5 Big Myths About Building Product Branding

16 May

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What you don’t know could be hurting yours

Brand is a fun topic and lots of people have opinions about it. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information out there and that makes it more complicated than it should be, not to mention the fact that many people throw the term “brand” around without really understanding it. So here’s a short list of five simple myths about brand that every building products marketer should know:

#1 – Brand is a name or logo

Well, kinda. Those are certainly things a brand is associated with, basically the trigger for a brand, what identifies one brand from another. But to understand brand, we need to go deeper. My favorite explanation of brand comes from Marty Neumeier, who suggests brand is “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.” And that’s an important distinction to make, especially when we consider Myth #2…

#2 – You own a brand

Nope…and that is completely counter-intuitive. You see, you might own a name or logo, plus a tagline, website content, etc., but those “gut feelings” people have are uniquely theirs. You can’t own that, and yet that is the essence of a brand. So what you CAN own is the elements that impact the experience people have with your product or service—and you should, because it’s exactly what everyone else is using to develop their perception of your brand. From obvious things like quality and innovation to subtler items like website design and on-hold wait times, the elements that impact your brand are all around you.

#3 – Branding is putting our name or logo on things

It’s certainly a part of it, but only a small one. Want to know the biggest, baddest, most impactful way to build a successful brand? Here it is, free of charge: Make the experience match the expectation. There it is, the Golden Ticket to developing your very own Google or Apple (or Therma Tru or Masonite, for that matter). Of course, knowing it and doing it are completely different challenges. But the fact is Apple is known for innovation, Google is associated with results, and Amazon is trusted, not by accident, but because way more often than not, those brands have delighted people by delivering beyond expectation. That’s a positive experience consistently delivered, which builds trust, which builds brand.

#4 – Branding is the same as marketing

They are certainly related, but definitely not the same. Think of it this way: marketing is about delivering the message to your audience; branding is about delivering TO the message FOR your audience. In fact, an effective way to think about branding is “experience control”—all the work, effort, and strategy to ensure that what people experience is on target. That can be everything from how CSRs answer the phone to the quality of paper used in sales collateral. Consider that no matter how slick and new an airliner may be, the company logo sparkling on the bulkhead, that isn’t the airline’s brand; the surly flight attendant who snaps at you and screws up your drink order, for you, THAT is the brand. Ultimately, everything in the brand experience needs to deliver to a single message to build trust and preference.

#5 – There’s no such thing as bad press

This lazy approach to branding has seen some impressive names disappear over the years, even more so with the emergence of social media and the easy sharing of experiences. Today, unrestricted by any professional oversight, every blogger, every Yelp star, every Google “+1″ is all potentially a part of what people think (and feel!) about your brand. And the worst thing to do when something negative is shared is to do nothing at all, hoping the problem will go away. It won’t. So it’s important to keep the experiences and the conversations focused on the positive.

So what does this mean for you and your brand? Well, awareness is the first (and biggest) step. Always consider your brand from the audience perspective; not by what you’re doing, but by what they are experiencing. Knowing and understanding that perspective is critical to building a brand experience that can meet the expectations of those who will build—and talk about—your brand.

What the Pro Should Want From a Building Materials Manufacturer

23 Apr

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Know the pro and separate yourself from the competition

As a manufacturer of building products you provide solutions for the home owner that get delivered, installed, and most importantly sold by someone you don’t know.

Oh sure, you ‘know’ who the builder or remodelers are. You read the trade publications, you go to conferences, you subscribe to newsletters, heck you even have an analyst in the marketing department. But do you really know what that person needs from your company?

While you have spent all that money on your brand, your website, your amazing new iPad app, does it mean anything to the person down the channel? This person may be sitting across the dining room table, on the job-site or in the model home making purchasing decisions with the homeowner. What does it mean to them?

Many times, the professional builder or remodeler has the ultimate power over the homeowner and what are they armed with? Their own marketing materials. Maybe they use your brochure, but in the end people buy from people they know, like and trust. No one trusts a brochure or an iPad app.

As budgets become available now that the recovery is here, be sure to include all the stops on your sales channel. Remember to equip everyone with what they need to help the next stop on the channel. What your one-step distributer/dealer needs is very different from a two-step wholesale selling to lumberyards selling to the pro.

Make the effort to understand that pro. Research them. Sit with them at the table with the homeowner. Put the time in to see how they use your cool new gadgets vs what they are comfortable using. You might be surprised at the wide range of options you need to provide.

You also have to think about how your brand message is delivered. It is the last stop in the funnel. Think about how you enable the sales process to occur as easily as possible. Are you making it easy for the pro to sell your products?

Some thoughts to ponder as you really look at the customer that sells your products for you. Always keep them in mind. While not directly your customer, they are often not given the full access to the manufacturer to help them. Those that have figured it out, and there are many, are separating themselves from the competition.

5 Building Product Trends In the New Housing Market

18 Apr

Housing Market On The Up

The Housing Market is Evolving – Be Ready

As we move into 2013, I think everyone is in agreement, the housing market is recovering. In some places, it’s recovered, others sill have excess inventory or foreclosures, but overall – we are through the worst time our industry has ever seen (or wants to see).

So as we look forward to this ‘new’ normal what will the housing market look like? What trends do we think will occur or impact our business? the home buyer? the manufacturer? the lumberyards?

Heres my take on 5 things this ‘new’ normal means to our industry

  1. We all have to remember what we have gone through these past few years. It’s human nature to only remember the good things and let those bad memories fade away. We can’t let that happen this time. We need to manage inventories, not simply look for the quick buck and actually manage our businesses with the long-term in mind. Too many bad decisions combined with bad business practices left too many companies out of business.
  2. People will continue to stay in the homes longer. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like homeowners have also learned some hard lessons. Too many people bought a home they couldn’t afford and then wondered why they couldn’t make that huge payout after 2 years. There’s enough hedge funds buying up real estate. People need to buy a home they can afford.
  3. Universal design and aging in place will explode. As a component of #2, people are aging in their homes. Some because they love the house they have lived in, but for many, it’s a very easy financial decision. The cost to make your home more accessible and useable as you age far outweighs the cost to sell your home and move; especially to any assisted living facility. Manufacturers and pros need to look at this as a huge opportunity.
  4. Multi-generational living isn’t going away. While initially people saw this as the Millennial generation moving home after college, it’s much more than that. In a growing number of family’s, the older generation is moving in with their ‘kids’. These homes typically were the primary home and may have kids off in college and now the grandparent(s) are living with the family. Again this becomes a financial, but also a great emotional, challenge for the entire family. Creating homes and products that work, in some cases, for three generations will be key.
  5. Millennials are in no rush to buy a home. For most of us, buying a home was something you wanted to do. It meant you had arrived. You were an adult. We need to understand that’s not at all how the Millennial generation approaches home ownership. That’s part of their contentment with living at home into their mid 20s. As an industry we need to realize that constant stream of new buyers may take a hit for a few years. Although there are plenty of hard working, financially stable 26-32 year olds, they simply don’t feel the need to buy a home right away.

So the housing market is really coming back, but it will be different and we all must learn from the past, and be prepared for the future.

10 Building Product Lumberyards You Should Follow on Twitter – Part 2

10 Apr

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Even more local lumberyards on Twitter 

Like I mentioned in Part I of my Top 10 Building Product Lumberyards You Should Follow on Twitter list, for many Twitter users, the hardest part is knowing who to follow so I’ve created a list. Here are the rest of my Top 10:

 6. Luedtke Lumber – @LuedtkeLumber

This Wisconsin-based lumberyard and hardware store not only has nearly 900 tweets, but utilizes text-based offers as well. While definitely more DIY than some, this lumberyard has grown to add more products and services beyond the traditional yard.

7. Bliffert Lumber – @BliffertLumber

Bliffert Lumber is another Wisconsin lumberyard that has millwork, hardware, decking as well as K&B. With over 800 followers and nearly 2,000 tweets, this company has integrated Facebook and Twitter to help promote specials and other customer information.

8. Mobile Lumber – @MobileLumber

While many yards are using Twitter for promotions and products, this Mobile, AL-based yard also utilizes it to recruit employees for all their locations in the Gulf Coast area. They have over 700 followers and are growing.

9. Star Lumber & Supply – @StarLumber

Closing in on 1,000 followers, this Wichita-based family owned yard utilizes many of its tweets to help educate and promote product knowledge and availability. In addition, they utilize their blog (blog.starlumber.com) for more in-depth product information.

10. Issaquah Lumber – @CedarExpert

As their Twitter handle implies, this Issaquah, WA yard focuses on cedar. As a family-owned Cedar Mill, they have nearly 2,000 followers looking for their insights on cedar products from decking to fencing and everything in between.

For even more lumberyards, check out my Twitter list at https://twitter.com/EltonMayfield/lumberyards. For a daily update from this list of lumberyards, subscribe to my daily paper: http://paper.li/EltonMayfield/1335936730.

10 Building Product Lumberyards You Should Follow on Twitter – Part 1

8 Apr

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Even the local lumberyard is on Twitter

While most of the ‘big companies’ are on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, etc. you may be surprised to find many of the local lumberyards are on Twitter; and quite active as well.

For many Twitter users, the hardest part is knowing who to follow – with over 500 million people on the platform, cutting through the clutter is a challenge, so I’ve created a list: the Top 10 Lumberyard Follows Worth Your Time, and here are the first 5:

1. Dunn Lumber – @DunnLumber

With over 8,000 followers and over 15,000 tweets, this Washington lumberyard is very active on Twitter with tips, product updates, promotions, and more. Most importantly they are very responsive on Twitter. They get it and use it.

2. Parr Lumber – @parrlumber

This Pacific Northwest family-run chain of yards is an industry leader in its marketing efforts. Parr has been active for many years on Twitter. They use it well to update their followers on products and relevant news.

3. National Lumber – @NationalLumber

With nearly 3,000 followers and over 1,500 tweets, this large NE group of yards have been very active in social media well beyond Twitter – utilizing Google+, Facebook and more. They use Twitter for customer events and updates on everything from products to training.

4. Turkstra Lumber – @TurkstraLumber

This Canadian lumberyard and manufacturer uses updates and hashtag (#) contests to engage and inform their customers.

5. J & W Lumber – @JWLumber

You can find weekly specials, product introductions and more at this Southern California lumberyard Twitter account. They have nearly 800 followers and have had several hundred updates over the past couple of years.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of the list for the rest of my 10 lumberyards you should follow on Twitter.

Are the 4P’s relevant anymore in building products marketing?

26 Mar

Internet Being Left Behind

B2B has changed – the 4P’s don’t apply

Most marketers today know or knew of the 4Ps. They are the traditional marketing mix–product, place, price, and promotion. But these narrow views are increasingly battling with the essential need to deliver solutions.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Richard Ettenson, Eduardo Conrado, and Jonathan Knowles outline how B2B marketers need to adopt a new framework focused on solutions, access, value, and education–SAVE.

Having heard Eduardo, the SVP of Marketing and IT for Motorola Solutions, present how they transformed their marketing and in turn their company by utilizing the SAVE method, I wanted to share some of the key points from their article.

In a five-year study involving more than 500 managers and customers in multiple countries and across a wide range of B2B industries, they found that the 4P’s model undercuts B2B marketers in three important ways:

  1. It leads their marketing and sales teams to stress product technology and quality even though these are no longer differentiators but are simply the cost of entry.
  2. It underemphasizes the need to build a robust case for the superior value of their solutions.
  3. It distracts them from leveraging their advantage as a trusted source of diagnostics, advice, and problem solving.

Eduardo explained how Motorola Solutions used SAVE to guide the restructuring of its marketing organization and its go-to-market strategies in the government and enterprise sectors. Along the way the firm identified three requirements for successfully making the shift from 4 P’s thinking to SAVE.

  1. Management must encourage a solutions mind-set throughout the organization.
  2. Management needs to ensure that the design of the marketing organization reflects and reinforces the customer-centric focus.
  3. Management must create collaboration between the marketing and sales organizations and with the development and delivery teams.

Notice how all three of his points begin with Management. This type of fundamental shift must be embraced at the highest levels. Eduardo contributes a lot of success to the fact his CEO fully endorsed and supported this new way of thinking.

It also won’t happen overnight, but as marketers its our job, now more than ever, to help drive the company in new directions and to shape our message both internally and externally.

Creativity in the Building Products Industry

22 Mar

Practice Creativity to Get the Best Results

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“To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

Creativity is a funny thing. People often label themselves as creative, or more likely they say, “Oh, I’m not the creative type.” If you’re in the former category, its time to rethink your creative position.

Especially in the building products industry, creativity is more than designing a great product, putting together a fabulous sales presentation or making your meetings exciting.

Creativity sparks innovation. Have you heard of the artist Henri Matisse? Old age and illness made using his hands more difficult and he became bedridden, but he didn’t let it be a hindrance. In fact, he made a breakthrough in his final years with a new form of art. He found that he could still hold and use scissors, so he cut out colored paper to form beautiful work. He made creativity a choice. He opened his mind to being creative and reached outside of his comfort zone. Are you doing the same thing? Here are some tips to add creativity to your life:

  1. Stretch yourself. Be like Matisse and don’t accept limitations. Set a goal that makes you make choices that you haven’t had to make before. This could be as simple as going for a walk over lunch, meeting in a new spot or rearranging the furniture in your office.
  2. Choose to connect with life and other people. Start a creative network of people that you can share ideas with and provide support to each other. This could be a professional organization in your area, a handful of like-minded people in the office or a new group waiting to be formed.
  3. Change. Think about the rules in your life… Do they need to change? Change can be scary, but it can also be powerful. The building products industry has been doing a lot of things because ‘it’s the way its been done’ but our industry is changing and now is the time to make changes to thrive in the future.

Bottom line – choose to be the best you. Take the best ideas around you and improve on them and don’t hold back for the risk of failing.

For more information, check out Sam Harrison of Zing Zone, a creative author and speaker.

Find time for what matters in the building products industry

19 Mar

Why We Need to Focus on Purpose in Building Products Marketing

Focus on your business, your customers, and yourself

Too often we spend time figuring out how to be more efficient, effective, or impactful in what we do in our lives without determining if what we are doing really matters.

In the rush to check it off the list, or show the boss how great our PowerPoint looks, we don’t ask the really tough question – Does this really matter?

I’m not recommending we all move to Tibet and commune in silence for the next 6 months, but what I am advocating is that as a marketing leader in this industry you need to know how to prioritize what’s key to the business.

You have to answer these 3 questions about your brand/company –

  1. Who you are
  2. What you do
  3. Why it matters

Too often companies have lost sight of these 3 salient points. These 3 answers form the foundation of your brand experience, but more importantly they provide you with the answer to the questions – Is this important? Does it matter? Should I be spending time on this?

Because if what you’re doing doesn’t help support at least the answer to one of these 3 questions, you probably should move on. I’m not encouraging you to tell the board at the next quarterly meeting that you’re not doing something, but I am encouraging you to know why it matters, it at all.

It seems so simple, right? If it were there wouldn’t be thousands of business books written every year. Many of them with titles about Getting More Done, First Things First, What Should I Do With My Life, and many, many more.

A quick Google search of the term ‘What’s Important’ returned 1,130,000,000 results. Yes, there are over 1.1 billion results when Google is asked ‘What’s Important’. No wonder we all are tired or overwhelmed or confused or simply ready to move to that Tibetan monastery.

So stop solving every issue. Focus on those 3 fundamental questions and get the important things done (and hurry because you’re late on everything else).

Is your building product marketing ready for the R & R market?

15 Mar

Marketing business sales

How to support the R & R market

The professional contractor, especially in the R & R market, is the final person who can decide, or strongly influence, what products a homeowner uses. Many times the homeowner knows what they want done, but not how or with what product. This is a powerful position for the contractor and one that all manufacturers understand.

As a manufacturer, are you and your marketing efforts addressing this situation? Have you thought through what this all-important part of the sales process can utilize or leverage to fully enable the sales process?

Here are 3 reasons many companies have yet to figure this out.

  1. Sometimes it’s just a matter of budget. [harder to fix]
  2. Sometimes it’s not understanding who really sells your product. [Basics of your job and your team]
  3. And all too often, it’s the view that you can’t develop programs that ‘this guy’ will get or even utilize – they just don’t see the importance this guy has at the winning the kitchen table. [Your viewpoint has gotten askew of who matters]

But it isn’t simply a fancy new iPad app, it can be other support that makes the difference. It takes time to understand how your products are actually sold. Too often, the brand manager hasn’t taken the time to understand who is involved in the sales channel and how the sale occurs, especially to the homeowner.

At that moment, all the branding and marketing really don’t have any value beyond making the homeowner familiar. Most homeowners are buying the pro, not the product. People buy from people they know, like and trust.

While there are examples of brand awareness driving the consumer decision, those companies have spent years and thousands, maybe millions, of dollars to build that brand. Unless you’re one of those companies, and even they sometimes forget, you need to look at what you’re doing to support the channel, all the way to the kitchen table.

So what can you do right now? Here are 3 things you should be doing:

  1. Review technologies that you are proving down the channel.
  2. Develop a strategy to reach out to your channel partners to gain insight on what tools they want and need.
  3. Set up a plan to enable the sales process at the kitchen table to benefit your company’s products.

3 Things Building Materials Marketers Should Take Away From Super Bowl Ads

5 Feb So God Made a Farmer - Dodge

So God Made a Farmer - Dodge

Besides the fact that Super Bowl is a trademarked NFL name

Like millions of people around the world, I watched Super Bowl 47 and was amazed at the resiliency of the 49ers, but also how regardless of the fact you can plan for every possible contingency, sometimes things go wrong and the lights go out.

As a lifelong football fan and career marketer, the Super Bowl represents the Holy Grail. No it’s not saving anyone’s life, but if you look back at the greatest campaigns or ads, the Super Bowl is where they were born. From the Macintosh 1984 ad, to the e-trade baby, to the Bud Light “Waasssup” guys, we always seem to remember one or two of the ads. But after the millions of dollars and the endless lists of top ads, do they really work?

As most people saw, there were some really well done mini-films like the Dodge ad with the Paul Harvey voice over, but there were also offensive ads like the Go Daddy kiss ad. So which was more effective? Time can only tell, but from a brand perspective, I’d bet Dodge faired better.

The 3 things I try to think about when watching the ads are:

1. Does this ad connect me to the brand?

  • Several of the ads connected with me. The Dodge farmer spot, the Clydesdale ‘remember’ spot and the Audi prom spot all made an emotional connection with me and their brand. Not because I grew up on a farm, or because I love my animals, nor because I got to take my brother’s brand new Corvette to senior prom. They connected with me by telling a story.

2. Does this ad make me want to buy their product?

  • Somebody asked me via Twitter about the call-to-action on a spot and my comment was, hardly any of these ads had a true call-to-action. They’re brand awareness building. But I will say as a GoDaddy customer after sitting on the couch with my 7-year-old daughter, I really don’t want to give Bob Parson any more money.

3. Would I share this message?

  • In today’s social world, this is a big one. Used to be that you had to watch the Super Bowl to see the ads. Now they’re ‘leaked’ early or they’re on YouTube. But as I watched the game on the TV screen and interacted with Twitter on my iPad screen, I realized the purpose is as much to inform, as it is to create evangelists; people that will talk about your brand, your product, and your message.

So how do we as building material marketers use this annual ritual of advertising and branding excess? We remember to tell our story, to connect to our audience, to not offend our customers, and most importantly we produce messages that our customers want to share. Learn more about understanding your customer.

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