Feature, Operations, Sales & Marketing, V6I3

Lessons Learned in Shed Marketing (Part 1)

(Photo courtesy of Lukas from Pexels)

Working in the shed industry for over 10 years has taught me a few lessons in marketing.  Some were easy and obvious, and some snuck up on me years later.  

I have to be honest, when I started, I thought I knew it all, and over the years I learned just how much I didn’t know. For instance, no one was going to tell me how to make a print ad. I already knew everything.  

Then I met Coach Thom. He looked over one of my best print ads (or so I thought) and exclaimed, “Boring!,” and threw it back at me with his suggestions. 

Yeah, that hurt a lot, but after I got knocked off the pride platform, I learned how to do a better job. 

Keeping up with new opportunities has also been challenging. When I first began, the phone book with my full color ads set us apart from the competition, and today I can’t even find a phone book.

First, I want to say that I’m just an average person that gained some insights through hard work, reading, and researching ideas, attending seminars, working one-on-one with customers, utilizing third-party business coaching, and always measuring my return on investment. 

Learning was an interesting journey, since I found that just because an approach worked for someone else in a different area didn’t mean it would work for me. For example, you might go to the upcoming 2020 Shed Builder Expo and hear about how some shed company in Ohio is making it big, and you try bringing their strategy home to Texas and expect the same results. 

It may work, but keep in mind, it might fail, also.  

Your company’s reputation (one of the biggest issues), the local economy, location, demographics, buyers’ habits, area competition, your customer base, and so many other elements factor into the equation. Even selling top-of-the-line sheds but trying to do so in the center of the most depressed area of downtown will prevent any marketing plan from succeeding. 

Instead of spending money on the next wave of Facebook ads, you might want to start by closing the store and moving to where your customer base shops. You have to find what works for you and your customer and give it all you have. Many times, the beginning of success is not a fancy marketing strategy but a common-sense solution.

Secondly, I must state that a firm foundation must be in place before you invest money in any marketing campaigns to bring in more sales. The ability to handle additional leads and see them through to excellent deliveries is a must. 

If you don’t have the right people and equipment in place, don’t start pursuing more sales. You’ll only be totally overwhelmed and end up providing a frustrating buying experience for customers who will probably never return again.   

Let’s take a look at your foundation by asking important questions to help you evaluate how ready you are for more business. 


Let’s start with questions to ask yourself about your sales department.

Do you have a qualified, professional, understanding, knowledgeable sales staff? Can they respectfully handle a customer and lead them through a sale to the point that the customer leaves 100 percent satisfied?  

Do they present themselves well, and how do they approach a customer? A polite and sincere greeting, the first impression, does matter. Have you considered uniforms that represent your brand?   

Does your sales staff really know how to sell or are they just good order takers? There is a huge difference. If you want a lasting business, you need loyal, lifelong customers who refer you to their friends and family, not just one-time sales that will spread the word about the terrible treatment or follow through (or lack thereof) they received. Have you spent time training your staff well?

How are phone calls answered? Customers become very annoyed when they cannot get fast answers or are sent through a robotic phone screener.  

Does your sales staff return calls in a timely manner? If finding a resolution for a customer may take time, at least have them call the customer to let them know their concerns are being worked on or their answers are being found. Then, have them follow through to a resolution and immediately call back. Customers left waiting are unhappy and may not be repeat customers.

Who, how, and where are the leads answered? Do you track them?  Do you know where they are going and who is taking care of them? Monitoring shed leads is a good idea for gaining valuable insight into what works for your company.  

Ask your sales staff how long they allow before they give up on a lead. You might be shocked to hear their answers. Have them stay on the leads and be very creative to keep their customers engaged and wanting to come back for the sale.  

Do they only follow up on easy sales?  If a customer wants a 14 by 40 for the price of a 10 by 12, it’s their job to educate them, offer alternatives, and get a sale anyway. I know sales staff receive these leads every day, and some throw them off to the side. 

That’s money left for your competition to pick up, and you will probably not get them back—ever.


Now, let’s consider your manufacturing department.

Do you have the manpower, operational standards, best practice procedures in place, and the ability to accurately manufacture and deliver a shed without issues? This might seem like a list of stupid questions, but it’s not. 

If you can’t make the product correctly from start to finish, then stop immediately, and fix these issues first. Nothing is going to stop a customer from posting reviews online, and some web reviews cannot be removed. It’s on the web for good.  

Do everything well and honestly. If you do everything correctly, what can they say online? They will have to tell everyone they know how happy they are with the purchase. In today’s world, more consumers are shopping online while malls and brick-and-mortar stores are closing. 

In order to make an educated decision on a purchase, they have to consult reviews of the products and services they are considering. You don’t want your sloppy nailing job showing up online. 

So much of that can be avoided by having what is necessary to do the job well, proper training, support, and motivating our employees through excellent treatment. A disgruntled employee rarely gives their all at the job, but a well-cared for one enjoys pleasing their employer, but that’s a whole other topic for another day. 

Before you spend more marketing money, assure that you can do what you do well. If you are looking at a product and the majority is attesting to how unhappy they are about it, would you buy it anyway?


Please be aware of all of your operational areas. Meet with staff in those areas on a regular basis. 

Take your sales staff out to lunch and ask them why they don’t sell more sheds than they do. Don’t talk or defend your company. Listen to them and apply needed changes. They are on the front line and hear and see it all.  

The same should be applied to every area of the business. I am a strong believer in weekly management meetings of all department heads to meet for 30-60 minutes, sharing and talking out what’s going on within the company. Owners should always be present at this meeting and give support to needed company changes for improvement. 


Finally, a few things to consider with the rest of your operation.

Are your employees doing their tasks well and above board? Does your staff apply the 10-foot rule? Anyone you see within 10 feet of you should be greeted and acknowledged.  Kindness goes a long way in sales. The customer is less prone to fight about price and raise silly issues if they feel you genuinely care. 

Quotes, sales orders, and invoices should be clean emailed PDFs or printed originals. Don’t make copies of copies. When I see that, I think the little things don’t matter to your company, and I as a customer am concerned that you might not care if I have a detail that needs attention down the road. 

Your ERP/POS system should provide all details of the sale with a clean logo and contact info.  

Are your displays an accurate representation of your sold product? Take a salesperson with a quality-accurate display model and another salesperson with a leftover 3-year-old returned rental to show. Who’s going to make more sales based on what they have to show?

Even simple things like ensuring restrooms are clean can impact a customer’s sales experience.

There is so much to think about when evaluating your foundation. You want to be absolutely sure that you have the right people in place, well trained and well supported to handle the extra leads you’re hoping to generate through your marketing efforts. 

In the next issue, I’ll discuss some specific lessons I learned in shed marketing. Until it arrives in your mailbox, take the previous question

s to task and take an objective look at your company’s foundation. 

Obviously, this is far from an exhaustive list, but it’ll get your mind going in the right direction. Don’t take anything for granted and look over every detail. You might be shocked by what you find.  

We can all go forward with excellence, honesty, and provide a quality product our customers will use and enjoy for many generations. It just takes some careful thought and a willingness to admit where improvement is needed. 

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