Key Takeaways from IBS + KBIS 2024

“My house sucks!”

That was my biggest conclusion after attending my first NAHB International Builder Show (IBS) combined with NKBA’s Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS).

It is a wonderland of all the latest advancements in home improvement – comfort, style, décor, automation, entertainment – you name it.  Even if your house doesn’t actually suck (my does not), it is hard not to be wowed by all the amazing ways you can spruce up your residence.

Fortunately, I did not go to shop.  My team and I went to talk to manufacturers and learn how they are getting all these new products to market.  Questions we asked throughout the week include:

  • What are your top priorities this year?
  • Who will sell the new products?
  • How is that team structured?
  • Do you use distributors? Dealers?
  • How have your past launches gone?

We began to hear some similar stories being told from booth to booth.  The following are the top themes we heard around marketing and sales efforts and challenges:

  • Getting closer to the customer – Many brands are building up teams to work directly with consumers. That doesn’t mean they are selling direct to the consumers, but larger manufacturers want to make a great impression with the end user when they can.  This could mean larger customer service and warranty teams, or even “concierge” buying support for customers just starting their buying process.  In a space where brand equity is generally low, some forward-thinking manufacturers are determined to stand out.
  • Acquisitions galore – It was hard to keep track of which company owns which brands. Consolidation is happening quickly.  There are growing pains as companies figure out how to integrate their product portfolios and sort out who will send which lines to which types of customers.  This is not likely to stop, so companies are looking for ways to reduce fatigue for their people and their distribution partners.
  • The “data-driven” myth – Companies in the manufacturing space want to modernize. They are saying all the right things, including using the familiar phrase, “We are a data-driven company.”  However, we are hearing that the journey to using data strategically is bumpy.  There are issues people trusting the accuracy of their data.   There are issues with people seeing data that conflicts with their hunches and dismissing the facts.  These challenges make it hard to prioritize, allocating time and resources to the best growth opportunities.
  • Salespeople have their hands full – We have talked about this issue before, across all industries. But this goes beyond just simply having too many products in their bags.  There is confusion.  Salespeople from the same companies are competing against each other in some cases.  In others, reps are overloaded with different products, different customer types and no clear direction on what matters most.  Salespeople lack clarity from their leadership and it is causing fatigue.

The final thing we heard consistently in every booth was the word “growth.”  Sales and marketing leaders are expected to deliver revenue at record paces.  While the themes above often came up as challenges to the business, they also represent immediate opportunities to unlock growth.

The trick is picking where to start.  Companies have created some of these challenges by failing to prioritize in the first place.

Which one represents the biggest growth opportunity for your company.  Which theme do you plan to tackle first?

Those are the questions we will be asking, and we will share insights on where companies are seeing breakthroughs along the way.

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