On any given day, people interact heavily with their iPhones. Walk a mile in a pair of TOMS. Drive to work in their Toyota and grab a Starbucks coffee after lunch. These iconic products thrive off repeat customers who purchase items with predictable frequency.
Building product makers face a different set of challenges. Building owners purchase and interact with far less frequency. The end-user may purchase a roof, new siding or windows only on a few occasions in their lifetime. In some cases — like with insulation — a consumer may never even “see” the actual product they’ve purchased.
Of course, many building product brands don’t sell direct to the consumer and ultimately depend on distributors, dealers and contractors to help ensure the final sale. In most cases, the building owner lacks the knowledge base to judge a construction product on its own merits… and as such, the contractor has a determined influence on what the consumer will see and, ultimately, purchase. A contractor or specifier won’t present a client with a product they don’t believe in or find to be unreliable.
So how should building product brands go about inspiring brand loyalty when the strategies for consumer and contractors success are so different? Here are some proven strategies:
Stay in Touch
It’s hard for consumers to stay loyal to a brand that they never hear from again. That’s why it’s crucial for brands to stay in touch with customers long after the sale. An insulation brand, for example, can educate on how to save energy. HVAC brands can remind homeowners to replace their air filters. An appliance brand can offer recipes and cooking tips. While the possibilities are endless, it’s important for brands to maintain contact with the people who have bought their products.
Do Authentic Good
Corporate social responsibility has taken on new importance. This experience has evolved from simple check writing for executives’ pet causes to being integrated into companies’ operations and marketing. Brands thrive when people feel good about the products they purchase — before and after they buy. For example, TOMS’ is based on a ‘One to One’ model, in which every shoe purchase helps one child in need with shoes, vision, clean water, safe birth and bullying-prevention services. By keeping in touch with consumers — and showing them how their purchases can contribute as force for positive change — building products brands as well can inspire similar loyalty.
Provide Uncommon Service
Nothing creates loyalty like truly outstanding customer service. Whether it’s through seamless warranty claims, easy-return policies, quick replacement or accessible customer support… building product companies can demonstrate to existing customers how very important they truly are. This experience, in turn, leads to both loyalty and brand evangelism. It reminds people why they love their brands and simplifies the decision for them to go back for seconds.
More than Rewards
For years, building product manufacturers have offered builders perks for buying quantity of a single product (e.g. shingles, solar panels, plumbing fixtures, etc.). Traditionally, these perks included rebates, “winter-buy” discounts, iPads as well as fishing and golf trips. The housing downturn after The Great Recession of 2008, however, led those in the building products industry to pivot for finding ways to add new value to their client’s business, as a way of boosting loyalty. In addition to ‘merch,’ successful B2B loyalty programs offer contractor-partners priority website listings, enhanced warranties on products they install, co-branded merchandise and wearables, as well as specialized training and continuing education benefits.
Business knowledge is important to builders and remodelers… especially those smaller firms with limited in-house staff talent or the ability to afford outsourced consultants. Building product companies can offer partners online training modules that show installers how to smoothly address common installation challenges. They can also hire trained, strategically placed company representatives to help crews with their installs in person. Or even provide on-the-spot financing, to help close sales. Supporting smaller businesses with their day-to-day operations via educational tools, industry insight, product knowledge and training is invaluable and will continue to develop brand loyalty.
Solutions for Every Size
Many full-service remodelers or general contractors may not purchase enough of a single product to qualify for significant discounts. Successful loyalty programs are easy for contractors to enroll in, have multiple tiers for participation, employ easy-to-use technology and offer a relationship component. Contractor Rewards is a coalition program that partners with multiple manufacturers such as Moen, Andersen, SharkBite (Reliance Worldwide Corporation), Schlage and A.O. Smith. A contractor signs up for the program — downloads an app — and then can upload installation photos or purchase receipts to accrue and redeem reward points. The strategy is mutually-rewarding. Contractors don’t have to navigate dozens of websites while the system allows brands to build more, dedicated relationships with contractors.
Customer loyalty will continue to create valuable equity in the marketplace. Brands that do it well understand that it’s much easier and less expensive to keep existing customers than the costs associated with acquiring new ones. Loyal customers are also much more likely to purchase upgrades or add-ons than new prospects. When times get tough, it’s easy for companies to cut back on investing in their brands. But they do so at their own peril. Even though time may languish between each building product purchase, brand loyalty — for both building owners and contractors alike — can flourish as long as reminders of that love are constant.