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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

Why We Need to Focus on Purpose in Building Products Marketing

2 Aug

Image linked from

Asking Your Company ‘Why Do We do This?’

Recently we heard Eduardo Conrado, the SVP and CMO of Motorola Solutions, talk about the process their company went through as they split Motorola into two companies; the B2C mobile company (Mobility) and the B2B organization (Solutions) Conrado helps to lead.

The decision to focus on Purpose helped define who the company would be – but initially sounded all too familiar to this experienced corporate marketer.

“We are going to create this new company (or product), so marketing and the agency are going to create a new name, a new logo, some brand guidelines and a bunch of ads. Don’t worry Mr. CEO, it’ll be fine.”

Conrado told of how he was almost at that same point and he knew he needed to stop the process and define ‘why’ it mattered. Not only to customers, but dealers and associates worldwide.

What they found was something we can all use as marketers in this new era of marketing.  A quote referenced from The Boston Consulting Group stated, “Marketing will not return to normal. It is vital for marketers to embrace new marketing approaches, vehicles and organizational approaches, while recognizing that there is no set recipe for success…in today’s world, marketing by the books is the biggest risk of all.”  Wow, aren’t you excited about your career choice?

Three key points about why Purpose should matter to you and your organization:

  1. Purpose Motivates Employees. If employees understand and believe in what you’re trying to achieve, they are more engaged and motivated. They understand they are part of something that matters and they are proud of where they work and what they do. In the tough housing market we are all working in, having motivated employees has never been more important.
  2. Purpose Gives Leaders a Personal Platform. As a leader in your company, defining the company’s purpose also defines your purpose. Where do you want to take the company? What do you want to accomplish that lasts beyond your tenure?
  3. Purpose Drives Sustainable Advantage. This is where the rubber meets the road. Organizations driven by purpose and values outperformed the general market 15:1 and outperformed comparison companies 6:1.* Now who couldn’t use that type of performance right now?

*From the book, Built to Last (Jim Collins)

Another key point from this presentation was the fact that Motorola Solutions, a technology innovator for decades, had to stop thinking of themselves as a technology company but rather view themselves as a solutions company.  Solutions that make a difference in people’s lives – everyday.

So how do we apply this thinking to our industry? We focus ourselves, our team, our suppliers, our channel partners and even our customers on the purpose of what we do every day. Ask yourself ‘why do we do this’ or ‘why does this matter’ and see what type of answer you get. If it’s the same as your competitor, it’s probably time to rethink everything.

What “The Ultimate Question 2.0” Means for Building Product Marketers

2 Jul

Image linked from – click to buy this book on

What a Net Promoter Score is and how it could be useful for you

I had the opportunity to attend the 2012 International Business Marketing Association Conference in Chicago early this month. One keynote speaker was Fred Reichheld with Bain & Company and the author of “ The Ultimate Question 2.0.”

The book title refers to a question of ultimate importance: ‘On a zero-to-ten scale, how likely is it that you would recommend us (or this product/service/brand) to a family member, friend or colleague?’

As Reichheld explains, the phrasing of that question is ‘a shorthand wording of a more basic question, which is, “Have we treated you right, in a manner that is worthy of your loyalty?” But the question really wasn’t [and isn’t] the heart of things. After all, no company can expect to increase its growth or profitability merely by conducting surveys, however the question or questions might be phrased.

He provides a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective management system that has three central components:

  1. Categorizing customers into one of three categories (i.e. Promoters, Passives, and Detractors) through a simply survey
  2. Create an easy-to-understand score based on that categorization
  3. Frame that for everyone in the organization so people can be accountable for change because measurement creates accountability.

With regard to the scores themselves, Promoters are those who provide a rating of 9 or 10, Passives 7 or 8, and Detractors 6 or less. An example, let’s say 100 customers respond: 35 Promoters, 45 Passives, and 20 Detractors. The net score is determined by subtracting the total number of Detractors (i.e. 20) from the total number of Promoters (i.e. 35) and that is 15. That is a baseline against which subsequent efforts to increase Promoters and decrease Detractors are measured. Reichheld calls it the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

In my opinion, with all due respect to the importance of the NPS metrics, the implications of the measurements are of far greater importance. Think of the measurements as a mirror, one that reflects multiple realities. Only by understanding those realities – and how to respond to each effectively – can appropriate change initiatives be initiated to achieve and then sustain a never-ending process of improvement. Flexible it may be, but without the following elements, NPS just won’t work. They are:

  1. Companies must systematically categorize Promoters and Detractors in a continuous, timely, and accurate manner. I think it is also important to note when Promoters become Passives and when Detractors become Passives. Most important might be to UNDERSTAND WHY.
  2. Companies must create closed-loop learning and improvement processes and build them into their daily operations. In other words, NPS is not, and must never be viewed as, a customer relations improvement initiative or even a program. It must become and then remain an “organic” system.
  3. CEOs and other leaders must treat creating more Promoters and fewer Detractors as mission critical. I’d say “mission imperative”. As Peter Drucker once observed, ‘Without customers, there is no business.’

The NPS approach is a business philosophy, a system of operational practices, and a leadership commitment, not just another way to measure customer satisfaction: that is the critical difference. The first half of the book explains the system; the second half shares stories of how different companies have embraced the idea. Check it out, it is definitely worth the read.

3 Keys for Using Social Media to Generate Leads in the Building Industry

7 Jun


05015%20Medium%20FunnelUse Social Media to Fill the Sales Funnel

At last week’s Business Marketing Association International GROW! Conference in Chicago, I heard from Kipp Bodnar, an inbound marketing strategist at HubSpot, and Jeffrey Cohen, a social strategist for Radian6. Over the course of an hour, these two showed us the value of social media in lead generation and provided three tips on how to make social media work for you. Many companies use social media to engage and entertain prospects and customers, but Kipp and Jeff have written a book, The B2B Social Media Book: Become a Marketing Superstar by Generating Leads with Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and More to teach marketers what social media can do for their B2B businesses.

They asserted that 60% of the sales cycle is over when the potential buyer talks to your salesperson, so we must make our presence known during that first part of the sales cycle. People buy from people that they know, like and trust and social media can provide those feelings. So now that you’re hooked, here are the three keys to social media lead-gen success for building product marketers:

  1. Build a network of strong ties
    • Strong ties online mean you are interacting, driving affection and doing both over a period of time (not just once)
    • The half life of a social media link is only 3 hours, so post often and use the 10-4-1 rule. For every 15 posts:
      • 10: Share 10 links
      • Create 4 original posts
      • Utilize 1 link to a company landing page
    • Publishing and sharing content online is best way to generate leads
  2. Influence connections for content sharing
    • Use SlideShare or Scribd to make sharing information easy
    • Encourage your followers to share what they find valuable and reward them for doing so
  3. Master social conversion
    • Make sure you are encouraging your ties to take action. Whether it’s downloading a white paper or calling a sales person, don’t make them guess what they’re supposed to do next
    • Know where your customers share – don’t use a ShareThis plug-in with unlimited options – simply show the networks where your customers already live and make it easy for them

Get into the social conversation today – create connections, make it easy to share and ensure there is always a call to action for your prospects and customers and you will be on the road to generating more leads.

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

The Shift in Technology Spending for Building Product Marketers

4 May

Dollars are being spent by the CMO, instead of the CIO – why?

Every day we are faced with more technology in marketing. Websites, text messaging, mobile apps, phone tracking, analytics dashboards, database marketing and the list goes on.  It seems everything we do as building material marketers involves some technology.

So who spends all this money on technology? It used to be the CIO spent money on workstations and mainframes and big IT networks.  But the technology we use and how we use it has changed.

In a study earlier this year, Gartner predicts that, by 2017, the CMO will be spending more on IT than the CIO.  Why do they predict this?

  • Technology is at the heart of marketing – and adoption is well underway
  • Marketing is already a major buyer & influencer of technology
  • Marketing is becoming more strategic & expanding its responsibilities
  • Marketing controls the budget for a third to a half of marketing software

So how does this compare to your organization? Are you (the marketer) working to align with your IT department?

Information Week recently did an article with a CIO survey and Fifteen New Rules for IT to Live by—one of those is to make the CMO the CIO’s new best friend.

