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The Building Products Tablet Revolution

16 Oct

Masonite’s homepage, as seen on an Apple® iPad®

Are Your Dealers There Yet?

In the marketing world, we’re consistently early adopters of new technology, from social networks (anybody remember Gowalla, Brightkite or Whrrl?) to devices like tablets. By now, if you’re like many of us, you may have already gotten rid of your first or second tablet and upgraded. With normalcy like that, it’s easy to forget that in our industry, technology isn’t always adopted so quickly. This is especially true at lumber and building material dealers. To help, we’ve put together a quick list of ways dealers should be thinking about tablets as a marketing tool, written for them:


  • Is your website built to work correctly on tablet devices? Some websites require little or no change here, unlike mobile devices (smartphones). But if your website utilizes Adobe® Flash® technology, it’s time to budget for some website upgrades. Talk with whomever manages your website about updating anything created in Flash to work using JavaScript® or HTML5, both of which are as close to universally acceptable programming languages as you can get, and can duplicate a lot of what Flash offered.
  • Resource – a short guide to the differences between traditional desktops/laptops and tablets when designing:


  • Looking for a relatively inexpensive way to incorporate displays into your showroom? Tablets can be a perfect way to showcase video of a specific product, offer a way to view your entire product offering, handle special orders, contest entries and more. And thanks to other companies using them in showrooms, as well as tradeshows, there’s a wide selection of applications to utilize, as well as lots of different mounts, podiums, frames and other ways to securely utilize your tablet in a showroom.
  • Resource – how a remodeling company uses tablets as a mobile showroom:


  • If your organization has outside salespeople, tablets can be a huge time and money-saver. If you utilize one of the major CRMs, such as SalesForce®, Sugar CRM® or Microsoft® Dynamics®, there’s an app designed that your salespeople can use to manage the sales process while they’re traveling. If you’ve ever had issues getting salespeople to fill out activity reports, giving them the ability to do it via a tablet could be the answer.
  • Even if you’re not ready for CRM management via tablet, they can still prove useful for a salesperson in the field. Instead of lugging around order forms, brochures, catalogs and more, you could equip your salespeople with a tablet, loaded with all the product catalogs in PDF form, which can easily be reviewed with a customer/prospect and emailed right to that person if needed. Those catalogs could be supplemented with video or a photo gallery showing your company’s work in that product category. Once a quote is needed or a sale ready to submit, the entire thing could be done right there on the tablet. Orders can be submitted faster and you should be able to eliminate the need for someone back at the office to enter orders that were written down or submitted by fax.
  • You can even collect payments from customers via credit card, securely & instantly, using a tablet!
  • Resource – here’s how a Midwestern builder revamped their production process using tablets:
  • Resource – here’s how an Arizona independent car dealer remade its sales process around tablets:

The possibilities of what can be done with a tablet continue to grow; remember, we’re only in the 3rd year of them reaching the critical mass stage! Beyond the flashy, “cool” factor of using one, there are true, tangible cost savings that can be realized by incorporating them into your business in places that make the most sense. Ready to get started but not sure how? Check out Apple’s guide to using tablets for business:

Which Presentation Tool is Right for You?

17 May

A Building Product Marketers’ Guide to PowerPoint, Keynote, and Prezi

[This is the first in a series of posts by guest-blogger Matt Hillman, ER Marketing’s creative director.]

In the nonstop effort to organize our thoughts and get noticed during sales calls or pitch meetings, we have all turned to at least one of them: presentation programs. Not long ago, PowerPoint was the only show in town, and remains synonymous with the entire category. But now there are newer options, some that can truly dazzle—if not nauseate—your audience.

In the simplest of terms, they’re all pretty much the same—easy ways to present customized content through simple layouts using audio-visual technology. But that’s where the similarities end.

Each offers a laundry list of features and uses that can overwhelm the part-time presenter.

So how to you figure out what works best for you?

Consider two elements of your presentation:

  • How linear is the structure?
  • How dynamic is the material (and presenter)?

Then compare that to the following diagram.

©ER Marketing 2012 – please do not reuse without permission

Microsoft Powerpoint
The gold standard of presentation tools, PowerPoint is the go-to option for many businesses, well-suited to a variety of styles and situations.
Pros: Readily available; familiarity makes it easy to use; dependable option.
Cons: The all-too-common temptation to overload with info, turning a visual presentation into a printable document; tired graphics.

Apple Keynote
Much more than “PowerPoint for Macs”, Keynote features a richer selection of templates and transitions, as well as dynamic animations, with a simple interface.
Pros: Simple interface; fresh graphics and animations; version available for iPad; opens and saves PowerPoint files; relatively inexpensive.
Cons: Mac platform; can feel counter-intuitive to a PowerPoint whiz.

Gaining popularity dramatically since 2011, web-based Prezi is the hot option right now, offering a fresh format and fun zoom-and-pan navigation.
Pros: Web-based accessibility; great way to show high-level connections in complicated information; increases presenter “cool factor” significantly.
Cons: While simple, the interface takes time to learn; shift in thinking about content structure; transitions known to sicken some; no printouts; more difficult to edit which can cause a problem when multiple people are involved in creating a presentation.

Call it whiteboard, dry-erase, presentation board or something else, the low-tech wall-mounted option still has its place in the presentation continuum.
Pros: 100% customizable; one of the easiest ways to lead and capture dialogue, discussions, and brainstorming.
Cons: Complete freedom puts more onus on presenter to stay on-topic; bad handwriting is a deal-breaker; no printouts.

So which is the “right choice”? That’s not a simple question to answer. Ultimately that depends on the presenter, the content, and the audience.

Watch for a series of posts where I’ll touch on the best ways to utilize each of these tools—simple DOs and DON’Ts to make the most of the new & hot as well as the tried & true.

Where does Innovation come from for Building Product Industry Marketers?

15 May

Linked from

How can you drive creative thinking, which leads to innovation, in your organization?

As building product marketers, most of us are hard-core product marketers that have seen flashes of innovation over the years either in products, service offerings or unique marketing programs. But, how do you translate innovation and innovative thinking into everything?

First off, creative thinking drives innovation, but at this point, it’s important to define creativity. According to, it’s “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.” According to a study by Adobe, a vast majority of people around the world know creativity is crucial to economic expansion, the development of society, and their personal growth. Yet, only 1 in 4 actually feel they are living up to their creative potential. What’s the cause of this “creativity gap”? Let’s explore the key findings.

  1. Creativity is important: 80% of the people surveyed believe creativity is key to economic growth and 64% believe it is valuable to society. And 75% feel that being creative enables them to make a difference in their own lives, while another two-third believe it helps them make a difference in the lives of others. In a world in which innovation drives the economy and in which more people than ever have the opportunity to be creative, this is not surprising. And it’s good news. But here’s the rub.
  2. Creativity is not happening as often as it could or should: While 80% of respondents felt we all have the potential to be creative, they also stated that they spend only a third of their time being creative and only 25% felt they were living up to their creative potential. So what are the inhibitors to creativity?
  3. Organizational behavior is one key constraint: 2 institutions, schools and businesses, both have a tendency to inhibit creativity. Almost 60% felt creativity was stifled in our educational systems. And while a slight majority of people felt companies were demanding more creativity, 75% felt pressure to be productive was limiting creative potential in the workplace.
  4. Daily pressures and habits are the other limiting factor – by this I mean a lack of time and money. 1 contributing factor to lack of “creative” time is the increase in the amount of time we spend online. So what can be done?
  5. Provide the time, training, tools, and environment to enable creativity: these were the items the study found as most helpful towards increasing creativity. For those of us in leadership roles at business, if we truly demand creativity, we must empower our people to be creative by ensuring they have the means and permission to actually do so.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we, as individuals, must not use the limits of organizations as an excuse to not be creative. It is up to each of us to get inspired, make the time, equip ourselves with the means and provide an environment to allow our creativity to flourish. It’s crucial to our own well being and the well being of the building materials industry in the next decade. Creativity that leads to innovation will be what creates the new norm for our industry and maybe help us all stop talking about the “old days” before the recession.

Further Reading

How can Building Product Marketers create their own “World-Wide Rave?”

11 May

Image linked from

6 Core Rules to help you get people talking about your ideas from David Meerman Scott.

I read a book a few years back and thought the ideas were powerful enough to pick it up and review again. The book is World Wide RAVE by David Meerman Scott. The basic idea behind the book is to create triggers that get millions of people to spread your ideas and share your stories. In the world of building product marketing, we know how important relationships are, and years ago we called this “word of mouth” marketing. With technology, those basic ideas can be infused with steroids and put into overdrive. It may sound obvious but, in order for people to share your ideas and stories on the web, you must make something worth sharing.

Basically, Meerman contends there are 6 core rules:

  1. Nobody cares about your products (except you). Yes, sad but true. People care about themselves and ways to solve their problems.
  2. No coercion required. You don’t have to trick people to engage with free or % off deals, engage them with relevant content – no coercion required.
  3. Lose control. You have to be willing to lose control of your messages for this concept to even have a chance of success.
  4. Put down roots. It’s simple and the same here as in the off-line world. If you want to receive a letter, you need to send one to someone first. If you want your ideas to spread, you need to be involved in online communities of people who actively share.
  5. Create triggers that encourage people to share. Your content needs to solve someone’s problem, be interesting, or funny, or even outrageous to gain traction.
  6. Point the world to your virtual doorstep. Engaging content drives better search results.

Simple right? And, if it is, why are so many organizations still not doing this? Well, Scott offers up 26 different challenges to us to get past the logjam; some of my favorites:

  1. You have to answer the questions—what is interesting about you and your organization? Why do people like to do business with you? How are you and your organization unique?
  2. Never talk about your products and services again. Focus on your buyer personae and how you can solve problems for them.
  3. How can you push the envelope of what is tried and true in your market? What can you talk about that others are too scared to touch?
  4. Every company has something fascinating or unique that can be turned into a video that people want to share.
  5. What proprietary data and metrics do you have that would be valuable to others? Publish them.
  6. Think about how your organization can do work with bloggers or other influential online contributors such as podcasters and video bloggers. Include them in your press conferences, schedule interviews with them along with any traditional media journalists or include them in your product tests.

Just think about the last time you were at the stadium watching your favorite sports team – one person stood up and started the wave and it quickly spread to thousands. Get out there and create your “rave.”

Videos and How They Can Go Viral for Building Product Marketers

12 Apr

Image linked from

Just make it go viral! We hear that all the time from building product marketers that want to gain exposure, early adoption and excitement around product launches. Just shoot a video, post it on YouTube and let’s wait for the millions of views we are going to receive. If only it were that easy!

Because of a few well-publicized success stories like Orabrush, “viral video” has become a common term used throughout the marketing world, and it’s promoted the misconception that putting a video online equals a viral video. That’s no different from saying you want a “sales-driving print ad” or a “ROI-generating sales promotion.” We can plan a strategy around that desired result but calling it “viral” won’t make it so – only your audience can do it. However, there are tactics we can employ to up the probability of it.

