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Within the robust context of today’s construction industry, explains Mike Murphy Sales & Marketing Director at Catnic – the need for an integrated approach to customer engagement between supplier and merchant has never been greater.

The environment for builders’ merchants and their suppliers has never been more competitive. This is due to a number of factors: the fact that we have seen a somewhat consolidated market in recent years, the Conservative Party’s pledge to construct 275,000 affordable homes and 200,000 discounted dwellings as well as plans to push ahead with garden cities in the next five years. Furthermore, buoyancy in the construction market over the past 18 months looks set to continue while the new government undoubtedly seeks to cement some of its pre-election promises.

Therefore the landscape provides both merchants and their suppliers with the ideal opportunity to hone market approaches in a bid to secure some of this business. Clearly, competition for larger supply contracts will be fierce, while those end users handling smaller projects will remain as shrewd as ever in their purchasing decisions.

By working together, merchants and their suppliers stand to benefit through an integrated approach that sees sales pulled through local branches, in a relationship that could be described as symbiotic in nature. Crucially each must work with the other to offer customers what they want, when they want it. Product innovation, choice with depth of range, technical support, even on the ground know-how, and importantly - customer service without compromise must form the lynchpins of any credible communications strategy.

Today, there are more ways than ever to reach target audiences across each market sector. A joined up approach between suppliers and merchants offers a greater online presence for each. This is particularly so with the emergence of social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. They make marketing to housebuilders, architects, design engineers, specialist contractors and installers, as well as DIYers instantaneous. Coupled with online newsfeeds, this immediacy has demanded strength and consistency in the messages about products, services and best practice guidance, combined with swift response times for prompt user engagement to drive interest for in-branch promotions. By working together it is clear that suppliers and merchants now stand to cast their message wider.

The more traditional routes to market: key print media and direct forms of customer communication at trade shows and in-branch remain. Integrated customer relationship management systems are empowering merchant staff at branch level to optimise every sales opportunity as it comes along. They are supported by a wealth of investment in literature and point of sale material too. However these forms of communication also need to be targeted, sophisticated and compelling, whilst underpinned by true product brilliance, depth of range, service excellence and brand strength.

By working with suppliers in each product category that can deliver on these vital elements, merchants stand to provide their customers with the latest in technical thinking. This is a world where brand matters, so heritage and longevity in a recognised and well-trusted name such as Catnic is key.

The fact that this is the default descriptor for all lintels among many end users is indicative of the way our own brand is ingrained in the industry. However, it is also a prime example of a supplier renowned for a particular product and in recent years we have invested in our own communication innovations to help ensure our merchant customers, and their customers, are aware of the wider breadth of the offering. With plasterers’ beads and profiles, building components, standing seam roofing and cladding, today Catnic is one name that stands for the reliable supply of multiple product categories. Yet whichever product mix they sell, merchants can be assured of the same focus on great service.

This reliability should be the cornerstone of any supply chain relationship. It is a message that Catnic consistently weaves through both a healthy online presence and more traditional forms of communication. These include attendance at trade shows and face-to-face contact with merchant staff and their customers at branch level.

Technical support that is timely and accessible goes further to underpin reliability in any construction brand. For merchants, knowing where to find the information required to secure an order or to help a customer is invaluable when the pressure is on.

This needs to be followed through with seamless customer service. No matter how innovative the technology or smooth the marketing communications, without a service-led approach throughout the supply-chain to ensure the right products are in the right place, at the right time, the shared success of suppliers and merchants might be compromised.

So by working together with trusted brands that stand for reliability in product excellence and great service, merchants can broaden their appeal and utilise their suppliers’ strength and insight to communicate a unified message to housebuilders, architects and end users effectively.


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