IT leaders have a ways to go to win over their marketing peers: 27% say their relationship with the marketing team is poor or neutral, compared with 22% who say that about their relationship with the finance team, and 15% who say that about operations/manufacturing.

Data-driven marketing and social networking analytics are places where marketing and IT groups should have a natural bond, as well as in mobile apps and websites.

Bottom line—regardless of where you’re at in consumption of technology, as a building material marketer your role in the recommendation and purchase of your company’s technology will certainly increase. How prepared are you for the changing role?

Gartner study

Are 20% of Building Product Customers Getting Left Behind?

1 May

Image Source: Monrovia Weekly

A recent Pew Study shows 1 in 5 adults don’t use the Internet.

20% of U.S. adults think the Internet isn’t relevant for them, the majority of whom are retirees.

For anyone with an aging parent, it probably isn’t all that surprising. Those raised to search through phone books to find businesses, who eagerly await printed catalogs to arrive in the mail, who keep their mobile phone turned off until they leave the house, who watch The Weather Channel to get their forecast—in short, the “Boomers” and older who represent nearly 40 million Americans—they have been much slower to adopt the Internet…or to “see the point” in it.

It would easy to dismiss this, noting that many of them are retired and don’t work in the building industry, except for one problem: this audience is a massive portion of the end-step of the building supply channel.

Boomers are the core of the aging-in-place population, a group with billions in purchasing power and growing need for products and services that will ease them through their senior years.

And what we’re hearing is: they don’t use the Internet.

What does this mean for us as building product marketers? Simply put, it means we need to make sure we talk to our audiences—all of them—where they really are and not where we think they should be, or where we’d like them to be, or where it would be convenient for them to be.

Fact is, in the current environment, it’s our inboxes and not our mailboxes that are jammed full of junk, much of which we barely skim over to determine if it’s worth reading at all. As a result, some of the “old school” tactics that have fallen out of favor in the digital age are perfectly positioned to reach the “old school” audience.

So as it turns out, those print ads, direct mail, printed catalogs, prominent Yellow Pages listings, door hangers, and all the other tactics that have been shunned as too old-fashioned to reach the tablet-enabled are exactly the way to reach the non-Internet crowd.

That’s not to say that email campaigns and banner ads and SEO aren’t important ways to deliver your message and reach your audiences. But more than ever, we need to remember that an audience exists who isn’t reached through the Internet that now dominates much of our lives.

When speaking to those who choose to live comfortably off-the-grid, the tried-and-true tactics are still the way to get noticed and make a connection.

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

Email Benchmarks for Building Product Marketers

9 Feb

Benchmarking Email Performance Can Be a Challenge for B2B Marketers

Measure your email marketing performance with these tips.

With so much data available, email is one of the most measurable tactics in a building product marketer’s arsenal…but how do you know where your performance rates?

The two most common metrics in email marketing are Open Rate and Click-Through Rate (CTR). However, before you even begin to benchmark, it’s important to understand that not every email platform measures those two factors the same way.

Open Rate: Open rate is defined as the percentage of people that open your email send.

Click-Through Rate: CTR is most-commonly reported as the percentage of unique people that received your email and clicked on any of the links within it, but sometimes is instead calculated as a percent of only the people who opened your email. In some systems, multiple-clicks from the same user may count twice, driving up CTR in comparison to truly unique CTRs. So make sure you are comparing apples-to-apples when looking at your own metrics and comparing them to those you see in other places.

Benchmarks: It can be challenging to benchmark in email because of wide variances in list size, send frequency, types of messages sent (education, sales promotion, both?), list age and how the list was obtained. If you’ve got a small, targeted list of current customers than you send messages 2x per month to consistently, your results are going to be stronger than a marketer that buys a list from a broker and sporadically sends a “FREE OFFER” email to it. But it still helps to have some kind of baseline statistics, and for that, there’s a couple resources I’d like to share:

Through resources like those, you’ll likely find that an open rate of 25-35% and a CTR of 4-8% is a solid B2B building products industry email campaign. From there, you can begin benchmarking yourself and testing against your own past campaigns, since they’re going to be the most accurate comparison for you.

Additional Articles: