January 21, 2021 | 20 Min Read

What is Inbound Marketing And How Does It Work for Building Materials?

Posted By
Emily Neier
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Inbound marketing is a revenue generating methodology that attracts customers by providing value through helpful, relevant content and experiences to foster connections and relationships with customers.

Traditional, or “outbound,” marketing generally interrupts consumers with content they don’t want or information that isn’t relevant to their problem. Inbound is designed to meet building materials prospects where they are at with the information they need, right when they are looking for it.

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Where did Inbound Marketing Come From?

Inbound marketing developed because traditional marketing simply wasn’t working as well as it used to. With increased internet access, consumers are now more informed than ever—which also makes them savvier towards traditional interruptive marketing tactics.

People don't want to be interrupted anymore. They want to do their research on their timeline. This is the impetus for inbound marketing. Rather than interrupting consumers trying to sell them something they don’t need, inbound marketing offers something of value to a consumer’s research and buying process. When implemented effectively, inbound marketing  educates prospects and enables them to make smart decisions.

 

What is a Buyer Persona?

A buyer persona represents your ideal customer. They are the person who has a problem that you are ready to solve. They are the starting point of your inbound marketing strategy development.

The Difference Between Buyer Personas & Target Markets

You can think of a buyer persona as an analog for a target market, only much more useful. While a target market might tell you some important demographic information, like age or income level, a buyer persona gets much more specific. Well-crafted buyer personas don't just give you a vague understanding of who you want to sell to—a buyer persona gives you a specific set of pain points to market solutions for.

Buyer personas are not just important to inbound marketing, they are essential. Without buyer persona profiles, it becomes nearly impossible to tailor your content to your ideal customer, because you have to know what problems or preferences are top of mind to them. Personas will give your content focus, making it more effective. 

Further, buyer personas allow you to segment your leads and better understand who your ideal customers actually are. A good inbound marketing strategy will include at least two personas. In industries that sell indirectly through channels, such as building materials manufacturing, you are more likely to have 6-10 personas. As you create content and grow your business, you will get more leads and be able to tell which personas are truly the most qualified for your offerings. Indeed, you may even find personas that you had not previously imagined.

Building Materials Buyer Personas

The best way to create an effective buyer persona is by interviewing your current customers. These interviews can be tricky because they should go beyond the basic demographic and even professional information. Buyer personas are complete profiles, including details about family, news sources, education, and virtually any other topic that could be important to learning what makes your customers tick. You need to uncover information about their purchase motivations, barriers to purchase, and the ways in which they research and buy new products.

Building Materials Manufacturers have a few key personas the span the entire channel including:

  • Distributors
  • Dealers
  • Builders
  • Architects
  • Contractors
  • DIYers
  • End users

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The Inbound Marketing Methodology

There are four basic steps to the inbound methodology:

  • Attract
  • Convert
  • Close
  • Delight

inbound methodology flow chart

Let’s look at how each of these stages should be implemented into your marketing plan to increase pull through sales of your building materials.

Attract

Inbound marketing is focused on attracting the right types of buyers for your construction materials through content that is carefully constructed to speak to your primary buyer personas.

Your inbound tactics should complement your existing channel marketing efforts and enable pull through sales.

Convert

Once a researcher has visited your website, you want them to become a lead, lest you risk losing the attention you’d originally gained. In order to convert a visitor into a lead, you have to offer them something they perceive as valuable enough to exchange their contact information for. This is where your content offers come in.

When you intentionally create content that speaks to your individual buyer personas by answering top of mind questions, or providing a resource that makes their jobs easier, then these visitors become willing to give something for it—namely their email address and some relevant facts about themselves that will help you to further target your content.

Calls to Action are essential to this conversion process. When you have a visitor, the path for them to become a lead should be clearly marked on your site. Define what action you want them to take next at the end of each page and at other key conversion points and then make it easy for them to take that action.

Close

In order to turn a lead into a customer, you and your channel reps have to show them that now only are your offerings one solution, but they are the best solution. When buyers are in the decision phase of their buyer's journey, you can have email workflows and CRM software making it easy and efficient to keep in touch and answer any questions these prospects might have.

As you are able to close leads into customers, you will really start to see the positive revenue difference that inbound marketing can make.

As a building materials manufacturer, you may be thinking that your website is not intended to capture end user leads. Instead your website’s focus is on attracting, converting, and closing new dealers and distributors as partners in your channel. Inbound marketing is a practical way to recruit and delight these channel partners.

Delight

Inbound marketing is about creating relationships with your leads and your customers. That's why once you close a customer, your inbound strategy doesn't end. You have to work not only to deliver on the promises you made during your final sale, but also to continue to prove your company as a thought leader, a trustworthy resource, and an entity that they want to do business with.

The delight phase of the inbound methodology is essential because when you delight your customers, they will become your biggest promoters.

