Finishing Touches, V2I4

Marketing a Shed

Through experience, I have seen what works and what does not. I’m going to share a few funny stories and my thoughts on properly marketing sheds.

Keep in mind that I came into the shed business as a shed user and didn’t know much about sheds at all. I came from a manufacturing and foodservice background. I didn’t know a truss from a joist, or even if I wanted one in a shed.

I knew a little bit about wood and made some stuff with my grandfather in his shop. Most of my “projects” helped the fire place get the house warmer. I did make some things that were “usable,” but my overall knowledge of the shed world gave my coworkers fuel for jabs and comments.

A well organized, thoughtfully planned display lot helps a customer envision your product.
A well organized, thoughtfully planned display lot helps a customer envision your product.

My first shed was built by my neighbor in my teen years, and he made it out of old partially burnt 2-by-4s and warped sheets of flake board that he found in the backyard at his work.

Yes, I called it flake board. Back in my day, that’s what they called it, so please don’t be offended. LP Smartside and Duratemp sheeting would have sounded like something from a futuristic movie.

My shed was not the pride of the neighborhood. My neighbors had sheds that made my shed look like a something that just made it out from a fire. Actually, it did.

Anyway, after a coat of paint, I helped my neighbor put on a few finishing touches and added a loft and workbench so I could be like my grandpa and make stuff that I didn’t know what to do with once it was completed.

Now as an adult, my next two sheds came with homes that I purchased, and it was like having a new one because these two were professionally made and didn’t have burnt studs. I only used them as a place to putter and make more stuff I didn’t know what to do with.

It also became my “honey-do list” headquarters. A guy has to have one of those, right?

About seven years ago, I took a marketing position and had the daunting challenge of marketing large wooden boxes for people to put stuff in. At least that’s how I saw it at first. So I started marketing sheds and did all the normal things anyone would do in marketing: Basic run-of-the-mill ads with contact info, and sometimes I might put a price next to the photo of the 8-by-10-high wall.

The owner told me his “business was strong and they pretty much sell themselves.”

As I continued with the company, I also had to assist with sales. I saw first- hand the need to market more creatively. I heard and saw the overlooked potential of the shed business as a whole. One of my first thoughts was branding the company.

So, one day, a couple was ordering a shed, and Mr. Customer was deciding on what features he wanted in order to make his shed his own. Mrs. Customer was very intent on picking out the colors and the overall style of the shed, too.

Mr. and Mrs. were happy with how easy it was to order a shed that would last for future generations. Mr. wanted a long workbench, electrical package, proper ventilation, and a large loft to store away his latest hobby passion. Mrs. wanted to be sure that the shed matched their siding type, home style, yard landscaping theme, and area neighborhood motif. She also wanted to add shutters, flower boxes, and a cupola to make it more “cute.”

As we figured, Mr. was not intent that day on purchasing a shed that would be known by his buddies as the “cute” workshop.

As a local northern New York couple, they had been married all those years by having a give-and-take relationship, so together they picked out the size, style, and siding type. Then, gleaning from each other’s areas of experience, the final details were ironed out in front of our very patient sales staff.

After minor frustration about the color choices, Mr. wanted Mrs. to be happy so he could continue his blissful years of marriage. Letting Mrs. pick out the colors would be in order. She then made a few comments about being good to her or he might have a new place to live once the shed was delivered. Mr., knowing all the fun he intended on having, and all the work he intended to accomplish in his shed, then retorted, “Well, if you need me, I’ll be in my shed!”

Two smirky grins later, Mrs. made the final decisions on color, and Mr. looked around the store at the handmade Amish furniture and gifts. We then went over the order and discussed delivery details to our new shed owners.

(P.S.: Mr. & Mrs. Customer are very happy with the shed/workshop they designed. When Mr. wants to get away from the Mrs., he knows exactly where to go. The only problem is: if Mrs. wants to
find Mr., she knows exactly where to go as well.)

So my branding slogan was born: If You Need Me…I’ll Be in My Shed!

100_0040-aAfter using the new slogan for a while and testing the response from our customers, I trademarked it, so it would be ours for years to come. Now I use it on T-shirts, our logo, ads, and just about anywhere I think it represents our brand.

You don’t have to know a lot about the shed world to market a shed. You have to approach it with common sense and an objective overview of how your customers think and react to your branding/marketing efforts.

With all of that said here are my five suggestions for marketing sheds:

Ask questions and listen to your customers. What are they using your sheds for? Market something that will appeal to the need they voice to you.

Create a brand and don’t just market your brand to whomever bothers you the most to run an ad. Just because the sales rep tells you if you don’t run an ad with him, you
might go out of business, don’t run the ad. Go back to number one (above). How did they hear about your company? What made them turn off the TV and stop into your store?

I’m very selective on where I market. I frequently test ROI results and keep changing as the times change. Just because your full-page color phone book ad put you in the black 20 years ago does not mean it’s still bringing in new customers today. Create enticing ads that draw the customer to call or stop in. Have a call to action. Educate them on what you can offer them.

Don’t count out the competition. We’re not the only shed supplier in northern New York. I constantly look at our competition even if it’s a plastic shed from the local big box store. Don’t take for granted that your next shed buyer knows anything about your quality, service, years in the business, or what makes your shed different.

Look at what you do and market what you do differently than everyone else. Maybe you want to be the only shed dealer that gives every customer a free ramp? It might be just enough to set you apart from the rest.

Education. School the unlearned shed buyer. I started a full color catalog about six years ago and sales have climbed ever since. I make a catalog every year with all of our product lines packed full with prices and photos. I take a great deal of time laying out the catalog so that when the shed buyer looks over the catalog, he comes in fully educated and the sales process goes a lot faster.

Our website and catalog leave nothing hidden, so the customer walks into the store fully aware of what we offer and how it’s going to be constructed. With that information creatively laid out and presented, it sets us apart from the guys down the street.

Be professional. So many times it’s easy to fall into a rut and not hold ourselves to the standards we originally set out as new company in the area we are in. Sheds are serious purchases for a consumer and mostly a one-time purchase. Every sale should be treated like your first sale. You need to do everything possible so that when they leave your store they are skipping to the car and can’t wait to tell their neighbors about the new shed that’s coming.

Take time out of your schedule and analyze everything. How do you answer the phone? How long does it take to provide a quote? What does your staff look and act like? Review your sales process. Does your sales staff follow up with customers in a timely manner? Do you hold true to your delivery dates? How does your delivery staff interact with the customer at delivery? Do you give your
customer a reason to come back for another purchase?

There are so many more things I could write about, but this brief overview should be a benefit to your shed company. Be positive, poll your customer base, and keep building on what works. Look at how you do what you do and market what you do differently from everyone else. Never talk down your competition to a customer. It’s not only unprofessional, it’s going to bite you sooner or later. Those bites are more than you can calculate.

Always remember, it’s not just a box you can make in your sleep, it’s a life changing structure with unlimited benefits to your customer.

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