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.

Developing and executing an integrated plan is one of the most common marketing challenges for the building industry. But success demands that companies build a concrete framework for their marketing efforts.

That means taking time to create a plan, starting with an honest evaluation of your value proposition and position in the market, and a companywide understanding of your key messages.

Over the years, Baublitz Advertising has developed the Marketing Action Plan (MAP), a proprietary process that dealers, distributors, and manufacturers use to create comprehensive, metrics-based marketing programs, including measurable return on investment objectives. Whatever method a company employs to plan and manage its marketing program, it should consider the following, many of which are elements of the Baublitz MAP:

  • Start from zero. To build a program, start from scratch, a process mirroring zero-based budgeting. In today's marketplace, the mentality that "We've always done it this way" won't be enough to gain market share. Reconsider the basics: your audience, your message, and your goals. Then match these with the strategies (space advertising, direct mail, Web, public relations) that give you the best return on your investment. Base your expenditures moving forward on specific needs and objectives.
  • Understand the marketplace. Ideally, this means engaging in market research that provides a valid gauge of how customers and prospects perceive your products and your brand. Even a basic survey of a dozen or so key customers, coupled with some research about your competition, can help identify opportunities and threats.
  • Establish goals. Be clear about what objectives your marketing should achieve: a specific sales increase, a specific number of new customers, a specific rise in use of a new product/service, etc. Measurable objectives enable you to determine which marketing dollars are being spent wisely.
  • Seek natural partners. As the distribution channel changes, partnerships between companies have increased, from manufacturers to distributors to retailers. These partnerships can provide a cost-effective way to engage in marketing, especially for smaller companies. One key example: co-op advertising. In a typical co-op program, manufacturers provide funds, dealers and/or builders use those funds, and distributors facilitate training and contribute other resources. These channel partners should review any co-op program to ensure all parties are focused on the same complementary objectives.
  • Audit your communications. Revisit every existing element of your program and engage in an audit of all communications materials. Are they consistent? Do the highlight the right selling points? Any divergence from your key messages dilutes the strength of your overall program.
  • Commit to measurement. Most companies include goals in their marketing programs, but these targets are often vague or difficult to link clearly to the strategies employed. The Baublitz MAP and other effective approaches demand concrete, measurable objectives. A goal such as "Increase customer base by 10% in 12 months" provides a clear benchmark for success; "Improve awareness of products" does not. During the planning process, reevaluate each and every tactic you want to include: ads, direct mail, web, events, sales materials, and so on. When possible, quantify the benefit of each particular tactic. Tactics of dubious value? Eliminate them. Focus your efforts--and your budget--on those tactics that work.

One point can't be emphasized too strongly: You must create a written marketing plan. This plan should document your goals, target markets, research results, tactics, budget, time frame, and responsibilities. Many companies make the critical mistake of keeping their goals and plans vague because they don't want to feel like they've failed if they don't achieve them. But with a written plan in place, you have a better chance of staying on track--and a better chance of long-term success.

A final word: For some companies, creating and executing an effective marketing program simply may become too complex. For them, it might make sense to hire a marketing firm. If your company takes this step, be sure to consider an agency with experience in your industry. Make sure the firm provides you with examples of its past results and a clear description of how it will craft your program. Hold that firm to the same standards that you hold yourself; be sure it is prepared to set tangible goals that are the benchmarks for your marketing program's success.