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5 Big Myths About Building Product Branding

16 May

PAF193000060

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

SONY DSC

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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: