Amy Smiley (84 Lumber) - A Little Bit Unique
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Ben: Welcome to The Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista, probably the most entertaining marketing podcast you're going to put in your ear. I'm Ben, the producer here at Stirista. The goal of this podcast is to chat with industry leaders and get their take on the current challenges of the market, and we'll have a little fun along the way. In today's episode, Amy Smiley, VP of Marketing at PR 84 Lumber chats with us about how an omnichannel approach serves many markets, proving that traditional marketing is still strong. Give it a listen.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of Stirista's The Marketing Stir. That must mean it's me, your host, Vincent Pietrafesa, the Vice President of B2B Products and Partnerships here at Stirista. It is so good to be talking to you. This episode is coming out on a special day, my birthday. The big 45. Yeah, I just gave you my age. Who cares? I don't care. I'm doing okay. Some of my friends, they're not doing great just based on the way they look. I'm kidding, I love them. I love my friends if you are listening who are also 45. Class of'96 Port Chester High School. Woo, all right. Ladies and gentlemen, it's a good day to be talking to you. Also, let's talk about Stirista just for a few minutes. That's it, we don't talk about ourselves that much. We are a marketing technology company, we own our own business to business data and business to consumer data, and then we have the technology that helps companies reach that data for customer acquisition to get new customers through our email sending platform, through our DSP connected TV display. Email me at vincent @ stirista. com. Boy, are you using that email address? Is it always for the reason I ask? No, it's not, but it's okay. Email me, wish me a happy birthday. Why not? I only get one day, that's all, and then it's back to reality. Also, another special person. I say it all the time, my favorite CEO, I think it's Ajay and the person who is the CEO of Patagonia, because I think they donate all their proceeds. Ladies and gentlemen, my co- host, Mr. Ajay Gupta. What's going on, Ajay?
Ajay Gupta: Hey, Vincent. Thanks for that warm introduction.
Vincent Pietrafesa: inaudible
Ajay Gupta: Yeah, it's been been good. I've traveled all over India and then California. Got to meet the India team, spent some time with our employees there. First time after COVID we had a little retreat, but it's been pretty good. I'm just adjusting to the time difference now since it was a 12- hour time difference.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, I had not so much of a time difference, but six hour time difference when I was in Denmark, and it took a few days. Especially for my kids, it took them a little bit of time.
Ajay Gupta: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: But yeah, the big 45, Ajay. You have some years to go before you get to there, so-
Ajay Gupta: That's right. It looks like we might have a combined 40 and 45 party at some point.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, yeah, we should, we should. Your big 40 is next year. We got to blow that out, ladies and gentlemen, have a good time there. But yeah, do I feel 45 people ask me? I sure do. Yeah, I'm currently in physical therapy because of my sciatica nerve every early Tuesday morning, so that's where I'm at people. I don't know if you're also at that, but we share here on The Marketing Stir. So, shout out to Fusion Physical Therapy. They take care of me every other Tuesday early in the morning, and then I start my day after getting my sciatica worked on. So yeah, 45, it's not great, I got to tell you. But anyway, what is great, what is great, ladies and gentlemen, is this next guest. I am so excited, A, the person, you're going to love her. I felt like I've known her for a long time and we haven't even met in- person, we'll change that. But the company, it's a company unlike any other company that we've had on thus far. We try, people, to get you some new and exciting guests who you want to hear from, and we're excited to have her. Ladies and gentlemen, she's the Vice President of Marketing and PR at 84 Lumber. Check them out, 84 Lumber. Amy Smiley. What's going on, Amy?
Amy Smiley: Hey, how are you? Happy early birthday.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Thank you, thank you. Yeah, I don't know if anything... I was talking to my wife, I'm like, " What are you going to do for this one?" She's like, " Oh, it is a special one." I'm like, " Eh, sort of." There's 40, there's 50 right in the middle, but why not? Why not? But I'm happy we're having you on an August 15th episode. Love it. What have you been up to, Amy? I haven't talked to you in a while.
