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5 Big Myths About Building Product Branding

16 May

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What you don’t know could be hurting yours

Brand is a fun topic and lots of people have opinions about it. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information out there and that makes it more complicated than it should be, not to mention the fact that many people throw the term “brand” around without really understanding it. So here’s a short list of five simple myths about brand that every building products marketer should know:

#1 – Brand is a name or logo

Well, kinda. Those are certainly things a brand is associated with, basically the trigger for a brand, what identifies one brand from another. But to understand brand, we need to go deeper. My favorite explanation of brand comes from Marty Neumeier, who suggests brand is “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.” And that’s an important distinction to make, especially when we consider Myth #2…

#2 – You own a brand

Nope…and that is completely counter-intuitive. You see, you might own a name or logo, plus a tagline, website content, etc., but those “gut feelings” people have are uniquely theirs. You can’t own that, and yet that is the essence of a brand. So what you CAN own is the elements that impact the experience people have with your product or service—and you should, because it’s exactly what everyone else is using to develop their perception of your brand. From obvious things like quality and innovation to subtler items like website design and on-hold wait times, the elements that impact your brand are all around you.

#3 – Branding is putting our name or logo on things

It’s certainly a part of it, but only a small one. Want to know the biggest, baddest, most impactful way to build a successful brand? Here it is, free of charge: Make the experience match the expectation. There it is, the Golden Ticket to developing your very own Google or Apple (or Therma Tru or Masonite, for that matter). Of course, knowing it and doing it are completely different challenges. But the fact is Apple is known for innovation, Google is associated with results, and Amazon is trusted, not by accident, but because way more often than not, those brands have delighted people by delivering beyond expectation. That’s a positive experience consistently delivered, which builds trust, which builds brand.

#4 – Branding is the same as marketing

They are certainly related, but definitely not the same. Think of it this way: marketing is about delivering the message to your audience; branding is about delivering TO the message FOR your audience. In fact, an effective way to think about branding is “experience control”—all the work, effort, and strategy to ensure that what people experience is on target. That can be everything from how CSRs answer the phone to the quality of paper used in sales collateral. Consider that no matter how slick and new an airliner may be, the company logo sparkling on the bulkhead, that isn’t the airline’s brand; the surly flight attendant who snaps at you and screws up your drink order, for you, THAT is the brand. Ultimately, everything in the brand experience needs to deliver to a single message to build trust and preference.

#5 – There’s no such thing as bad press

This lazy approach to branding has seen some impressive names disappear over the years, even more so with the emergence of social media and the easy sharing of experiences. Today, unrestricted by any professional oversight, every blogger, every Yelp star, every Google “+1” is all potentially a part of what people think (and feel!) about your brand. And the worst thing to do when something negative is shared is to do nothing at all, hoping the problem will go away. It won’t. So it’s important to keep the experiences and the conversations focused on the positive.

So what does this mean for you and your brand? Well, awareness is the first (and biggest) step. Always consider your brand from the audience perspective; not by what you’re doing, but by what they are experiencing. Knowing and understanding that perspective is critical to building a brand experience that can meet the expectations of those who will build—and talk about—your brand.

What the Pro Should Want From a Building Materials Manufacturer

23 Apr

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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.

Are the 4P’s relevant anymore in building products marketing?

26 Mar

Internet Being Left Behind

B2B has changed – the 4P’s don’t apply

Most marketers today know or knew of the 4Ps. They are the traditional marketing mix–product, place, price, and promotion. But these narrow views are increasingly battling with the essential need to deliver solutions.

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Richard Ettenson, Eduardo Conrado, and Jonathan Knowles outline how B2B marketers need to adopt a new framework focused on solutions, access, value, and education–SAVE.

Having heard Eduardo, the SVP of Marketing and IT for Motorola Solutions, present how they transformed their marketing and in turn their company by utilizing the SAVE method, I wanted to share some of the key points from their article.

In a five-year study involving more than 500 managers and customers in multiple countries and across a wide range of B2B industries, they found that the 4P’s model undercuts B2B marketers in three important ways:

  1. It leads their marketing and sales teams to stress product technology and quality even though these are no longer differentiators but are simply the cost of entry.
  2. It underemphasizes the need to build a robust case for the superior value of their solutions.
  3. It distracts them from leveraging their advantage as a trusted source of diagnostics, advice, and problem solving.

Eduardo explained how Motorola Solutions used SAVE to guide the restructuring of its marketing organization and its go-to-market strategies in the government and enterprise sectors. Along the way the firm identified three requirements for successfully making the shift from 4 P’s thinking to SAVE.

  1. Management must encourage a solutions mind-set throughout the organization.
  2. Management needs to ensure that the design of the marketing organization reflects and reinforces the customer-centric focus.
  3. Management must create collaboration between the marketing and sales organizations and with the development and delivery teams.

Notice how all three of his points begin with Management. This type of fundamental shift must be embraced at the highest levels. Eduardo contributes a lot of success to the fact his CEO fully endorsed and supported this new way of thinking.

It also won’t happen overnight, but as marketers its our job, now more than ever, to help drive the company in new directions and to shape our message both internally and externally.

Creativity in the Building Products Industry

22 Mar

Practice Creativity to Get the Best Results

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“To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

Creativity is a funny thing. People often label themselves as creative, or more likely they say, “Oh, I’m not the creative type.” If you’re in the former category, its time to rethink your creative position.

Especially in the building products industry, creativity is more than designing a great product, putting together a fabulous sales presentation or making your meetings exciting.

Creativity sparks innovation. Have you heard of the artist Henri Matisse? Old age and illness made using his hands more difficult and he became bedridden, but he didn’t let it be a hindrance. In fact, he made a breakthrough in his final years with a new form of art. He found that he could still hold and use scissors, so he cut out colored paper to form beautiful work. He made creativity a choice. He opened his mind to being creative and reached outside of his comfort zone. Are you doing the same thing? Here are some tips to add creativity to your life:

  1. Stretch yourself. Be like Matisse and don’t accept limitations. Set a goal that makes you make choices that you haven’t had to make before. This could be as simple as going for a walk over lunch, meeting in a new spot or rearranging the furniture in your office.
  2. Choose to connect with life and other people. Start a creative network of people that you can share ideas with and provide support to each other. This could be a professional organization in your area, a handful of like-minded people in the office or a new group waiting to be formed.
  3. Change. Think about the rules in your life… Do they need to change? Change can be scary, but it can also be powerful. The building products industry has been doing a lot of things because ‘it’s the way its been done’ but our industry is changing and now is the time to make changes to thrive in the future.

Bottom line – choose to be the best you. Take the best ideas around you and improve on them and don’t hold back for the risk of failing.

For more information, check out Sam Harrison of Zing Zone, a creative author and speaker.

Find time for what matters in the building products industry

19 Mar

Why We Need to Focus on Purpose in Building Products Marketing

Focus on your business, your customers, and yourself

Too often we spend time figuring out how to be more efficient, effective, or impactful in what we do in our lives without determining if what we are doing really matters.

In the rush to check it off the list, or show the boss how great our PowerPoint looks, we don’t ask the really tough question – Does this really matter?

I’m not recommending we all move to Tibet and commune in silence for the next 6 months, but what I am advocating is that as a marketing leader in this industry you need to know how to prioritize what’s key to the business.

You have to answer these 3 questions about your brand/company –

  1. Who you are
  2. What you do
  3. Why it matters

Too often companies have lost sight of these 3 salient points. These 3 answers form the foundation of your brand experience, but more importantly they provide you with the answer to the questions – Is this important? Does it matter? Should I be spending time on this?

Because if what you’re doing doesn’t help support at least the answer to one of these 3 questions, you probably should move on. I’m not encouraging you to tell the board at the next quarterly meeting that you’re not doing something, but I am encouraging you to know why it matters, it at all.

It seems so simple, right? If it were there wouldn’t be thousands of business books written every year. Many of them with titles about Getting More Done, First Things First, What Should I Do With My Life, and many, many more.

A quick Google search of the term ‘What’s Important’ returned 1,130,000,000 results. Yes, there are over 1.1 billion results when Google is asked ‘What’s Important’. No wonder we all are tired or overwhelmed or confused or simply ready to move to that Tibetan monastery.

So stop solving every issue. Focus on those 3 fundamental questions and get the important things done (and hurry because you’re late on everything else).

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

6 Trends in 2013 for Building Product Marketers, Part 4

20 Dec

Navigate the channel with these 2013 trends

Empower Your Marketing Department

Throughout the week I’ve discussed 6 Trends to look for in 2013 (read trends 1 and 2, trends 3 and 4, trend 5 here) and I’m here to discuss trend 6 – empowering your marketing department in the new year. Investing time and money into employee training allows your marketing team to take the knowledge and apply it to their work and your business.

Trend 6 – Empower Your Marketing Department

Marketing budgets in the past have been focused on understanding the target audience rather than each individual in the segment. In 2013, it is predicted more time will be spent on understanding each customer in order to provide a personalized message like mentioned in Part 2. It’s important for you and your staff as building product marketers to take advantage of the new technologies available from analytics to social media to utilizing new trends like mobile marketing. Consider the following marketing roles to incorporate into your marketing strategy in 2013:

  • Educate the buyer in every step of the buying process – Create messaging for each step in the sales funnel and develop a strategy to reach prospects and customers.
  • Create a social strategy – Utilizing a social strategy that connects your customers and you’re your brand message to help build your social audience.
  • Invest time and money for training and knowledge – Allow your employees the opportunity to learn about the latest technology via webinars, podcasts, networking events, and conferences.

