Operations, Sales & Marketing, V10I1

An Indispensable Tool

(Graphic courtesy of Buffik from Pixabay)

There’s never a good reason for a shed builder to slash its marketing budget. 

A business is either growing or shrinking in today’s fast-paced world, and tapping into a host of available digital marketing tools can become a true differentiator in the shed-building space.  

Jordan Miller, vice president of marketing and sales at IdeaRoom, says there are some economic steps that a new or existing shed builder can take to jump-start its marketing plan. 

IdeaRoom provides a simple user interface that guides the user through the entire shed buying experience, including financing, rent-to-own contracts, purchasing, and checkout. 

“As a start, you should engage with social media,” Miller says. “This is where most end consumers are finding products these days. They’re either searching on Google or being exposed to ads on Facebook Marketplace.

“In fact, more than 50 percent of brand discoveries online now come from social media, and customers who engage with companies on these sites go on to spend anywhere from 20 to 40 percent more than customers who engage in other ways.”

It’s not an expensive proposition. A shed builder can cheaply create a customer-facing website and engage with one to two social media platforms. 

“They can then start to build brand awareness and engage with customers,” she adds. “And by creating content that is informative and publishing that content in the form of links and posts … with no ad spend at all you’ll begin to grow a base of followers.”

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is integral to the process and, if done properly, can drive significant traffic to a shed builder’s website. 

“There’s a lot that goes into that, but it boils down to identifying and targeting specific keywords that are included in content on your website,” Miller says. 

In some cases, a smaller shed builder might need to outsource the SEO process to a third party to see any significant uptick in sales leads. 

“You need to have a great website to have good SEO,” she says. “If it’s not rich in content, easy to navigate, loads quickly, etc. … then people will leave it, so all of that content you’re working to optimize will be for naught.” 

In the end, though, anyone serious about selling sheds should have some sort of budget to get the word out, says Jeff Huxmann, founder of the shed builder browsing platform ShedHUB

“There are free channels where you can rely on your location to attract customers, but that is a slow process,” he adds. 

“Most companies budget about 3 percent of sales toward advertising. If you can’t do that, then boost your posts on Facebook. 

“That’s the easiest and cheapest way to get it out there, but it’s going to go slower if you don’t have a marketing plan in place.”

For shed builders with limited time and resources, outsourcing their marketing efforts can enable them to focus more on what they do best.

Chris Stoltzfus, owner of E-Impact Marketing in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, says his company services about 40 shed companies, among other clients, by providing SEO, content development, social media, and a host of other services. 

In the process, they’re writing, posting, and promoting content, as well as helping with lead generation and management.

Stoltzfus’ 28-employee team, working from offices in New York and Lancaster, also tracks the source of each lead, as well as the estimated cost per lead, to determine the effectiveness of each marketing channel. 

“A client will typically contact us when they need a website or marketing plan,” he says. “We’ll ask them what their goals are for the site, what they hope to accomplish, what their sales goals are, etc. From that, we’ll create a strategy to help them grow.

“Ultimately, our goal is to manage a client’s marketing so they can manage their business. We tie all those pieces together.”

Stoltzfus recommends that his shed builder clients spend some 2 to 4 percent of their sales revenue on marketing, although he’s considering bumping that number up to 3 to 4 percent. 

“Things are getting tighter in the economy,” he says. “If you want to grow in this economy, you need to be looking at 4 or even 5 percent. If you don’t spend money, you won’t have any return.”

He has found Google advertisements to be a great way to get noticed, but they can be cost-prohibitive for companies with limited budgets, at least in the beginning. 

“We recommend $1,000 a month to start (for Google ads),” he says. “With that, you can typically bring in leads at a rate of $20 to $50 a pop.”

Jim Mosier, founder of Shed Marketer, a digital marketing agency in Lakeland, Florida, offers a holistic, comprehensive approach to his clients. 

“They’re essentially getting an entire marketing department … someone that will handle their SEOs, their website, their CRM, and all of their social media for the price of someone who just graduated from college with a marketing degree,” he says. 

“We take everything and give them one point of accountability. Our program is either working or it’s not. You’ve got one person to hold accountable for that.” 

Shed builders pay, on average, about $3,000/month for the service, although Shed Marketer has begun to offer packages to smaller dealers as well. 

“We have services that will help them get established and get them on some of the search engines and maps … and our packages go up from there,” he adds. 

Shed Marketer typically takes a multi-pronged approach to marketing. 

“The best plans are synergistic,” Mosier says. “One piece helps the other piece; it’s not really a good mix if they’re not all there. 

“We’re working to ensure that social media pages are active and current, and we’re also working on your SEO, blog posts, press releases, etc., just to keep links going to the site and the content flowing.”

Shed Marketer subsequently tracks where all leads originated, and whether they resulted in new business. They then provide a very simple report back to the client. 

“We show them how much they spent, including what they paid us, how many leads they got, and their cost per lead,” he adds. “What matters to them is that we’re generating leads. 

“My advice for anyone is to focus on that cost per lead, and once you get that dialed down as much as you think you can, then you start worrying about some of the other metrics.”

Shed Marketer offers some “outside the box” thinking as well.

“You’d be surprised at the number of local shed builders who don’t belong to the chamber of commerce, or they might sponsor a little league team but they don’t list it on their website,” says Mosier. “We look for things like that and offer suggestions for ways to maximize their exposure.”

A handful of shed-specific marketing channels have sprung out of the need for a more targeted approach. 

The Internet-based shed portal ShedHub.com, for example, offers a digital marketing tool similar to Zillow or AutoTrader. 

The advantage? Marketing leads generated by the platform typically come from serious shed shoppers. 

“We’re providing an additional channel for shed sellers to meet new shed buyers,” Huxmann says. “We have really strong SEO. In August 2023 we hit more than 1 million impressions on Google Search.” 

That equates to a new visitor every 77 seconds. 

“SEO is something that we think about every day since people are going to ignore anything that’s not one Page 1 of a Google search,” he adds. 

“Additionally, companies generally rank higher once they use the ShedHUB platform. It improves their overall rank once they’ve used the platform.”

For the cost-conscious, ShedHUB offers a patented “Brand Builder” website that offers a home page as well as different pages for displaying inventory. 

“Those sites are built into our subscription,” he adds. “People seem to find a lot of value in those because they rank quickly on search results. It also displays your inventory, so people can take a look at what you’ve got before coming out to your lot.

“If they can see your inventory before they come out, you’ve done them a huge favor because they didn’t have to drive an hour to look at it. People like to shop online.”

Nevertheless, Huxmann urges shed builders to use all the available platforms in the digital space. 

“I would never tell someone to not use other channels,” he adds. “Instead, I tell them to use all of the channels that work.”

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