Marketing is like magic, a dark art attempted by many but mastered by few. Even those who are good at marketing find it hard to explain what works and why.

In a sampling of LBM dealers, Gutherie Lumber in Livonia, Mich., does none, but Mathew Hall in St. Cloud, Minn., throws the whole budget to helping out its builder customers, and Nisbet Brower in Cincinnati doles out dollars like grandma to a favorite grandchild.

When it comes to marketing, there are plenty of strategies but little consensus on what works or why. Figuring out the best ways to market a dealer and then measuring the success of those efforts can be a daunting task. Not to mention measuring return on the investment.

This month, ProSales talked with suppliers and public relations and marketing experts to get a handle on what you should be doing to reach your customers. Their answers, as varied as the LBM industry, shed light on the murky craft of marketing.

Here are some highlights of what they tell us:

Know your customer base. If it’s primarily retail, then don’t spend a large part of your budget chasing production builders.

Be flexible. If your builders want to receive information and quotes via their smartphones and tablets, then the Internet will have to become a significant part of your marketing efforts.

Keep what works. But don’t be afraid to look beyond the tried and true. Loyalty programs, aimed at catering to a dealer’s builder customers, work. They remain a big part of marketing efforts. What is unclear is whether loyalty programs provide a good way to move forward with securing new business.

It’s all about sales. The best marketing program in the world is useless if your sales staff doesn’t follow up on leads.

Read on for ideas to connect with your customers.

Making Marketing Magic »