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Market or Park It

Building Material Companies Don’t Have a Choice Anymore

I know you have all enjoyed the last several decades of mocking millennials, and then we all got some digs in on Gen Z. You got to roll your eyes at Facebook and Instagram or ‘the gram’ as those hipsters wanted to call it when they got too lazy to say the whole word. These kids and their emojis, slang, and abbreviations––half of which idk, lol.

Well time’s up, buttercup. The shift is real and if you are armchair quarterbacking or parked up in the balcony a la Muppets, chortling and lamely critiquing the marketing efforts of building material companies that are trying to keep up with the latest trends, while you ‘get by’ doing the bare minimum, you are in for a rude awakening.

There have been some major shifts in the building materials landscape that are inescapable and will be the death knell of traditional marketing-mocking building material companies. They have always lagged and bragged about it, thinking it meant they were saving dollars that progressive companies were playfully plundering on pointless platforms.

Pinterest? My ex-wife uses that for scrapbooking.

Instagram? My new wife uses that to post baby pix.

Facebook? I belong to a group that posts some tips on there, and sometimes I use it to criticize someone’s politics.

TikTok? You will never catch me on that state run brain suck.

BeReal? Huh?

If this is your mentality, this article is a cheat sheet for 2023. We don’t care what social media platforms you put your veined marble looking install shots on. We care that you are looking at the larger shifts that are happening in the industry. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


Designers started sampling online

If you don’t know about Material Bank and Swatchbox, now is the time to start looking. In 2019 and 2020 many major design firms shifted from sampling directly from manufacturers, to using these sample aggregators to fulfill their sample needs. Why hit 12 manufacturers when I can order all the samples all from one platform? This nicely coincided with the shift away from physical libraries at the firms. These platforms are continuously adding services and value add to architects, designers, owners, specifiers and green professionals. Data services, visualization of installations, and sample fulfillment are converging and this is where it is happening.


I already know what I want

By the time a customer shows up at your shop or website they have a pretty good idea of what they want. Your ability to talk them out of it is low. They already researched it online agnostically, in their opinion, and they are wary of anything you are trying to push on them. They trust Google, or Bing, if that is your thing.


Salespeople are annoying

Check your agenda, Chuck. Designers don’t need to be pitched on why your floor is better than Parquet Pete who just left with his tail between his legs. Find another way to add value. What products are new? How are you making your products better? What applications don’t make sense? Where should I NOT use this? Build some trust and don’t come rolling in on a commission mission and make people awkwardly pretend they don’t know what motivates you.  The role of sales has changed and salespeople need to embrace it and focus on where they can add value.


I only want what I want

For decades, building materials companies labored over binder designs, how the sample boxes looked, etc. The days of binders and boxes and full sets of heavy samples are gone. There will be people who fall in love with a brand and want the whole collection, but they are increasingly few. People were working from home, they got one sample and decided if that is what they wanted or not. Running around with binders thinking there is some librarian excitedly waiting to index your countertop boxes and put them in the right Division of the library is a very, very dated mindset. Not completely obsolete, but on its way. And honestly, you can save some money sending out three samples in the blue family, vs. 65 different colorways in a clunky binder that no longer has anywhere to collect dust as sample libraries shrink or disappear.


Chat and instant gratification

As attention spans shrink, so does the time that one is willing to wait for an answer. Chatbots on websites are nothing new, but the advent of ChatGPT and conversational data responses is a game changer. Responses are vetted against the swath of information that exists while also learning through user feedback. If you have not tried ChatGPT you can really tin hat your Big Brother fears with a foray on to their website and ask some questions.


These shifts are real, even for Building Materials companies. It has been OK to talk about the “good old days at Dupont” or your discount strategy and purchasing programs, but these are becoming increasingly obsolete and outdated as the discovery process for the products you sell undergoes this massive shift.

If there are terms on here you have never heard of, look them up. You can use Google or get really daring and try ChatGPT.

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