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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.

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.

11 Crucial Niche Social Network Rules for Building Product Marketers – Part 2

29 Mar

Remember, think of these networks like a coffee shop or bar for the trade.

In a previous post, we covered the first 6 rules for participating in a building products niche social network, and here’s the remaining 5:

  1. DON’T participate only in discussions that can lead to you talking about your company’s products. I can’t emphasize this enough – everything shouldn’t lead back to your products. Everything should lead back to helping solve a challenge for another member of the network.
  2. DO use the network for research purposes, within reason. While talking about your products all the time is boring, giving network members a chance to give their opinion, try a prototype of a product or provide insight in another way is a great way to be involved, and many members will likely jump at the chance.
  3. DON’T believe this is a short-term initiative. If your company is going to participate, it needs to be a commitment – the best of these networks have been around for a decade or more, with many members involved throughout. Over time, you’ll learn more, become more trusted and, ultimately, get more return than if you only participate when there’s a new product to launch, or whenever you feel like it.
  4. DO have a plan in place for handling complaints or attacks. The US Air Force (a surprisingly progressive organization from a social standpoint) has their “Rules of Engagement” in an easy-to-follow diagram that is a great model for any company – see it by clicking here.
  5. DON’T forget that, like many things in life & business, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. By that, I mean every network has its core group that provides the best information, participates the most and stays involved the longest. If you have to prioritize responding and who to discuss with, those are the most important.

Further Reading:

11 Crucial Niche Social Network Rules for Building Product Marketers – Part 1

27 Mar

Think of These Networks Like a Coffee Shop or Bar for the Trade

It’s not enough just to be there – here are 6 tips to help maximize your opportunity, and we’ll post 5 more later this week!

In an earlier post, I talked about the potential value of niche social networks versus Facebook and other consumer-focused ones. Now I’d like to offer some tips for the things to do (and not to do!) when participating in a niche social network as a manufacturer.

    1. DO your prep work. Look around the network to see what other manufacturers are doing already. Talk to the site owner and/or administrator about their network and how your company might become a valuable member of it.
    2. DO create an account that clearly states what company is represented, and the person from the company that manages the account. Some companies have created accounts that look like a personal one, to give the appearance of a peer to other site members. That type of strategy is deceitful and is usually discovered by members of the site, and ends up giving the company a black eye in the end. A great example from Magna-Matic, a company in the lawn maintenance trade, is below. You can clearly see that Magna-Matic is a site sponsor and know that Gerd Ferdinand Bauer II is the representative.
    3. DON’T jump on and immediately start posting press releases, product specials and information that’s all about your company. People aren’t on these networks to be sold; they’re on them to converse with peers, get ideas and solve problems. Some sites have sponsor areas that are perfect for this type of information, if you truly must share it.
    4. DO ensure your representative regularly spends time on the site and monitors for the most important keywords to your brand.
    5. DON’T expect to receive a warm welcome. Not to say people will immediately attack you or anything that negative, but plenty of manufacturers and salespeople join networks because they think it’s an easy place to try and sell some more product, without putting in the work and recognizing the purpose of the network. Because of that, the regular, active members of the network will be wary of what you say until you’ve proven your worth as a member of the network.
    6. DO set a goal for the number of posts you want to average per day/week. By building up the total post count and contributing to lots of different discussions that have little or nothing to do with your product, you can build credibility and demonstrate that you’re an industry expert and not just a salesperson.

Be on the lookout for part 2 of this post, coming later this week!

7 Ways Building Product CMOs Increase Financial Fluency

9 Nov

Learn how increasing your marketing department’s financial capacity can make a big difference in your business.

Especially in the building products industry, it’s more important than ever to closely monitor the dollars going into your marketing efforts. It’s no longer about the next big idea and pushing out pretty creative, today’s CMO has to focus on how their programs will affect the bottom line – and be able to prove its success with data. CMO.comtook a deeper look into how CMOs can boost their financial comprehension. Here’s our take and how it relates to the building products industry:

1. Master the ROI Calculation

  • Among the many financial concepts building products marketers should adopt, Return On Investment (ROI) calculation is key.
  • It’s important to focus on business results like customer loyalty, price premiums, growth in market share, as well as ad spend, reach and engagement.

2. Hire Outside the Box

  • Look beyond your typical agency marketers’ resumes to engineers, accountants and mathematicians.
  • Marketing can be taught and these skills are invaluable to a marketing department looking to build up their financial acumen.

3. Get Serious about Data Analytics

  • Marketers need to be especially careful when analyzing data and be sure its consistent and structured.
  • The ability to take a hard look at data analysis allows CMOs to identify the best opportunities, set priorities, execute plans and gain sales.

4. Adopt Corporate Metrics

  • To make a real financial impact on the company, the CMO must understand the ins and outs of the finances of the company, especially in the building products industry when the smallest details make a big difference.
  • Get comfortable with the profit and loss, balance sheets – anything that can make you a smarter businessperson.
  • Another way to educate yourself and your team? Have senior finance leaders host lunch-and-learn sessions to review the basics.

5. Steal from Finance

  • Borrow accounting concepts to develop new marketing analytics and track marketing and sales activities.

6. Get to Know the CFO

  • A Forrester Research/Heidrick & Struggles survey found that 69% of CMOS said their relationship with the CFO was the most important in the organization. However, natural tensions exist between these two departments (especially during tough times in the building products industry), as money spent on marketing is a line on the expense report that takes away from the company’s earnings. If the CMO and CFO understand each other, they can work together to track the metrics of success.

7. Focus on Process

  • Process leads to measurable results, a must when you sit at the executive leadership table. Just like sales reps must do when selling building products, having the marketing team focus on process over marketing tools ensures you produce results for your organization.

Sources and Additional Articles