Leveraging big-time corporate assets for local marketing gains, 84 Lumber, Carter Lumber, and ORCO Construction Supply back their brand and relationship-building efforts with consistent customer service to become titans of contractor marketing

Marketing muscle: leveraging big-time corporate assets for local marketing gains, 84 Lumber, Carter Lumber, and ORCO Construction Supply back their brand and relationship-building efforts with consistent customer service to become titans of contractor marketing

Chris Wood

Brand Identity / 84 Lumber relies on the support and decisions of individual yard managers to power the company’s national branding strategy and succeed at local contractor marketing efforts.

As general manager for 84 Lumber’s headquarters yard in Eighty Four, Pa., and a previous 84 area manager of yards throughout the Ohio Valley, you’d expect Dave Fisher to be extremely brand conscious when it comes to discussing marketing. But instead of touting a corporate line, Fisher says marketing programs and strategies at his location and the locations of his peers have to remain decidedly independent. “When it comes to marketing for my customers, I need to look up at that ball everyday and not see ’84 Lumber,'” Fisher says. “I need to see ‘Dave’s Lumber,’ because marketing is just like any other service: It is in our hands to develop it or fail–we’re the ones held accountable.”

Even in the midst of developing national branding initiatives that include the 84 Lumber Classic PGA golf tournament and a partnership with Ford Trucks, marketing executives at 84 say Fisher’s outlook is right on target. “Our company strength is that each store is different,” says company vice president of marketing Jeff Kmiec. “We provide them with the resources, and leave it up to the store manager to how they want to conduct their marketing plan. Each store has its own annual specific marketing budget, and its own marketing strategies. Each store is in charge of its own destiny.”

No doubt, 84 managers have a lot of muscle to flex toward those marketing destinies. According to Kmiec, 84 Lumber’s total corporate marketing budget is the company’s third-largest expense after payroll and delivery costs, and runs from 1 to 1.1 percent of revenue. With 84 hitting approximately $3.4 billion in 2004 gross sales, that puts the company’s marketing war chest at about $34 million. “Smaller yards can’t compete with what we do,” says Fisher. “This is my shop from a marketing standpoint, but it is the enormous assets we have behind us that allow us to be flexible and both serve and grow with our customers.”

Entertaining the Customer

It is notable that Fisher mentions service and growth as part of his single-location marketing mantra. “84’s marketing platform is basically customer service, customer retention, and customer acquisition,” says Kmiec. “Those are our driving goals.”

Key to fulfilling those goals is an almost daily slew of relationship-building contractor events, sporting trips, and incentive vacations, highlighted by the 84 Lumber Classic PGA tour stop held at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa in Farmington, Pa., owned by 84 founder and president Joe Hardy. In 2004, 84 brought in 1,500 contractors to the PGA event, putting them up in Pittsburgh hotels for three days with their 84 store managers and outside sales reps, treating them to a Pittsburgh Pirates game, and bringing them to the tournament for a day, where they were able to watch 84-sponsored pros John Daly and Vijay Singh and also visit a vendor area with booths and presentations by tournament supporters including Pella, Jeld-Wen, and Weyerhaeuser.

As an added PR bonus, total tournament proceeds–$750,000–were presented to the United Way of Allegheny County, continuing a charitable giving tradition at the company that culminated in Hardy being named 2004 Outstanding Philanthropist of the Year by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. “[Charitable contributions] obviously paint the company in a positive light,” says Kmiec of the recognition. “[It’s] important to have your company and your employees recognized as deeply committed to community.”

Whether it is the 84 Lumber Classic, the Daytona 500, the Super Bowl, or just a local event, Kmiec says that pro dealer tickets to the game alone do not guarantee marketing success. which is driven instead by the overall entertainment value that the contractor customer takes home. “We don’t like to just go into a market and purchase tickets,” he says. “We want to enhance the visit for the customer-not just sit in the stands. It can be something as unsophisticated as a tailgate party and cooking hot dogs to being in a hospitality suite at a Steelers game and having Jerome Bettis stop by and give the customer an autographed picture.”

Packing entertainment value into marketing programs also carries over into 84’s Inner Circle Rewards program, a travel incentive system launched in 2003 that awards points to builders for purchases that can be redeemed for various vacation packages and merchandise. “All of my employees are raving about 84 taking care of them.” says Jim Marshall, president of Indianapolis-based Adams and Marshall Homes, which will close on 1,000 homes across 12 active-adult communities in 2004. Marshall’s purchases garnered 14 vacations that he then used for rewards to standout members of his staff’. “From taking care of car rentals to renting fishing boats, the vacations were awesome. If you want something, you ask for it, you got it.”

Tracking Results

Catering to every contractor’s entertainment whim, though, is just the beginning of 84’s marketing recognition, acquisition, and retention tactics. According to 84 reps and their builder customers alike, any marketing program–be it national branding or small-town oriented–needs to be backed up by basic block-and-tackle service. “Daily service execution is the biggest thing we can compete on,” says 84 COO Bill Myrick. “You show contractors that you care about their business–that’s the biggest competitive advantage in marketing you can ever have.”

