It used to be that batting average, RBIs, and home runs pretty much told you everything you needed to know about a hitter. Now there's OBP (On base percentage), OPS (On-base plus slugging), OPS+ (I don't have a clue what this is), GO/AO (the ratio of ground balls to fly balls), GPA (Gross Production Average), and on and on.

Bob Wiltse Modern teams examine data in minute detail. Managers have a huge information base to call on for judging and plotting, and thus they reasonably know how a player will perform in any situation. This ain't 1946. Today, managers make decisions based on stats more than on their gut.

In the "game" of building materials sales, modern retailers also look at a lot of statistics--sales, profit, margin. But what about marketing stats? Many don't track advertising results because, they say, it's an impossible task.

I disagree. It's not only possible, it's positively essential. And those that don't measure are playing their game with outdated tactics, like it's still 1946. Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?

Here are three quick tips for every ad you run that will produce measurable results:

  • Always include a specific, compelling offer ("Buy one, get a second free." "20% off." "Financing available." "Unique, one-time package").
  • Always give a reason to respond right now (create urgency with a deadline).
  • Give clear instructions on how to respond (Tell customers exactly what to do--"Visit our store." "Ask for Joe." "Call this special number").

Then, make sure your salespeople know what you have advertised and that they track the responses. It's that simple.
Cost of Acquisition (COA) is a statistic you can use to determine your marketing budget. This is what it costs to acquire a customer using a particular medium. For example, if you attract 100 new customers with a $10,000 campaign, the COA is $100 each ($10,000/100=$100). So, if your goal is to get 200 new clients the next time, you will invest $20,000 using the same medium (200x$100=$20,000). Please remember that different media have different customer acquisition costs.

The LBM industry rode a wave for a decade. Sales flowed in. You satisfied demand. There was plenty of business for everyone. You were wildly profitable. Most of it was probably attributable to frame sales. But unless you have the numbers, you don't have proof of the direct cause of your fortune. You don't know which dollar was responsible for which result.

In truth, top results were never achieved. Even during the greatest of times, there were lost opportunities due to poor use of your marketing weapons--lost sales that would have added millions to your bottom line. Now it's different. Now you have to tend to the details to compete and win.

A great marketing system (including ads, events, brochures, websites) sells. It doesn't just "brand," it produces--measurably. It's a key player. In fact, it could be the MVP. And when you have an MVP, you win. But when you don't use marketing correctly, you're keeping an all-star on the bench.

Yes, I know your company has survived other recessions worse than this one. But that was then, and this is now. It's a different world. The game has changed. Not only do you have to create more powerful communications, you must tabulate and evaluate your stats.

It starts with goals. If you're content with where you are, don't do a thing. Wait it out. The danger is that every other company in your division will improve. When the season begins, they'll have the players and programs in place to win. You'll be at the bottom of the standings.

On the other hand, if you commit to marketing and are diligent about monitoring results (just as a manager watches OBP and OPS), you'll have the data you need to devise a winning game plan. A steady onslaught of aggressive promotions will drive sales and catapult your team to the top of the standings, even during a recession.

Bob Wiltse is a marketing specialist for small to mid-size independent LBM retailers. Contact him at or 888-897-3671.