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Observations From The Remodeling Show/DeckExpo

17 Oct

Energy was up, attendees were excited and exhibitors were benefiting

Last week I spent several days in Baltimore attending the Remodeling Show and DeckExpo with one of our employees. Since 2009, Hanley Wood has co-located the Deck Expo with the Remodeling Show and this has proven successful for both parties. The shows represents all parts of the remodeling community and focuses on education. I’ve been to this show many times and and was impressed this year by the overall energy and buzz from the show. Here are my takeaways:

  • The DeckExpo is where it’s at: We spent significant time on both sides of the convention center and could always feels a boost of energy when we crossed over to the DeckExpo side. Not only were there great conversations during the show, but people had to be asked to leave after the show closed.
  • All the major players are there: Even though IBS is the big building-product industry show, all of the major industry players also attend this show. Remodelers and deck builders are there looking for companies that support their business, and if you aren’t there, they take note.
  • Interactive sponsorships get a big draw: In our social, on-demand world, you can start to wonder if people will check their watch and make it to a specific location on time for an on-floor demonstration, but the DeckExpo proved they will. Simpson Strong-Tie sponsored the Live Deck Collapse (click here for video) which always got a big draw and lots of pictures.
  • The basics still work: While we all spend time thinking, re-thinking and over-thinking our tradeshow strategy, the basics still prove to work. TimberTech put out free beer and pretzels at the end of the day – something deck contractors have a hard time turning down!
  • This is a great industry: I’ve been in this industry for over 20 years and attending tradeshows is always refreshing and energizing. We work with some great people that are dedicated to the industry and improving how people live. Plus, our industry knows how to have fun at the end of the day!

Although many of you are looking towards IBS in January, mark your calendar for October 15 – October 18, 2013 when the Remodeling Show and DeckExpo head to Chicago. You won’t want to miss it!

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:

The Top 10 Facebook Building Product Pages to Check Out, Part I

18 Sep

These building product companies show what it takes to run a successful Facebook page

Many companies struggle with the decision to go social, or not. Especially in our industry, it’s hard to know whether the return is worth the investment. Are our customers and prospects on social media? And if so, are they engaging with brands they do business with? The way I see it, social is here to stay and it’s better to be on the cutting-edge than to be left behind. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, check out the first 5 in my list of 10 building product company’s Facebook pages to see what they’re doing to engage their audience.

84 Lumber


84 Lumber Company is a privately held building materials and services supplier to professional contractors. Their Facebook page reflects why they’ve earned their status as a top dealer – in addition to company news, they feature interesting tips for the home to ensure their brand is always top-of-mind.

Azek Building Products


AZEK Building Products manufactures exterior building products and they use Facebook to make the most of the media coverage they receive by posting radio and magazine features – this ensures their PR efforts go the extra mile.

Royal Building Products


Royal Building Products is a manufacturer of building materials in Canada and they do a great job showing their community involvement – from sponsorships to donations to Habitat for Humanity, they display the human side of their brand.

Firestone Building Products


As a source for roofing and Building Envelope systems for over 30 years, Firestone Building Products shows that featuring interesting projects can get the interaction you desire for your brand.

Wimsatt Building Materials


Wimsatt Building Materials is a dealer of building products and millwork. As a regional dealer in Michigan, Wimsatt shows that it doesn’t take unlimited resources to have a great social presence. With regular updates, they keep their fans informed while also providing unobtrusive product info.

Check back later this week for 5 additional building product companies that manage their Facebook pages well. And if you’re curious about what it takes to create a company Facebook page, visit

Social Media Isn’t Going Anywhere for Building Products Marketers

5 Jun

Action at the BMA National GROW Conference

Learnings from the BMA International Conference

While a lot of arguments were made at last week’s Business Marketing Association International GROW! Conference in Chicago – one thing was clear and repeated often: social media is here to stay. It was something nearly every speaker hit on and the keynote speaker, Guy Kawasaki, proclaimed that all marketers should stake their future in social media. While many building product marketers are tweeting regularly, updating their company blogs and creating apps, some of us are lucky just to be regularly using email communication with some customers.

If you are having a hard time getting started or looking for some fresh inspiration, here are just a few of the things I heard about social media this week:

  1. Things you put on the Internet will be there forever, but that doesn’t mean they’re relevant for long. In fact, the half life of a social media link is just 3 hours.
  2. