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What the Pro Should Want From a Building Materials Manufacturer

23 Apr


Know the pro and separate yourself from the competition

As a manufacturer of building products you provide solutions for the home owner that get delivered, installed, and most importantly sold by someone you don’t know.

Oh sure, you ‘know’ who the builder or remodelers are. You read the trade publications, you go to conferences, you subscribe to newsletters, heck you even have an analyst in the marketing department. But do you really know what that person needs from your company?

While you have spent all that money on your brand, your website, your amazing new iPad app, does it mean anything to the person down the channel? This person may be sitting across the dining room table, on the job-site or in the model home making purchasing decisions with the homeowner. What does it mean to them?

Many times, the professional builder or remodeler has the ultimate power over the homeowner and what are they armed with? Their own marketing materials. Maybe they use your brochure, but in the end people buy from people they know, like and trust. No one trusts a brochure or an iPad app.

As budgets become available now that the recovery is here, be sure to include all the stops on your sales channel. Remember to equip everyone with what they need to help the next stop on the channel. What your one-step distributer/dealer needs is very different from a two-step wholesale selling to lumberyards selling to the pro.

Make the effort to understand that pro. Research them. Sit with them at the table with the homeowner. Put the time in to see how they use your cool new gadgets vs what they are comfortable using. You might be surprised at the wide range of options you need to provide.

You also have to think about how your brand message is delivered. It is the last stop in the funnel. Think about how you enable the sales process to occur as easily as possible. Are you making it easy for the pro to sell your products?

Some thoughts to ponder as you really look at the customer that sells your products for you. Always keep them in mind. While not directly your customer, they are often not given the full access to the manufacturer to help them. Those that have figured it out, and there are many, are separating themselves from the competition.

MarCom Portals Meet Building Product Customers Needs

26 Oct

Catering to the channel shows loyalty to your customers

In an earlier post I shared with you all the reasons a MarCom Portal can make an impact on your business. It provides brand control, allows you to control costs, rewards your customers, makes your life easier and is scalable. Today I want to talk about what your MarCom Portal should feature. If you’re considering implementing your own MarCom Portal, here are some items I would recommend adding to the system:

  • Promotional items: Whether it’s to be used as part of a promotion, for a holiday or as part of a rebate program, promotional items like shirts, hats, pens and coffee mugs can be important to your channel partner. Providing an easy way for them to order them makes your life easier and gives them access to multiple items with the click of a button.
  • Customizable ads: The further you get down the channel, the harder it is to execute simple marketing collaterial like newspaper and publication ads. Providing multiple sizes of these templates with a customizable area for your customer’s information makes their life easier and ensures your brand is portrayed correctly.
  •  An email system: While many contractors and dealers send emails directly from their email system, not a lot of them have professional email service providers that can send mass, HTML-developed emails. Professionally sent emails make you and your customer look good.
  • Customizable postcards: Some systems will allow users to upload their own mailing lists and customize postcards specific to those lists. This makes it easy for a contractor or builder to target a neighborhood, MSA or past clients.
  • Tradeshow support: Local and regional shows can make a big impact for your customers. Help them out by creating an easy-to-order and easy-to-customize tradeshow system. You can design the panels to meet your needs – whether it’s multiple brands under your master brand or specific product lines, you become the hero to your channel partner while ensuring your brand is portrayed accurately.
  • Sample ordering systems: Samples are a staple of a manufacturer’s business and ensuring they go out in a timely and professional manner is key to showcasing your brand and allowing your customers to trust you. Creating a simple online form in your MarCom portal will make it easy for your customers to order the samples they need and shows them how easy you are to work with.

While a MarCom Portal is not inexpensive, it is a great investment that will pay dividends for your brand and customers.

MarCom Portals Make Big Impact in Building Products Industry

25 Oct

Catering to the channel shows your loyalty to customers

As a building products industry CMO you know the importance of supporting the channel. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manufacturer, a distributor or a dealer – you need your customers (or your customer’s customers!) to help carry your message down and get your products sold.

While co-op programs can go a long way, a marketing portal can make an even bigger impact. They allow you to control your brand while giving your customers the power to easily carry it down the channel for you. MarCom Portals can feature anything from posters and postcards to emails and brochures. I have been a proponent of MarCom Portals for a while – here’s why.

Advantages of a MarCom Portal

  • Complete brand control: You provide the marketing templates in accordance with your brand guidelines. Customers can customize what you want them to be able to, but items like your logo, tagline and images remain intact ensuring brand consistency.
  • Control costs: Instead of guessing at the inventory you’re going to need, a MarCom Portal lets your customers print on-demand. Whether its 1 postcard or 500 – the cost remains the same and you can choose to pay for it or have your customers pay for it.
  • Reward your customers: What better way to promote your business than to make it seamless for your customers? Put money into their account, so they can use your tools for free.
  • Let someone else do the heavy lifting: Once the templates are created, the system can customize what is needed, so your team only has to create each file once. No more one-off requests and no more adjusting file sizes. A MarCom Portal provides maximum efficiency.
  • Flexible and scalable: A MarCom Portal can be built to fit your needs. Whether you want to offer a few tools or a wide-range of customizable options, it can fit your needs and budget. Plus, it can grow with you and your budget.
  • Security and peace of mind: A third party system can even be used to ensure absolute privacy for your channel partners.

Not convinced you need this solution? Stay tuned – in a future post I’ll share some key elements to consider adding to your portal.

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:

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.”

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

Lead Generation Important for Building Product CMOs

29 Nov

More than ever, marketers must track and cultivate leads to increase sales.

Recently BtoB Magazine wrote an article entitled, “Lead Generation Demands Grow,” that discussed the recent increase in tracking leads, measuring responses and utilizing analytics. This is my take on how this new demand has changed marketing’s role.
While marketing’s role has always been to create interest and provide leads for the sales department, today’s economy paired with new technology and tracking mechanisms, make it more important than ever to be able to show where leads come from. Building product CMOs must utilize their shrinking resources to ensure they can generate leads.

Strong Content Drives Engagement

  • Building product marketers should create their own content to encourage prospect engagement through education and entertainment.
  • CMOs must ensure any content published is high quality and provides tangible benefits to their customers throughout the channel – bad content will reflect poorly on the company.
  • Use good content to create and track leads and make sure none of them fall out of the pipeline – every lead is important.
  • Not only will good content make you valuable to your prospects, but they are more likely to share it with others.

Automate Your Existing Processes

  • Automation can help track and cultivate leads. Utilize tracking capabilities, lead scoring models and social sharing options to monitor your leads.
  • Building product companies can often capture leads by creating online forms, utilizing promotions where prospects must provide their information for a chance to win or through social media.

Utilize New Technology to Generate Leads

  • Think beyond the traditional means of communicating with your customers. Look at implementing a social media strategy that includes capturing and working leads.
  • While many building product companies are just starting to explore social media, it can be a great fit for reaching your targets. Explore what your competitors are doing and determine how social media can work with your overall strategy.

Give Prospects and Customers What they Want

  • Ensure your processes have a personal touch. You know your customers – make sure you talk to them in their language and customize content where possible.
  • Focus on inbound channels, rather than cold calling activity. Give your time and attention to warmer leads and those prospects who have shown interest in your product.

Foster Leads into Customers

  • Building product CMOs know better than anyone that sales and marketing must work together hand in hand. Marketing creates leads, but it’s up to their sales department to cultivate these leads and turn prospects into customers.



Additional Articles


Value of Building Product Demos is Underrated

6 Nov

3 Rules for Building Successful Product Demo 

People do not buy what they do not understand, therefore, a powerful, easy to understand building product demo is a great way to deliver your value proposition.  Presenting key selling points while showing your product in action is invaluable to your prospects.   If prospects are interested in the product, they are looking for a reason to buy, your demo can help close the sale.

Creating an impactful product demo can be challenging, giving enough information yet not too much can be a fine line.  A boring demo can push your prospect away, yet you do not want to leave out important information.

The goal of your building product demo is to add prospects to your sales funnel and deliver high ROI.  Follow these three steps to generate a valuable demo:

1.    Narrow Your Content

  • Establish your products key features
  • Demonstrate features and their value
  • Keep the information clear and concise

2.    Show The Product

  • Do not spend too much time on images and bullet points
  • Prospects want to see the product
  • Let the prospect see how the product works

3.    Keep it Short, Sweet and On-Message

  • Keep the demo content on what is important
  • Online demos should be limited to 6 minutes max
  • Keep the audience engaged, let the product sell itself

Maximize ROI of your Building Product Demo

To maximize ROI of your demo you must leverage the content across multiple outlets, sources and include it in various campaigns.  A multi-media demo can do more than just live on your company website.

  • Product demos can be circulated Via YouTube
  • Posted on your companies Facebook page
  • Circulated via Twitter using a short code
  • Link the demo in e-mail communications to prospects and customers
  • Establish webinar presentations where your demo can be viewed
  • Tradeshow booth demos provide large audiences for viewing

When your building product demos are used effectively within marketing campaigns it can be a valuable tool for lead generation.

Sources and Additional Articles