Getting ‘Social’

Facebook and Instagram let businesses connect with customers, with benefits for both parties.

Steve Cheatham, Sales Manager, Everwood Treatment Company and NAWLA Marketing Committee Member

From the July issue of BPD and Merchant Magazine.

Social media has emerged as an increasingly important part of people’s lives, and prudent companies are finding ways to integrate it into lead nurturing and relationship-building.

Consider our experience at Everwood Treatment Company, a family-owned business based in Spanish Fort, Ala., that has been in the wood treating industry for over 30 years. We are always working at strengthening relationships with our customers — retailers — and their customers — the general public. For example, we recently sold a large volume of lumber to South Bay Ace Hardware, which constructed a 12,000-square-foot eating deck at a waterfront restaurant. We are posting pictures of that project on social media, highlighting the fact that the lumber was supplied by South Bay through Everwood. That kind of online traffic helps create a sense of connection between the end customer, the builder, and us. Posting our customers’ projects helps them get noticed. And helping our retail customers make sales benefits us both: they get more jobs, and we sell more material.

That one example alone highlights the reality — at least for our company, because we do not sell directly to the public — that online marketing is more about fortifying relationships than generating new leads. Facebook has been our most effective online channel for nurturing purposes. When we do training sessions and events such as home builders’ shows, all of the pictures are uploaded to Facebook and our customers are tagged in the posts. In our experience, people seem most interested in seeing themselves at an event on media! We have greatly expanded our efforts on this front in the past year.

Instagram is also a great place for pictures of projects that our customers have completed in their markets. We have just started increasing our efforts on Instagram, because when it comes to posting project pictures, we are able to calendar those out and just have jobs going. You can auto-post every week at certain times each day, and try to see how that does. So far, we have linked it with many of the HGTV pages; and that has generated more interest coming back to us. We now need to spend some time weeding through them and identify which people are looking to do a project that we could match up with one of our retail customers.

Another online method we have used to connect with clients is YouTube. We created a channel on the site with several training videos. We drive our training trailer and equipment to customer events, to provide direct interaction with contractors and the general public alike. Our focus is to offer training to several different venues, whether it’s customer appreciation day at a local hardware store or a planned neighborhood development location. We also visit trade shows and conventions to offer free training to attendees. Sometimes we will use the YouTube link from these events and insert it into some of our posts, especially email posts.

We are now making a push to get contact information from all our customers on projects they are undertaking. Our photography and media staff are following up to get pictures and produce stories on the projects, which we will post online. Our hope is that these will occasionally be picked up by Building Projects Digest magazine.

Applying the analytics on Facebook helps us understand our customers at a deeper level. We also review Google analytics basically to see what is hot and what is trending in our field. Our chief focus has been on the hits — what generates the most interest. Analytics have confirmed that features on our events are indeed what attract the most people online. We can and do post pictures of projects, and they draw lots of attention from people looking for ideas — especially the “do it yourself” crowd. For our events, we will take our 18-wheeler and pull up in someone’s yard. We show 40-50 people the ropes, feed them, and take pictures throughout the duration. We post people getting their certificates and awards, another feature the analytics confirm as very popular. I think it helps build our relationship with our retailers, because not only are we posting photos of their people, but of their contractors; and I think it just helps reinforce our alliance.

Interacting with our “customer’s customer” is probably the biggest challenge we face. However, we believe that successfully doing so increases the demand for lumber, thus helping our retail customers. And, of course, we want the retailers to obtain that lumber from us! We are considering expanding the marketing department in order to increase our connection with both retailers and the public.

As buyers become more independent and attention spans shrink, the case for strategic, effective lead nurturing continues to grow. It certainly helps with recognition of our product, and it’s going to help build a stronger relationship with our customer. I expect our efforts in the social media marketing arena to continue to grow, as we are really still very new at it right now. We have been kind of dipping our foot in there and seeing what we can do with it. It’s definitely been a “let’s try this, no that doesn’t work at all, let’s try this,” approach, and then you will hit something where we get a lot of hits, a lot of views, and we pick up a lot of likes, and it’s like “okay, that must work.” There’s a lot of trial and error involved, for sure.

As far as what lies ahead in terms of our client engagement and lead nurturing strategies, I expect such efforts to increase because our footprint has been growing and it gives us a chance to get out into the new markets and try to pick up interest in our product. Then, in turn, we are going to direct that to our customers we have in that market. We are also planning to make a push with our training, featuring our rig; we definitely want to go out and do more of that. Currently, we do two days a week; but we hope to see the truck on the road five days a week in the near future. Then, of course, we will run all of that on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, as well as on our own web site. That increased volume should greatly boost the interaction not only between us and the retail store, but us and the general public.

About NAWLA (North American Wholesale Lumber Association)

NAWLA is the association that delivers unparalleled access to relationships and resources that improve business strategy and performance through sales growth, cost savings and operational efficiencies for wholesalers and manufacturers of forest products and other building materials that conduct business in North America. Learn more at www.nawla.org.

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