BMC had a problem.
Even though the building materials company was confident that it was the No. 1 supplier of millwork in markets where it offered those products, customers didn’t think
of the company as a source for finish products. BMC’s image was tough and rugged, making it very appealing to builders, but it wasn’t attracting interior designers or homeowners.
“We were known throughout the trades as a construction-oriented company,” explains Jeanine Froke, national director of marketing for BMC. “Through our interior specialty products—windows, cabinets, and high-end millwork—we’re competing with local shops that have a different perception. They would sell against us by
saying, ‘They’re just a lumberyard.’”
To combat that perception, in January BMC launched BMC Design, a separate brand just for finish products. The branding provides sales collateral and an online gallery that features a more stylish, consumer-friendly look—a look that Excellence Awards judges regarded as special for both showroom design and marketing.
The concept won awards, but have the new branding and showrooms achieved the company’s intended goals?
“Absolutely,” says John Osborne, national director of sales. “We’re looking at incremental sales, incremental margins, incremental product-category, and wallet-share growth with our customers, as well as new business.”
For instance, BMC had never been in the cabinet business in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex until it opened a BMC Design showroom in Fort Worth. It uses the center to introduce customers to BMC in general, as well as to upsell what a builder already has offered.
“A builder sends in one of their homeowners to buy doors and trim from us, we’ll recognize if that customer decided that they wanted to put some upgraded trim and molding into their home,” Osborne says. “In the first two months that we’ve been open, we’ve recorded over $300,000 in new-category sales. Customers had never bought cabinets from us in Dallas, and now they’re willing to.” Fort Worth is one of two cities that now have BMC Design showrooms. The other is in Salt Lake City. A Dallas center is scheduled to open during the first quarter of 2015, followed by locations in Austin, Texas; Houston; and Helena, Mont.
“Only trained BMC specialists sell these BMC Design brands, and they have a plethora of experience and training in brands such as Marvin, Andersen Windows, and Belmont Cabinets,” Froke says.
“We spent a while in the research stage. I would say, soup to nuts, it took about eight to 12 months from conception to execution,” Froke says. She explains that the company was able to curb costs by doing most of the work in-house. For the initial launch of the branding program—including R&D, the website, sales collateral, and other creative work, as well as the brand’s introduction at the company’s 2014 national meeting—BMC spent about $50,000.
At the meeting, the BMC Design brand was announced to the company’s salesforce and 500 customers. Sales reps could attend breakout sessions on the new brand, and builders learned how to use it to increase their business.
The company is also marketing to consumers for the first time. A page on the BMC website spotlights the company’s design specialists, and BMC Design is on Houzz and Pinterest—new territory for the company. (And that’s not its only new territory; BMC recently moved its headquarters from Boise, Idaho, to a suburb of Atlanta.)
Still, the emphasis is on promoting to builders through the company’s reps. The sales reps can create their own pages on the BMC site; they can post pictures of their projects there and on Houzz and Pinterest; and they can direct builders to a YouTube
video overview of the new brand.
Each design center will be tailored to regional tastes; in the planning stages, BMC Design meets with local builders, designers, and architects. Once the project starts, local interior designers create model rooms and coordinate features such as lighting and flooring. This approach deepens BMC Design’s connections with the local design community.
The major aim of the design centers is to provide a “wow” factor that opens customers’ eyes to what BMC Design offers. Specialists can show customers options on Apple TVs, and BMC Design intentionally avoids vendor displays and towering shelves of hardware in order to create a homelike setting to inspire visitors.
“It’s designed to be very comfortable and quiet,” says Osborne. “We really try to relax [customers] and allow them to have the resources to make decisions for their home.”
Builders also can use the design centers as a meeting space. “It’s such a nice environment,” Osborne says. “It’s hard to measure what that brings you, but the feedback from our customers has been, ‘This is great. I really appreciate you letting us do this. It makes me look better as a builder.’”
As a result, those builders are sending BMC new business. And in turn, the centers are helping builders increase their add-on sales. The centers also help bring finish-selection into the process earlier.
“We’re really focusing on the custom-home builder, and the semi-custom. Oftentimes we’re involved in that house from right after the foundation is poured,”
Froke says. “It’s a perfect stage for [customers] to come in and make those design changes before the first piece of lumber even gets framed up on their site. We can change windows out and change some of the interior aesthetics.”
To spread the word, BMC Design posted builder testimonials about the Salt Lake City design center on YouTube.
According to BMC, this branding is attracting new, more “design-focused” employees—and new product lines. It’s also achieving the goal of helping the company compete with specialty shops.
Froke says that BMC Design has received a positive response from both sales reps and customers saying that the brand is helping them improve their business.
“We’re getting a tremendous amount of feedback, especially as we take the concept through our markets and the focus groups,” Froke says.
BMC Design will continue to periodically seek feedback from its customers. “Our customers are able to deliver a better experience to their home buyers,” Froke says.