Knowing how audience uses products, makes decisions is key

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Anthony "Tony" Magliano is managing partner for Cincinnati-based Strata-G Communications, a marketing agency with a robust construction industry practice. His agency serves many clients that target the lucrative contractor market, including Bosch Tools, Husqvarna Forest & Garden, SENCO Products, Stonehouse Building Products and TimberTech. BtoB spoke with Magliano, who debunked several myths about contractors and stressed how important it is for marketers to approach this audience with complex, integrated campaigns.

BtoB: What media and messaging tactics should marketers use to get the attention of builders and contractors?

Magliano: The most important change we've noticed is the Internet accessibility of this audience. Many marketers assume that contractors are not Web savvy. Our research and our own experiences have proven time and again that this is a faulty assumption. This audience relies heavily on Internet sources for product information, tech tips, vendor information and more. We're also finding that product recommendations found on online blogs, discussion boards, product review sites and e-zines carry a lot of weight with this audience.

Second, we have discovered that tactics once reserved for business-to-consumer companies are remarkably effective with contractors in the building and construction trades. Product trial programs, for example, can be very powerful in influencing end-user decisions. Our clients, more and more, are going directly to job sites and building supply retail locations to conduct hands-on trial programs with new products, with great results. Sophisticated consumer-influence programs are also being successfully deployed nowadays.

BtoB: What are some mistakes marketers make in trying to reach and engage the construction industry?

Magliano: The first mistake is creative executions that specifically reveal a lack of knowledge regarding a product and how it's used. If a worker depicted in an advertisement is holding a pneumatic nailer, hammer drill or chainsaw improperly, a pro contractor will immediately disregard a company and its products. Before we ever shoot the first photo for a campaign, we always take the extra time to visit job sites and really pay attention to how contractors interact with a particular product during the course of their day. ... Pro contractors can spot a fake a mile away, and it can kill a campaign before it even gets out of the blocks.

The second mistake is ignoring how pro contractors make product decisions. I can't tell you how many times I've seen a small company gamble away its whole marketing budget on a high-dollar print advertising program with no other supporting tactics. That one can be an ROI killer. Sure, advertising can be an effective tool, but it can't stand alone-especially with this audience.

If you've got a limited marketing budget, spend it on tactics that will resonate with pro contractors-hands-on demo events, trade media public relations, trade show visibility, direct mail, in-store merchandising. When we can, we stress integrated campaigns with at least one metrics component, such as mini-Web sites with specific URLs or online or event-based data-collection opportunities. These activities tell us whether our clients are getting good returns on their investments. They also potentially drive a new sale or, even better, a repeat sale. M

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