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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.

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.

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.

Pinterest: 10 Building Product Companies You Should Follow, Part II

2 Nov

5 more brands to check out for examples of successful Pinterest pages

Earlier I shared 5 building product companies you should follow on Pinterest. Here are the final 5 companies that are a great example of running a successful Pinterest account.

6. Fiberon

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/fiberondecking/

  • As a manufacturer of composite decking, deck railing, and fencing products, Fiberon utilizes Pinterest to show DIY videos and infographics for maintaining a deck, preventing stains, and installing a deck.

7. Andersen Windows

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/andersenwindows/

  • Andersen has manufactured dependable windows and doors for more than 100 years. Pinterest displays the Andersen window product line by featuring them in a variety of different homes. In addition, a pinboard is dedicated to recycling doors and how to use the doors for decorations.

8. GAF

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/gafroofing/

  • A manufacturer of commercial and residential roofing, GAF utilizes Pinterest to showcase the different product lines. Other boards have been added to show unique roofs from around the world.

9. Trex

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/trexcompany/

  • Trex manufactures wood-alternative decking and railing products, and uses Pinterest as a tool for helping inform builders, contractors, and homeowners of product uses. Pinboards also display events like Earth Day with Trex’s recycling and sustainability videos.

10. Pella Windows

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/pellawindows/

  • Pella has been providing doors and windows for more than 85 years. Pinterest is an outlet for sharing tips for homeowners like saving energy, washing windows, and DIY projects.

Ready to make your company part of Pinterest? Get started today by visiting www.pinterest.com or learn how you can utilize Pinterest.

Pinterest: 10 Building Product Companies You Should Follow, Part I

31 Oct

These brands show what it takes to run a successful Pinterest page

Earlier this year we discussed how you can utilize Pinterest–with 4 million unique visitors daily– to help your company gain and educate customers. As a building products CMO, it’s beneficial to understand how this tool can work with your broader outreach strategy. If you’re interested in creating a Pinterest account for your company and need an example of how others in your industry are using it, check out these 5 building product company’s Pinterest accounts.

1. Owens Corning

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/owenscorning/ 

  • A manufacturer of insulation and roofing materials since 1938, Owens Corning utilizes Pinterest by using images and videos to showcase the products and how contractors and builders can use the materials. To support the brand’s sustainable products campaign, a Pinterest board is dedicated to energy saving technology that features videos and information about their energy impact.

2. TimberTech

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/timbertechdeck/

  • TimberTech manufactures low maintenance, safe, and durable decking and railing products. Pinterest is used as a way to display different deck builds for builders, contractors, and homeowners. A board is dedicated to cookout recipes that can be used with a homeowner’s deck to show a fun side to the company.

3. Masonite Doors

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/masonitedoors/

  • As a source for manufactured doors for more than 80 years, Masonite Doors showcases its company history with a pinboard that features notable company events. Pinboards are also used to inspire builders, remodelers and consumers with ideas how to use the products including ways to decorate front doors.

4. Deckorators

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/deckorators/

  • As a manufacturer of deck railings and accessories, Deckorators uses Pinterset as a tool to show homeowners what they can do to personalize their deck railings. In addition, Deckorators utilizes Pinterest as an outlet to display promotions like the company deck photo contest.

5. Marvin Windows

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/marvinwindows

  • Marvin Widows has manufactured made-to-order windows and doors since 1912 and established a reputation for energy efficiency. Pinterest is used as a way to explain their energy efficiency and product line from a pinboard with history of the company to ways to make homes more energy efficient and ways to use their products when remodeling or building a home.

Check back later for an even bigger list of building product companies to follow on Pinterest. To learn more, visit www.pinterest.com.

MarCom Portals Meet Building Product Customers Needs

26 Oct

Catering to the channel shows loyalty to your customers

In an earlier post I shared with you all the reasons a MarCom Portal can make an impact on your business. It provides brand control, allows you to control costs, rewards your customers, makes your life easier and is scalable. Today I want to talk about what your MarCom Portal should feature. If you’re considering implementing your own MarCom Portal, here are some items I would recommend adding to the system:

