The timber trade sometimes seems to have an inferiority complex about marketing. But David Evington, marketing consultant and chairman of the TTJ Awards Excellence in Marketing judging panel, says it shouldn’t.

Set against the performance of other industries he works with, he insists the timber sector does cut the mustard. “As a TTJ Awards judge I’ve seen examples of marketing from the timber and related industries as good as anything from any sector,” he said. “Many entries were examples of best practice any company would be proud of. If you follow their example, you’ve got a recipe for success.”

The five key criteria by which Mr Evington measures the effectiveness of the TTJ Award entries, and any other marketing campaign, are strategy, proposition, integration, creativity and results.

Effective strategy

Strategy entails first establishing the business objectives of a campaign. “It involves analysing the forces at work in the market place and how to react to and exploit them,” said Mr Evington.

As examples of effective strategy, he points to Osmose‘s and Arch‘s TTJ Awards entries, respectively for their campaigns for Naturewood and Tanalith E CCA-alternative timber treatments. “These identified that legislation was going to demand a different product and recognised consumer concern over the use of chemicals. They placed the products to exploit market forces.”

A strong marketing proposition is a product identity or brand that stands out from the crowd. “You should create one chief motivating thought that convinces customers the benefit of your product is greater than the alternatives,” said Mr Evington.

TTJ Awards entries illustrating this attribute were SmartPly’s campaign designed to differentiate its product family from conventional plywood and M&M Timber’s marketing for its Playguard treated timber range which conveyed the message “that play areas built from Playguard are safe places for children”.

An “integrated’ marketing campaign is one that takes in the whole sweep of the market that needs to be influenced. “For instance that might mean the merchant sector, architects, specifiers, the construction sector, even the consumer,” said Mr Evington. “Based on this analysis you can work out the marketing approach to use: advertising, sales promotions, direct mail and so on.”

He described Norbord‘s Caberdecor marketing, which was another TTJ Awards entry, as an “excellent example of a fully integrated campaign”. This used different tools to target different sections of the market, but linked them with a common design theme.

When it comes to creativity, the key is not to over egg. “A creative ad has style and feeling, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate.”

Measuring results

The last part of any campaign, measuring the results, is vital, both to establish if a business has been spending its money on the right things and to develop future strategy. But just assessing the impact on sales is not necessarily the best route. “Sometimes that’s not possible to trace, so you should also be looking at enquiry levels, response cards returned and so on,” said Mr Evington.

Among his other do’s and don’ts for effective marketing, what timber companies are advised to avoid at all costs is “the activity trap”. “As soon as someone in your business says ‘we must get a brochure’, stop and think why and what you’re trying to achieve,” he said. “There’s no point to marketing for marketing’s sake.”

A campaign should also stick with a simple message.

“Say one thing convincingly,” said Mr Evington. “You’ve got about 1.5 seconds to grab your customer’s attention. If you have 10 messages in one advert you achieve nothing but confusion.”

Finally, marketing should be seen as an investment, but that doesn’t mean spending up to the hilt. A properly focused marketing strategy can make a relatively modest sum go a long way. “The benchmark often quoted for a marketing budget is 2% of turnover, but that should be a good sense check,” said Mr Evington. “Some TTJ Award entries show that by spending £20,000-30,000 on a campaign, companies can have real impact and achieve tangible growth in business.”