The Importance of Brand Strategy for Building Materials Manufacturers

Building Brands Episode 1 Mike LaDuca of Luminus

Mike LaDuca, Chief Creative Officer at Luminus, talks about the world of brand strategy, what went into him developing strategic marketing and branding processes, how Luminus entered into the building materials marketing space, and how organized brands can play a support role in their various distribution and sales channels.

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Episode Transcript

Tim
Welcome to the inaugural episode of the Building Brands Podcast. Thank you for joining me on this podcasting journey as we take a deep dive into the worlds of branding and building materials with experts from a variety of backgrounds. My name is Tim Bouchard, partner and CEO of Luminus, a creative agency located in Buffalo, New York. Here at Luminus we specialize in strategic marketing and brand strategy with a particular interest and concentration in the building materials marketing space. In this first episode of building brands, I’m keeping it close to home and interviewing my business partner, Michael LaDuca, the Chief Creative Officer here at Luminus. Mike and I touch on how he dove into the world of brand strategy, what went into him developing strategic marketing and branding processes, how Luminus entered into the building materials marketing space and how organized brands can play a support role in their various distribution and sales channels. Enjoy the episode.
All right. So, Mike, thanks for walking the 30 feet over here to you. Join me. As I mentioned, Mike is the CCO and my partner Luminus, and I’m bringing him in to talk a little bit about our background and why we’re here, a little bit about marketing and branding strategy, how it relates to even some of the building material stuff that we’re doing and just generally pick your brain. Mike’s one of the smartest, most talented people I know. So I’m excited. I’m hoping this is equally as interesting for everyone else as it is for me to recap again. So if you want to, you could just start with telling us a little bit about who you are. Other than just the 30 seconds that I just said and we could get into a little bit more of that.
Mike
I think you hit it pretty well with the smartest, most talented person. I’m not sure if you added that that you know, but thank you for that. That was like I said, absurd to think that that’s the case. But yeah, I’m Mike with you, CCO of Luminus, Luminus agency and we love working on building materials brands. So I’m here to talk about that a little bit today.
Tim
So I met you back in 2007 through a mutual business partner. Your background came from the art and design side. I particularly came from the development into a digital design side. One got you into art? How did you get in going from art into branding, strategy, advertising in general?
Mike
It was not a path I chose, not a path I would have anticipated whatsoever. I was a fine artist since the young age of as early as I could hold a pencil and graduating of actually during during college. I was working in a hometown that’s pretty small and I knew a couple of business owners and they had just started asking the questions. Hey, you’re good at art. Can you help me with, uh, this brochure or this logo? And then it turned into websites and you know that I couldn’t quite help with that’s enter Tim Bouchard into the picture, but it was a curveball I was fine art until… I was always into tech. I mean, those things just meshed together to turn into using my art in a digital world.
Tim
And really in the mid-2000s is sort of where that tide turned. WordPress became more popular, uh, websites with databases, and Google was starting to hit its stride with advertising and analytics becoming actual product. suites.
Mike
Absolutely. That that was a… that was a huge factor. You know, these businesses started realizing “I need to talk to some young people to think about how I can bring my business into the digital world,” and I just so happened to be willing to make that transition myself. From fine art to digital. It was a really good timing for a couple of key clients that really kicked me off.
Tim
Yeah, that was even before responsive web design.
Mike
It was far before responsive. That was actually like a news flash that we were just not even sure was good. We thought that was gonna be a trend. I remember having a conversation about that back in the day.
Tim
I think remover was a thing that people actually…
Mike
Yeah, 960 Grid, It was printed on the web is what that was.
Tim
Yeah, and we started working together around 2007-2008 as freelancers and we didn’t start Luminus until 2010. But in that journey we started to see some holes and what people were bringing to us when they were asking for websites or logo. You know, that leads a sort of rending up now with how we help our clients, particularly in strategic marketing and brand strategy and market strategy. I was there, but would you mind telling all of the people that are listening how we had stumbled into developing these processes that we use now? And what the… so why was important? Why we saw it the need to move further beyond websites and logos and brochures.
Mike
Yeah. I mean, I think it’s it’s the way you and I are as just, uh, just people in general and in business minded and general. How we operate our business, which essentially was in that wave of the digital world and websites. It was like, “Can you guys make me a website?” We were like “Sure. What do you want on it?”