  • Promotional items: Whether it’s to be used as part of a promotion, for a holiday or as part of a rebate program, promotional items like shirts, hats, pens and coffee mugs can be important to your channel partner. Providing an easy way for them to order them makes your life easier and gives them access to multiple items with the click of a button.
  • Customizable ads: The further you get down the channel, the harder it is to execute simple marketing collaterial like newspaper and publication ads. Providing multiple sizes of these templates with a customizable area for your customer’s information makes their life easier and ensures your brand is portrayed correctly.
  •  An email system: While many contractors and dealers send emails directly from their email system, not a lot of them have professional email service providers that can send mass, HTML-developed emails. Professionally sent emails make you and your customer look good.
  • Customizable postcards: Some systems will allow users to upload their own mailing lists and customize postcards specific to those lists. This makes it easy for a contractor or builder to target a neighborhood, MSA or past clients.
  • Tradeshow support: Local and regional shows can make a big impact for your customers. Help them out by creating an easy-to-order and easy-to-customize tradeshow system. You can design the panels to meet your needs – whether it’s multiple brands under your master brand or specific product lines, you become the hero to your channel partner while ensuring your brand is portrayed accurately.
  • Sample ordering systems: Samples are a staple of a manufacturer’s business and ensuring they go out in a timely and professional manner is key to showcasing your brand and allowing your customers to trust you. Creating a simple online form in your MarCom portal will make it easy for your customers to order the samples they need and shows them how easy you are to work with.

While a MarCom Portal is not inexpensive, it is a great investment that will pay dividends for your brand and customers.

MarCom Portals Make Big Impact in Building Products Industry

25 Oct

Catering to the channel shows your loyalty to customers

As a building products industry CMO you know the importance of supporting the channel. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manufacturer, a distributor or a dealer – you need your customers (or your customer’s customers!) to help carry your message down and get your products sold.

While co-op programs can go a long way, a marketing portal can make an even bigger impact. They allow you to control your brand while giving your customers the power to easily carry it down the channel for you. MarCom Portals can feature anything from posters and postcards to emails and brochures. I have been a proponent of MarCom Portals for a while – here’s why.

Advantages of a MarCom Portal

  • Complete brand control: You provide the marketing templates in accordance with your brand guidelines. Customers can customize what you want them to be able to, but items like your logo, tagline and images remain intact ensuring brand consistency.
  • Control costs: Instead of guessing at the inventory you’re going to need, a MarCom Portal lets your customers print on-demand. Whether its 1 postcard or 500 – the cost remains the same and you can choose to pay for it or have your customers pay for it.
  • Reward your customers: What better way to promote your business than to make it seamless for your customers? Put money into their account, so they can use your tools for free.
  • Let someone else do the heavy lifting: Once the templates are created, the system can customize what is needed, so your team only has to create each file once. No more one-off requests and no more adjusting file sizes. A MarCom Portal provides maximum efficiency.
  • Flexible and scalable: A MarCom Portal can be built to fit your needs. Whether you want to offer a few tools or a wide-range of customizable options, it can fit your needs and budget. Plus, it can grow with you and your budget.
  • Security and peace of mind: A third party system can even be used to ensure absolute privacy for your channel partners.

Not convinced you need this solution? Stay tuned – in a future post I’ll share some key elements to consider adding to your portal.

Buyer Personas in the Building Products Industry

19 Oct

Buyer personas give your marketing direction and ensure your message is accurate

Whether or not you know it, you’re likely using buyer personas everyday – it’s just a matter of how accurate they are. Buyer personas are representations of customers that are used to better understand why they purchase what they do. As building product marketers, we all say things like “Contractors will like this product because it’s easier/cheaper/faster”, but what is it that really influences them to buy? Establishing the specifics allows you to craft a message that resonates with these buyers and beats out the competition.

So how do you establish an accurate buyer persona?

  • First off, you can just make it up. As building industry marketers it’s important to go deeper than a list of bullet points that describes our key buyers. We need to really spend time with these people and complete an in-depth analysis of their buying trends. According to Adele Revella, the founder and president of the Buyer Persona Institute, the Five Rings of Insight are the “most overlooked and essential aspect, simplifying decisions for persuasive messaging, content, launches, campaigns and sales enablement.”

Here are the “Five Rings of Insight” that will allow you to define your buyer persona:

  1. Determine the Priority Initiatives: Define the three-to-five problems or initiatives where this buyer persona is dedicating time, budget and political capital
  2. List Out Success Factors: Figure out the tangible or intangible rewards that your buyer persona wants to achieve as a result of buying your solution
  3. Recognize Perceived Barriers: List the reasons your buyer persona believes your solution won’t be the best way to achieve the Success Factors
  4. Chart Out the Buying Process: Include the resources and steps that your buyer persona relies upon to assess available options and make a final decision
  5. Figure Out the Decision Criteria: List the aspects of the product, service, solution or company that this buyer persona evaluates during the purchasing process

Accurately defining your Buyer Persona’s takes time, energy and effort, but once established can pay dividends in assuring your messaging is correct and sets you apart from your competitors.

We’ve used buyer personas for years. We actually have cardboard cut-outs of our “guys” – dealers, contractors, big box sales reps, deck builders, etc. When we have a meeting these guys often join us as a reminder of who we’re talking to. If they’re not in the room with you – it’s time you invite them!

