Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Advice for Contractors: A Report from the ASCC Annual Conference

The American Society of Concrete Contractors Annual Conference, held in September, brought together a group of accomplished concrete contractors from all over the country. I attended the conference on behalf of BuildSite, with the hope of gaining insights about how the events of the past year have affected our customers. Not only did I hear about the issues top-of-mind to concrete contractors, but also I heard some great advice. So, I thought I’d pass along some of that advice in the hopes that some of our customers will take heart, knowing they are not alone during this tough time.

There were a few major themes stressed throughout the conference. The most prevalent and perhaps overarching theme was--you guessed it--coping with the current economy. At the early morning contractor round tables (starting at 6 am!), Rocky Geans mediated as contractors talked about staying busy and finding work in the down economy.

As a result of decreased project starts, contractors are facing more competition than ever. And more competition means that profit margins are getting cut down to practically—if not literally—zero. With so much pressure to keep bids extremely low, contractors wondered, when is it okay to walk away from a job? Low bids leave no room for error, and if anything unplanned happens, even a slight deviation in schedule, a company has a lot to lose. So, if you are struggling, is it ever wise to turn down work when you know it is being underbid?

The topic of walking away from a job was picked up by Clay Fischer of Woodland Construction Co. in his presentation "Putting Your Company in the Best Light." His advice to contractors was to avoid bidding every project that comes across their desks. No matter the economic climate, contractors are smart to pick and choose projects to bid where they can really make a difference. As Clay Fischer pointed out, sometimes saying "no" is good for future business. Owners will want you more once you show your willingness to walk away from a job.

Another obvious result of the economic downturn has been a drop in contractor morale. Joe Primavera of Sundek touched on the issue of morale in his portion of "Putting Your Company in the Best Light." He said he spends a lot of his time motivating struggling companies when times are very difficult. And these days, he is getting a lot of practice!

Joe’s advice? Go back to the basics. He advices contractors to focus on what got their company where it is today (well, before the crisis). Is your company known for quality workmanship? Put even more effort into your craft. Has your company thrived on referrals? Talk to your customers and find out how you can give them the very best customer service possible. Identify what it is you have done in the past to succeed, and focus on those core competencies. The companies who weather this economy with a solid reputation will be the ones in demand once the construction industry rebounds.

Are you a contractor who is struggling with these side effects of the economic downturn? You might find that ASCC has the support you need, especially during tough times like today. Give them a call, and better yet, tell them BuildSite sent you! Thanks to Bev Garnant, Molly Dallman, and all ASCC staff who gathered such a great group together for this year’s annual conference.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best Practices for Marketing to Contractors: A White Paper from Point to Point

Best Practices for Selling Building Products Through Contractors
Are you marketing to contractors? It is not an easy task these days, even among seasoned manufacturing companies. Contractors are a diverse bunch. Plus they are an often-overlooked purchasing segment of the construction industry, as manufacturers vie for the attention of architects and specifiers. Getting "in the spec" is the holy grail of construction marketing today. But as we at BuildSite know, contractors are critical influencers and decision-makers in the construction buying process.

That's why, when Brady Cohen from Point to Point passed along his colleagues' new white paper on marketing to contractors, I was eager to promote it. We talk to contractors every day. And what we know to be true anecdotally is backed up here in this great piece of market research.

Click on the link below to download the report. I compiled a list of my favorite takeaways on marketing to contractors:
  • The economy hit these guys hard: The unemployment rate in construction has climbed from up to 20.1% most recently. The economy was a major theme at the recent American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) Annual Conference I attended. Contractors are struggling.
  • Manufacturers are wise to meet the information needs of the Hispanic contractor. By 2025, Hispanics within the construction workforce are estimated to reach 63.2%.
  • When it comes to web design for contractors, it is all about function. The number one thing construction buyers want from manufacturer websites, after product pricing, is ease of navigation.
  • Contractors are an integral part of the purchasing process: 99% of general contractors say they are involved in some way in their organization’s building product purchases.

Download the white paper Best Practices for Selling Building Products Through Contractors, and let us know what you think!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tackling Technophobia in the Workplace

Are you a technophobe? Or do you know someone in your office who is? Now, I know that we all hate computers when they're down, when the internet is slow, when your computer picks up a virus, etc. My husband has been known to complain: "How was I supposed to know that?!" when filling out a basic online registration form. However, these days, we all have to get with it or get going (as in--out the door). Here at BuildSite we are in the business of training people to become more comfortable with software. Here are my suggestions for you non-techies:
  1. Read a tutorial. Software and website tutorials are there for people just like you. You may not like computers but do like reading. Often the tutorials will walk you through each step along the way.They are designed to keep things simple for the beginner user.
  2. Watch a (short) video. Almost all software comes with quick, 3-5 minute flash demos or associated videos. These demos help you find out what you really need to know and not all the details. Also, they're so short, you can do this in your spare time or from home.
  3. Make a call. Okay, these days web-based companies are not always especially fond of providing phone support. But that shouldn't stop you. Reach out to the Customer Service or Tech Support people--they're there to help!
  4. Ask a friend. Friends and coworkers are often willing to schedule a time to show you a few tricks on the computer. It's a great excuse to then buy him/her lunch or a beer after work.
  5. Ask your child. Have your son or daughter get off Facebook and teach you how to use the computer/internet/software! It can be a bonding experience. Besides, they love to show you how much smarter they are than you.
  6. Find a geek. We all know computer geeks who seem to find all this to be simple and effortless. Ask him or her to show you how to do your work more effectively. If she's at your headquarters, she'll be glad you asked!
  7. Google it. It's pretty easy these days to find new technology, services, programs, websites, and YouTubes that can help you be more productive at whatever you do. You can even enter a long-winded question into the search bar and see what comes up.
  8. Contact you industry's trade association. Often trade groups will have resources no one knows about to help you do your work better. They, too, are just waiting to be asked.
  9. Call or email BuildSite Support...there's always a cheerful voice and help when you need it.
Yes, learning something new takes time. But, believe it or not, software is designed to solve common problems and save you time in the long run. So why not take a chance and see if it does?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Find Sales Leads with BuildSite's Distributor Directory

Some of the most frequent calls and emails we receive come from customers who are looking for distributors of the products they find on our site. Customers come across our site while looking for products on search engines and assume that we’re a distributor ourselves. After explaining to them that we provide a database of product information, we introduce them to our Distributor Directory and help them find their nearest distributors.

These are actual customers, intent on purchasing products. They simply don’t know who to buy from and where to go for that information. We try to provide an easy way for anyone, from frequent users of our site to people who finds us through Google, to get in touch with the right people.

BuildSite's Distributor Directory allows buyers to connect with sellers. On each BuildSite product detail page we provide the option for users to enter a zip code. Once entered, we compile a list of the nearest distributors of that product within 150 miles of that zip code. The list provides the complete contact information for the location, including the address, phone number, company website, and the name of a contact person. Anyone who uses BuildSite has access to this feature, and we even provide a complete list of every distributor location in the directory.

The benefits from this service are threefold. Customers can use this service as a quick and easy way to find distributors to purchase from. The distributors in our directory are given sales leads as well as increased, localized exposure to customers. Once a customer knows there is a reliable distributor near them, they'll be more likely to purchase from that distributor in the future. Finally, BuildSite benefits by providing a channel for customers to find exactly what they need, when they need it.

Learn more about the BuildSite Distributor Directory and contact us if you want to be listed!