Tim
We said yes to everything.
Mike
Yeah, Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah. We do this all the time. “What do you want on it?” And we realized we needed to make something that had more of a purpose. So that turned into asking more questions and when people did ask for website that they didn’t have anything at a logo that a company that services. So that was the first time that you and I really got to collaborate on like, Okay, we know they have. This is the name of the company. This is what they do. We need to talk a little bit about about who they are. And that’s the first time we really, you know, together collaborated on really building out a brand that, you know, was started by just a name, a company logo and a list of services.
Tim
And typically what we were finding back then was people knew what they wanted, but they didn’t exactly know why they needed it or what it was supposed to do for them.
Mike
Right? And that trend didn’t stop. I mean, uh, you know, as we grew clients larger and larger, you know, the need was the same. Everyone knew they needed a web presence. They knew they needed something, but they didn’t know what that was and you know, they weren’t gonna find that on their own. And we realized that it was an art, that was in our hands, and we started to become quite good at it. So we started to be able to think about this from not only just a building a site, but really helping them figure out what that need truly was in terms of where their business was. And it was always a growth phase. When you came and said I need a website. It was it wasn’t because they needed a website it was because they were going through a growth phase. They saw that their competitors were doing it. They saw that other organizations were doing it. Friends and network people were doing it so they knew they needed growth when we needed help them pass just the website and figure out what that growth really was by asking a little bit more questions.
Tim
I mean, and it affected our work because we didn’t have all of the pieces necessary to even do the project. Even from a visual identity standpoint, you know, we were seeing things like no vectorized logos, or “what colors does your company use?” “Well, which ones would look good?” Yeah, and, you know, we start simple, but even when you get to the more strategic portions are what type of content you have, what value are you providing the visitor to the site? What are you trying to get them to do while they’re on the site? Buy something? Read something? Download something? Yeah, like phone calls.
Mike
Think when we said I can’t stress enough when I said they have a logo, a company name a list of services and they did that really well. They provided the services really well, that is literally all they had and we never really had vector logos. I think we ended up just recreating most of the logos that we were given every, you know, just about every time.
Tim
Were you seeing ways that not having those pieces were affecting them before they even worked with us?
Mike
Oh absolutely. I think that was both ways we saw. We saw a problem with that. And once we ask the right questions, they saw a problem with it. I have no idea, actually, Don’t know. I think the last person that worked with us in my front desk actually started to developing those assets or that copywriting. And come to think of it now that I read it, it doesn’t make any sense at all.
Tim
Or the infamous nephew.
Mike
Oh, the and I want to stay away from that, but it was always the nephew or the niece or some intern or something like that.
Tim
So that sort of got us to where we started realizing that we weren’t just in charge of helping make great websites or graphics for people we needed to help marry that with an actual overall brand strategy for them.
Mike
Yeah. What was interesting was that, you know, we were in a bubble. You know, you and I came out of out of school. You had you had a job. I started freelancing right away. Then you shortly after, you know, a couple of ah couple of gigs at some, some, some agencies, you hopped into freelancing with me. So I mean, we grew this together in a bubble, right? So we were doing these things where we would take this logo and this list of service is and start developing things like headlines, statements and body copy in these atmospherics and these, you know, reorganizing the structure of their business, at least in the terms of the public eye. And we just saw that as making our… our services better, bigger and better, but that outside perspective after we started getting our first sales team that came in like “you guys air doing way more than you are contracted to do. Do you know that?” Really? Umm no.
Tim
And at that point we were doing a case by case. We hadn’t developed a system or anything like that. But what we really have is, it pushed us to doing branding, which is really more of a strategic look at gathering all of the things that we need to do to help support these projects. You have a way that you like to define the brand through Luminus’ eyes. If you want to define that for us, I think we should start there and actually talk about how we use that to contribute to success for for clients that we worked with.
Mike
Yeah, I sure do. The brand to us as Luminus, the way we think about it is the sum, the sum of all interaction between an organization and their audience or their customers. So what does that mean? It means that you have a brand, whether you know it or not, That’s the way I like to present it to everybody. You might think that you might not be doing harm by not focusing on what your brand is, but I can tell you right now straight forward that you are. Any time someone, your audience organization or someone your network is engaging with your brand they’re manifesting an opinion on what your brand is, whether it’s your phone call on phone, you’re calling your phone system to visiting your website or just talking to a sales rep for talking to someone who is engaged with your business that is all building out a brand in the mind of that customer. Um, so there’s a way we like to go about that. I mean, there’s no solution to that essentially, because the customer drives everything on, every customer’s gonna approach it differently. But the way we like to, would you like to think about that is you can do something about it. You can provide the assets for your brand to set your brain up for success, and that’s where that’s where we enter the picture. We try to help you set your brand up for success for all of those possible engagements to make sure you’re controlling the situation instead of instead of the brand and you not having any control of the situation,
Tim
And we hadn’t built a process like that before, so we ended up looking to industry leaders. People have worked on brands for decades. We started plucking influential ideas from Patrick Hanlon, the “Primal Branding” author, and we sort of went from there. I don’t know if you want to talk about how we approached, uh, looking at brands and seeing how we could build up the system that we wanted to work in.
Mike
Oh, yeah. I mean, we we went from thinking about this as a deliverable that was a piece of a piece of a deliverable into realizing that what we’re actually putting together here is a full system, and every part of that system should have a certain amount of attention. So, as you know, Patrick Hanlon’s book was mind blowing. I came in pretty excited after just I’m an audiobook person, so I didn’t read it. Tim always pokes fun at that. After I listen to that on my drives in and out of work, my mind is blown out. We’ve got to implement this. We’ve got to take the time on each one of these pieces that were already touching on and really focus on building this out appropriately. It’s everything we wanted to do. We just didn’t realize that there could be a system made out of that.
Tim
And it showed that you could build frameworks around brand strategy.
Mike
Absolutely.
Tim
You know, we we have expanded on that. We went a little bit. We’ve gone into market strategy, as a piece of our overall brand efforts that we work with people. Do you want to talk about how we approach the market strategy portion and how that plays into informing a good brand strategy?
Mike
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I could go into just the beginning components of that. I mean, if you’re talking more so the you know, looking at the market space that you operate in first. And the way we approach this at first is really everything. Like I said, earlier brand is the sum of all engagements that you have with your end user, your end customer. So we have to consider that your end customer is your main source of insight. Your end customer is the person that’s going to be also looking into your market space. They’re not gonna only look at you. Look at your competitors. So where we like to start is really figuring out who that customer that audience truly is. And then also take a look at your competitors and figure out how they’re talking to your customers as well, so that first part is really let’s just dig in. Let’s do an audit internally, Let’s let’s talk to you and your company and figure out where you wanna go where you’ve been historically. But then let’s look at your competitors and we want to. We want to look at your competitors the way that we would build you back up. That’s the whole idea. They were to focus on building their brand. How are we were to focus on building that brand? How would we do it? So we look at their positioning. We look at their messaging, their headlines and we have all of our experts do that we have our marketing strategies will get the positioning. What’s the company saying? Where are they positioning themselves based on the way they’re presenting their visuals? And their, in their copywriting. What is their copy, right? Copywriting like their voice and their tone. What are their visual elements like? How are they approaching that, that engagement with their customers? And that’s the first thing we like to do in terms of just gaining insight in the field that you’re playing in right now.
Tim
And once we get through that, I mean, what’s great about the market strategy is how it actually affects what we do from a brand strategy standpoint.
Mike
Oh, yeah, everything has to inform the next step. Everything has to inform everything else. So even though the next step is, you know, actually figuring it out, the claims that positioning of your own organization, we still want to reference things back and forth because this is all building things like just, you know, just the foundation essentials,
Tim
A lot of different pieces. The persona has come into play. We always make sure that there’s a voice and tone as part of a part of this. A lot of times we’ve even we’ve seen people with large brands come to us with identities. Uh, and they’re not, they don’t have the voice of tone part. And that’s what feeds the copywriters to help build your content for educational pieces, advertisements, the whole thing. And all of those pieces, I think, are what I end up in the brand identity, which is your advertisements or collateral and everything that you do from a creative campaign standpoint.
Mike
Yeah
Tim
We’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. Two or three years, we’ve been on the market strategy side. We built our brand strategy about five years ago, basing it off of that Patrick Hanlon work that we were pulling influence from. How have clients likes going through that process? And what is that process like for them? What are they getting out of it?
