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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.

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.

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

5 Feb

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.

5 Builders Using Pinterest in the Building Products Industry

15 Jan

These builders know that homeowners are searching on Pinterest

 A few weeks ago we profiled 10 building product companies that were utilizing Pinterest. Now we want to focus on that final step in the channel – the homebuilder. As a building products CMO, it’s critical to understand how this tool is being utilized by all of your channel partners. If you’re interested in creating a Pinterest account for your company and need an example of how builders are utilizing Pinterest, check out these 5 home builder’s Pinterest accounts.

1. Beazer Homes

  • Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/beazerhomes/
  • As one of the largest builders in America, Beazer utilizes most communication channels. They approach this visual medium by creating boards that are focused on the stage or life situation the homeowner has in their home; from empty nest to growing by 2 Feet (baby), Beazer does an excellent job of showcasing visually how they deliver for a homeowner.

2. Lennar Homes

  • Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/lennarhomes/
  • Another large national builder with many boards on their Pinterest page. Lennar creates boards on the markets they serve as well as company information/history. Lennar utilizes many social channels, but typically have accounts by market, except here on Pinterest, where you can search all the markets on one site.

3. Highland Homes

  • Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/highlandhomes/
  • A builder out of Lakeland, Florida, Highland utilizes Pinterest by using images to showcase the floor plans of their homes as well as boards dedicated to key rooms in the homes like kitchens or master bedrooms. Majority of the pictures come from their homes or the markets they serve.

4. Toll Brothers

  • Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/tollbrothers/
  • As the current homebuilder of the year from Professional Builder Magazine, Toll Brothers is yet another national builder with a presence on Pinterest. Toll Brothers has created a number of boards based on seasonal applications around the home as well as the organizing their homes by their geographical region. As with most builders, they also have a green board.

5. Brookfield Homes

  • Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/brookfieldsd/
  • Brookfield Homes is a San Diego based builder that utilizes Pinterest as more as a consumer. Many of their boards are titled something ‘we love’. Could be landscaping or lighting or color schemes. Different approach than the others we’ve listed, but very well organized.

There are many other builders, both national and local with Pinterest pages. I’ve just highlighted some different approaches to this highly visual social channel. If you have yet created your business then visit this page to get started: http://business.pinterest.com

The New Building Products Lumberyard

11 Dec

The new lumberyard

Marketers need to understand how lumberyards have changed and adjust to new needs

The past few years have been more than brutal for everyone up and down the building materials channel. We’ve all seen businesses close, friends out of work and everyone wondering when does this end?

For those fortunate to have survived it has required some changes. As a B2B marketer you’ve seen the skills needed change at a pace never seen in our careers. Tools that weren’t in existence 10 years ago are now key to our jobs.

So what about the local lumberyard? That staple of every town for the past 150 years has had to reinvent themselves. Gone is the typical “yard” that sells bunks and bunks of lumber only. Or the total house order. While those still occur, the progressive LBM dealers are evolving to add new product categories and have completely blown up the “showroom” concept.

Pick up a copy of ProSales magazine and half the stories are about an LBM dealer that is doing something unheard of 5 years ago. Recently the cover story was about Ganahl Lumber; they purchased an auto dealership in Pasadena, CA. Right there on the route of the Rose Bowl parade is a lumberyard. But not an old lumberyard. A true homeowner showroom with kitchen cabinets, flooring, and many other homeowner focused products.

  • Are you taking advantage of this dramatic change to the LBM?
  • Have you thought about your displays to ensure they will work in today’s LBM showroom?
  • What about retail packaging? Many LBMs are adding traditional retail racks with product sets just like a home center or local hardware store.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with the awesome folks at Gilcrest/Jewitt in Des Moines at one of their larger locations. This wasn’t an LBM – it was a full fledged home center. Not only do they have a full kitchen design center but many other products including an impressive Windsor Windows and Doors display. They have worked directly with Windsor to make their LBM showroom a destination and showcase the products for everyone involved in home construction.

G-J is a sixth generation lumberyard in the middle of Iowa. They’ve been through devastating fires and floods and are now at the forefront of a modern LBM with multiple locations across Iowa.

If you’re still thinking lumberyards are simply a pro lumberyard you’re missing a huge opportunity to drive your product positioning and merchandising with a key part of the channel. If you’ve not been in a modern LBM get out of the office and visit one now. You’ll be a better marketer for it.

Building Products Marketing Transformation And The Empowered Customer

6 Dec

Leading Marketing Transformation

Customers are more informed than ever and marketing needs to evolve to match those smarts

Earlier this month I heard from Christine Jacobs, Director of Demand Programs at IBM North America. She spoke on marketing transformation – how marketing is changing and how marketing departments need to focus on social, content and ROI to meet the growing demands of customers. She focused on the need to make digital mainstream and shared that 40% of IBM’s marketing spend is now digital. Here’s what I took away from her presentation:

Social is the way of the future

  • Christine talked a lot about social engagement and pointed out that for many organizations, this is a key area of under-preparedness. Recently there has been an explosion of data and social media and most companies aren’t prepared to tackle these changes.
  • It’s time for marketers to redefine the customer. We’ve talked about the need for personas in the past and Christine touched on this too. Instead of looking at customers as one buying group, we need to focus on micro-segments so you can build experiences and make marketing more relevant. In fact, each micro market needs specific objectives. As building product marketers, we need to appeal to the empowered customer through a differentiated experience.
  • So how do we do this? Social media is on-demand intelligence and engagement. We need to be listening. Social media should help guide media buys, social media strategy and so much more. Especially for CMOs, social media will be a key engagement channel moving forward. Are you ready?