Amy Smiley: Oh, so busy. 84, we're rocking and rolling. We're opening new stores, new component plants, so we're in the heart of it right now.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it, I love it. Well, so let's get into a few questions, Amy. The people would love to hear as well as ourselves, 84 Lumber. Talk about what 84 Lumber is and then talk about your role within the organization.
Amy Smiley: Sure. So, 84 Lumber was founded in 1956. We are a second generation family- owned company. We're currently owned by a female, so we're a woman- owned business, which proud to say and share with everyone, which is also very unique in this industry, the building materials industry. It's a very male- dominated field, obviously construction, so we're proud to represent that. So we are the nation's largest privately held building material supplier, so we provide materials to build the United States, so homes. New construction's primarily where we do a lot of our business, apartment complexes, real estate development, all of that. We all need building materials. So we have been in this industry for nearly seven decades, so great history. We last year ended our revenue at$ 8. 75 billion, so we are very large company. We have 310 facilities nationwide in over 35 states, and we're continuing to grow that number every year. So we're excited, we're growing and things are good at 84.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love that line we help build America, that's awesome. Yeah, we have a lot of questions about, I love that it's female- owned, especially in general, but also in this particular industry. We'll get to that later on in the podcast, but Amy, because we ask this of all of our guests, and it's never the same answer, how did you get started in marketing? Was it a direct path or you studied something else and here you are? We'd love to know.
Amy Smiley: No, it was a very direct path for me, I have never strayed. You know how everyone says, " Well, I started my undergrad and I was this major." No, I have a bachelor's in public relations with a minor in marketing. I did two internships as an undergrad in marketing, both with public television, so I interned with the Association of Public Television Stations in DC, and then I did an internship with WQED Multimedia here in Pittsburgh. When I graduated, I moved to South Florida. I worked in Fort Lauderdale for an architecture company doing corporate marketing, and then downturn happened. Around 2010, I'd been there a couple years, decided to move back home. Pittsburgh area is my home, and then I went back to school for my master's in integrated marketing communication at West Virginia University. Then worked for the federal government, I worked for General Nutrition Centers, GNC. You guys all know that brand. It's also a Pittsburgh- based company that's been around for over 80 years and headquartered in Pittsburgh, so a lot of people don't know that either. So, worked there and then made the transition over to 84 Lumber. It's almost been eight years, so it's been a great journey and a great path for me.
Ajay Gupta: Amy, tell us a little bit about how competitive the lumber industry is and how does your marketing separate Lumber 84 from other companies in the industry?
Amy Smiley: Sure. So we're a little bit unique, as in we are a dealer, a distributor. A lot of people think, oh, your competitor is a Home Depot and it's a Lowe's. Well, yes, some of it is. They do sell to the professionals, and all of our stores are open to the public, and you can come in and you can get your building materials. We don't have the same type of SKUs that a Home Depot or a Lowe's do. We have our showrooms, but our showrooms are really meant for that contractor, that builder, that remodeler that's coming in and getting stuff that they need for the job site, so you won't see aisles and aisles of products that a Home Depot or a Lowe's has. So our main competitors are other dealers in the space, so selling directly to those national home builders, the large regional builders. In each of your markets, you have your particular companies, they're building developments, and those vary by region and by market. Then our custom home builders, so those people who are building those beautiful... maybe they're only building five to 10 custom homes a year, but we're supplying those materials for that. So that's a little bit just understanding who our customers are, and I think what really sets us apart from the competition is our focus on digital marketing, social media. We are kind of the first ones on the scene in this market, and people are just still kind of getting on board in the building industry on what's digital marketing, what's social media, and how does it help my business? It was a real struggle in 2016 when I came over and I'm like, " Okay, we're going to do all this stuff on Facebook." Everyone's like, " Why would we do that? Our customers aren't on Facebook." Fast- forward to where we are today, everyone's on there, and so I think that's really what's set us apart. Also, our PR initiatives. Really continuing to tell this 84 Lumber story. It's such an amazing story. It's entrepreneurial, our founder started this in'56 and it was a cash and carry lumberyard. To see where it is now as an over$ 8 billion company and nearly 7, 000 employees that we have, I mean, it's really quite the American success story.
Ajay Gupta: Within the digital and online spectrum, are there specific channels or websites that are working particularly well? Then outside of that, are there any other strategies that you are using to market as well?
Amy Smiley: So we try to just be on the cusp of everything that's new, not from an advertising perspective, but Threads, right? So, last week it was all about Threads and we created an account and what's our voice going to be on there? So, that's been fun. But we use Meta a lot for our targeted digital ads, our lead campaigns, we even use it specifically for our recruitment marketing campaigns. So we're dabbling in everything, and the data's been really fun to dive into and seeing that traffic to our website, and seeing how all of our SEO is performing, and really that's our bread and butter. We've done some YouTube advertising, which has been great, Pinterest advertising also, so we're always up for new ways to market our brand.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Amy, I wanted to focus on that, because like you said before too, I think 84 Lumber is standing out in a variety of different ways, right? Like you said, female- owned in a business where you think lumber, right? You think construction, you think just big men carrying stuff and all that. Not only that, but the fact that you are so digital- heavy in an industry where you wouldn't think would be so digital- heavy. Talk to us about those differentiators. Again, female- owned, really heavy in digital, changing the game in that way. I'd love to hear your thoughts about that.
Amy Smiley: Yeah, I mean, digital, again, is super important, but it is important for me to talk about that we do take an omnichannel approach and we have to take an omnichannel approach, because I think traditional is not dead, and it does serve certain markets that we're in. We're in a wide variety. We're in Dallas, Texas, but we're also in rural West Virginia. We're in Kentucky, we're in Upstate New York, Western New York. So every market is different, and we have to look at it based on what our goals and objectives are, right? Some stores really want that foot traffic, because they don't have a lot of housing starts, so maybe they don't have truckloads going out to job sites, but they still want to move products. So, we have to think about targeting those remodelers or the contractors that are doing one- off jobs, and how do we make them know that they can come into our stores. What's really been fun and a different approach that we've taken is partnering with influencers on social media. So I think last year we partnered with over 30 different influencers, and really making sure that, one, we're showing diversity, right? Not all of our influencers are the same, I think that's really key. A variety of different projects that they're working on and showing the process of going into the store, ordering the material, seeing it delivered to a job site. A lot of people were like, " Oh my goodness, I didn't even know I have an 84 Lumber in my area," but they follow this person on social media. So, it's been really interesting to see that evolve. If you look at how we started originally working with influencers to where we are now, and the reels content and how it then goes over to TikTok and just different platforms and how can we repurpose things, even like I talked about using Pinterest, so a lot of that influencer content has been really good for our Pinterest advertising also.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, that's amazing. Myself, I have been looking at Pinterest even more, because we just bought a place, my wife and I, so we're like, " Oh, we got to decorate this thing." My wife's like, " See what moves you." I'm like, " What? What moves me?" So, I'm just looking at all these different things on Pinterest to be like, " Okay, this is my style, I suppose." So yeah, I love that, I love that. Let's talk about something that only two other guests on our podcast got to be a part of, and that is a Super Bowl commercial. In 2017, 84 Lumber did a Super Bowl commercial. What was that experience like? And talk to us about afterwards, right? How does one get a 90- second commercial, or what is it, 30 or 60- second, to then come to the website and learn more about 84 Lumber?
