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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.

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.

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.

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!

How building product brands can leverage Pinterest to achieve goals

10 Sep

Pinterest is an opportunity for you to gain fans, educate customers

At the beginning of this year Renae introduced you to Pinterest as a way to build brand recognition, share ideas, research competition and make connections. But now that Pinterest has been popular for over a year (and has nearly 15 million users), I think it’s time to take another look, and see what you should be doing with Pinterest to showcase your brand, your people, and your products.

  • Show your creativity. Pinterest is a great place to show how creative you can be. The use of infographics, videos, e-books, and humorous memes make it easier for people to consume information and more likely that they will share it. Considering 80% of pins are repins, this is essential to the success of your Pinterest efforts. GE does a great job of showing their creative side: http://pinterest.com/generalelectric/
  • Create a “company newsroom” and post all press releases there. In addition, place videos, interviews, and other interesting company information there to ensure it’s easy to find and easy to share.
  • Optimize your pins using SEO-friendly keywords. Because Pinterest is already established and has good SEO, adding the correct keywords will make it easier to find your brand on the web. Make sure you use the appropriate keywords in the title of your pinboard, in the description of each pin and add them as a hashtag. For help with this read this.
  • Create a “company culture” board. Even in our B2B industry, people still buy from people they like and showing your company culture can set you apart from your competitor. Feature photos of employees, activities, tradeshows and more.
  • Run a building products promotion. This can be used as a support tactic to a larger campaign or a separate social campaign to encourage social engagement. To check out some companies that have done this successfully, check out this case study.
  • Create a “company history” board. Especially if you’re company is more established, these nostalgia-based photos can evoke an emotional response to your brand. Show pictures of old offices, products or employees.

Some other basic Pinterest tips:

  • Optimize your Pinterest profile. Make sure your profile accurately and concisely describes what you do as this will help people find you. Ensure it includes keywords to make you more likely to show up in searches.
  • Pay attention to Pinterest’s term and conditions.
  • Do monthly reporting on your traffic and evaluate the leads you receive. This will help you prove ROI and determine whether Pinterest is an important part of your social strategy.

For more information on Pinterest, check out this overview.

The Baby Boomer Opportunity: What Building Product Marketers Can Do

9 Aug

NAHB’s CAPS program can be valuable for building product marketers

We all know the marketplace is constantly evolving. Our “Gray Hairs are Everywhere” blog post from earlier this year introduced us to the Millenial generation which is a term used to describe those born between 1980 and 2000. Also known as “Generation Y”, Millennials are the children of the Baby Boomer generation. We’ve discussed what these Millennials mean to your business, but what about their parents?

 Baby Boomers make up 42% of the adult population and according to the AARP this segment can make quite an impact on our companies:

  • Boomers buy 45% of all consumer goods
  • Boomers have 75% of the discretionary wealth in America
  • 68% of them even give money to their adult children

And they’re not going anywhere. The Boomer population is growing 7x faster than the 18-49 segment and they will be the dominant demographic for the next 40 years.

We already know that older homeowners overwhelmingly prefer to age in place, 84% of them according to the AARP, which means they want to live in their homes safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of their age or ability level. This goal aligns with the building products industry perfectly. Boomers want to upgrade their homes to ensure they are accessible, safe and comfortable and we have the products to help them.

But what can you do to ensure you are positioning your products to appeal to this market? One way to do this is to check out your local NAHB chapter and see if they offer the Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) program which is designed to address the growing needs of homeowners looking to stay in their homes longer. While most CAPS professionals are remodelers, even building product marketers can benefit from seeking this certification. By achieving your CAPS designation you will learn:

  • The unique needs of the older adult population
  • Aging-in-place home modifications
  • Common remodeling projects
  • Solutions to common barriers

Beyond that, you will network at the CAPS course with the people you try to reach everyday – potential customers that are self-seeking to learn more about this important market.

Baby Boomers: The Facts

  • Today and every day for the next 18 years, another 10,000 people will turn age 65
  • By 2050, the population of Americans aged 65 or older will be 88.5 million—more than double what it is now
  • Americans aged 85 years or older will reach 19 million—triple what it is now
  • 84% of Boomers are already 50+

To read more about CAPS and to find your local NAHB chapter, visit www.nahb.com.

As the Tech Revolution Continues in the Building Products Industry, Don’t Forget…

26 Apr

Linked from freedesktopwallpaper.org

Every day, we’re all inundated with stories about this device or this website being another “revolution” in our everyday lives, and while most of that is hyperbole, we’ve truly seen some revolutions in the past 20 (and even last 10) years in technology. You might be reading this on an iPad at home, or on your Android device at the airport. Or maybe you went “old school” and you’re reading on a desktop computer! Marketers like us tend to be on the forefront of technology and can sometimes forget that the people we’re selling to don’t fit that same model.

ProSales magazine, one of two main trade publications for the LBM dealer audience, conducted research titled “Building Material Dealer Sources of Information Survey” last fall. The first question in this survey was, “Which of the following types of resources do you use regularly as part of your work-related reading/information-gathering?”

The top response, picked by 82% of respondents, was “Trade magazines specific to building material dealers.” Yes, those magazines we all get at the office, the same ones derided as old/traditional media.

The second response, chosen by 61% of respondents, was “Building product manufacturer sales representatives.” Yes, in 2011, people still count on a one-to-one conversation to get the information they need to run their businesses more effectively.

This survey was conducted by email, so you can likely assume the respondents would tend to be more engaged with technology than the typical building material dealer…so imagine what the numbers would look like if you could survey those typical dealers.

Similarly, we conducted research for a client last fall, also sent by email to building material dealers across the country. We asked what methods they’d prefer to be communicated with by wholesale distributors, and gave them the following options: direct mail, email, fax, text messaging, social media or phone. Respondents ranked those choices, and Email was the clear #1 choice, but do you know what #2 was? Faxing.

We know the building products industry isn’t known for being quick to adapt, but that result still surprised us. Remember, this was an emailed survey, so it’s very likely faxing might be almost as popular a choice among the total dealer audience.

Am I saying abandon your efforts with mobile apps, social media, BIM modeling and other technologies? Absolutely not…but don’t forget that a lot of business still gets done in this industry with the same methods we used before any of us even knew what a “smartphone” was. A lot of “social networking” still occurs the way it has for years – in a lumberyard, face to face.