PODCASTS

Tanner Dame Of Woodgrain: Launching Products In Market Based On Customer Needs

Tanner Dame Of Woodgrain: Launching Products In Market Based On Customer Needs

 

Kip welcomes Tanner Dame, Marketing Manager of Woodgrain to discuss the company’s 65-year history and its innovative business model in which it both manufactures and distributes its products.



 

 

Podcast Participants:
Graham: Product Director Concora
Kip Rapp: CEO Concora
Tanner Dame: Marketing Manager of Woodgrain

 

Graham:
Hello everyone and welcome to the Concora Corner, a podcast dedicated to bringing you interviews with folks working in the AC and BPM industry. I’m one of your hosts, Graham Waldrip, a director of product here at Concora. Today on the show we’re talking with Tanner Dame marketing manager at Woodgrain. Tanner takes us through Woodgrain’s history, how they started with Millwood, and then evolved into becoming one of the foremost manufacturers of wood moldings doors and windows in the country. Woodgrain also distributes their products and Tanner takes us in depth through how they balance their manufacturing line and production pipeline and how they keep their customers satisfied every step of the way. We hope you enjoy today’s interview with Tanner, but before we begin, here’s a quick word from our CEO, Kip Rapp.

 

Kip:
I wanted to thank everyone again for listening to our podcast and if you’re interested in learning more about Concora, we help building product manufacturers get specified and purchase more by providing a great web experience that is bolted to your website and makes it easy for architects, engineers, and contractors to do business with you online. Yeah, we’d like to think about it as three things. It’s a good web experience, good content and good tools. And we have tools such as submittals, sustainability, projects showcases or anything needed by your design community to help specify and purchase products. Again, we’d be more than happy to show you a quick demo and you can go to concora.com to learn more re case studies and see how other customers have grown sales with our partnership.

Tanner, thank you for joining our podcast today. Really appreciate it. I know when we talked last time it was very impressive and talking about what you guys do. We have a lot of varied topics with a lot of the other guest speakers and was definitely interested in what you had to offer, what your philosophy and process and strategy around launching new products into market. And certainly that’s important with a lot of other listeners and building material leaders that I talk to and especially with COVID right. And everyone’s in with either the residential commercial or they sell to distributors, but it’s all very similar challenges that everyone has. And I’m sure they could learn a lot from what we’re going to talk about today. So I’d like to start it off, Tanner, who you are, what you do, what your company does, what makes you different?

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah, no, thanks for having us, Kip. We appreciate the opportunity. It’s always a pleasure to talk about ourselves and obviously to be able to tell our story. So I think one thing, I guess, before getting into our story and kind of what makes us unique, and I’m a big advocate of our story and our company and our history. Myself, I am the marketing manager here at Woodgrain. I’ve been in this role for about two and a half years and interned and spent a stint beforehand at Woodgrain learning the other aspects of the business. We’re a very diverse business when it comes to our production and product offering, but we’re a 65-year-old building material manufacturing company. So we are based in Fruitland, Idaho. That’s our headquarters and have locations throughout the U.S. in manufacturing facilities in Chile as well.

So the quick overview that explains our history is essentially starting 65 years ago. And the idea was to produce millwork and we were producing millwork for the RV and manufactured home business. And so we’re doing really small profiles as cheap as possible, and really just taking the remnants from sawmills in the area and anything we could get to produce those products. And it evolved over time. We saw opportunities and we’re a very opportunistic type company. And our management’s been very proactive in not being satisfied with the status quo, but looking for new opportunities in the industry, and even outside of our expertise. So we grew from that small millwork provider for that niche industry into a very large millwork producer, producing all types of millwork from door, trim to standard mower, baseboard, casing, crown, anything along those lines and brick mold, et cetera.

So we are one of the largest manufacturers of millwork products. We sell our products into big box stores along with lumberyards, two step distributors. With our history we’ve evolved into manufacturing doors as well. We do a large stile and row door business. I mentioned in the intro, we manufacturer in Chile as well. So we have a door facility in Chile, which we own and manufactured doors there. And along with our Nampa, Idaho facility. So all solid core doors, really high quality, number of different species. Along with that, we do a large business in windows. So we do aluminum wood clad windows. We have a facility in Des Moines, Iowa, and one another in North Carolina that produces our windows. The brand itself is Windsor, Windsor windows and doors. They were acquired by us about 30 years ago, and it’s part of the Woodgrain family.

And then the last step in the process in our vertical integration, which we talk about is our distribution group. So we distribute all of those building materials into those distributors that I mentioned before, those big box stores, those lumberyards. The one piece I guess I forgot to mention that’s an important piece in this is our lumber division. So that’s the newest division. We own three sawmills that produce the wood that go into our millwork products, that go into our door parts, to our window parts. And then we sell a lot of that product on the outside market, like two by fours and studs for framing and whatnot. So we talk about vertical integration. So we own the entire process. We’re able to control our supply chain, control our quality, the marketing and messaging that goes out about our products, which is really unique in this industry. It’s not typically something you see, but something we’re very proud of.

And a lot of that’s just come from the management’s willingness to look outside the box and think about opportunities and be very proactive in those opportunities. So, like I said, we have the acquisition of the saw mill. A lot of those took place in the last two years. So we continue to grow as a large company. It’s not typically the case as a large company. It’s easy to get just focused on the bread and butter and just stay in your wheelhouse. But we do really well with that, but we also look for new opportunities and capitalize them.

 

Kip:
Oh, that’s cool. That was a lot. And that was cool. And I heard a lot there. You mean you started 65 years ago and you’ve grown progressively and you’ve grown frequently it appears, and it looks like this theme about integrated type of a company in integrated manufacturing. Is that how it started or when did that evolve because it’s, I’m sure over 65 years, different pieces based on some need or some challenge or some goal. Right?

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah, no. I think a lot of it goes back to management and seeing the opportunities. And we talked about it a little bit in our preliminary phone call, but we work a lot and we’re very hands on with our partners, our retailers or distributors. And if they express that they have a need or there’s an opportunity, or they’re not being serviced on a certain aspect and it’s somewhat… we can brush shoulders with that. For example, I think one of the first acquisitions we had besides growing our millwork facilities and having multiple locations throughout the U.S. from East coast to West coast for logistical purposes and sourcing of materials, was our door facility in Nampa. Our headquarters being in Idaho is about 30 to 40 mints up the road. So we were selling materials to that facility and went up for selling. We said, “Hey, we could learn this business. We’re not door guys, but the opportunities there.”

And the fact that one of our dealers currently or they’re one of our partners, and logistically it made a lot of sense. So that’s how some of that acquisitions come into effect. And it’s not just like, “Hey, let’s try to do everything.” It was more of a there’s opportunity and we’re one of the main sources of materials for these guys. And then we had customers on the backside saying, “Hey, we’re not being serviced on doors,” and I think that’s when we capitalize and said, “Let’s figure this out,” and we jumped on it. So that’s one example, but a lot of that’s come from situations like that.

 

Kip:
Sure. So organic and as problems or objectives arise, so was that a dealer you mentioned that you purchased at a door dealer?

 

Tanner Dame:
No, they’re a manufacturer. So they’ve manufactured for a number of years. And I think with a lot of times you can own the building material in this space. It’s mom and pop. It’s not conglomerates. It’s smaller individuals who are getting ready to retire. They’ve had a number of challenges and they’re saying, “Hey, it’s time to make a change and looking for different buyers is kind of being close in location. I think we were an option for that. So that’s how that came about.

 

Kip:
Is that your first manufacturing company you bought back then?

 

Tanner Dame:
I want to say it was. I should know the history a little better than-

 

Kip:
Okay. No, that’s cool. So prior to that, you were mainly what? Selling and distributing?

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah, so we were manufacturing millwork specifically, and focused in our wheelhouse. And like I stated before we did the manufactured home market was our focus and then we acquired another facility that helped us expand in our millwork manufacturing process. And with that, a lot of times when you grow footprints, you’re in certain regions, you’re able to just piggyback off of dealer networks and say, “Okay, one of the guys in town between us and three other guys and we’ll service in the prices, right. And products, good quality. You open those doors, so. A lot of times with those acquisitions, it’s come from opportunities to open new customers or grow with customers we already have. So there’s a strategic piece of not only just trying to grow our product mix, but let’s become a bigger resource for this dealer and then try to grow with them-

 

Kip:
So around millwork and woodwork. So that example you gave earlier was more building out, I guess, another part of your offering, where you have a little more ownership of that manufacturing that door in that case.

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah.

 

Kip:
So that’s great. And now it’s talking-

 

Tanner Dame:
Sorry, similar scenario on the windows side as well with Windsor windows and then distribution. We weren’t in the distribution side of things. And that was a little scary in a lot of ways. It’s the fact that we were manufacturers. We didn’t necessarily deal with… We had third-party companies dealing with our product and distributing them to those networks, but a distributor came up for business in the Southeast and we said, “Hey, let’s jump on this. There’s no reason that we can’t figure this out ourselves and to be able to save a lot of costs and be able to get this closer to the customer,” is the approach with the distribution side. Now that’s a huge piece of what we do. And one of the largest distributors to Home Depot, which is one of the big box stores, Menards, and they do a really good scope of business there.

 

Kip:
Yeah. I was just getting familiarized with the two-step distribution. I was talking to someone else the other day and how they’re providing that distribution point to the dealer. And it sounds like you own a few, and then you also work with other distributors or in that case for the dealers.

 

Tanner Dame:
Are you talking about Home Depot, specifically?

 

Kip:
Not Home Depot, but just in general is your business model. It sounded like you’re organically growing on the manufacturer side. And then you mentioned this distributor type, the position that you had. So my assumption’s that you have your own plus you work with others.

 

Tanner Dame:
Correct. Yeah. It’s a mix.

 

Kip:
Good stuff. Yeah. Well, that’s exciting. So, yeah, I know when we talked about before, Tanner, we were looking at some of the products you were launching into market and how that came about. And it certainly happens with a lot of customers and people we talk to. And definitely with your… Sounds like you have more ownership of the supply chain, you have more relationships with your customers, like Home Depot, as you mentioned in the example before, and just would like to walk through that process that you have for launching new products into market. What’s important, right? What challenges did you face, right? What are you improving on and go from there.

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah, no, that’s a good question. So as far as our strategy did to introduce new products, a lot of it comes from going back to the needs of our customers. So if a customer inquiries, you’re ask about a specific item that may be a challenge for them to source or they’re having quality issues, it’s always something that the sales team brings back to manufacturing and the sales team and manufacturer team works pretty hand in hand. So with that, we’ll develop and look at opportunities and say, “Hey, this is an opportunity that we’ve looked at or heard of from a customer, analyze if it’s cost effective, if there’s anything we can do to resolve the pain point for that customer. And if so, we’ll develop a whole strategy behind that, developing the product, obviously testing that product, taking it to a test market and getting feedback.

And then that’s where I’ve been able to jump in and help on the marketing side is to create the marketing content around that product, whether it be packaging, specifically, talk about the full branding of that product with naming conventions, feature benefits, what messaging we’re trying to address with that specific project with the marketing look, feel, and verbal content, or that we’re trying to put across that. So there’s a lot of hands involved in that. Typically manufacturing side, the sales side, and then the marketing side, and probably the last touch on it and then taking that-

 

Kip:
Yeah. Sorry to interrupt. But before you move on, just so I can remember this is, one, you listen to your customers and they may have specific needs that they, in this case give to your sales team. Right. And I guess say could be a product related need that maybe they have a challenge or a requirement to have. And did you get involved at that point or does it go somewhere else first? Because you mentioned you come in during the marketing and the packaging and the promotion obviously, but how does that work and does that whole ideation product. because it could be a really bad problem. Maybe you don’t want to go after right. Or a corner case. Right. So how do you differentiate that?

 

Tanner Dame:
It’s usually brought up early on in the process. It’s brought up to the lead team, talking about different opportunities. We do a lot of strategy, innovation type stuff about once a year and talk about, “Hey, here’s a trend report. Here’s what’s trending. Here’s what we may not be tapping into currently as far as product mix.” So it’s definitely out to the entire group before it’s totally brought to fruition and saying, “Okay, you guys need to jump in on the marketing side. It’s an idea. And then the production team will actually try to figure out if there’s an opportunity to produce that specific product or source it or anything along those lines. And in that typically we’ll get involved at the same time and say, “Okay, we’ll start coming up with the brand naming conventions. We’ll talk about the feature benefits once you understand how that’s going to be processed or produced and to put those actual feature benefit it’s going to be.” So it’s pretty intuitive as far as all the groups get involved pretty early on in that stage.

 

Kip:
That’s cool. It’s like a product management team take facilitation of that? Or what term is that in your company? Like the-

 

Tanner Dame:
It’s I would say depending on the product specifically. If it’s the door team, if it’s the millwork team, it it’s the distribution team, someone will be assigned to that specific project. On the door side, it’s typically the sales manager has a lot of involvement. He probably drives a lot of the innovation and initiatives within the sell side or as far as the door side. And then from that making assignments to the production team. And typically it’s pretty segmented. If it’s a, for example, if we’re doing a door project specifically, we’ll have probably 6 to 10 thought leaders involved in that conversation from the sales guys to the production team, to the engineers, to the marketing team. And we’ll just lay out and say, “Okay, it’s a bi-fold doors. There’s a opportunity with bi-fold doors to make them more than this,” spin an example here, “make them more modern. We need a more modern bi-fold door.”

So we’ll talk through the process of what we’re currently doing, what opportunities we’re seeing in the marketplace, how that would be produced cost-effectively to make sure we’re hitting the right price points, how we’re going to market that. So it’s that group specifically involved in and typically the lead, whoever brought that idea to the group, we’ll make the assignments and make sure that the checkpoints are being hit and delegate to when it can be done and follow back up within the allotted amount of time, whether it be a couple of weeks a month and go.

 

Kip:
Well, that’s cool. So, there’s a vetting of this problem or idea. It sounds like there’s some type of annual review and one of the things you mentioned was focusing on your customers and then you mentioned this trend report. So is there a mix of a customer brings it up most of the time that there’s… That would be nice because there’s a specific problem you can solve that makes money, I guess, in that case. And then you can vet it and do the due diligence against market research, competitive landscape or trends. I don’t know what you meant by trend report. I’m assuming it’s like, “Oh, here are the trends and-

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah, 100%. Right, exactly. So, and that’s been driven by the marketing team on our side is saying… And it’s not something we’ve done in the past. It’s something we’ve introduced here in the last two years is coming in, talking about trends that are taking place within interior design, millwork specifically, doors specifically, windows specifically. And so typically the sales guys already know what’s going on and they help contribute to that trend report. But it’s news a lot of times for management. It’s news for production and engineers to say, “Okay, that’s actually interesting.” We’re behind the scenes and we see it sometimes, but a lot of times they’re not at the forefront of seeing what’s taking place on specific trends.

And sometimes we say we analyze it,” and say, “That’s a cool trend, but it’s not something we’re going to be locking into just because it might come and go, it might be a quick trend. It might not be something feasible for production. It might be out of our core customer base.” So we’ll look at it and say, “Okay, this is a big opportunity. Let’s really analyze this and make assignments to jump into that specific trend for a specific product.

 

Kip:
And is this more of an annual event or does each doors and windows maybe have the millwork or whatever products you’re making, do they all have their innovation cycles that are annual or does it have to compete?

 

Tanner Dame:
On the annual side we do a trend report at the end of the year getting into the new year and that’s more of a marketing initiative and it’s good education. And some of that there’s opportunities to take into production and try some new products in that time period. And then each division’s a little different. Millworks probably less intuitive as far as new product mix and opportunities. It’s really commoditized. And you don’t see big shifts and trends or in innovation, where doors, there’s a lot of products and styles and production methods within doors. So doors, we have a monthly call talking through just production, whether it be warranty, current production stuff that we could do better to have a more quality product or there’s new manufacturing techniques that we could do that is going to save time or money or third, hey, there’s just a new style and look and feel that we need we’re not hitting currently that we need to try. So depending on the division, it depends how advanced and aggressive they are.

So doors is very, I’d say at the forefront where millwork it’s a little slower. For a reason, it’s not… I think you do have a lot of walls if you just tried to do a weekly call or a monthly call on what’s happening on the millwork side.

 

Kip:
Yeah. Well, that’s great. So, I mean, I’m trying to look at corollaries with what we do. We make software, a digital product and you make a physical product. Right. And so I haven’t been in the physical world in a long time and it’s the same methodology though, right. Because you’re always looking for problems to solve. Right. And you can’t just rely on one customer and customers typically don’t tell you the solution. They’ll tell you what they think the problem is and what they think the solution is. So it has to be vetted through with other data points, as you mentioned, like trend reports and tribal knowledge, maybe other customer interviews. So it sounds like you have a same practice, I would imagine. Right?

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

 

Kip:
And so with that, I’m sure there’s some lead time too, because now you have some product innovation, you’ve identified it, hopefully it’s with the customer that you can make happy too, and so once you’ve decided that, and I’m imagining because you have ownership of the vertical process, that it makes it easier to be creative and solve problems. Right. And then when you execute it, it appears that may make it more efficient. You have more of the pieces of the supply chain. So can you walk us through that?

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah. I’d say it really depends on the need of that specific product or the pain point. If it’s something that we’re seeing a huge opportunity on, or it’s again and again, customers asking for that specific item that’s not being serviced in the marketplace, I think we’re quicker to act. If it’s something that’s a little bit more of a trend piece that’s on the radar, but not necessarily moving sales numbers, it’s probably a slower grind to fruition as far as to make something happen. So it really depends on how that idea and that specific product opportunity came to the group and how fast that moves. I’d say definitely is an advantage that we have having that vertical integration piece, where we can go to, for example, our progress. This is a true example of an innovation piece that we’re working through, looking at door core, door cores, typically not the nicest. It’s finger joint or whatever it may be.

Whatever you can find the cheapest medium as far as wood goes. And so we have a particle board plant and we’ve looked at opportunities to source our particle board into the door core itself, and then hang our venues and the style and rails within that, as far as the door manufacturing goes. So that’s an example of being able to integrate that vertical integration. That’s something that’s not too far down the road. Probably three-hour drive to our particle board plant and ship those some samples over and run it through the door facility and sample those out. And so there’s pretty unique opportunities that we have and we’re able to leverage from just being vertically integrated and having so many different products that we specialize in.

 

Kip:
That’s cool. So maybe, can you walk us through like an example with an end customer that they came to you or you’ve noticed some problem or challenge either way and how you were able to successfully build that into your process that you mentioned for innovation?

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah. One of our more successful product lines and the innovations has been our Finished Elegance. So Finished Elegance is a pre-finished millwork product. So it’s typically baseboard. You see some chair rail, some crown molding as well. And that was actually Home Depot, specifically asked and said, “Hey, we’re seeing a lot of customers asking for pre-finished millworks.

So if you’re not familiar with pre-finished, essentially painted once it’s installed, you’re done, you’re ready to go and don’t have to deal with the prime. You don’t have to deal with the finished paint, et cetera. So we said, “Hey, we’ll take it on. We’ll figure out a way to make a pre-finished product.” And we found and it wasn’t easy. It was definitely a challenge to get the perfect finish and something that we were proud of that was consistent. And so this took, I would say, a good eight months to really make it something that we said, “Hey, we can take back to Home Depot and offer to them.

And so that was finding the right partners, as far as we use Eastman Chemicals, which is a composite itself. So it’s almost like a new manufacturing process. We think about it almost like a thin coating of plastic. It’s not plastic per se, but it almost has that look look, feel, and that extruded application. So that covered the [inaudible 00:26:37] Perfection is very durable. It’s not something once you lean against it or hit it’s going to welt or anything along those lines. So it was a superior product in the end, even pre-finished or not. It’s very durable and that has had a ton of success. So we introduced that into Home Depot. It’s grown like a weed. It’s one of their fastest growing millwork products. And from that, we’ve seen a lot of companies and other individuals jump into the pre-finished game where we were the first pre-finished product in the market and competitors on the other side of trying to figure out ways to introduce something just because it’s a growing category.

 

Kip:
Well, that’s cool. So are we, again, just to go back a few steps, is this baseboards, crown molding? What are I guess from my newbie’s standpoint, what is-

 

Tanner Dame:
It’s a lot of baseboard trim, but we do crown molding and chair rails. So a lot of anything, one that like traditional millwork is we could produce in that. We can essentially produce anything in that, but it’s trying to keep the skew count to our best sellers and not just this massive product offering that’s going to confuse people, but our core sellers, our bestsellers and standard… what’s the word I’m looking for… A timeless there. We got timeless styles.

 

Kip:
Yeah. So I get that Home Depot was asking, was this something where they were really interested and went to you specifically or your company? Or was it like one of five things? How did you establish the need and whether or not this was something viable. I’m guessing Home Depot would buy it, but sometimes customers give you bad ideas too, and maybe it doesn’t pan out [crosstalk 00:28:20].

 

Tanner Dame:
That’s true. And we’ve gone down that path of saying really analyze them like, “Hey, we’ve this one customer and it’s a small customer. It’s a problem customer.” Asked for this specific product and really get back to the team and say, “It’s not worth chasing.” It’s not something in our wheelhouse.

And it’s going to be a distraction. We’re going to have to go back to this customer and say, “Hey, we’re not the manufacturers for you guys to execute on this specific project.” Home Depot obviously, is a different a beast as far as when they ask for something. And they honestly, the story is that they came to us specifically. They knew our capabilities. We have a great track record. And so it was almost a really feather in the cap when they asked us and we said, “Oh, this is exciting and there’s no way we’re going to turn this down. We’re going to find a way and make this happen. And we’re going to introduce a product that they’re going to be proud of and that we can grow with them.” So that’s how that came to fruition.

 

Kip:
Oh, that’s cool. And so was there any lessons learned or any challenges you faced in that kind of example?

 

Tanner Dame:
I would say for us is, is someone that asks how… You jump when… Especially when it’s one of your best customers, you ask, “How high?” Is the type of approach is. And that’s definitely paid off, I think rather than saying… And obviously in the manufacturing business, you want to be really good at what you’re good at and focus on what you’re good at. And introducing something new is a variable that’s going to cause confusion and it’s going to cause lack of consistency and production and stuff like that. So it can be a distraction at times, but at the same time we knew it was an opportunity, analyzed it and figure out a way to make it one of our most profitable margin items in that we sell and across our product mix. And so that was a lesson in just trying to figure out when you have a customer that needs something that has a pain point is really bending over backwards and making sure that you can satisfy what they’re wanting.

But to your point, I think you had a great question earlier is, is it always makes sense to jump down those rabbit holes and chase different opportunities. Now it’s really analyzing those opportunities and saying, “Okay, this makes a lot of sense,” or, “Hey, this is going to be a distraction.”

 

Kip:
That’s cool. Yeah. And with, I guess, Home Depot and that problem that thing you mentioned, and then your involvement, because you’re more than, I guess, more than most of the marketing people I talked to, Tanner. You have certainly a wide breadth of knowledge. So what’s your involvement in all this, right? Or because you sound like you have knowledge of the upstream, the research and maybe your core responsibilities. Is it due to vetting? Is it to help advise? Is it more than on the traditional marketing where you’re packaging, they already made a decision and now you’re producing a go to market type of approach?

 

Tanner Dame:
I think the nice thing about Woodgrains is they’ve very communicative. They’ve let us get involved early on. And whether it be with management meetings, lead team meetings.

it’s nice to be part of that conversation to understand what’s happening behind the scenes. I would say in the vetting aspect, I’m probably not involved or marketing’s not involved for the most part. When it goes trend reports, we’ve presented opportunities and being able to execute and work with manufacturing on certain trends that we feel like, hey, this is on the radar. This is something that’s more, not on the customer side per se, like the sales guys, but we really feel like this is an opportunity for us to capitalize. So we can drive that messaging when that feedback comes from customers. We’re probably not as involved, but we get to participate in those conversations and hear that early on in those stages. So it’s been a nice resource to get your brain wrapped around it early, rather than just being thrown projects last minute and you’re the last leg of it, so. Everybody’s involved early on.

 

Kip:
Yeah. So maybe using this example or another one, so what is your core set of ownership and responsibilities for this type of process because I’m assuming it’s much more in the marketing framework where you’re given the project, it’s to launch a product, here’s the target market and maybe it’s Home Depot, and then you have all these other type of marketing initiatives they have to do working with the salespeople, right. So can you walk us through what you do there?

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah, now, it’s a pretty wide grasp of responsibilities and it’s joint venture in a lot of ways, which is fun. We have a lot of divisions. The only division we don’t do day to day marketing for is our window division. Windsor windows. Windsor has a team in house. Des Moines. Obviously it’s part of the Woodgrain family so we’re able to market and leverage them as a brand and company as a whole. We’re a pretty small team. We have two designers and then another marketing assistant out of Lawrenceville, Georgia, but really it’s determining what’s happening in the marketplace. And we were able to do a lot of market research and seeing what’s trending, how are our products are being utilized. We’re able to create the content a lot of times. Contents outsourced, and we’ve tried to keep as much content in house as possible.

It’s not always possible. We’re not experts at everything, but able to leverage networking with photographers and videographers to create videos about the product specifically and the way I look at what I’m doing in the marketing role and what Woodgrain is trying to get across is telling a story… Is we’re storytellers. And we have a lot of stories to tell. When it gets to our different divisions and all the different products we offer there’s a specific story to be told about that specific division, et cetera. So we are involved in that process and it’s really nice to know how it’s made. This is a pretty technical aspect and it’s not just, hey, it’s a piece of wood and let’s try to tell a story about it, but it’s about the milling process, it’s about the feature and benefits of why it’s produced a certain way.

It’s about where the item’s sourced from and their American made and so there’s a lot of story to be told within that production side. So I think being involved in the production side and knowing the back end of how that stuff is being manufactured, maybe not being the expert at it, but understanding that it’s been a value, big, big resource for our team. So that’s, I’d say we were able to touch and have the liberty to get involved in not necessarily obviously manufacturing, but brush shoulders with them and go get in the plan anytime we want, or take tours through it with the individuals and showcase what’s happening behind the scenes and then figure out how to storyteller that piece into the product itself, whether it be packaging, whether it be through video to explain how to utilize or leverage that product in certain uses.

 

Kip:
That’s cool.

 

Tanner Dame:
Is that what you’re looking for. I don’t know-

 

Kip:
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s definitely a part of it. So you mentioned you have two designers, marketing assistant, you’re telling stories. You’re not just saying what the product is, but you’re trying to make it memorable in a way. And then the manufacturing side, I mean, all these thing. I know from talking to other people standards, it’s just more than the product. People that want to use your product, architects that want to use it. They want to know about certainly the, what is it, what does it do for me? How does it help my project? What makes you different? But they also want to know about who you are as a company and what do you stand for? And so I take it from that then it’s very important that you tell other stories to help engage, not only from a functional side of your product, but from a like a humanitarian or from an empathetic side. So is that part of it?

 

Tanner Dame:
For sure. No, I think so. For sure. It’s been, to your point, we market on the B2B side of things. So it’s challenged in the act that we want to make sure that we’re creating content for them, that there is resourceful. It’s something that they can leverage and utilize in their lumberyards. But at the same time, we’re trying to create content that’s getting out to that end user as well. So if it’s someone that’s going to buy millwork and do a remodel project for their trim in their home, they’re going to find us as a resource and be able to, “Hey, how do I calculate millwork molding baseboard for my project?” Or, “Hey, how do I decide what millwork I want and aesthetic it presents to a certain look?” So, not dumbing it down enough where it’s our retailers, our dealers are like just rolling their eyes and saying like, “I’m not going to leverage this content that you’re creating because it’s just, it’s so basic.”

So that’s the double-edged sword of we’re trying to navigate and tell a story and create content for the B2B side, but leveraging it into being something that that end consumer has nothing to do with the industry and can understand it and be educated on it. So it’s been a challenge, but really fun. And to your point, it’s not just about the specs of… and in the past, I think it was very [inaudible 00:37:26] and like, “Hey, it’s a one by three, and this is the dimension and this is what it is.” But now it’s talking through the aesthetic look that it presents and even showing, how it’s installed and those type pieces as well to that end user. So it’s more than just the product. It’s telling that behind the scenes where it’s coming from to your point, people want to know everything they can about a product before they pull the trigger, especially on something that can be costly at times.

 

Kip:
That’s cool. Yeah. So you mentioned three target buyers, I guess, right? The consumer, the B2B architect or designer contractor. And then I guess the pros, right? So maybe they have a stake in this too. I was talking to someone else in marketing to professionals or contractors is different from marketing to do-it-yourself homeowners, right? So are you owning all that then? Are you owning the marketing for across all?

 

Tanner Dame:
We’re trying.

 

Kip:
Okay.

 

Tanner Dame:
So our objective and we talked about it as a group is let’s just be the resource. So let’s be a resource for the products that we make. So being able to offer style guides, being able to offer molding their miller calculator, is being able to talk about benefits, features, and benefits of solid core doors. And so really every wheelhouse we do and then we’re trying to figure and doesn’t always the case, but we’ll try to create content that crosses all three platforms and is something that they can leverage. And in the end, even though we’re not going B2C directly, that’s my mentality is when we create something, whether it be a catalog for our dealer, does it crossover to that end user, that consumer, that’s just building a house or doing a remodel. Can they understand the lingo that we’re putting into this catalog even though this is probably a resource more for that dealer that’s selling the product to the builder, to the homeowner. So that’s the mentality that we typically go into when we’re building our marketing content.

 

Kip:
And do you have agencies, because you mentioned designers. So I think they just design a lot of stuff, right? Like pretty stuff, either Photoshop or collateral or whatever it is, but or are you doing all this? Right. Because someone’s got to tell the story, someone’s got to write the copy. Right. And then there’s all the campaigning you have to do, inbound and outbound. So is that you, or is that someone else?

 

Tanner Dame:
We had an agency before I came on. We had an agency that we used and leveraged full-time and they did a good job in a lot of ways. They didn’t know our industry. And so when I came in, I said, “Hey, let’s just create a team around this. Let’s create some individuals who can design.

” So we have design side of things that create all the design content, any visuals that we’re putting out. Bradley and Jacob on our office create that. And then Lauren and she has an assistant on her side, do a lot of the verbal content, newsletters-

 

Kip:
Oh, great.

 

Tanner Dame:
Content for catalog. So it’s pretty much in-house at this point. We do outsource a few little things. I do back to networking. I’m able to use my wife video content. So we’re pulling people wherever we can. And I don’t know if it’s the best strategy.
I think the piece I’ve really liked is its more authentic and we’re able to really talk about our products in a way that says meaningful, where the agency did a good job in a lot of ways, but they just don’t know the ins and outs of the technical aspect of our industry. And it’s over time. If you’re really into it, you can see it’s generic and not really authentic. We’re now I really think we’re telling a story and talking about our products in a way that we really know what we’re talking about. But it’s a lot of work and there’s probably a lot of areas we’re not doing a great job in that we could focus more on if we had more hands on deck.

 

Kip:
Well, I liked leveraging the spouse. Well, it’s definitely the hardest thing with that is finding good talent. Right. And having a network Yeah. I think that’s all good if you have people that you can trust and-

 

Tanner Dame:
She always gives me a hard time since I’m her hardest client because I give her the worst time on deadlines and the least amount of information. She’s like, “Tanner, honestly, you’re the worst person to work with out of anybody I work with.” And so she gives me a hard time for it.

 

Kip:
Well, I’m sure if it doesn’t work out right, you have some more personal aspects of that might be a conflicting with that.

 

Tanner Dame:
Not important. That’s for sure.

 

Kip:
But that’s cool. Yeah. So I also heard that too. Like there’s quite a few agencies out there and not that many that are specific to building materials and especially the trade that you’re in, like millwork. Right. And to your point, yeah, it has to be authentic because your readers are going to know and if it’s impactful and that’s really tough. Right. So I think a lot of marketing agencies out there just don’t have that where for all. They might be very good at doing social media, but if they can’t tell that authentic story that you’re talking about, then it might not be good, so.

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah, yeah. 100%.

 

Kip:
So, that’s cool. So we went through what your company does, the product lines, how you come up with problems, and we went over an example of the Finished Elegance with Home Depot that turned out to be really good and then your involvement from a go-to-market side. So you decided as you came on board to take it in-house which… Great move and now you have like a trusted group that can help do a lot of what you’re trying to do from an authenticity and a storytelling side, from the designers to these two other people you met, I forgot their names. And then, what is really like if I had to think about what your actually go-to-market, is it website, is it educating your constituents? I know you have the big box folks that you have to provide them with the level of collateral and education. You have the B2B side, right? So is there like a standard that you do out there? Is there some webinar you get with these people and you create, I guess a set of core content?

You mentioned resources too, which I get that like providing, I guess, things that other people can use. But they talk about a website. They’ll talk about educating your sales team, lunch and learns, whatever it is to help get the word out there.

 

Tanner Dame:
Oh, that’s a good. I think that’s a big piece. create digital content, whether it be catalogs, cell sheets, anything along those lines and then we’ll leverage newsletters to get that content out, just general mass distribution of that, but really it’s the sales guys that educate and have those relationships and can talk point by point on those specific products. And that’s been the most successful. But having good visual content that showcases it when they can leave something behind or pass an email to their sales contacts, has been a nice piece. So collaborating with them and then making sure that they have a good tool that they can take into the lumberyard or the dealer on those visits has been pretty key. So that’s probably how we leverage it the best. Website, we have a resource page. So if there’s a dealer who needs specifics after that, the salesman’s not there, salesmen or woman isn’t there, they can resource that page after the fact. So those are a couple of touch points that we try to leverage in getting that information out.

 

Kip:
That’s cool. Yeah. Some connecting some of those dots. You’re heavy on the design side, so are you then saying one of the big goals is to really enable the sales team with why this product is important, educate them, give them visual collateral and content, so that then when they’re out in the field selling these things, then they’re equipped with both a story and content that they, as you mentioned, leave behind. So is that a predominant, I guess, campaign or channel that’s important?

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah. I would say that’s probably the big, big one. On all of our divisions, for the most part, they have sales, individuals who have those specific relationships. Rather than emails, good. I think we’re getting more active on our newsletter piece and getting that out on a monthly basis, but it’s easy to delete an email, but if you have a salesperson brushing shoulders with that individual and can break down what’s new or a specific product, it’s usually pretty successful. Being that we have so many different divisions, we’re a little segmented and a lot of times it’s a door salesman going into a door shop, but they’re getting better and we’re getting with the marketing… we’re able to leverage and cross sell a lot of our products or a door salesman can talk about millwork in a lot of ways and say, “Hey, I’ll get you in contact with the millwork group.” And we have dealers that we’ve dealt with for 5, 10 years. I had no idea that we were producer of windows, for example.

So it’s fun to see that cross-pollination happening and a lot of it’s just happening from good content created on the marketing side and then sales guys telling their story and telling the full Woodgrain story and not just eyes down and blinders on just for their products. So it’s getting more cross pollinated, which has really been really cool.

 

Kip:
That’s cool. How many salespeople then are consumers of your content? Is it dozens or hundreds or-

 

Tanner Dame:
We have, I would say between all the divisions close to 40 to 50, I’d say between the door and millwork and window and distribution sales guys. I would say probably maybe a few more, like 60s.

 

Kip:
Yeah. And are you then marketing to all of them or do you have counterparts for each of the different divisions?

 

Tanner Dame:
Pretty much it’s all of them, but windows. So we’ll create a sales guy or our VP of sales will come, whether it be door group and say, “Okay, we want to talk about barn doors. Let’s create some content for barn doors,” and we’ll create a newsletter or create a sales brochure specifically about barn doors. And then he’ll distribute that out to the sales guys and say, “Okay guys, this is the latest content for this month. Here’s your talking points.” And that’s how we go to market and get that in front of our partners.

 

Kip:
Cool. Well, that’s awesome. So one last question for you before we wrap up. So if I was your sales counterpart, what would they say, Tanner? What’s one thing that they wish that you could provide them?

 

Tanner Dame:
It’s a good question. One thing that they wish they could provide them. I would say if we could provide them more technical aspects of what we do. So there would be tech sheets on certain products, whether it be the engineering side of things. That’s always a good piece for the sales guys to be able to leverage with their partners. I think architects really like that. A lot of times we’re working on basic visuals type stuff that’s really general and just dips their toe in the water, but we don’t go really deep on the tech sheets off the bat, unless they really want it. But if we could provide that in a full package out of the gate, I think they would probably appreciate that.

 

Kip:
Good stuff. Yeah. So I know we’re wrapping up a bit. So one thing, if people wanted to reach out to you or your company, what’s the best way that they can reach out?

 

Tanner Dame:
Yeah. So woodgrain.com is a great resource. Like I said, we try to create as much content on the product categories that we manufactured just to be a resource, whether people buy from us or not, people can still leverage a lot of that content and learn about deeper knowledge on millwork or deeper knowledge on installing our doors, windows, et cetera. Me, personally, I’m on LinkedIn, navigate that quite often. And I think it’s Tanner Dame is my handle there. And yeah, we’re excited. It’s an interesting time and really fun time to be in the building materials’ industry right now, and really riding the wave. And hopefully that continues into the future and we can offer quality products across the portfolio of products that we make across the U.S. so,yeah, so we’re having fun with it.

 

Kip:
That’s cool. Were you in building materials before this or this-

 

Tanner Dame:
Out of college I jumped in. I started a high glass, sustainable eco-friendly eyeglass company and ran that for about 10 years. And then got pulled back in. So I actually interned and spent some time in high school at Woodgrain and then got pulled back in about 10 years after college.

 

Kip:
Well, it looked like they got a great person in you, Tanner. I appreciate you spending the time here.

 

Graham:
All right, folks that wraps us up for today’s show. So you can find our podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, and SoundCloud by searching for the Concora Corner. And if you’d like to, we’d love a rating and a short review, if you listen on Apple. Any feedback is appreciated on any of our shows that are coming out or just the show in general or if you just want to say hello. You can find out more about Concora and our services at wwwd.concora.com. We’re on Facebook at facebook.com/concoraLLC. We’re on Twitter at Concora and you can find us on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/concora.

Thanks for listening and have a great day.

 

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