Amy Smiley: Yeah, what a wild ride, let me just tell you. So yes, we did a 90- second Super Bowl commercial in 2017, which not very many brands do a 90- second commercial, so that already set us apart. Also, producing and creating a 90- second commercial, that's a lot of work, and what the goal was. So we wanted to make a splash, we wanted to do something unique. We wanted it to not just be about lumber, we wanted it to be about a message, and that message was come and work here, the will to succeed is always welcome here. So, there's so many doors of opportunity. If you get the chance, go on. It's still on our YouTube page, you can watch it. There's the 90- second and then it's basically like a short film, we actually ended up making a five- minute video. So you can watch it, it's called The Journey. So I won't give too much away,'cause I think people will really enjoy watching it. It was controversial. It still pops up every year in Adweek and all these things about top most controversial Super Bowl spots. So it was something unique, something different, unexpected from a brand like 84 Lumber, and it was a huge learning experience for me. Obviously, I've never done a Super Bowl commercial. We worked with a great agency partner, so they really helped guide us, but it was quite the undertaking. Like you said, once it launched, all these people were going to the website to finish the journey. Again, going back to the controversy, it shows the wall, right? We all know what the wall is, and so the network didn't want us to show that, so then we had to drive people to see the full spot. So you can Google it, it's out there. We did a lot of PR, a lot of press afterwards. Definitely were fielding a lot of phone calls, emails, messages on social media about it, but it did what we wanted to do. I mean, people were talking about us. We got that more national exposure, like who is 84? And people were Googling us. We wanted the next generation to know who our company is, what we stand for, and hey, come and work for us, so it's been great.
Ajay Gupta: Speaking of nationwide marketing, and I know you have 300 + locations of stores as well, so how do you balance promoting individual stores versus creating a nationwide marketing message?
Amy Smiley: Yeah, that's a great question, and it all comes down to my team and how we have our roles and responsibilities divided up. We have people on my team that are dedicated to working one- on- one with those stores and making sure that those needs are met, because every need is different in each market. But a lot of it goes back to that national prejudice and what are we doing from a brand perspective and some of our PR initiatives. We just had an article in The Wall Street Journal featured on Maggie and talking about our business and her journey and her path. So we want to make sure we're hitting the national publications, that national reach on a digital level, but then also how are we helping each region and each market, and then all the way down to that individual store where maybe they're sponsoring something local in the community, or we're doing a donation or something philanthropic in that area. So, we want to make sure we're hitting all of those touch points each and every day.
Ajay Gupta: Awesome. Then you're probably the first person we've had on this podcast, and we've had over 150 guests, from a lumber and building industry standpoint. So I'd love to know, how do you go about making people excited with your content about this industry?
Amy Smiley: Mm- hmm. Yeah, content is king here, and I think a lot of it goes back to talking about our people, because one, we're a family- owned company, yes, but we're all like a family here. I have these amazing connections with associates all over the country, and sharing those stories, I mean, if you go on our YouTube page, we have profiles of associates in a wide variety of roles and responsibilities and jobs. We just featured a female co- manager of a store up in Millersport, New York, and she's a single mom of two, and she comes in every day and gets the job done at 84. Just showcasing that, it just brings more authenticity to who we are. We're not just this big giant company, it really does feel like a small family- owned company, just the way that we do business and the associates that work here and the relationships that we have with our customers. I think not always talking about revenue and all of these other things, like let's get down to the heart of it and who our people are, and that's really how we approach it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I want to stay on that topic, because you mentioned before you were originally from Pittsburgh, you went to school West Virginia, the Mountaineers, right?
Amy Smiley: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: And then you are back. Knowing you and talking to you before and talking to a lot of people from Pittsburgh, there's that Pittsburgh pride, it really is. I just met someone a couple of days ago and they were really just talking about all the industry. So, 84 Lumber's headquartered in Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, right? So being from Pittsburgh, what is it like to work at a company in your hometown area?
Amy Smiley: It's so fulfilling. I remember being a kid and just driving down the road and seeing that 84 ball. If you've ever seen our stores, we always have this giant 84 ball. We call it a lollipop, but you see it driving down and they're everywhere. To just have those memories of a kid and just being from an area to the Hardy family has always really given back to Pittsburgh, because that's where we're headquartered. Just hearing the stories of how they've helped other people and other families, and now to be full circle being here and also being a part of that process too, being able to see how a company like 84 can really change people's lives. I mean, I'm just so proud and I'm just so honored to be able to be doing what I'm doing each and every day, because I truly do love it.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love hearing that, I know our listeners do as well. Staying on a topic before that I was talking about, because I love this women- owned, a lot of women throughout the corporate leadership structure. So how does 84 Lumber continue to support women in business, and how has that support impacted your own experience?
Amy Smiley: Yeah, so we actually have a division of our company, it's called WBE, so Women Business Enterprise. So they're tasked with working with other women- owned businesses, working with other minority groups as well, and they're fantastic. Also, going back to the social, we've been really focusing a lot, there is a Women in Construction Week in March, we did a whole campaign around that. Women's History Month also, great content. Shedding a light on that division that I just talked about, and who are some of our key customers that we've developed relationships with. I think that's just been so great. I mean, also we have partnerships with organizations like the Pittsburgh Penguins, and rather than it being a traditional sponsorship with, hey, here's your tickets, you get this, you get that, your logo, we've developed these PR community relations programs. We created what's called the EmpowerHER Grant. We just had our third winner this past March, again aligned with Women's History Month. They do a HER hockey game, and we give a$ 25,000 grant to a local woman- owned business. We surprise them with it in- game, but we follow up with them and we see how this money has been invested back in their business. The first one was Curly Tail Coffee, and it was a little coffee shop that was being run out of an Airstream. She's now expanded her business, she has a storefront, another coffee truck, and it's been life- changing for people. To know that we can use our voice and our brand to make a difference with other women- owned businesses has been great.
Ajay Gupta: Amy, was the business at all affected with the supply chain issues during the pandemic?
Amy Smiley: Absolutely. I don't think there was any business in this industry that wasn't affected by it, but I think how we stood out from our competitors was our relationships with our key vendor partners, right? We've had some of our relationships for over 50 + years, so we have a very good relationship with them, we're very transparent. It did change how we marketed, because we didn't want to push certain products or things that maybe had a three- month lead time, so we had to be a little bit cautious of that. But I mean, 2020 was a really good year. I mean, the last three years have been just phenomenal for us, and I think we don't tell our customers no, we do whatever we can to make it happen for them. We have these dedicated store managers and sales associates that are taking calls all hours of the day and night making sure that those products get to those job sites, or we find an alternative for them. We don't just say, " Hey, sorry, we can't do it," we give them a solution. I think that's really what sets us apart and why we've continued to be so successful.
Ajay Gupta: One of our staple questions here that we ask every guest, and this is a fun one, so I'm sure with your job title, you get a lot of messages on LinkedIn that are unsolicited. So, I would love to know what's one that gets your attention? And more importantly, what's one that really annoys you? Because you seem too nice.
Amy Smiley: Oh, my team will tell you that I definitely get annoyed with messages. I get inundated with so many sales messages on LinkedIn, my email, voicemails. I think what really annoys me the most from a phone call is that people will just say, " Hey, it's so- and- so, give me a call back." I'm like, " Do I know you? You also didn't tell me what company you're from, what you needed." Those are the key things, right? If you want me to call you back, I'm not calling you back and then you're just going to hit me with sales, right? Because we're all busy. I told someone, I'm like, " If I actually answered all of the sales emails, messages, and phone calls, I would never get my job done, because that's a full- time gig." I think the thing that really gets my attention is the person that does their research. So one, you get my name right, my title right, my company name right, what we do right,'cause let me tell you, sometimes that's hard for people. They get me confused with somebody else, or they call me Anna or Amanda or Amy. It's like, my name's Amy. And they've done their research. They've looked at other partnerships or other programs that we've done, and how does it align with whatever business or service or product that they're selling. That will get you at least a decent read, and then we'll go from there.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, how do you get Amy wrong? Come on, it's three letters. That's insane. That's such a sneaky little tactic where you're like, " Hey, it's Bill. Give me a call back." You're like-
Amy Smiley: Yes.
Vincent Pietrafesa: "Do I know Bill?" That might work on me where I'm like, " Wait, is that my son's pediatrician?" Or I'm like, " What? What's happening?" It's crazy. So Amy, let's get to know you personally here, we like to get to know our guests. Pittsburgh, right? So-
Amy Smiley: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I've never met a person from Pittsburgh who's just not a diehard sports fan who's always dawning the yellow and black.
Amy Smiley: Yep.
Vincent Pietrafesa: So talk to us about what you like to do in your spare time, some of your hobbies. On the weekend, what are you doing?
Amy Smiley: Well, I am a proud mother of two kids, so I have a six- year- old daughter, Sloan, and I have a one- year- old son named Hayes.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Nice.
Amy Smiley: So a lot of my hobbies, activities, free time is very focused on them and my husband, Matt, and we do a lot of things as a family. So whether that's short trips, long trips, and spending time outside. Especially now in the summertime, it's so nice. Going boating and going for long walks and just really get the kids active,'cause we like to be active. But yes, we've went to several Pittsburgh Pirate games already this summer, we'll do some Pittsburgh Penguins hockey, and of course the Pittsburgh Steelers. Come on.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Those Terrible Towels, oh my goodness.
Amy Smiley: Yes. Yes, it's amazing.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I'll tell you what, I went to Pittsburgh to see the Giants play the Steelers. This was maybe six or seven years ago. The Steelers won, but it was around the holiday time and it was this big outdoor fair, and it was Primanti Brothers-
Amy Smiley: Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Who did all that, and the people from Pittsburgh were just so welcoming. There's still friends that we have that we met out there, and yeah, they're diehard about their sports, it's great people. Always love going into Pittsburgh. I don't like when we play the Penguins,'cause I'm a Rangers fan, but that Crosby kid, my goodness. But yeah, that's awesome. Yeah, I'm in the same boat. We have two small kids, we're always busy. Bring the family to New York City, especially around the holiday time, it's a fun time.
Amy Smiley: Yeah. I actually just went to a Penguins game at Madison Square Garden this year for the first time.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Nice. Yeah, we took-
Amy Smiley: We lost. We lost six nothing.
Vincent Pietrafesa: You know what's crazy, Amy? I think I was at that game.
Amy Smiley: Oh my gosh.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I think was at that game.
Amy Smiley: It was in March.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, yeah, I think so. I go to about six or seven a year. Ajay had his first Rangers experience, right, Ajay? When was that?
Ajay Gupta: That's right.
Vincent Pietrafesa: The New York Rangers.
Ajay Gupta: I think it was two years ago.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Oh, two years ago, yeah. There's nothing like Madison Square Garden.
Ajay Gupta: It could been last year actually, I can't remember. Yeah.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Yeah, MSG, there's nothing like it. It's-
Amy Smiley: It was such a fun experience. Just to be able to be there and see your crowd, it was great. I'm glad we went, even though we lost.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Even though, yeah, so you had to hear our song when we score a goal six times.
Amy Smiley: Yes.
Vincent Pietrafesa: Hey, hey, hey. I love it, I love it. Amy, a parting thought. Any words of wisdom that you'd like to part with our guests? Any experiences that you want to share? The floor is yours as we end the podcast.
Amy Smiley: Sure. I think from a marketing standpoint, what a great career, because you can work in any industry, and I think a lot of times we go to what's safer and to industries that we know. For me, coming to 84 Lumber, I didn't know anything about this industry. I really came in with no knowledge, and it's been such an amazing experience. I would say be curious, don't let your fear hold you back. If you see a company and it's something that you're not familiar with, you can learn that. Your marketing skills can apply to any industry, so don't be afraid, and that's my advice.
Vincent Pietrafesa: I love it, I love it. Amy, thank you so much for spending some time with us, we really appreciate it. Check out 84 Lumber. 8- 4 Lumber, ladies and gentlemen. That's Amy Smiley, the Vice President of Marketing and PR for 84 Lumber. That's Ajay Gupta, I'm Vincent Pietrafesa. This has been another episode of The Marketing Stir. Thank you so much for listening. Keep on coming up to us and telling us how much you love the podcast, we appreciate it. Thank you and have a great day.
Ben: Thanks for listening to The Marketing Stir Podcast by Stirista. Please like, rate and subscribe. If you're interested in being a guest on the podcast, please email us at themarketingstir @ stirista. com, and thanks for listening.
Amy Smiley, VP of Marketing and PR at 84 Lumber, chats with us about how an omnichannel approach serves many markets, proving that traditional marketing is still strong.