 

Applying the Inbound Approach to Building Materials Marketing

MB Inbound Marketing-1080

 

Manufacturers face an extra challenge in that their website content needs to be relevant to distributors and dealers, product specifiers like architects and designers, builders and contractors, and an end user simultaneously. Defining the unique buyer’s journey for each category of prospect is critical. 

Distributors and dealers are looking to turn a profit off of selling your brand and products downstream. This means your website needs to provide evidence that your offerings are in demand and that they can ride on the coat-tail of your brand promises. Distributors and dealers are looking to reduce their potential liabilities and increase their slim-margins, so your website needs to quickly answer their top of mind question: “What’s in it for me?” Once you’ve won distributors and dealers over, you can delight them after the sale by providing them with marketing materials and value-add talking points that make it easier for them to sell your products at sticker price.

Product specifiers, like architects and designers, are looking for “on trend” options that will allow their design to stand apart while maintaining enough traditional aesthetics that they don’t miss the mark with their clients. Providing product pairing options and visualizer tools on your site will increase engagement rates of product specifiers. Cost and availability must also be easy to find so that specifiers can include those figures in their work. You can delight specifiers by helping them build their reputation alongside yours—assuming it’s a good reputation of course.

Top of mind for contractors is that the build stays on time and on budget, so they often have value engineering conversations after the design phase of a build. To avoid losing the deal, you need to educate builders on the value-add of your product so that they agree it truly is the best option for the project, even if it comes at a premium price compared to other options. Optimize your delivery times to accommodate build schedules to increase conversions as well. Then be sure to provide post-purchase delight to builders and contractors via on-site visits during initial installations and a reliable, single point of contact if the buyer does run into issues.

DIYers and end users, just like everyone in the channel, are looking for assurance. Assurance that they are getting the best value (which is different than getting the cheapest option) and assurance that the product will last. Modern day consumers are highly self-educated about different material and products options, so enable that dialogue by providing additional resources to inform their decision making - whether their primary concern be trends, budget, or lifestyle. 

To attract qualified buyers channel-wide, your brand should develop content (articles, videos, graphics, PDFs, etc) that compares the superior use cases of your product in highly specific ways. For example, some products are more durable in arid climates while others can withstand humidity; these use case factors largely influence buyer decisions, so invest in readily providing that information to them.  Equip your partner brands, distributors, and dealers with through-channel-marketing-automation tactics to promote this informative content channel wide and down to builders and end users as well.

How is This Different from Classic Marketing Tactics?

The inbound marketing methodology is different because, as it builds upon itself, it will continue to generate customers for you. Your efforts this year will continue yielding dividends three years and ten years from now as you build on the foundation that is laid year over year. If you can master the critical last step of delighting your customers at every stage in the channel by continuing to offer them relevance, attention, and make their jobs easier, you can turn them into champions for your company.

 

What is the Buyer's Journey?

Although the term "buyer's journey" is not used in every instance, the steps that a buyer takes when making the decision of whether or not to buy something is an integral part of any marketing strategy.

When we talk about the inbound methodology, the buyer’s journey has three basic stages:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Decision

Becoming familiar with these three stages of every buyer's process will be key to understanding how to implement an inbound marketing plan.

buyer's journey process

The Buyer's Journey in 2021

Advancements in technology and changes in the marketing landscape have altered our understanding of this process. Although it was once the case that buyers would move seamlessly from one stage of the process to the next, the availability of content online and information online means that:

  • The search for information can take much longer
  • The buyer often bounces back to the research phase

No longer is the journey linear, and marketers must be prepared with answers to virtually any question a buyer could have, then position those answers in a place where the buyer will find them.

Content Mapping: How Inbound Works with the Buyer's Journey

Understanding the buyer's journey is essential to developing an effective inbound marketing strategy. One of the ways that this importance demonstrates itself is in content mapping. When you understand this buying journey, you can effectively map your content to the different stages of the process.

For instance, someone who has only just realized that they might have a problem will be looking for much more general information than someone who is on the brink of making a purchase. When you start to pull together your buyer personas and understand your customers' buyer's journey, you will be able to offer the right type of content at the right time.

Learn more about creating your own content in our Beginner's Guide to Inbound Content.

The Inbound Methodology Hinges on Content Marketing

Inbound marketing relies on content to attract visitors, convert them to leads, and eventually to close sales. But what is content? And why is it so important to what we do with inbound marketing?

Content is ultimately what makes inbound marketing different from outbound marketing. That's because content is useful and valuable for consumers on its own, apart from your promotional purposes. It is enticing to prospects because it's actually information that they need or find interesting. Unlike interruptive marketing, it brings prospects to you.