Mike
First off, they hate it. They I’d say they hate the process because it pokes a lot of holes. That’s what we do. I mean every organization and, you know, Tim and I are the same. We’re business owners. We understand what it’s like to, you know, put your head down and just drive and work and try to grow. However you possibly can grow and every other business in the world is doing that. So they came to, they come to us and they say “We made all these decisions” and we say “No, you haven’t.” And every client us says, “You know what? This feels like a police interrogation.” We shine a spotlight on them. We drill them with questions. One of our mantra is internally is just “stay stupid.” So it’s like if you don’t if you don’t know the true answer to why this client is made this particular decision then keep asking because if you don’t know, then the audience doesn’t know and you don’t know how to actually fulfill that moving forward. So you know, I should start off by saying that they hate it. But at the end, once we realize what the hell we’re actually doing, we’re doing through these long, intense therapy sessions and putting them into work and making them do homework on the side, because it’s not easy because, like you said, this is not a visual representation of what their brand is, not a logo. This is understanding every claim you make. Every client that walks in this door or every client we talked to in sales says, you know what? “It’s because our quality’s better.” “Because we’re more experienced.” “It’s because we just try harder.” Well, that’s not gonna work for us. We need to break that down into granular deliveries because the audience today is not stupid. You know, you can’t just tell someone that quality’s better. They’re gonna say thanks, but no thanks. I’m gonna go figure out and talk to somebody who actually tell me exactly why their quality is better.
Tim
What does that mean to you?
Mike
Right.
Tim
Why? Why is your company’s quality better? Break that down to a subset.
Mike
Right. So we put them through the wringer quite a bit. But at the end, once they were realized, what’s coming out of that and they’ve got this clear is total clarity. Uh, they love us for so they hate us until they love us.
Tim
And there’s… how does that affect them? You know, you started talking about this right now. The love us hate us. How does that affect them in the short term, where can they use that process for the long term game?
Mike
Immediately after they come out of a lot, actually, everything after they come out of all of these conversations, we always get emails, follow ups. “You know what? I have so many ideas started going through my head. We had this great collaboration team coming up with all of these ideas.” But what they really start to do, what really comes out of it, They start accepting just they start not accepting just what’s okay. You know, they start thinking past they they start. They start thinking past some of the decisions that they make and thinking harder on the decisions that they actually make. So, you know, there’s a mindset shift, you know? “Why have we always done it this way? Why are we doing this?” And we come to the table. We deliver them an approach. The approach is okay. I’ve got this particular target that I’m going after. Who is the target? What do they like to hear? What’s the most important thing to that particular target? I mean, now, how do we support that through messaging headlines, claims and visuals? They’ve got an answer for that now moving forward. So once they put something in so oftentimes we’ll put something through. That’s not good enough. They would have had their nephew come in and say, Make me this piece, This one page of them, I’d drop off at everyone’s desk and I’m going to spend a lot of money on it. I’m gonna say the thing that I think was gonna be valid the first time, but no, they come equipped with all the right decisions. We prepare them for that. We give them guidelines for all decisions supposed make. But it’s also a mindset change because we’ve seen a lot of clients. That’s a you know what? I love seeing. I’m so proud of them when they’re like, “Well, hold up. You know, we can’t actually do that because our persona, actually, that’s not the target that’s not with that target persona would actually like to hear they’d like to hear. This match is not this message.” And you just kind of like to walk away. And so we’ve done most of our job.
Tim
Our work hear is…
Mike
…our work is almost done.
Tim
There’s always work to do. Yeah. Yeah. There is a little bit of a difference between what we’re talking about and actual business strategy, though. Sure, there’s a fine line that we walk. You want talk about where the line is exactly? I guess it’s a fine line, but it’s within a big, grey, blurry area.
