Creating brand loyalty is a business model that accomplishes immediate sales benefits, as well as a marketing strategy, designed to foster long term equity. After all, loyalty increases the ability for a brand to establish a robust customer base that will be faithful when purchasing or recommending building products. While there are many effective ways to develop brand loyalty, this type of mutually-rewarding relationship must be nurtured and maintained, once established… or it may quickly disappear.
Brand Choices are Shifting
The pandemic has impacted how audiences consider and research product purchases. And this inflection point has — in turn — contributed to a new shift in brand loyalties. In a study by Ketchum in July 2020, 45 percent of American consumers reported that they had changed their brand preferences. By August, 73 percent had already made a change.
The study found that, in the past year, online activities have exposed more audiences to product reviews than ever before. The same study showed that search results — based on the promotion of a specific brand or product — also contributed to the shift. Another data point cited was the importance of pricing and/or delivery incentives in establishing brand loyalty.
What’s even more significant, however, are the results from a McKinsey study, which projected that 75 percent of U.S. shoppers will continue their new shopping behaviors… indefinitely.
While these statistics may be initially concerning, they nevertheless open up a dramatic wealth of opportunities. These forecasted results were merely accelerated as a result of the current environment. Studies over the decade predicted the likelihood of an erosion of brand loyalty resulting from technological advancements. And audiences’ desire to venture out and try new and different products…migrating from those brands that they may have appreciated for years.
So, becoming more proactive when it comes to nurturing brand affinity is long overdue.
Here are three tips building product marketers can employ to develop, maintain and grow brand loyalty.
Even though some dedicated customers may still fax in orders, prefer print catalogs and gravitate to brick-n-mortar counter sales, it’s clear that online research is here to stay. While large-scale building products are protected by what seems to be a distribution “moat” — based on their bulky weight — a majority of customers and prospects will still perform digitally-assisted product evaluation before making a purchase.
As such, the importance of managing online reviews and recommendations is critical. Certainly, a direct product review on a manufacturer or dealer website is compelling. Yet, this process must be part of a continuous, dedicated campaign… reviews should be solicited shortly after each building product purchase. After all, e-commerce retailers have been practicing this strategy for years.
In addition to relying on user reviews, building product brands can engage highly relevant channel influencers to help educate audiences. And provide thought leadership for product preferences.
Enlisting influencers — well, by definition — influences brand loyalty. Bloggers maintain a significant amount of channel “authority.” In fact, studies demonstrate that some 61 percent of audiences have made a purchase based on a blogger’s opinion.
An estimated 32 million bloggers are active in the U.S., and many of them support a content marketing opportunity for sponsored posts. A sponsored blog includes a negotiated fee — somewhat similar to advertising — to compensate a blogger for their endorsement of a building product brand or service. Often complementing traditional advertising, sponsored posts can drive purchase intent, while affording brands some limited control over messaging delivery.
Product integration is yet another impactful way to leverage the benefits of a building product brand. Designers and contractors — as well as other construction trade professionals and media influencers — often achieve celebrity status. And, as such, are available to support a brand or service that will resonate well with their community audiences. Just think about HGTV’s Chip and Joanna Gains or Ben and Erin Napier. They evolved as have many others…from talented designers, home flippers and handymen… to beloved household names.
Integrating a building product for a featured residential construction project with these media-savvy endorsers can elevate brand perception in dramatic fashion. The weight of a perceived endorsement from someone with this level of highly relevant status is hard to ignore. And, although celebrities tend to be consumer-facing, building product manufacturers will reap the benefits of increased visibility and pull-thru demand that contractors and specifiers appreciate.
Listen and React
Social listening is an intimate method used to understand better how audiences are motivated. In fact, building product brands can engage directly with influencers on various social networks. Social listening on platforms like Pinterest and Instagram allows marketers to leverage trends that audiences are discussing in real time. When… it may well be an ideal moment to react, by engaging with those influencers. And sharing how a product may be a perfect fit for a particular and timely opportunity.
Of course, many building manufacturers’ primary customers are contractors and, as such, it’s vital to “listen to” this important target audience. Marketing teams must consult with sales representatives to glean highly relevant contractor insights. This type of sales and marketing alignment is critical… as sales representatives are generally privy to firsthand contractor feedback. And how to best overcome channel objections.
Once sales and marketing have identified a potential performance opportunity from their listening vantage point, there may be an opportunity to involve other departments. For example, if it becomes clear that roofing contractors consistently complain about poor nail track lines printed on some types of shingles, it may be prudent to research and develop improved offerings. In addition to spurring brand loyalty, this type of interaction with the pro community allows for a brand to be perceived as a solutions provider… which can help to elevate the brand above other competitors, who may not be as customer-focused.
Make Their Job Easier
Trade professionals work hard. And a building product brand that makes their job easier… earns valuable consideration for customer loyalty. Rewards programs are a popular method to offer financial incentives, while CEU and certification programs can help to propel career development. And don’t forget to establish periodic roundtables, rep councils, specialized marketing templates and targeted regional co-op advertising programs to extend loyalty to the local level.
Building product manufacturers may wish to consider investing in specialized online portals exclusively for industry pros — ranging from architects to designers and contractors. The ability to upload a technical drawing and then receive a detailed cost estimate and comprehensive pick list — complete with all of the required materials — can save a specifier valuable time.
And online visualizers along with “kitchen table” financing tools can help contractors close a sale, by allowing homeowners to better appreciate how a newly built or remodeled space will evolve.
Going the Distance
Once your brand has made an investment in building customer loyalty, make sure to take continued steps to preserve that preference. Interested in innovative ways to take your customer loyalty to the next level? Send an email to Steve Kleber at firstname.lastname@example.org.