Says Marshall, who was invited to Statistics Company: 84 Lumber * Year founded: 1956 Headquarters: Eighty Four, Pa. * Number of locations: 500 Number of employees: 8,000 * 2004 gross sales: $3.4 billion Pro sales percentage: 85 percent spend four days at Nemacolin on the links with pro John Daly, “Without a doubt [it was] an unbelievable experience and I don’t know of any other supplier that can offer that, but that is not what keeps us with them. They deliver product on time where it is supposed to be when it is supposed to be, and as a result, we have not blown a closing yet.” That type of service has kept Marshall an 84 devotee for five years, including sourcing 100 percent of his lumber packages, framing services, windows, and doors from the pro dealer.

Those types of purchasing commitments don’t go without notice at 84, which uses internally developed databases to track builder purchasing dollars along with marketing budgets that gauge marketing dollars invested in a specific customer versus any improvement in their purchasing activity. “‘That’s a rough measurement,” Kmiec says. “‘But we primarily measure our success in terms of our overall market growth. At the end of the day, are sales improving? Is the company growing’? That is ultimately the marketing plan litmus test.”

In addition to preparing for the 2005 84 Lumber Classic, the company’s latest marketing initiatives involve a team effort with the Pittsburgh Ford Dealers Advertising Fund (PFDAF) that ran in October and November of 2004 and awarded contractor prizes of a 2005 Ford Super Duty truck and ten $500 84 Lumber cash cards. “We have many of the same customers, so it’s only natural that we build a partnership that benefits our local dealers. 84 Lumber, and our customers,” says Frank Dellaria, president of Jim Dellaria Ford in Burgettstown, Pa., and chairman of PFDAF, which is comprised of 100 Ford dealers across western Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland.

Ford and 84 also coordinated a private sale in conjunction with the promotion, awarding $1,000 84 gift cards for contractors that did not land the grand prize but opted to purchase the truck on their own. 84 is currently evaluating the program to see if they want to take it nationwide.

For 84 corporate marketing strategists, the national branding effort that partnerships with the PGA and Ford provide is just another part of ensuring local marketing flexibility and success as the company continues to grow. “People [are beginning to know] who 84 Lumber is, and that gives a definitive advantage.'” says Myrick. “We are going to open 52 stores next year, and we are going to open them in markets where we don’t have stores today. So when our salesman goes to the jobsite, that builder is automatically going to know who he is and why he is there. It’s instant credibility.”

Dave Fisher couldn’t agree more. “From a marketing perspective, nothing is ever forced down our throats and all of the efforts directly support the work of our salespeople in the field.” he says of the symbiosis between national branding and local marketing success. “It makes it worth it each month when the marketing dollars come out of my budget because ultimately those sales drive the train.”

Vital Statistics

Company: 84 Lumber * Year founded: 1956 * Headquarters: Eighty Four, Pa. * Number of locations: 500 * Number of employees: 8,000 * 2004 gross sales: $3.4 billion * Pro sales percentage: 85 percent

Opportunity Knocks

Leveraging a hometown lumberyard image leads to prime time marketing clout for Carter Lumber.

In 1999, Kent, Ohio-based Carter Lumber executives were hunkered down in a marketing strategy meeting searching for a corporate-wide branding message. The brand–like all of Carter’s marketing initiatives–had to capture a hometown feel and 70 years of traditional lumberyard customer services but still give a fresh image to more than 200 locations across nine states. “The ultimate goal was to make sure it fit who we are,” says Carter Vice President of Marketing David McCafferty. “We always want to make sure that customers know how we can help them, but we don’t want to stand there and thump our chests. The old marketing adage rings tree–it’s not who you tell people you are, it’s who they perceive you to be.”

To that end, McCafferty and the rest of the Carter marketing team began reviewing customer comments they had compiled as part of the branding effort when two words suddenly jumped out at them: The Yard. “All of the comments said–I’m heading down to ‘the yard’ to grab this, I’m heading down to ‘the yard’ to grab that. It was one of those things that was just staring you in the face. and we all immediately gravitated toward it. It came out of a planning session, but in reality, it came right from our contractors.”

Carter unveiled the “Carter Lumber–The Yard” branding, initiative with TV and radio spots in all of its markets, targeting contractors and project-oriented DIYers. “As a marketing and branding concept, ‘The Yard’ has given a face to the company,” McCafferty says. “It has helped us to establish ourselves as a regional brand, as a regional powerhouse.”

Mission completed, Carter scaled back from its initial ad blitz through the course of 2004, preferring to back up “The Yard” brand image with location-specific promotions, including support of high school football teams, a soap box derby, and contractor lunches. “Ads were great for branding, but now we really want to evolve and concentrate on local market solutions,” McCafferty says.

But when ABC television called in August 2004 and asked the company to participate in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, the network’s highly rated home renovation program, Carter jumped at the chance, and found itself right back in the national spotlight, helping to do a complete home remodel for a special needs family in Oak Park, Mich. “Because of our visibility in the market that ‘The Yard’ campaign created, we were the first call when ABC was looking for a supplier,” McCafferty says.

The show, which became a two-hour special that aired during sweeps last November, continues to generate buzz among Carter’s customers, which McCafferty says has been the greatest marketing payoff of all. “ROI is the age-old question on marketing campaigns. Can you specifically quantify that number? No, but if you take marketing assets away, what kind of impact is your company ever going to have?”

As a bonus, the experience introduced Carter to a new contractor, and Carter’s commitment to service success with the project has sealed the partnership and secured a new account. “It was a pleasure working with Carter Lumber on Extreme Makeover,” says Adam Becker, vice president of Fairway Construction in Southfield, Mich. “Because of how they stepped up to the plate, we definitely have brought them into our supply system and will probably start to throw a lot of business their way.”

That type of feedback from satisfied customers is the ultimate objective of any marketing program, says McCafferty. “You ultimately want them to say ‘Hey, you know that promotion you did? You hit it out of the ballpark.'”

Vital Statistics

Company: The Carter lumber Co. * Year founded: 1932 * Headquarters: Kent, Ohio * Number of locations: 240 * Number of employees: 3,500 * 2004 gross sales: $675 million * Pro sales percentage: 70 percent

Signed, Sealed, Delivered

ORCO Construction Supply continues its no-holds-barred marketing campaign with a high-end gift aimed at top customers.

Late last year, select customers of ORCO Construction Supply received a surprise in the mail that would make any baseball fan wish he were in the construction business. The Livermore, Calif.-based distributor of tools and hardware, and winner of a 2004 PROSALES Excellence Award for marketing (November, page 56), continued its impressive branding campaign by sending top customers a one-of-a-kind baseball collection designed to say thank you, and also as a creative way to kick off the New Year with face-to-face meetings between ORCO salespeople and leading customers.

Mailed out in early December, the “Legends of the Game” gift package is a sports-enthusiasts dream: Each kit contained a wood plaque with display ledges for three baseballs. Included was one baseball–autographed by Brooks Robinson, a former Baltimore Orioles player considered one of the best third basemen of all time. Each box was packaged with bags of peanuts and included a signed thank you letter from ORCO president and CEO Bill Kern.

The two remaining ledges on the plaque wouldn’t sit empty for long. In January, ORCO salespeople hand-delivered two additional balls to each customer, one signed by three-time MVP Stan Musial and another signed by famed pitcher Nolan Ryan. The limited edition collection includes certificates of authenticity; an accompanying brochure details the careers of all three players.

“It’s one thing to say you appreciate a customer’s business; it’s another to send them a gift like this that shows them just how much they’re appreciated,” says Director of Marketing Kathleen Roulet, who helped create the program along with Marketing Communications Manager Rob Lewczyk and Arlington, Va.-based consultant Pete Hanley.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before,” says ORCO customer Dan Schaldach, owner of D and S Construction in Escondido, Calif. “This gave me a good feeling that they would go through all the expense and then include me in the giveaway. It made me feel good that I was considered one of their better customers.”

But the customers aren’t the only ones being rewarded. By delivering the second two baseballs in person, ORCO sales reps–many of whom deal daily with jobsite superintendents and foremen–had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with top executives and unveil ORCO’s customer service plans for 2005. Plans will build upon an award-winning branding campaign, launched last year, that centered around a new bulldog logo and “Bring It On” slogan fronting a company-wide can-do customer service mind-set. Since then, the distributor is maintaining what it calls a “drumbeat” of marketing efforts designed to reward customers and employees while reinforcing a tenacious company image.

“[It’s] a great opportunity to launch our program early in the year directly to our top customers,” says Hanley. “This is our chance to say, ‘You ain’t seen nothing yet.'”

Though the company is mum about the financial details, Hanley admits that the program wasn’t simple to pull off. The marketing team worked with Alliance Marketing Partners of Conshohocken, Pa., an entrepreneurial marketing firm with experience in sports marketing.

The efforts, however, are quickly hitting home with customers. “It’s something they didn’t have to do and that’s why I appreciate it even more,” says Richard Martinez, owner of Four Star Rebar in Redlands, Calif.

But both Martinez and Schaldach agree that the gift isn’t necessarily a deal sealer, but rather just one more thing to appreciate about a supplier they’ve been loyal to for years. “The bottom line is that they’re there for me.” Martinez says. “They go above and beyond my expectations.”

Vital Statistics

Company: ORCO Construction Supply * Year founded: 1957 * Headquarters: Livermore, Calif. * Number of locations: 21 * Number of employees: 575 * 2004 gross sales: $282 million * Pro sales percentage: 100 percent

COPYRIGHT 2005 Hanley-Wood, Inc.

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