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Jan 29, 2002
Case Study

Raise Offline Sales by Adding Interactive Tools for Buyers to Your Web Site

SUMMARY: Unimast's VP Sales & Marketing Chip Gardner had a problem common to many traditional marketers: his prospects' desks were overflowing with competitors' catalogs and brochures. He needed to break through the clutter and make sure his company's products were the ones that ended up on buyer's shopping lists. Last year Gardner took a risk and diverted funds from his regular advertising budget to add new user tools on the Company Web site. Learn how it worked out:

Unimast manufactures construction-quality drywall used by building contractors to construct everything from skyscrapers to new homes. Although the Company sells exclusively through resellers (commercial construction yards), VP Sales & Marketing Chip Gardner found himself spending a great deal of his budget on printed materials -- catalogs and brochures -- which were distributed directly to the end-buyer through direct mail, sales reps and resellers.

The catalog's goal was to influence the contractor during the time he or she was speccing out his or her requirements, and to get Unimast's brand name on the contractor's detailed RFQ list, which then the end-distributor would bid against and fulfill.

Problem is, everyone else selling to contractors used the exact same tactics. Contractors' desks and offices were overflowing with hundreds of printed catalogs and brochures. Gardner needed to break through the clutter.

How could he literally rearrange contractors’ desks so that Unimast literature and product specs were on the top of the piles and in the front of the files that these contractors turned to when they planned construction purchases?


In November 2000, Gardner was planning his department's budget for the 2001. If he was going to make a radical change, now was his chance. So, he called his sales and marketing team together for an all-day "scoping" session to brainstorm new ideas.

First they considered the problem from the end-buyer's point of view. They knew creating RFQs is not easy for contractors, because for each construction component, contractors have to check many different catalogs seeking products to meet the architects’ particular specifications. Then contractors have to locate the certification documentation to prove to the architect that the materials chosen met safety requirements. Gardner explains, "Creating submittals longhand is a burdensome task, it's arduous."

During his team's brainstorming session, Gardner threw out a new idea: what if they turned their Web site into an incredibly useful tool for contractors creating RFQs?

Unimast's Web site already held a library of PDF documents for contractors, which had proven popular. Now Gardner and his team agreed to divert the remainder of their 2000 corporate advertising budget, as well as a bigger chunk of their 2001 budget, to adding interactive tools to the site.

Gardner says, "I pulled the plug on a lot of other initiatives. Direct advertising in magazines took the biggest hit. The Web was a high-ranking priority. If other things fell to the bottom, so be it." The newly revamped site tools were developed and launched in a little over three months by in-house staff and tech partner Pyxis. The two new tools were:

1. Submittal Wizard

This handy online tool permits contractors to spec out their RFQs, by answering a series of questions online. To simplify the process, contractors are only presented with one question at a time, and then the next question is directly relevant to the answer from the last one. To make things even easier, Submittal Wizard also allows users to embed technical specs in PDF format from the site's Document Center into their final submittal. When they are done, they simply print out their finalized RFQ plan on their printer. (And naturally it specs in Unimast products wherever possible!)

Gardner explains how his team came up with the name for the tool, "It originally was called a submittal generator, and we thought that it was too basic, and using a wizard implies an easy walk-through process."

2. Member Selector

Added to the site a few months after the Wizard, this tool also helps contractors spec out their job RFQs. In this case, they can easily select and spec out more highly detailed materials requirements.

Next, in order to promote the new site tools, Gardner sent a mass mailing to his in-house prospect list and ran space ads in a few magazines. He also asked his sales reps, customer service team and engineers to be sure to pitch the tools to contractors whenever they were on the phone with any. In addition, he added the URL to absolutely every single piece of marketing collateral the Company produced in 2001. He says, "We promote the site everywhere. Every piece of literature, advertising, and on-hold messaging for the customer service center has site information.”

In order to supplement his house database, Gardner added a quick free registration form to the site which all new tool users must fill out. Then he sent further promotional materials and reminders to use the site again to the collected list throughout the year.


Despite the economy, Unimast's 2001 sales were definitely up, and the Company has hired more employees to keep up with demand. Gardner was so impressed with the revised site's success that he has weighted his 2002 marketing and advertising budget in favor of online.

"Frankly, the Web channel is a more viable, more vital type of medium. We scaled back on other things to make it more available for the Web. Our budget is bigger than it has ever been." He adds, “We haven’t seen cost savings yet, but we expect to see that happening. We have further reduced direct advertising, anticipating decreases in literature costs."

Some numbers:

- Unimast's monthly site visitors are up 200% since the tool launch date March 2001.

- 33% of home page visitors directly to the Submittal Wizard.

- Site traffic is mostly from search engines (65%), but also from people who either bookmark the site or type the URL (25%) and from some architectural portals and construction portals on which it's listed (10%).

- About 30% of registered users return

- More than 3,000 professional contractors have registered on the site so far, and about 150 new ones join each month.

- The Document Center has also increased in popularity, with “tens of thousands of downloads of literature.”

One final interesting note -- site surveys show that contractors are moving to broadband connections. Gardner says, "We’ve noticed that many of our customers have moved to T1 or cable modems or DSL in 2001 -- very high percentage."


See Also:

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