Mike
So yeah, the fine line. You’re gonna have to help me out with this because we always tend to cross the line. Because when you get into a room and you start talking about the business, you know, like I said, the brand is the sum of all interactions. So it’s It’s literally everything, you know. So it’s the way you you know, the name of your business. The way you organize your service is is big. That’s where it really starts to hit home, because we start to realize that some businesses start to just create these subsidiaries that are just floating in space and there’s no relationship appropriate, no appropriate relationship, and you start to realize that there’s overlaps. You know, when decisions that were made where it comes into play, where when we’re talking about our target audience, there might be a better way. Ah, more clear path for you to actually approach this product line versus this product line verses this product line, and it turns out that that more appropriate path turns into restructuring of business, overall restructuring, the sales staff restructuring, you know, maybe even the financials in the legalities of those things. So we have to start having harder conversations and some of the times it’s you know, what? We’ve discovered that we might have poked too big of a hole right now, but it’s a hole that you need to kind of look into, Um, and you know, sometimes we’ll go. We’ll jump into that hole with him, and we have to realize we we’ve gotta, like, kind of back out a bit because what we are not, is business consultants.
Tim
It’s the… what you’re talking about is taking services and products and processes that people already have, and framing them for the right audiences and defining what the value proposition is for that audience.
Mike
Exactly
Tim
And where it stops is you should not make this product or do this service and you should do this other one.
Mike
That’s actually you said it well, much better. Um, yeah, it’s it. Should we be making more of this? We only be making this. Should we shut down this branch of the business? I mean, all I could say is like, you know, right now this is actually seems to be pretty successful. Would you make us more successful and based on your gap? You know, when we when we do a gap analysis the the idea is that we look at the organization, that we’re working with our client, and then we take a look at their competitors and we try to figure out what those gaps are and and gaps are opportunities gaps mean go for it. Gaps mean you’re well equipped, actually satisfy this particular market and this is where you should focus your positioning.
Tim
And that’s a good word. Focus. Focus doesn’t necessarily mean stop doing other things.
Mike
It could, but we’re not gonna tell you that.
Tim
But for the most part we’re trying to do is find where the efforts should go, right in the marketing strategy and the campaigns and the brand positioning.
Mike
And find. So we seek that and we suggest the focus.
Tim
And frame it. Yeah, sometimes it’s paused. We’ve gotten to a point where we’ve actually shut down the market strategy process with someone for a month or two while they digest it internally, then pick back up.
Mike
Yeah. “You made us think about some things.” Is what we hear.
Tim
Okay. So let’s bring this into how the hell we even ended up in building materials. I mean, it’s a space that we found that we’ve really liked working in the people that are good. The products are vast and interesting, but the targets are very similar, which gives us a good approach to how we like to try and position the clients that we work with. How the hell do we have even get here?
Mike
How did we get here? Well, we got here through ah, we got there through a good client was very successful for us. The idea was that we just saw great success and we realized that our process meshed because we’ve been chasing our process for quite some time. We’ve always evolved it after every single exercise we’ve ever done. We’ve always evolved our process to say, “How can we do this better?” “How can we be more successful?” And really, what we realized is that that just happened to mesh really well. Our optimal process meshed really well in the building materials industry and that all correlates to the end users that we work with.
Tim
And in the building materials manufacturing space. There is a lot of product line development. Product line dev, the product line. The company themselves needs a market strategy and a brand strategy, but there’s a lot of opportunities for product branding alongside that and you have innovation is a good thing that, innovation, growth, diversity in product lines. They’re all things that have meshed well with the idea that we can set up market strategy and move into multiple campaigns based off of that.
Mike
Yeah, I mean, it deals with everything. It deals with organization, you know. What are we good at? We’re good at organizing brands. We’re good at organizing, helping organize businesses in general. How to present them to personas. We’re good at really understanding and getting a grasp on certain personas and what we’ve done really well was the B2B personas and the consumer personas.
Tim
Which is another interesting aspect of building materials. You’re dealing with people that are buying single orders for their home versus people that are buying large volume orders for large building projects or hotels or anything like that. We actually have found working through those two personas that the common bond they have is they both, like to shop by how cool the visuals that aren’t what the end result of the product is. They have a completely different buying methods, though, which is probably a topic for another podcast at some point. Yeah, get in that. But that makes it interesting, too, because we do consumer campaigns and B2B sales support.
Mike
Yeah, and there’s a lot of overlap there, too. I mean, what’s interesting about that? I mean, you know, I used to come in and I used to hate B2B. B2B until we started a really just understand that B2B. That there’s a person back there, you know, we’re not just talking to purchasing agents for some of the might work with purchasing agents they’re the toughest persona out there. But we’re talking architects and contractors and managers of dealers and lumber yards and distributors, and these are all people at the end of the day, and they all have similar interests. So to position the company, appropriately you can go after each one of them.
