For today’s blog post, Marketing Moves had the unique opportunity to interview Michael McDougald, founder of Fast Partitions, a bathroom partition distributor and Aviation Shirts, an aviation apparel company. During our discussion, I had the chance to hear how Michael built an online distributor that has already jumped to the cutting edge of his industry in just a few short years. In particular, I asked Michael what sort of marketing goals he has used to build his brand online, how he has used digital marketing to grow his company, and any other advice he had for those of us – in any industry – to use today’s marketing tools to best effect.
Speaking on his goals, I asked Michael what sort of things he targets. Of course any business wants to increase revenue and profit, but what controllable metrics was he trying to leverage to increase this? His answer? Brand awareness. There are a lot of contractors out there in the world, and letting them know the value add Fast Partitions offers is key to growing his business. Specifically, letting the market know that Fast Partitions is able to fulfill their orders significantly faster and with much less hassle than a traditional distributor could. As a child of the internet, Fast Partitions approaches order fulfillment differently than their competitors do. The bathroom partition industry in particular tends to be archaic, relying on written invoicing and manual ordering processes. During our interview, Michael told me about a recent trip he made to a major hardware store. Arriving at the countertop section of the store, he noticed they were running their inventory system on DOS, something most of the business world hasn’t seen in years. After browsing and making his selection, the employee manually transcribed what Michael requested and then faxed it over.
Michael set out to modernize this, focusing on using technology to make things easier for consumers. In essence, Michael says, his strategy boils down to “don’t be a pain to work with, and people will do business with you!” It’s astonishing to hear that some companies in the industry, even major retailers, still operate on such outdated business processes. Any industry in which vendor quotes are obtained by calling it in and invoices are handwritten on paper pads is an industry ripe for disruption, which is exactly how Fast Partitions aims to make a name. Customers can instantly get a quote through the online web portal and customize their order as they go with costs updating real time. Everything is handled electronically, and customer convenience is the top priority.
As far as specific marketing advice, Michael mentioned a few tactics he has used. Those in the marketing automation world should be familiar with a few of his tricks, including optimization through AI. Specifically, Michael has optimized for calls using Google’s technology. Essentially, Google allows clients to select from a number of different metrics to optimize their digital marketing efforts towards. When Michael chooses to optimize for inbound calls, the machine works to make sure that he is getting the most of these per dollar spent that it can provide him. This of course provides more leads which in turn filter down the sales funnel, growing revenue. Any number of goals can be selected to optimize for, not just calls. By playing with this and seeing what works best for your specific business, you can maximize the ROI on your marketing spend.
In talking with Michael, I learned quite a bit about all the services that Google offers marketers. Marketing software has grown incredibly complex, and companies need to take advantage of it. For instance, certain types of AI are able to optimize specifically for your business. They learn the peculiarities of the market in which you are offering your product or service. If customers on the West Coast at 7:30 PM click your ads at a significantly higher rate than those in other parts of the country at different times, the machine will learn this and optimize accordingly. This is something that is near impossible for humans to do, especially in small businesses. The insights are buried so deep in the data it is unlikely they will ever be found.
While it is impossible to cover Fast Partitions’ entire marketing strategy in such a short blog post (and unwise to do so!) our readers ought to get some sense of the work Michael is putting into revolutionizing the toilet partitions industry. There are simply so many opportunities for innovation within this industry because it has lagged behind for so many years. Consumers will notice the companies like Fast Partitions that offer the sorts of ordering and service conveniences that have become standard in other industries. As Michael said, if some of his legacy competitors within the industry would update their thinking they could solve the bulk of their problems right then and there. However, as long as they continue to fax their orders in, it looks like Michael will not have to look hard to find room to grow!