Running a lumberyard may be all about relationships, but those relationships aren't all begun and raised the same way. There are customers you cultivate through cookouts and visits, those you reach through fliers and commercials, those who walk unannounced through your front door. And with e-mail, Web sites, and other media, the way you start and maintain those relationships becomes more multifaceted all the time.
Our weekly e-mail newsletter, ProSales Business Update, gives you a two-minute report on major LBM developments, with lots of links that enable you to dig deeper. In May, we began devoting one letter a month solely to green products and construction, the hottest topic in LBM.
My blog, written with senior editor Andy Carlo, has the latest news–some of which goes live before it even officially goes public. We also have launched a blog on installed sales.
My Webinars on topics such as certified wood and how to thrive in today's rough market. Some have been accessible through ProSales' Web site, while others were done in conjunction with your regional LBM associations.
Unlike others' surveys that focus on theoretical questions, ProSales' surveys take aim at real-life issues, such as how dealers like you are coping with ever-rising fuel prices.
My talks, more than two dozen of them since January, updating several thousand dealers, distributors, vendors, and advertisers at venues from Maine to California on the new ideas and ongoing concerns I see around the nation. By June, I expect to have visited my 30th state (plus Canada) since taking this job in September 2006. One recent trip covered more than 600 miles and half a dozen communities just in Colorado.
Our ProSales 100, which remains the LBM industry's premier report on the state of America's biggest construction supply companies, a fact born out by its consistent inclusion in our top 10 list of most downloaded stories, regardless of the time of year.
ProSales' Web site is constantly changing to meet your needs. Case in point: a new section devoted specifically to green products and construction. We also are building a team of commentators whose work appears mainly on the ProSales Web site, starting with consultant Chris Rader and now expanding to include former ProSales editor Greg Brooks.
We call this effort "media maximizing," seeking to match our message with the medium with qualities that can best tell the story or reach you in the most effective manner. Short, fast, headline-style pieces are best served up via e-mail, for instance, while Webinars have their place for summarizing research and delivering reports. The Internet is perhaps the ultimate vehicle for storing and retrieving vast amounts of data. And, of course, if you can afford the time and cost, the best way to reach a dealer is to get on the road and sit with him in his office or give him a PowerPoint presentation during a conference.
There will be times when nothing tells a story better than a magazine. Custom-written, custom-photographed features like last year's "Yards From the Edge," in which we looked at LBM operations in the four corners of the continental United States, or "Three Faces of LBM," where we spent time with executives from a trio of companies across the country, are the products of an editorial investment that you won't see anywhere else in the LBM publishing world.
As in the pre-Internet, pre-laptop computer days, what we do remains all about building relationships. We're not just maximizing media, we're also maximizing our value. And we've only just begun to use these new tools to become an ever more important part of your world.
Craig Webb, Editor