Tim
Well, and the other thing that’s happening to is there are so many products in the industry that you’re speaking about purchasing agents. Purchasing agents are going out shopping solely based on price. You’re going to lose unless your company and your product has a different position, a different value add than one that’s cheaper, right? You’ll always be beaten out. Price. And that’s where the market strategy
Mike
There’s no inspiring the purchasing agent..
Tim
Yeah, there’s definitely no inspiring a purchasing agent. Sorry, purchasing agents. Is there something that you’ve seen working in this industry with campaigns or an approach that’s been particularly successful in the building material space?
Mike
Well it’s meeting both needs because in the end of the day before, if we’re running a campaign, which is a lot of what you do after you develop the positioning and the assets for it, such as your website and your collateral and your messaging for your sales, a lot of the messaging is gonna be similar, and you need to really, truly understand the product, really need to be able to deliver the message of your product in a in a both inspiring way to show that something might be beautiful or it might solve a solution, and you’ve got to follow up with that with some really good technical information that is necessary. So it’s all about what you’re delivering in terms of the messaging, it’s got to be some overlap. Then you got get everyone in the right spot in terms of a landing page you know.
Tim
Well and where you see gaps in that, especially in this industry, is a lot of these products still go through distribution.
Mike
Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s a whole Do we want to get into that? I mean, that’s an interesting. Um…
Tim
Take a breath. Take a minute.
Mike
Yeah. So, you know, in terms of the way the supply chain is handled from manufacturer to distributor to dealer, or to lumberyard is something that we’ve seen a huge gap in, and that is missing in terms of the building materials space versus what might be the auto industry. You know, when you’re shopping for a car, who is running those main ads, who’s getting you to walk into the dealership? The manufacturer really is. They’re supplying all of the emotion, the benefits ,the attributes / features of the vehicles and getting you past the awareness and the consideration phase and you’re walking into the dealership, saying, “I want this particular model” or “one of these two particular models.” And dealerships love that. It’s no different than a lumberyard. The lumber yards, you know, based on some conversations we just added with several managers at lumber yards. They like the manufacturers that have people walking in saying, “Where is that particular pine that I saw on this ad?” They want to know that you’re putting an effort to drive customers to them. So we started realizing after speaking to them, that there’s tons of opportunity in this space for manufacturers to prepare and help support everyone down that supply chain from distributors to lumber yards.
Tim
What types of things do you think they’re missing in the chain that they would benefit from? Obviously, it sounds like a top level manufacturer advertising support, product awareness and value propositions. But what can the brand provide those levels to help move those sales of though at that level.
Mike
There’s, there’s so much I mean, like you said. I mean, there’s awareness and advertisement, you know, in terms of emotion. But there’s also sales support. Each one of these people are selling, you know, the manufacturer sells to the distributor. A distributor sells and tries to pick up lumber yards and retail centers. The retail center has to go to the end consumers. You can provide sales support for each one of those. Those those portions of this in the supply chain really based off all the stuff that we discover in our brand analysis, which is customer insight. Everyone is going after that. And customer everyone’s going after that particular homeowner or that particular architecture. That particular contractor. I mean, they all want to know that your products worth selling to them and they want to know how to sell to them on. And there’s so much support you can offer down that supply chain from awareness to actually just comparisons. What are they shopping for? And how do we talk about what their options are?
Tim
And that goes back to trying to win over the pricing comparison.
Mike
Yeah. I mean, you’ve got a couple of when we’re talking personas. You’ve got a couple of different. The homeowner and buyers consumer buyers. You got the thrifty one. That’s not for everybody. You know, you’ve got the demanding one has done this before. They feel like they know the product as much as an architect or a contractor. And you’ve got the novice. You know, someone who’s just going in there. They need. They need a deck or cladding or something that’s going into a house, and they need a certain type of information. But it’s all about what their pain points are, providing the insight that actually best suits their particular needs.
Tim
Yeah, the education aspect is pretty important.
Mike
The education is huge. They don’t know what they don’t know. I mean, they really don’t. And you know, if you don’t provide that to, if you’re a manufacturer sitting up top and you’ve got you’ve only supplied your distributors, which we’ve seen over and over again with some information that’s really not well thought out.
Tim
Usually just literature.
Mike
Like it’s the literature and like something very plain and it’s not really speaking. There’s no target persona. It’s not. There’s not giving any true inside here. It’s just saying, Here’s the benefits of our products and it has nothing to do with what it’s solving. And the distributor will hand that exact piece of literature down to the lumber yard with half the explanation that they got from the manufacturer and you can’t expect that the lumberyard is gonna pick up all the stuff that was lost down that supply chain is gonna be. Here’s the brochure is over in the corner. This is the product. And when you’re talking building materials, there’s so many subtleties that make a huge difference. You’ve got a piece of pine board that’s gonna last three years. That looks similar. Obviously, if if you’re not, if you’re not a veteran to know, understand what these are, then one will last 25 years. How is the consumer supposed to know that without someone leading them how that.
Tim
And these distribution channels lumberyards, outlets, retailers, they’re the ones that are the front line sales people for this too. So they have…
Mike
That’s the worst part.
Tim
To equally be able to have that messaging to pass along.
Mike
You have to try. You’ve got to put the effort in there to go down that supply chain and educate those that are the person that the people that engage direct the sum of your brand is the engagement, everything, sum of all engagements. That’s one right there. You know, if you’re talking to a lumber yard, that has no idea what your product is then. That is one of those scenarios where you haven’t thought about it. But you’re doing harm because you haven’t given that particular sales person a piece of your brand you haven’t equipped them. To be able to handle that conversation properly.
Tim
Well and think of the controls that you need when you’re moving down a sales channel like that where you have one brand and you have tens to hundreds of distributors who have thousands to hundreds of thousands of customers on, do you have to have a consistent message and educational backbone that goes down each one of those spiderwebs?
Mike
Oh yeah, that’s not easy.
Tim
That better be uniform right?
Mike
That’s part, It better be a better be uniform. That’s part of whyy brand hate us. Because they’re like, “Man, I never… I didn’t even consider all that that could possibly be going wrong right this second.”
Tim
Have you? You know, getting into that. Have you seen a response from from working a sales channel strategy?
Mike
Yeah, it’s been great. It’s been satisfying to know that it’s happened in such a short time. Actually, you we’ve got we’ve got dealers and lumber Yard managers going to our distributors and saying, “What’s what’s happening? Our sales have increased here.” and the distributor’s saying, “I want what you did for them.” So it’s been great. And that’s one reason why we wanted to go and focus in one particular channel. So we could really we could focus ourselves on where expertise truly lies, you know, because we really have had I mean, a couple of distributors reach out to us and say, What’s going on? What are you doing differently? You’re doing something differently than all the rest of our manufacturers, and we deal with hundreds of them. We’ve seen a difference because we’ve you’ve talked to us about making an initiative, and we’ve seen that something in over a couple of months.
Tim
And that’s coming from the overall manufacturing brand.
Mike
That’s regarding the overall manufacturing brand. But coming directly from a distributor or a lumber yard owner.
Tim
Yeah, and the effort that goes into it, even sometimes the funding that goes into it is coming from the top level.
Mike
It’s something that you know, we’ve been, um, you know, we’ve got some really good manufacturing partners who are actually willing to actually, they see it, you know, because you know we could we could bark it all day long. You know, we see it, we understand it, but the manufacturer really has to buy in there, and it’s something tough to say. Well, that’s their problem. We’re already giving them, you know, sending them checks for fulfilling the orders that were putting out here. But if you’ve gotta have someone actually have that vision to understand that this trickle this is trickled down, you know, And once we had some of that joy that that bought into that, we saw the actual impact that it had.
Tim
Is there anything from the building material space in particular that you think we’re trending towards in the marketing space?
Mike
It’s that. It’s the manufacturers taking a bigger, you know, putting the foot down and actually deciding that they’re going to invest in the supply chain all the way down. It’s it’s gotta follow suit. Like I said to the auto industry, you know, there’s just not enough money being invested in terms of the advertising from the larger manufacturer directly, all the way down to support. I guess its support, you know. So there are manufacturers that are. They’re investing in the awareness in the consideration, not as much as other industries. But it’s the support. It’s understanding that the supply chain needs your support to sell. Everyone wants to sell, but you can only sell so much based on just ambition. You know, you need the information in the inside to be able to sell in the understanding part of cell and a lot of manufacturers are getting smart. Even distributors are getting smart where they’re saying, “You know what? If my manufacturers aren’t doing it, I’m gonna do it.”
Tim
Ands what? It’s also an individualized experience to per per distributor or lumber yard, sometimes even per customer type.
Mike
You know what’s interesting? It’s actually jump jumping off on my last spiel. It’s also important to know that the lumber yards themselves, the dealers themselves, are saying “In this day and age, I can advertise myself. I can cut out the distributor.” I can can’t cut out the manufacturer. But you know, there’s got a little bit of battle going between dealers and distributors in terms of the fact that dealers are deciding that they might just get into purchasing logistics, um, and lumber and their surpassing the distributor relationship, going directly to the manufacturers.
Tim
And some of the manufacturing brands are looking to go potentially direct to consumer.
Mike
Direct consumer is a whole other thing where the manufacturers are like, “Well, wait, wait. We have direct access and we can build out an experience where they can come right to us. Now we just gotta figure out the logistics end.” So you’re right. There’s the manufacturers picking up the logistics and getting warehouses and shipping everywhere. There’s the lumber yard trying to do the same, and the distributors also making sure that they’re trying to find their own place. So very interesting situation that we’re in right now.
Tim
And sometimes that’s dependent on what type of product it is. And things like that. Your product and who your consumer is.
Mike
Yeah.
Tim
Is there one thing that you think everyone in this space needs to be doing right now period?
Mike
Oh, thinking of that, I can’t stress that enough under, like what’s going on in your supply chain? Think about the customers that you could potentially have. You might not be advertising, you know? So you’re not really gonna be driving customers into the door of the retail center. But think about all of the customers that walk into that retail center. And imagine if you had you gave that retail center all the information they needed the support they needed to sell your product because there’s other products out there. These reach the people walk into the retail centers are saying I’m building it. I’m building this building that tell me a little about these products and they’re gonna go to the one that they’re most familiar with and that they have gotten the most support from the retail center is that that is so. Think about that. And you should be deciding what your role is going to be in this new trajectory of this industry, because things are definitely changing. And if you don’t jump on the fact that you should be engaging with your consumer in some sort of level, um, you miss out.
Tim
And to your first point. If you don’t have the right market strategy and brand strategy, you could dive in the wrong way.
Mike
No, because, like you said, it’s got to be well organized in consistent all the way through. And there’s no exceptions. There really are no exceptions to that. You’ve got to make sure that everyone through the supply chain has everything they need along the way and has gained all of the full information all the way through the line. You don’t want, make sure that it loses / dilutes down the road.
Tim
Cool. Is there anything that I haven’t asked you or drawn out of you in this conversation that you think is important to tack on before we wrap up?
Mike
Not unless you want me to go off on some wild tangent. No, other than the fact that I’m excited to see where this industry’s headed. There’s just so much opportunity in terms of where can grow from the whole supply chain. So we want to play a role from dealer to manufacturer and help support the entire ecosystem.
Tim
Well, do you want to say where people can find you?
Mike
Oh, sure. Well, uh, 10 feet to my right is where it is. I also wanted to ask you, Tim, did you ever think that your podcast would get so big that you were going to have me Mike LaDuca on your podcast?
Tim
We’ll see. The first episode is always the one that tells the fate. My goal for the first one is 10 listeners or more.
Mike
So tell me a little about your target audience. Tim.
Tim
My target audience is owners and marketers in the building material space at either the manufacturing, distribution or retail level.
Mike
It’s good to know. It’s a good start.
Tim
Thank you for being the first guest on the podcast that is coming out of the office that you work in.
Mike
Thank you for having me on your first podcast.
Tim
So people can find you on http://luminus.agency?
Mike
Oh, yes. I’m sorry about suggesting that I should say that. That’s right. Ah, luminus.agency actually, yes. If you have any questions or comments, following this up. I’d love to talk some building materials, some personas, some positioning some marketing. We’ll see you on LinkedIn maybe here and there. Let’s get into some conversations.
Tim
I’ll link your profile on LinkedIn for everyone so they can bug you. All right. This was great. Thank you for helping me get through episode number one.