 

Types of Inbound Marketing Content

Awareness-Level Content Offers

During the awareness phase, your potential customers are only just becoming aware that they have a problem. That means they are looking for more information not about a specific brand, but about the options available to them that could solve their problem. Some of the most effective content types to produce for your content marketing strategy in this part of the buyer's journey are:

  • Whitepapers - A thorough and authoritative report on a specific problem that details challenges and presents possible solutions, such as a study of the challenges in the supply chain of a specific material, like lumber.
  • eBooks - Any detailed, downloadable reference document that offers educational information. An eBook is generally more colorful than a whitepaper with additional graphics, infographics, and charts. An eBook on residential design trends, for example, would be an attractive offer for an architect or builder, and offers plenty of opportunities for visuals.
  • Checklists - A checklist can be an extremely helpful tool for buyers, outlining the different things to consider when looking for a particular solution. For example, a checklist for a DIYer might include the tools and additional supplies they would need to install your product on their own.
  • How-to blogs or videos - Both blogs and video content that give a step-by-step guide for how to complete a task, such as properly staining a deck or applying grout to tile, are good options to explore for awareness content.

Consideration-Level Content Offers

Once a prospect has determined that they have a problem and there are solutions available, they will move into the consideration stage of the buyer's journey. During this phase, the most useful content proposes different solutions in a more detailed way. Some good content for the consideration or evaluation stage of the buyer's journey include:

  • Lunch & Learn - A lunch and learn session (either virtual or in person) gives you and your leads a chance to connect, lending a personal touch to your marketing efforts, as well as explain the benefits of your products and partner program.
  • Specification/Spec sheet - The sole purpose of a spec sheet is to provide detailed information about a specific product. Be sure you are collecting contact information from those shoppers who want to know more.
  • Installation video - An installation video of your products provides your buyers with valuable information that can be downloaded or viewed time and time again with no additional expenditure on your part.
  • Case study - A case study should be an in-depth report of how you were able to solve the problem your prospects are having for another dealer, builder, or DIYer. Researching and creating case studies is not just a great way to get useful content, it can be incredibly valuable for improving your overall customer experience.
  • FAQ - Buyers have a lot of questions. Adding a Frequently Asked Questions sections to the product pages on your site is useful to buyers (and can help boost your SEO).

Decision-Level Content Offers

When a prospect is ready to buy, they are looking for content that solidifies their decision is the right one. They want definitive proof that your solution is the best solution. Your indirect sales partners cannot be expected to know your product like you do. Thus, you need to prepare and provide decision-level content offers to them to use as they manage leads and work to win the sale. Content for the purchase or decision phase of the buyer's journey should include:

  • Live demo - A live demo allows your sales team to interact with your leads as well as show off your solution. When builders are looking for new manufacturers, they treat live installation demos like “dates” with different manufacturers, using the demo as not only a test of the product itself but the support and customer service they’re likely to get from the manufacturer. Incentivize your indirect sales reps to get on the site with the prospective buyer.
  • Consultation - A consultation allows you to demonstrate your team's expertise to your prospects. This is another opportunity to demonstrate your team’s support for buyers, particularly for dealers or distributors who will be using your PRM or need marketing support from you.
  • Estimate or Quote - Providing a custom estimate may not sound like content, but it can be a great way to turn warm leads into customers. Every buyer will have different needs, and a custom estimate or quote shows them you’ve heard those needs and have a solution just for them.
  • End User Warranty Promises - A descriptive warranty for the end user builds trust both with the end user and your builders or dealers who sell and install your products. They know if something happens, you'll cover them.

 

How Social Media Fits Into Inbound

Social media is necessary throughout the inbound process to promote your content and connect with clients. Furthermore, in today’s market, people expect to be able to connect with companies on social media, so when they can't find you, it damages your credibility.

Make sure you have analyzed which channels your buyer personas spend the most time on. By analyzing who is active on your social media you gain a better idea who your target audience is and what content performs for your personas. In general, manufacturers will find engagement from building materials buyers on the following platforms:

  • LinkedIn - Distributors, Dealers, Architects, Builders, and Contractors
  • Facebook - Architects, Builders, Contractors, DIYers, and End Consumers
  • Instagram - Architects, Builders, Contractors, DIYers, and End Consumers
  • Pinterest - Architects, DIYers, and End Consumers
  • Houzz - Architects, Builders, and Contractors
  • YouTube - Builders, Contractors, and DIYers

Getting Started

As a manufacturer of building materials, providing value to each of the members of your distribution channel—from distributors and dealers down to end users like DIYers—is something that starts before contracts are signed. Inbound marketing strategy gives you the ability to stop interrupting your buyers and start building relationships with the helpful content and experiences they need.

Marketing Budget Template for Building Products Manufacturers, Download

Marketing Budget Template

We don't think Building Products Manufacturers need to spend more on their marketing. We do think what you allocate your budget to can be optimized to drive better results from the same budget.
 
Here's a marketing budget we'd recommend.

Topics: Process, For Channel Managers, For Marketing Directors

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