Unlocking Differentiation In A Commoditized Building Materials Industry

Commoditization is a major problem in the building materials industry. How to differentiate your products and unlock value even
in the face of generic overseas competition.

Unlocking Differentiation in
a Commoditized Building Materials Industry

Commoditization is a growing and significant risk in the building materials industry. In addition to easier worldwide production, product fungibility is wrecking customer loyalty and pushing down prices nearly to the cost of production and delivery and thin margins.

Insufficient customer understanding that even seeming commodities are not meaningfully the same is acting against companies producing quality, innovative products as they lose out to lower-cost generic competition.

Our client, a large building materials manufacturer, was no exception to this trend. The products, although good, lacked strong positioning and customers just did not understand how they were substantially different from multiple alternatives including no-name imports.

The products were listed on the web with generic photos and data sheets, but that was it – and those same kinds of photos and data sheets existed on competitors’ websites, making it seem like the products throughout the industry were basically interchangeable clones with price and delivery terms being the only meaningful criteria.

That had to change fast and we were retained.

We began with the builders – users of building materials. We took the time to understand what their world. What were they trying to put together? What materials and delivery schedules were important? Which building material properties supported – and which detracted from – their other goals? The question stopped being about fungible commodities and started being about fitness for a well-understood purpose, changing the dynamics entirely.

Suddenly, building materials were not all the same. Some – our client’s – were about fitness for specific purposes; they were about clearly supporting other goals from longevity to maintenance to sustainability certifications, all of which, in turn, supported other company goals.

Armed with this understanding, it had to be communicated to construction company buyers and owners. We had to ensure this message was correctly understood, also understood quickly and was easily sharable without loss of meaning.

The building materials manufacturer’s sales materials were augmented with fulll-length product animations and quicker product overview animations, twenty-second overview clips that broke the paradigm of “common” building materials as being fungible and “common”. Working together with our client’s web design team, we conducted A|B testing and found a low double-digit increase in sales when new sales materials were implemented. Anecdotally, we’ve received reports from multiple sales staff that the new sales materials made it easier to present and connect with prospective buyers.