For more information about buyer personas and the Buyer Persona Institute, click here.

Observations From The Remodeling Show/DeckExpo

17 Oct

Energy was up, attendees were excited and exhibitors were benefiting

Last week I spent several days in Baltimore attending the Remodeling Show and DeckExpo with one of our employees. Since 2009, Hanley Wood has co-located the Deck Expo with the Remodeling Show and this has proven successful for both parties. The shows represents all parts of the remodeling community and focuses on education. I’ve been to this show many times and and was impressed this year by the overall energy and buzz from the show. Here are my takeaways:

  • The DeckExpo is where it’s at: We spent significant time on both sides of the convention center and could always feels a boost of energy when we crossed over to the DeckExpo side. Not only were there great conversations during the show, but people had to be asked to leave after the show closed.
  • All the major players are there: Even though IBS is the big building-product industry show, all of the major industry players also attend this show. Remodelers and deck builders are there looking for companies that support their business, and if you aren’t there, they take note.
  • Interactive sponsorships get a big draw: In our social, on-demand world, you can start to wonder if people will check their watch and make it to a specific location on time for an on-floor demonstration, but the DeckExpo proved they will. Simpson Strong-Tie sponsored the Live Deck Collapse (click here for video) which always got a big draw and lots of pictures.
  • The basics still work: While we all spend time thinking, re-thinking and over-thinking our tradeshow strategy, the basics still prove to work. TimberTech put out free beer and pretzels at the end of the day – something deck contractors have a hard time turning down!
  • This is a great industry: I’ve been in this industry for over 20 years and attending tradeshows is always refreshing and energizing. We work with some great people that are dedicated to the industry and improving how people live. Plus, our industry knows how to have fun at the end of the day!

Although many of you are looking towards IBS in January, mark your calendar for October 15 – October 18, 2013 when the Remodeling Show and DeckExpo head to Chicago. You won’t want to miss it!

Building Product Manufacturers & BIM

11 Oct

Kolbe Millwork’s New Collection of BIM files on Autodesk Seek

Are you prepared for the shift in technology to BIM?

For decades, blueprints have been the way houses are built. An architect or builder creates them. The future homeowner reviews and has changes. New blueprints are created again. Then, the trades all have their turn at reviewing, offering up suggestions and identifying conflicts as best as possible. As a manufacturer, you hope your products are specified by someone along the way, provided you have your products available in the right file format(s). By the time all the stakeholders have had their say, the blueprint can be, at worst, a confusing, conflicting mess and, at best, a huge time expense for the architect or builder.

Imagine this alternate scenario: an architect or builder creates the new home using 3D architectural software and outputs a single, simplified file. That file is sent to each of the trades and to the dealer for materials estimates. Using compatible software, each stakeholder identifies conflicts and offers their input in their area of expertise. All that input is utilized by the software and the architect or builder to get to a final, conflict-free design that is presented to the homeowner. Rather than having to imagine what their home will look like from 2D blueprints, the homeowner can virtually walk through the entire thing, offering their input and seeing their various options. The result: a single, simplified design file and a home built more efficiently, with less conflicts, less waste and on-the-job changes, and a happier homeowner.

That scenario may seem far off, but it’s not. It’s the way commercial buildings have been built for over a decade, and it’s finally starting to become reality for residential construction as well. It’s called Building Information Modeling (BIM), and here’s what you should be thinking about, as a manufacturer:

  • Make sure your products are BIM-ready: This means having your products available in Autodesk® format files. As the dominant platform for BIM, Autodesk’s file format (DWG) is the one everyone has to conform to. Autodesk has also built a web resource called Autodesk Seek (http://seek.autodesk.com/) that serves as a BIM product library for architects, engineers and builders. The majority of products are commercial-focused currently, but manufacturers like Marvin Windows have their products in place.
  • Make sure your customer service department is ready: You’ve got experienced customer service people on staff, but are they prepared to answer questions from architects about file formats and utilizing your products in BIM software?
  • Actively marketing to architects? Besides the obvious, manufacturers can gain a lot of credibility with architects by offering continuing education units (CEUs). All architects need to get these to maintain certification, and it’s a great way for manufacturers to get in front of them. Presentations can be online or in person, but must be completely brand-neutral. Therma-Tru is a great example of a manufacturer that’s done this for years.

As great as all of this sounds, there’s still a lot of adoption that needs to be done prior to BIM being commonplace. It won’t surprise you to know that many builders, architects and other stakeholders aren’t ready to spend the time and money learning a very different way to design homes. However, the benefits from adopting BIM as part of the process are too great to ignore, and the market will shift, though slower than some would like. When that shift finally happens, do you want to be the manufacturer playing catch-up, or the one that is trained and ready to take full advantage?

For more information on BIM, check out these resources: