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Is your building product marketing ready for the R & R market?

15 Mar

Marketing business sales

How to support the R & R market

The professional contractor, especially in the R & R market, is the final person who can decide, or strongly influence, what products a homeowner uses. Many times the homeowner knows what they want done, but not how or with what product. This is a powerful position for the contractor and one that all manufacturers understand.

As a manufacturer, are you and your marketing efforts addressing this situation? Have you thought through what this all-important part of the sales process can utilize or leverage to fully enable the sales process?

Here are 3 reasons many companies have yet to figure this out.

  1. Sometimes it’s just a matter of budget. [harder to fix]
  2. Sometimes it’s not understanding who really sells your product. [Basics of your job and your team]
  3. And all too often, it’s the view that you can’t develop programs that ‘this guy’ will get or even utilize – they just don’t see the importance this guy has at the winning the kitchen table. [Your viewpoint has gotten askew of who matters]

But it isn’t simply a fancy new iPad app, it can be other support that makes the difference. It takes time to understand how your products are actually sold. Too often, the brand manager hasn’t taken the time to understand who is involved in the sales channel and how the sale occurs, especially to the homeowner.

At that moment, all the branding and marketing really don’t have any value beyond making the homeowner familiar. Most homeowners are buying the pro, not the product. People buy from people they know, like and trust.

While there are examples of brand awareness driving the consumer decision, those companies have spent years and thousands, maybe millions, of dollars to build that brand. Unless you’re one of those companies, and even they sometimes forget, you need to look at what you’re doing to support the channel, all the way to the kitchen table.

So what can you do right now? Here are 3 things you should be doing:

  1. Review technologies that you are proving down the channel.
  2. Develop a strategy to reach out to your channel partners to gain insight on what tools they want and need.
  3. Set up a plan to enable the sales process at the kitchen table to benefit your company’s products.

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.

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!

Houzz: A New Social Media Platform for Building Product Marketers

27 Sep

Houzz.com is a new building and design platform that offers users ideas for their home

Have you heard of Houzz.com? It is a new online platform that connects architects, designers, builders, and contractors with homeowners around the world who want to build or update their home. The platform is a mash-up of Angie’s List (reviews) and Pinterest (idea inspiration) and offers consumers design ideas, project advice, reviews, and product information.

Specifically for the building product industry, Houzz.com puts products at the fingertips of consumers to search and find your products. As a former building products CMO, I think it’s important to be aware of this new tool which could change the way people build and design their homes.

How It Works

Both homeowners and building products professionals can create accounts to browse ideas, information, and photos along with create an Ideabook. Much like Pinterest, an Ideabook makes it simple to click a button and add an inspirational design, remodeling, or building photo. Building product companies like architecture firms can use the Ideabook to display how the products can be used. In addition, homeowners can ask questions about specific projects to find out how they can utilize similar products for their projects.

Who Uses It

While the platform is used mainly by homeowners, architects, designers, and builders, several building product companies are taking advantage of the new marketing tool. Check out these building product manufacturer’s Houzz profiles.

Building Product Manufacturer Examples

Coronado Stone Products

  • Houzz: http://www.houzz.com/pro/coronado-stone/coronado-stone-products
  • As a stone products manufacturer with more than 50 styles of stone veneer, brick, and concrete floor tile products, Coronado Stone Products showcases internal and external projects on Houzz. They have an Ideabook with more than 20 different photos showcasing the versatility of their products.

E.T. Moore Manufacturing, Inc.

  • Houzz: http://www.houzz.com/pro/heartpine/e-t-moore-manufacturing-inc
  • E.T. Moore Manufacturing produces reclaimed heart pine products. Ideabooks have been created to show contractors, builders, and architects how the pine can be used for trusses along with other projects. In addition, the company includes a contact name, number, and a company address for quick reference if a customer were interested in purchasing their product.

While creating a profile on Houzz.com might not be right for your organization, being aware of this growing social media platform is. It’s a great tool for your high volume customers – builders, architects and remodelers and can provide both of you a great way to reach end users. For more information, visit www.houzz.com.

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.

The Housing Trend—Where Does Your Market Stand?

22 May

Image courtesy thedailygreen.com

Every month, we get the new housing stats. Stats about everything: starts, permits, vacancies, ownership levels, mortgage rates, foreclosures, and of course, inventory levels.

It seems there’s an entire segment of the industry, and especially the government, responsible for reporting all these statistics.  And those are the factual statistics. Just as often we hear ‘experts’ talking about all the trends and forecasting for the future. I heard someone talking about the expected housing starts in Canada for 2015. Really? Who cares? Aren’t we all trying to ensure that 2012 is actually the recovery year?

There are some interesting facts that we should pay attention to. The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) seems like a reasonable indicator to how your market is doing. According to the HOI, nationwide housing affordability is at a record high. But tight lending conditions continue to create a significant roadblock for many homebuyers.

  • 77.5 percent of all new and existing homes sold in this year’s first quarter were affordable to families earning the national median income of $65,000.  This beats the previous record set in the final quarter of 2011, when 75.9 percent of homes sold were affordable to median-income earners.

“Homes in this year’s first quarter were more affordable than they have been at any time in more than 20 years, yet many potential sales are not happening because of overly tight lending conditions that are keeping hardworking families from obtaining a suitable mortgage,” said Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Gainesville, Fla. “Without this significant hurdle, the housing and economic recovery could be proceeding at a much stronger pace.”

The most affordable major housing market was Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind., where 95.8 percent of homes sold during the period were affordable to households earning the area’s median family income of $66,900.

Also ranking among the most affordable major housing markets were:

  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.
  • Modesto, Calif.
  • Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y

Among smaller housing markets, Cumberland, Md.-W.Va. topped the affordability chart. There, 99 percent of homes sold during the first quarter were affordable to families earning the area’s median income of $53,000.

Other smaller housing markets at the top of the index include:

  • Fairbanks, Alaska
  • Wheeling, W.Va.
  • Kokomo, Ind.
  • Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, Iowa-Ill.

In New York-White Plains-Wayne, N.Y.-N.J., which retained the title of the least affordable major housing market for a 16th consecutive quarter, just 31.5 percent of homes sold in the first three months of this year were affordable to those earning the area’s median income of $68,200.

Other major metros at the bottom of the affordability chart included:

  • San Francisco-San Mateo-Redwood City, Calif.
  • Honolulu
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, Calif.
  • Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, Calif.

Ocean City, N.J., was the least affordable smaller housing market on the list, with 45.9 percent of homes sold in the first quarter affordable to families earning the median income of $71,100.

Other small metros at the bottom of the list included

  • Santa Cruz-Watsonville, Calif.
  • San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles, Calif.
  • Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta, Calif.
  • Laredo, Texas

So what does this mean to a building industry marketer? Focus on a few items that make sense.  This study looks at houses being built and their relative affordability in that specific market.  This tightly focused look at housing in a market is helpful.  Don’t get sidetracked on issues that you can’t impact or change.

Please visit www.nahb.org/hoi for tables, historic data and details.

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.

Signs of Life for Building Products Marketers

19 Apr

We are constantly adapting to the ebbs and flow of the housing and building industry.  DIY customers are reportedly buying more and remodelers are getting their hands dirty again. As a CMO, we need to consider how these changes affect our marketing strategy and spending.

Strong spending on gardening equipment, furniture, and building materials in March could mean homeowners are busily preparing to make their homes more attractive to buyers. Retail and food service sales rose 0.8% from February to a seasonally adjusted $411.07 billion, the Commerce Department reported. But while overall sales were up 6.5% year-over-year, building material and garden equipment jumped over 14%. That bodes well for the housing market, says Susan M. Wachter, professor of real estate and finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania on a recent SmartMoney post. “These retail sales are another an indicator of better home sales ahead,” she says.

Lowe’s recently announced a 13% spike in sales to $11.63 billion helped by an unusually mild winter and better cost control, while Home Depot’s fourth-quarter earnings rose 32% to $774 million. Wachter says the double-digit sales increase in Lowe’s other items like kitchen and bathroom cabinets – typically a big consideration for house-hunters — and new flooring further shows that homeowners may be preparing to increase the appeal of their homes.

Others say home improvers may be biding their time. From the same mentioned SmartMoney post mentioned above, “Lawn care and showcasing nice furniture are always an important aspect of trying to sell a home,” says David Abuaf, chief investment officer at Hefty Wealth Partners in Auburn, Ind. “But I think the March retail figures are driven more by maintenance and upkeep rather than a desire to sell immediately.”

But there have been several other encouraging signs that the housing market may be regaining its pep. Existing home sales recorded the strongest February in five years, according to the National Association of Realtors and, according to the most recent Commerce Department figures, the number of new single-unit houses authorized for construction rose nearly 5% in February. “We expect to see gains through the all-important summer months,” he says. And for homeowners, Wachter says, “It’s better to fluff now to attract buyers.”

Our industry is contingent on the economy and the fickle supply and demand of our customers. We have to make sure we are prepared from season to season, and with the increase of sales at two of the largest building product retailers in our country, we can expect demand to rise as well.

Sources:

Curb Appeal Splurging

Increased Potential of the Green Building Products Market

3 Apr

The Green Home Market Is Expected To Increase Five-Fold by 2016

It seems now more than ever, going green is important to consumers, which makes the building products industry a prime market to target. As a building products CMO, you are likely focused on this growing trend, but the key statistics from McGraw-Hill Construction give us even more of a reason to strive to reach the next level of eco-friendly products.

Going Green

The study showed much anticipation for green building products over the next few years.  It seems, homebuyers are going green for not only higher quality products, but also reduced energy costs. With the price to ‘go green’ declining, it is predicted the green home market is expected to grow from 17% in 2011 up to 38% in 2016 – a 21% increase in five years.

With homebuyers and homeowners wanting what’s best for the environment, it’s no surprise that a lot of builders and remodelers are starting to gear products towards green marketing, but should we all jump on the green building products’ bandwagon?

I think green marketing is the way to go with the green home market increasing and the benefits of going green being positive. 46% of builders and remodelers are finding it a competitive advantage to market themselves as green while 71% of green building firms report it easier to market in a down economy.

McGraw-Hill Construction Statistics

In addition, I think builders, and us alike, know consumers will pay more for green homes. The study shows by 2016 green builders and remodelers show much anticipation:

  • Builders expect to be dedicated to more than 90% of green building projects
  • 33% of builders predict to be dedicated to green work
  • 22% of remodelers speculate to be dedicated to green work, triple the 8% in 2011

With the green home market expected to increase five fold in the next few years, it’s essential to look into your strategic initiatives and ensure ‘green’ is a part of your plan.

To read more: Green Homes to Grow Five Fold