Last updated: A lesson in constructing customer relationships from the building industry

A lesson in constructing customer relationships from the building industry


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There’s a lot of talk about how companies and brands in very competitive and volatile markets need to embrace disruptive change in order to engage customers in new and different ways.

A look at the challenges retailers in the residential construction industry have faced in recent years offers an opportunity to learn about brand building in tough markets and tough times. Before the recession began in 2008 the U.S. residential construction industry was producing around 2 million new housing starts annually. At the lowest point of the recent U.S. economic downturn this figure dropped to just 500,000 annual new housing starts.

When an industry loses 75 percent of its annual customer orders it’s more than a little disruptive change. It’s an all-out depression. And a situation that creates tremendous pressure to change. To survive retailers in the residential housing industry have had to find new ways to be more efficient and better serve their customers.

One of my company’s clients, ProBuild, is one such brand. They know firsthand how difficult it can be to survive and recover from the kind of disruption that cripples an entire industry. In an economy that seems driven by technology, it might be surprising to learn that more technology wasn’t the solution.

While technology has been an enabler for success – improving how projects are estimated, how designs are rendered and how they communicate with customers – personal service has been the most important factor in ProBuild’s survival and growth.

Recently we traveled across the country to develop and produce a video for ProBuild that debuted at the 2015 International Builders Show in Las Vegas – Proud to Go to Work with You is a video story that captures the personality of the brand and brings to life their culture of personal investment – where employees are given the tools and technology to partner with their customers and treat every project like they’re working on their own house.

Keeping customers happy by providing greater personal touch than ever before has proven to be an effective strategy that has helped ProBuild grow through the housing downtown and recovery.

It’s a story that we think has implications for all marketers, not just those involved in the construction and housing industry. The lesson being, “if you don’t take care of the customer, you don’t have a company.”

In today’s digital world, taking care of the customer isn’t about technology. It’s how that technology empowers people to strengthen customer relationships by delivering better products and services with greater speed and efficiency.

If the story your brand is telling is all about your products, services and technology you might be missing out on how to connect with your customers on a more emotional level. Creating a personal and emotional connection with your customer is a lesson that is particularly relevant in an industry which is all about building things, but one every brand marketer can benefit from learning.

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