Lessons from Alan Alda for Marketing Building Products

Alan Alda, marketing building products

Alda teaches at New York’s Stony Brook University where he trains scientists to be more sensitive to their audience.

You may be losing big sales if you don’t tell the right customer-benefit story. You may have the best product on the market but, in the end, the manufacturer who has a good product and is understood by the consumer gets the sale.

As a building product manufacturer (aka scientist and engineer), it’s natural for you to talk about the science of your manufacturing process, your equipment, materials and other technical data.  And, there’s someone in your buying channel, who needs to know those details. Home owners and building owners however, may not understand the technical jargon. They’re interested in how your product benefits them.

Alan Alda the actor, now a real-life professor, is teaching scientists how to communicate with people in ways they can actually understand.

In an interview with CBS News, Alda explained that even policy makers, like Congress, can’t understand scientists who come to talk to them.

Why would Congress give money for a project that they can’t understand?

Same line of thinking, why would someone buy a building product if they can’t understand why it’s better? What the at shelf cost is compared to the life cost and all of the other factors that go into a buying decision?

Instead of speaking what we might hear as scientific gibberish…I study spatial planning and the valuation of ecosystem services to different stake holders.

We get this:

I study ways oceans are used.

Building product manufacturers say something like this…We create roof technologies with high R-Values for cool roof applications on structures where sustainability is required

Translated for consumers it might sound like this:

We sell energy-efficient roofing products that last a long time.

Why do building product manufacturers need to simplify their message and worry about the B to C market? 

Well, the game-changer is technology, the internet and social media.  Even though your original building product sale may be B to B, the digital world we trade in has given the consumer great power.  If you’ve ever researched a purchase online and read a negative review, you know, it can be a deal killer and that it can happen in real-time, in just one post.

Today a brand is built not only by the product you manufacturer, it’s shaped by consumer opinion, in this case building owners and home owners. Your consumers assume your building product is well made.

What consumers really want to know is:

  • Does the product offer something I value?
  • How will it look?
  • Can I afford it?
  • Is it safe and non-toxic? 
  • How long will it last?       
  • Does it meet all the code and warranty requirements?    
  • Are there any incentives to buy your product?  (tax credits or energy credits)
  • If an architect is helping me, does it qualify for LEED points?

This article was inspired by a CBS News article, “Professor Alan Alda teaches scientists how to speak”  For a downloadable copy of the CBS News Interview with Alan Alda, click here.

photo credit: andycarvin via photopin cc

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