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Free advertising? An expert makes the case at PDIS

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A marketing seminar at the upcoming ProDealer Industry Summit (PDIS) is geared toward quick results.

Brian Bunt of The Empty Bin specializes in word-of-mouth marketing for lumberyards, which means in a nutshell, using happy customers to advertise for free. Giving them a reason to talk about your product or service is what all good lumberyards do; facilitating the conversations is what takes the extra effort.

The ProDealer Industry Summit, sponsored jointly by the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) and Home Channel News, will explore macroeconomic forces, as well as the everyday running of an LBM business. The Oct. 24-26 event will take place in Savannah, Ga., at the Savannah Westin.

Using examples from the building industry, Bunt will explain how to conduct a campaign that leverages lumberyard’s core customer base and identifies the business’s best “talkers.” In one case study he utilizes, it was the delivery drivers, who were given cameras to take photos of each load they dropped. Individual drivers were then graded as a motivation tool.

“It’s the delivery guys that really spread the word,” Bunt told Home Channel News. “They tell their friends and customers about the extra steps they take.” The cameras worked as a conversation starter. “It’s common for a customer to ask, 'Why are you taking a photo?' " he explained.

Bunt doesn’t believe in traditional methods of advertising. “We try to stress that advertising is the cost of being boring,” he said. “You’re paying someone else to talk about what you’re doing.” And in a refreshing change of pace, Bunt doesn’t push social media; he estimated that 80% of word-of-mouth marketing takes place off line.

Instead, Bunt goes in for more offbeat and innovative promotions. Windsor Mill, where Bunt works as director of marketing, put a stamp on the back of its Windsor One trim board and moldings that said, “Call Kurt for a shirt” and included a phone number. The free T-shirt offer resulted in a number of phone calls to the head of Windsor One’s customer experience department, which then led to conversations about current building projects, materials being used and so on -- in other words, a foot in the door frame.

Bunt will present Oct. 25 at the 2012 PDIS event.

“At the end of the [session], they’ll be able to create a campaign the day they walk into the office on Monday,” Bunt said.

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