This is one in a series of articles from the Baublitz Briefs, quick-study guides to LBM marketing and communications. Click here to see a list of other articles.

In the building industry, we're all working harder than ever to maximize the value of every marketing dollar we spend. Unfortunately, many companies neglect the most critical step in designing an efficient marketing program: good research.

Research comes in many forms, including focus groups, surveys, customer interviews, and more. No doubt, every form of market research costs money. But companies that spend a small percentage of their budgets on research typically reap a huge benefit. They're able to develop a far more efficient marketing program--one that reaches the right audience in the right way with the right messages.

But the reality is many companies neglect this critical first step. In a "State of the Industry" survey conducted by Baublitz Advertising and ProSales magazine, a third of the dealers that responded had never completed a formal survey or focus group to determine customer needs.

Don't make the same mistake. Asking the right questions of key audiences gives any company a better understanding of how to reach and motivate customers and prospects.

The Power of Research

Research isn't just a luxury-- it's a necessity. Properly designed market research enables you to:

  • Know where you stand. Of course your customers know about you, but what do they really think about your products and services? And what about prospects; are you even on their radar screen? The answers might not be what you want them to be, but they can help you craft a communications program to achieve your sales goals.
  • Use marketing budgets more effectively. Research can reveal your prospects' preferred method of communication. Or the attributes most important to them. Or, just as important, what they don't like. Knowing these answers before you start marketing prevents the waste of precious resources.
  • Develop the building blocks of a campaign. Research provides insight into design, copy, and other elements of an effective marketing program.
  • Evaluate your program. You're still in business, so your campaign must have done something right. But what? Was it the direct-mail piece, the full-page ad, or the way your receptionist answers the phone? Unless you measure, you don't know.

Get Started

Even companies with little experience can takes steps to gather market insight:

  • Commit to a program. Decide now to engage in some formalized research. Build it into your plan and budget, and gather intelligence early to reap the most benefits.
  • Sound out your biggest customers first. Pick five, 10 or 20 of your biggest customers for a carefully planned interview. Uncover their experiences--and problems.
  • Use your intelligence. Ask questions that will help you select marketing messages, methods and outlets.

Market research provides the foundation for an effective--and cost-effective--campaign. It enables you to understand your prospects and how to reach them. In addition, properly designed research can drive the messages and tactics of your campaign, which can save time and money during creative development. As a marketing firm that provides services exclusively to the building industry, we see the unremitting pressure placed on marketing budgets. But any company that cuts corners on market research to save money does so at its own peril.


Case Study: Contractor Express

Research Pays Dividends
Contractor Express is a family-owned lumber and building supplies retailer in Oceanside, N.Y. Its customer base of building and remodeling contractors comes from within a 10-mile radius of its single location on Long Island, one of the most active remodeling markets in the United States. After expanding its facilities and its delivery fleet, Contractor Express set a goal of broadening its service area and reaching new customers in its existing market.

With Baublitz Advertising, Contractor Express began the effort with detailed market research. A series of focus groups--both with customer and non-customer builders--revealed why current customers worked with the retailer, and what attributes may draw prospects.

Using the feedback, the company decided to rely on customers to tell the Contractor Express story in direct mail, newsletters, point-of-purchase displays and on the Web. Baublitz created a new tagline, "Where the Contractor Comes First," and developed a series of testimonials that highlighted the bond Contractor Express shares with long-term customers.

Research also uncovered business opportunities for Contractor Express, as the company demonstrated its renewed commitment to customers by adding services like estimating, blueprint takeoffs and kitchen planning.

In the first year after the research-based campaign, Contractor Express added 120 new accounts; The cost of acquiring each new account was only about $200--a small price to pay for clients who typically purchase thousands of dollars of products with each order.