I just read a post titled Career Advice from 7 Marketing Leaders and it triggered a good memory of what or better yet who sparked my career in building products marketing – Deb St John. It was Deb that helped me recognize relationship building as a powerful business tool and showed me how to best use it. It was one of the most important pieces of career advice I have received. Thank you, Deb St. John.
We Will Make You Peter Miller
I started my formal career in building products with Andersen Windows. I was a part of an effort to segment the business by trade to better provide the products and services each segment required to be successful. My focus was on the remodeling and home improvement segment and, more specifically, remodelers.
There were many benefits to working with Andersen Windows including brand recognition and respect and working with a powerful advertising agency. Generally speaking, the brand got us in the door and the agency helped us make the most of the opportunity.
Central to our success was the account manager, Deb St John, and my partner in the remodeling effort. It was immediately prior to our attending my first remodelers’ event (we were actually standing in line waiting to enter), that Deb explained that publisher, Peter Miller, was the pied piper of the remodelers. She explained it will be important to meet and get to know Peter and then she made a statement that changed the protectory of my career. Deb said, “We are going to make you the Peter Miller of building products manufacturers with the remodelers.”
I did not understand what that really meant at the time, but today I can say Deb St John helped me launch a career in building products that I am proud of.
Bill Asdal and the NAHB Remodelers Council
The concerted effort to introduce Andersen Windows to the remodeling industry started by adding a personal presence with the remodelers. We engaged our own pied piper strategy in joining and building our presence in the marketplace. A pied piper strategy is to recognize the people, remodelers in our case, that others follow and pursue a relationship with. Enter NAHB Remodelers Council chairman, Bill Asdal.
We were attending and sponsoring a remodeler’s event in Washington DC called the Big 50, a program that recognizes leading remodelers in each of the 50 states. Through our networking at the event, I met Bill Asdal and enjoyed a great conversation about our shared visions – his for the Council and mine for Andersen Windows. Bill invited me to participate in the Councils annual strategic planning meeting immediately after the event.
Having a manufacturer be part of the Remodelers Council’s planning meeting had never been done before and there were a few people attending that did not think it was a good idea. It was out of this meeting that we made our first and most important effort to be a real, active part of the remodeling industry. I met remodelers that helped us form the remodeling business at Andersen Windows including products, pricing, distribution, marketing, and sales.
The Personal Touch
Andersen Windows hosted builders and architects to the corporate offices and manufacturing facility on a regular basis, so the idea of inviting the Remodelers Council was natural and welcomed. The purpose of the meeting was to craft a brand strategy for the Council and a communications plan to increase awareness of and membership to the association. With the support of Deb and the agency, we created a next generation of marketing tools for the Council. Something no other Council of NAHB had ever done. This was a milestone event for the Council and our effort to make Andersen Windows a leader in the remodeling industry.
To celebrate our work together, we held a round table dinner that was filled with storytelling and humor. The laughter was so loud and lasted so long, the staff at the restaurant stood in our room to be a part of the fun. To this day, this dinner stands out as a memory that has obtained folklore status. Just ask a Council member.
The Power of Relationships
According to the post Career Advice from 7 Marketing Leaders, building personal relationships is one of the most important pieces of advice they shared. I agree wholeheartedly. It takes a concerted effort and commitment over time to build and retain personal relationships. There are a few challenges to building relationships today including the desire to work from home.
Building relationships is personal. The relationships we build through online media like Zoom and Instagram is different than how a relationship is built in person. Both have value in the right context, but when you meet that online connection in person something important will likely happen. You will either build a deeper bond or you will realize the limitation of the connection.
What is Your Type?
There are two types of business relationships in my experience. The first is based on likeability and the second is based on serviceability. Likeability is fairly self-explanatory and incredibly powerful. Personal experience and formal research have shown that a person’s likeability makes a difference in decision making every day and in most every situation. Likeability plays a role in hiring, firing, selling, and buying. Likeability often overcomes many deficits in relationships.
Serviceability is a different story. It is based on answering the questions “What can you do for me?” and “What have you done for me lately?” I am reminded of a presentation by Jeff Jones, CMO of Target at the time, in which he said our agency relationships are based on the last best idea. Ironically, I then watched a few of Jeff’s vendor buddies go play a round of golf. Likeability often trumps serviceability.
As a Result
I suspect some of you are wondering about the success of the efforts for Andersen Windows. The decision to build relationships with the remodeling community was important to the launch of new businesses like Renewal by Andersen and numerous product additions and upgrades. For me, it is the foundation of my career in the building product industry.
I am blessed to say that most all the relationships we built through the Remodelers Council, NAHB, Bill Asdal, and the many different people we have worked with, dined and toasted and laughed with, has led to many great outcomes including friendships. Relationships and relationship building is central to our work and success at Draper DNA. Thank you, Deb St. John, for your creative way of helping me build relationships.