Recap: 2013 Trends

With the new year approaching, it’s important to make marketing resolutions that will make an impact in 2013. I will review the 6 trends you should consider:

  • Trend 1 – Use actionable data
  • Trend 2 – Listen to your customer
  • Trend 3 – Personalize your message
  • Trend 4 – Create a mobile-friendly experience
  • Trend 5 – Join the social conversation
  • Trend 6 – Empower your marketing department

While not all six trends may be possible for your company to implement at this time, try to incorporate each tactic, over the next year. If you have a larger marketing department, consider splitting roles between different positions. Buyer preferences have been changing and that will be evident in 2013. It is time to update your marketing strategy to fit with the social channel as discussed in Part 3, rise in mobile devices and tablets, and your customer as an individual.

6 Trends in 2013 for Building Product Marketers, Part 3

19 Dec

Join the Social Conversation

In Part 1 and Part 2 of the series, I’ve discussed 4 trends that you will see in 2013 and what you should utilize to strengthen your business today. Marketing and design departments need to work as a team to provide prospects and customers a better buying experience with a personalized message. With departments working as a cohesive whole, goals and maximum ROI can be achieved in the approaching year.

Trend 5 – Join the Social Conversation

At this point, social media should play a significant role in your building product company’s marketing strategy. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Houzz create unique interaction and engagement between your company and consumers.

Search – The decision-making process starts by researching products reviews, information, pricing, etc. via search engines. Use SEO-friendly keywords on your social media posts to strengthen your company’s SEO rank. Search engines factor everything from your social page names to the content posted on your social sites to your content that’s retweeted.

Websites – Customers value peer recommendations over a corporate message when making a purchasing decision. Allow customers to rate your products and highlight this on your website and share with their social sites. This provides your visitors a voice from real customers.

Email – Social media and email should be incorporated while using a more relatable voice. Make sure content released has a human voice that customers can relate to. Try incorporating the use of social and peer content by linking your product reviews to the email.

Content – Sharing content is important and a tactic your company can utilize. Consider including social sharing links in emails, product guides and other marketing collateral.

Data – The social login is becoming popular when registering on a website because it allows customers to easily connect with their social media account, eliminating long registration forms. You can use this social data by utilizing birthdays and having sales representatives reach out to their customers to create a personalized experience.

Social media provides new opportunities in 2013, and it’s important to utilize the tools that are provided like personalized Facebook advertisements and new sites that could benefit the building products industry like Houzz. Check back to learn about empowering your employees in the marketing department. Investing time and money connects employees plus educates your employees on new tactics and technology to utilize in your business.

6 Trends in 2013 for Building Product Marketers, Part 2

18 Dec

Tools for providing a better customer experience

Personalize Your Message and Create A Mobile-Friendly Experience

Earlier this week, I discussed 2 of the 6 trends to look for in 2013 by SilverPop, and I’m here to discuss 2 more trends to consider in the new year. With technology changing, it’s important for the building products industry to jump on board before being left behind.

Trend 3 – Personalize Your Message

With mobile devices and smart phones readily available, consumers are utilizing social networks, forums, and online reviews to make buying decisions.

  • Before a customer reaches out to your company: The customer has researched your company and product online.
  • When a customer reaches out to your company for the first time: The customer is already more than half way through the purchasing process.

Since customers are making purchasing decisions before ever reaching out to your company, it’s important to make your content more personalized. Utilizing data and information on where your customer or prospect stands in the buying process can help your company create messaging and dialogue. As a building products marketer, take advantage of the prospects or customers status in the buying process to create messaging for communication like emails that focus on their stage:

  • Prospect – Provide your product details and offer an incentive to transform the prospect into a customer.
  • Recently Made a Purchase – Send accessory recommendations or How-To videos for utilizing the product.
  • Post-Purchase – Update the customer with product information, updates, and new models plus invite them to follow you on your company’s social networks.

Trend 4 – Create a Mobile-Friendly Experience

Consumers can access information about your company easily on their phones. It is estimated in the United States there are approximately 120 million people who own smartphones. By 2016, smartphone ownership is projected to increase to approximately 200 million users, and by 2015, tablet ownership is projected to increase to 133 million.

With more and more people using mobile devices each year, it’s crucial to align your company and brand with these devices. Involve your interactive and design teams in the marketing process. Utilize these tactics to optimize your company communication for mobile devices:

  • Easily Scan Emails and Website – Make your content easily scannable by highlighting main points and adding a call-to-action on the first screen.
  • Utilize Tap Instead of Click – Provide a user-friendly experience by increasing font size, adding spaces between links, and adding buttons for tapping.
  • Provide Call-To-Action Buttons – Add a call-to-action button to simplify tapping for more information and make sure it is prominent on the page so it’s easily spotted when scanning.
  • Simplify Your Conversions – Track one conversion as opposed to three or four conversions. Try tracking the number of people who click on the call-to-action button for more information.

Investing time to create a positive customer experience will change your business in the long run. Check out my next blog post, to learn how social media is now affecting every channel of communication and how marketing departments must change to better deliver increased buyer results. If you missed Part 1, don’t forget to review how you can use actionable data and better listen to your customer to increase your customer’s experience in 2013.