Content and assets should align to the buyer’s journey

  • How do you create, package and distribute your content today? We need to provide a seamless experience for our customers across all touchpoints, whether they’re paid, owned or earned.
  • The best way to do this and prepare for the future? Embrace new technologies through testing. Testing can be a great way to try out things like text ads, retargeting visitors from your website, targeting niche audiences in LinkedIn, mobile marketing, etc.

ROI: Measure impact by applying the science of analytics to your marketing

  • Analytics are the future of marketing. There are a finite set of KPIs. Make sure you are measuring business outcomes (not volumes) and move from the historical to the predictive.
  • The best thing about analytics? You can optimize all the time, on the fly and operate in real time to ensure you’re making smart business decisions.

So what does this mean for your marketing department? Make sure you understand your customers in real time and anticipate their needs. Where do you start?

  • Enhance
  • Extend
  • Redefine

And work with your CIO. The CIO and CMO are the power team of the future. When looking at your 2013 marketing plans, consider: are you ready with a plan for social, content and analytics? Because if not, it’s time to reconsider. For more information on marketing transformation visit IBMconnectedcustomer.com or IBM.com/smartermarketing.

Facebook Offers New Features for Building Product Marketers

4 Dec

Building product marketers: Measure Facebook ads

Facebook Now Offers Targeted Ads, ROI Tracking Tool, and CPM Bidding Tool

Last year Elton discussed why social media ads might be something to add to your mix. With high print advertising rates and smaller marketing budgets, it’s important for building product marketers to consider the new tools Facebook has to offer. It’s worth a look at these options to see if they fit into your marketing strategy. Recently Facebook added three new features including:

  • Targeted ads
  • A ROI tracking tool
  • An optimized CPM bidding tool

New – Facebook Targeted Ads

  • Targeted ads allow advertisers to target customers by uploading their emails, phone numbers, or Facebook user IDs. Building product companies can target their advertisements to the list of customers they have along with target prospects. This allows marketers to connect with contacts and build stronger customer relationships. Building product marketers are able to target segments with a personalized message based on whether they are a customer or prospect. In addition, this provides companies a new way to gain Facebook fans from current customers and gain leads from prospects.

New – ROI Tracking Tool

  • The tracking tool allows companies to track conversions to their external pages and measure results like sales, leads, and downloads. Marketers are able to see how ads perform after clicking on the ad and being driven to the company’s landing page. With the new tracking, marketers can monitor segments that positively respond to certain messaging to gauge future ad messaging. Building product marketers can track the results by adding the code on the post-click landing page like a thank-you page.

New – CPM Bidding Tool

  • Facebook allows marketers to manage their campaigns with CPM, cost per thousand impressions, bidding tool by setting an advertising goal. By entering whether your company wants more Facebook page likes, sales, leads, etc., Facebook will adjust the CPM ads to target those who are more likely to achieve this goal. If the goal were to gain more leads, Facebook would show the ad to your target audience of prospects rather than the audience that is likely to like your company page.

With the new features Facebook offers, it is simple to measure the campaign return on investment in one platform. By not taking advantage of the latest ad technology, you could be missing the chance to build a stronger relationship with customers or gain new prospects. As Elton mentioned in a post earlier this year about utilizing social media ads in the building products industry, it is a small risk to invest in Facebook ads since people everywhere are engaging with social media.

How To Create a Building Products Facebook Contest

16 Nov

5 Ways to boost fan engagement and gain leads

Earlier this year Elton discussed the new Facebook timeline and if it matters for the building products industry. With more than a billion people subscribed to Facebook, it is an important social media tool to use and a simple way to host a promotional contest. Check out these five tips to create a Facebook contest to boost fan engagement, gain new leads, and receive feedback from customers.

1. Keep it Simple

  • It’s important to keep the entrants on the Facebook page by not asking too much information. An entrant should be able to fill out the required fields within a minute to keep them engaged.

2. Sweepstakes or Contest

  • Choose whether you would like to host a sweepstakes or a contest. A sweepstakes makes it simple for entrants to easily fill out their contact information and enter with the click of a button. A contest could be created to vote on a new product color by having the entrant choose their top choice or submit a photo of your product in application in order to enter to win.

3. Gain and Nurture Leads

  • Capture leads by requiring the entrants to enter their email address so you can utilize the contact for email marketing. If you add them to your distribution list, make sure to state in the rules that by entering the contest they will receive updates and emails from your company. In addition, make sure you give the entrants an option to opt-out of future communication to remain email compliant. When the contest has concluded, email the entrants who didn’t win by offering them a discount on a product or a sneak peek of a new product. This ensures the entrants feel included even though they didn’t win the contest in order to keep them engaged in your efforts.

4. Choose a Prize for Your Audience

  • Offer your company’s target audience something that not only draws them into entering the promotion, but something that makes them want to do business with you. Try giving away a product credit to have your customers or prospects to later invest in your products. This provides current customers a reward and helps influence leads to purchase from your company. If the prize is more promotional, think about the things your target industry is drawn to like sports, outdoor activities, or grilling.

5. Advertise Your Promotion with Facebook Ads

  • If your page has fewer fans, try promoting the sweepstakes or contest with a Facebook ad. This helps you target the demographic you want to enter in your promotion. To learn more about Facebook ads and targeting, check out the Facebook ads blog post from earlier this year.

As a building products CMO, it’s important to understand how Facebook works and its potential for reaching down the channel. While a promotion via Facebook might not be the best option for you, it’s a valuable tactic to consider to gain prospects and achieve maximum ROI. For more information about what other building products companies are doing in the industry, check out the Top 10 Facebook Building Products Pages from earlier this year.

The 4 Commandments of SEO for Building Product Marketers

14 Nov

What Building Product Companies Need to Know about SEO

Search Engine Marketing, or SEO, gets a lot of attention these days. We all strive to make our websites as SEO-friendly as possible, to ensure our blog posts are filled with SEO-rich keywords and that we are doing everything we can to increase our organic search traffic through SEO, rather than paid ads.

To help in your quest for better SEO, I wanted to share the 4 Commandments of SEO according to Marketing Profs. While a lot more goes into SEO than these 4 things, they are valid points to consider:

  • Thou Shalt Reciprocate Link Love. One way to increase your SEO is to have links pointing back to your site. While your team can do several things to ensure your company has optimal inbounds links (like ensure links are posted on everything that leaves your office, that your blog links to your company site and encourage employees to link back to your site on social media), a big way to boost your SEO is to have other high-quality websites link back to your site. However, be sure you are paying back the favor – if another company features a link to your site, make sure you link back to their site.
  • Thou Shalt Not Beg for Links. While you don’t want to be the one asking everyone you know to create a link to your site, it’s OK to provide value to another company and then request a link. Consider having an employee spend time each week commenting on other industry blogs with valuable comments and insight and then requesting a link back to your site. Think of adding links as just another extension of business – its similar to the “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” policy.
  • Thou Shalt Find the Best Keywords. This means doing research and paying attention to what your best customers are searching for. This doesn’t mean featuring the keywords that everyone searches for, but rather the ones that will convert searchers into paying customers.
  • Thou Shalt Not Write for Search Engines. While it’s tempting to write your homepage specifically so Google will pick it up and give you a good page rank, Google is not your customer. A human being is your customer and they don’t want to be talked to the same way Google does.

SEO can be a powerful tool for your overall lead strategy and can make a big difference in your web and blog traffic. Make sure to abide by these 4 commandments to ensure you are always meeting best practices. For more information on the Commandments of SEO, check out this link.

Multigenerational Living Shifts How Building Products Are Marketed

12 Nov

Building product marketers must look at products differently to target this growing audience

While multigenerational living has been a common occurrence in other countries for centuries, it is now becoming increasingly relevant in the US. In fact, since 1990 the number of multigenerational households has increased by 60%. It’s no secret that the economy has been hit hard and the housing crisis has had a dramatic impact on multigenerational living. This affects families in many different ways, including Baby Boomers and college students moving back in with family:

Baby Boomers moving in

  • Due to the current economic state, Baby Boomers face many obstacles as they try to retire – from weakening pensions to a faulty Social Security system and ever-increasing healthcare costs. Many of these Baby Boomers are opting to move in with their adult children to save money.

College kids coming home

  • The economy also makes it challenging to get on your feet after graduating college. Young adults must find a job and a place they can afford while also paying back looming student loans. Many of these young adults are opting to move back in with their parents for a few years until they get their feet on the ground and can be stable on there own.

Stuck in the middle

  • For some adults, this means pressure from both sides of their lineage – from their parents needing support in retirement and their fresh-out-of-college children needing help getting started.

So what does this mean to building product marketers? While family units used to live independently from one another, now we need to look at Baby Boomers, recent college graduates and those stuck in the middle as unique and important customer segments. It means looking at your products in a different light and seeing them through the eyes of these new and emerging audiences.

As marketers we know that people seek out companies that share their beliefs and relate to them, so showcasing products that address these unique needs lets this growing segment know that your organization is familiar with them and creates the products they need. Consider featuring a separate living area in brochures, on your website and in other marketing material that appeal to these groups. Try showcasing a separate bedroom in the basement, a kitchenette with all the essentials, a secondary and more simple laundry room or a separate suite with its own entrance.

Whatever you do, don’t ignore this growing segment of Americans – chances are one of your competitors won’t make the same mistake and they’ll be the ones reaping the benefits.