Understand what really makes a video go viral
At the South by Southwest panel “Viral is a Dirty Word,” Ogilvy’s Robert John Davis and Jeremy Sanchez explained that distribution and promotion are still critical to the process as well as having a plan for the creative execution. Here’s some of the high points:

1. Have a plan. No one is going to magically stumble across a video that no one put any effort into planning and producing — much less watch and share it. Start by pulling trending words from Google and look for “trigger” terms that will help craft a message your audience will find valuable. When coming up with your concept, look to target specific groups of people, rather than try to pull off a concept you think appeals to everyone. Keep in mind that most viewers who start your video won’t finish it, so don’t put a URL or call to action during the last few seconds. Get them in early. Lastly, think about the platforms your audience views your videos on, because the aesthetic quality will change from desktop, to tablet, to mobile. The Multi-Channel Funnel feature of Google Analytics  is a great way to harvest this data.

2. Don’t forget about distribution and promotion. We tend to think that “viral” means free. Not the case. Videos take time to catch fire, and if you want them to make their way around the Web, you have to remember to do more than just tagging and posting to social networks.

3. There are 3 kinds of media you can use to complete the promotion circle: paid, earned and owned. Paid media is the most important to marketers, because regardless of the creativity behind your video, there’s a 99% chance that it will not reach a fraction of the audience you have in mind unless you pay to promote it. You can also use promotions and content partnerships to your advantage if you’ve got the budget to fit them in. Earned comes from sharing, blog features and embeds on YouTube, which is a direct result of proper tagging, relevant content and a little of the paid stuff paying off. Of course, owned media is you promoting through your own channels.

So, we know videos work. We know great content can get momentum behind it and gain exposure, but remember to think about it as one more part of the puzzle of your campaign launch and deploy sound marketing logic to get the exposure you crave.

Building Industry Product Placement Know-How for CMOs

2 Feb

3 smart choices in a market of contextualized commerce.

What is contextualized commerce, really? It is the act of placing a brand into a specific context, it’s also a buzz word that is making it’s way around the marketing circuit. Michela O’Connor Abrams, president and publisher of Dwell magazine stated, “We believe contextualized commerce is the future. We believe everybody, no matter from which point they’re starting, now is going in that direction.”

But what does it mean for building industry marketers? My take is that any time we align a brand with another or with information from an outside source, we are adding a new context for the brand. The success of the products are now placed in someone elses hands besides it’s own brand. Two heads can be better than one, but it really depends on the head.

To help you navigate this slippery slope, here are 3 tips to keep in mind for product placement. Some of these are just common sense, but serve as great reminders.

3 Tips for Contextualized Brand Placement

  1. Market your brand rather than a product: Brett Renwick wrote a great article for Advertising Age emphasizing that product shots get old fast and you should ‘give consumers something to marvel at on repeat viewings.’ The point he makes is skewed to film product placement, but relevant for any marketing tactic. It’s important to always ask yourself, what is the life cycle of your marketing medium? You don’t want it’s relevance cut short due to an outdated product.
  2. Align your brand with brands you respect: As the saying goes, you are the company you keep. So make sure your partnering company is adding to the value of your brand. Going with a partner based on popularity alone might be the wrong fit.
  3. Employ tactics that are smart, not sleazy: Add context that is of value to your brand and to your customers and be authentic. That ad disguised as editorial content could be coming off as a scam more so than clever positioning. If you’re going to trick someone into noticing your brand, it’s best not to get caught. Or rather,  it’s best to try to not trick them in the first place.


Additional Articles:
Whether it’s called “branded entertainment,” “product integration” or “contextualized commerce,” product placement is taking many forms:

2012 Building Industry Color Forecast

27 Jan

Color trends for 2012 show orange, tropical, and neutral tones. 

We know as building material marketers that colors can evoke certain emotions, responses, and outcomes.  We also know that color trends are defined years in advance and we use that information in our product development.  Although it is too late to affect product color decisions for the next several years, we can still make color selections in our marketing materials that help get the response we desire.  So, how should we think about color trends for 2012 and how could we use them in our marketing campaigns?

1. Reddish orange Pantone, the color matching experts for fashion, home and design, dub “Tangerine Tango” as color of the year for 2012. According to Bruce Knott of the Color Marketing Group at Turf, we can ”…look for saturated reds and oranges to be strong in the marketplace.” Red is known for creating excitement. This shade will make your marketing materials stand out in a big way.

Shades to try:

  • For CMYK/Print: 0 82 80 0
  • For RGB/Screen: 225 82 61
  • Paint: Daredevil – Sherwin Williams
Where you might find it in the Building Industry:
  • A Front Door
  • Accent pillows
Ideas for Marketing:
  • Headlines
  • “click here” web buttons

2. Sea Green Tropical hues like this one keep your marketing looking fresh.

Shades to try:

  • For CMYK/Print: 50 0 26 0
  • For RGB/Screen: 87 199 194
  • Paint: Refresh – Sherwin Williams
Where you might find it in the Building Industry:
  • Tile
  • An accent wall
Ideas for Marketing:
  • Headlines
  • blocks of color

3. Neutral gray Help balance the strong accent colors in your marketing with a neutral gray. According to Knott for 2012, “Neutrals representing soft off-whites to mid-tone grays to soft blacks are the largest color block of the forecast.”

Shades to try:

  • For CMYK/Print: 0 5 6 16
  • For RGB/Screen: 218 208 202
  • Paint: Sharkey Gray – Martha Stewart Living
Where you might find it in the Building Industry:
  • Walls
  • Siding
Ideas for Marketing:
  • Backgrounds
  • Main text

4. Warm Taupe: Earthy tones remain a favorite among the masses and color forecast experts. Using this shade instead of black or grey will make your marketing more personable.

Shades to try:

  • For CMYK/Print: 0 12 35 25
  • For RGB/Screen: 200 177 137
  • Paint: Heath – Martha Stewart Living
Where you might find it in the Building Industry:
  • Stone
  • Trim
Ideas for Marketing:
  • Text
  • Backgrounds

5. Amber. This sunny shade is calling attention. Use it to call out an offer or anywhere you’d like to brighten up your marketing.

Shades to try:

  • For CMYK/Print: 0 11 69 0
  • For RGB/Screen: 255 222 108
  • Paint: Cornbread – Martha Stewart Living
Where you might find it in the Building Industry:
  • An Accent Wall
  • Pottery or other accents
Ideas for Marketing:
  • Bullet points
  • Highlight key info

EDIT: on May 20, 2012, Pantone unveiled 336 new colors – see more on them here.


Additional Articles

A New Social Media Outlet for Building Product Marketers

19 Jan

New service can help you to use virtual pin boards to showcase your building product brand. can be used to build brand recognition, share ideas, research competition and make connections. Voted one of the 50 best websites of 2011 by Time Magazine, Pinterest is a social media site, still in beta development, based on ideas and images. While currently a mostly female demographic, it is gaining popularity among a broader audience.

For the building industry, Pinterest can be a resource for putting products in front of consumers, while they are actively seeking inspiration. Pinterest says, “With millions of new pins added every week, Pinterest is connecting people all over the world based on shared tastes and interests.” And HOME DECOR is one of the top categories for pinboards, people are using this site to find ideas and improvements for their homes.

How it works

Anyone can view pin boards that have been posted to the site. A pin board is a collection of images that can link to source sites. You can view an individual’s board or search to view related images.

To create a pin board for others to view you can either request an invite at OR leave a comment with your email address and we will invite you.

Also featured is a “pin it” button you can add to your bookmarks bar, which according to Pinterest, “ lets you grab an image from any website and add it to one of your pinboards. When you pin from a website, we automatically grab the source link so we can credit the original creator.”

3 rules for marketers using Pinterest

  1. DO use other’s pin boards to research the market.
  2. DO use your pin board to show off projects you are proud of and share ideas.
  3. DON’T post ads or offers. Anything viewed as self promotion will turn off users and violates Pinterest’s rules of etiquette.

Marketers who are smart about using Pinterest can find it a valuable tool for building brand recognition, sharing ideas, and making connections.


Additional Articles: