5 Tips to Let Your Builder Customers Know They’re Top of Mind
October 6, 2020
The pandemic has affected how the business world operates on a global scale, from early mandated shutdowns to interrupted supply chains and more. Along the way, it’s also shown the value of the customer, and how imperative continued business has been for a company’s viability.
For manufacturers who experienced slowdowns or gaps in product availability, and are now working to keep up with demand, customer retention has become key.
In today’s post, we’re bringing you five tips on how to show your customers you appreciate them and that they’re top of mind.
 Start by knowing who your (end) customers are
We’re including this as a top tip because you can’t keep customers if you don’t know who they are — and we know that in the manufacturing world, not having insight into your supply chain is an ongoing issue.
Adam Rahll, one of HomeSphere’s partner managers, suggests a shift in thinking is required. That’s because a lot of building product manufacturers view the distributor as the customer, when, in reality, the end customer is the builder or contractor who’s purchasing from the distributor.
“It does a manufacturer no good to sell to distribution if the product doesn’t eventually make it in to the home,” Rahll said.
By tracking who’s purchasing your products down to the homes they end up in, you can identify exactly who to stay in touch with. While you might get some information from a distributor on who’s purchasing from them, you’re unlikely to get the detailed info you need to maintain customer records.
Where to start
If you’re a HomeSphere partner and you’ve set up rebate incentives with us, you can log in to HomeSphere-IQ®. There, you’ll see the builders who have claimed your rebates, and therefore purchased and used your products in their projects. Not only will you see their information, but you can access who they work with, whether they exclusively claim your brand in closings and more.
HomeSphere-IQ® Enterprise partners can also reach out to your regional market specialists to supplement the information available on our platform with firsthand knowledge from our reps.
Kyle Ott, HomeSphere’s in-market specialist based in Florida, suggests partners reach out to get personal details on builders — from insight into how to approach different builders to useful observations based on countless conversations with HomeSphere builders.
If you’re not a HomeSphere partner, you can still think about setting up an incentive program, like rebates, so you can learn more about the end customer buying your products as they claim your rebates.
CRM tools, like Salesforce, are also a necessity in tracking leads and customers, though there’s a learning curve to using them, and you’ll need company-wide buy-in to make sure customer information is robust and kept up to date.
 Align marketing and sales in customer outreach
We’ve talked before about the importance of aligning marketing and sales, and when it comes to customer outreach — especially in times of upheaval — it’s critical that both teams are on the same page.
That means marketing communications shouldn’t go out that don’t match what sales reps are telling customers and vice versa. Mixed messaging only leads to customer confusion — and worse, customers feeling like they’re being lied to.
To help customers understand they’re top of mind, synchronize your outreach so they feel support at every level — and so you can use your own time efficiently.
For example, if you want to let customers know that a product is available again, have marketing send a general email announcement to all customers. Then, have sales reps follow up with a phone call to customers who previously used the product.
Similarly, you can take the same approach when you have news to share about a product’s temporary unavailability.
While marketing can get news out quickly and efficiently, sales reps can add a personal touchpoint for customers most likely to be impacted by the news (which goes back to tip #1 and the importance on knowing customer product usage).
A new look at the sales funnel
Rahll, a partner manager, also suggests rethinking the sales funnel — which traditionally places marketing at the top of the funnel, delivering leads to sales who in turn create customers — as a flywheel instead.
The flywheel is a concept promoted by Hubspot, which places marketing, sales and service in a constant loop that's working together to provide a seamless experience for anyone who comes in contact with company. It also means that customers aren’t only an outcome, but people who need to be continually engaged and “delighted” (as long as we’re using marketing terms).
 Don’t be shy about updates, or afraid of overcommunicating
One thing all of our partner managers will tell you is that you can’t overcommunicate right now when it comes to need-to-know information.
While “need to know” might be subjective, we’ll define it as product updates, issues surrounding your supply chain and anything that impacts products arriving at your customers’ jobsites on time.
It’s also a good practice to tell your customers when you aren’t having product availability issues so they know they can continue to order your products. Plus, everyone appreciates good news these days.
How you communicate these updates will depend on the context, particularly if shortages are regional or more targeted messaging is required. Still, our second tip stands: messaging should be coordinated between marketing and sales.
For manufacturers wary of losing customers by being transparent about bad news, keep in mind that you can still keep your messaging positive. But, being transparent will be far more appreciated than vague brand statements that don’t mean much to a builder with deadlines.
It’s also an opportunity to get creative with solutions to show customers you’re there for them, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
 Solicit feedback on customer experiences
One easy way to show customers you’re thinking about them is to simply ask how they’re doing — whether it’s through a personal phone call or an emailed survey.
There are benefits to both approaches. A personal phone call could lead to a more open-ended and frank conversation that helps to strengthen your relationship with the customer.
An emailed survey could be more efficient while still collecting lots of valuable insights. Be aware the responses could also skew more negative as people will be more likely to fill it out if they’re unhappy. However, negative feedback is an opportunity to address issues before you lose someone as a customer.
What’s great about feedback in general is that it can give you an idea of what your customers are currently dealing with, what their stressors are and how you can help to alleviate issues they’re experiencing.
Feedback can also expose issues you weren’t aware of with your products that have been holding you back from keeping customers.
Not yet a HomeSphere partner?
HomeSphere manufacturer partners have access to the largest community of home builders in the United States.
 Use communications as a jumping off point to creative solutions
The majority of our tips revolve around communicating better with your customers. The next natural step is to then show that you’re here to offer solutions.
If one product is unavailable, consider what you could suggest to your customers instead that will still meet their individual needs. Maybe it’s an upsell, maybe it’s a slightly different product that still meets their requirements. Or maybe, you don’t have another product to suggest, but you can be the person who helped them get what they needed when they needed it — even if it’s not with your brand.
In conversations with builders, you can also listen for issues they’re having in finding products you don’t manufacture, or if they need help finding subcontractors or installers. Be a helpful advisor by looking into your own network to offer suggestions.
You won’t have a solution to every problem, but you can certainly show customers you’re always trying to help them find one.
Let us know what we missed in the comments.