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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.

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.

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!

Increasing Conversion rates for your Building Products Website

7 Feb

Turning more of your website visitors into leads can increase your bottom line.

There’s a lot to think about with your lead strategy.  How many leads do you need to create to get to the conversion rate you desire? How much does each lead cost and does that match your goals?  One place to start is with your website.

Conversion rates can tell you how successful your website is at keeping visitors engaged and moving them through to become leads and sales. An important tool, your company’s website is often it’s first impression—and your change to move a potential customer through the experience with images, videos, and consistent, targeted messaging.

Avoiding hurdles to conversion will help the visitor through each stage, from a website visitor, to a lead, and eventually to a sale. The best way to do this is to decrease the clutter, so that your visitor knows where to look and where to click without confusion.

  1. Segment quickly to keep your visitor engaged: Segment your audience before they have to fill out the form.
    • Segment your website for different audiences and lead them to a unique form—this will allow you to move good leads through your site and filter out bad leads through segmentation and not long, boring forms.
    • Provide relevant information to the visitor, remember to use the information you gather from a segmented website to know who is visiting your site and engage them.
    • A segmented lead is up to 4 times more valuable.

     

  2. Convert visitors into leads: In addition to getting the correct people to fill out your online form – you want them to give you the right type of information.
    • ALWAYS get contact data.
    • How did you find us?
    • Remove unnecessary questions through testing and conversations with your marketing AND sales teams. Every field and data piece collected should help you sell more.
    • Measure conversion rate AND conversion rate to actual leads, actual money/closed business.

     

  3. Convert Leads into Sales:  Don’t overlook the importance of the pitch just because it’s online.  The reward or benefit for filling out the form should be clear.
    • Is the value of what you are giving = to the data you are collecting
    • Keep messaging consistent.  If your advertisement says “Free Consultation,” then the landing page needs to say that as well. No message mismatch!
    • Know what to do with the leads you produce.  Call/email/nurture the conversion – but don’t annoy. Use the information you know about each lead to cater to their needs.

Using these simple tips—and testing them out to find the right mix for your company—will help visitors convert to sales and move your business forward through your website.

Sources:

Additional Articles: