties driving existing business, but when that network overturns and a new generation takes over or a disruptor enters the market, nothing will be left for new business to bridge the gap.
We can take away a few important tactics from these observations that should be considered when developing strategic marketing for the building materials industry. First, B2B and B2C audiences can both be attracted into the funnel through aesthetic first creative campaigns. Second, ensure that the B2B audiences have enough technical information at their fingertips to satisfy the need for detailed specifications. Lastly, a strong brand presentation backs up a quality product by looking the part of an industry leader.
As with any optimized marketing campaign, look to take advantage of all the touch points in buyers journeys by implementing trackable actions. Digital marketing, access codes, landing pages, online resource libraries, forms and CRM integrations provide a wealth of opportunities to create actions that can be logged in analytics to see what elements are driving activity through the funnel. Pairing tracked data with a true understanding of strategy will pave the way for highly flexible and successful campaigns.
For more information on how we’ve implemented these tactics for our clients, you can read up on our building materials marketing rundown page or check out the Thermory USA case study. Additionally, we’re always posting relevant information regarding building materials B2B marketing on our LinkedIn page.
If you’re interested in learning how our strategic marketing and creative team can work with your building materials company, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give David a call at (716) 332-1640 x104.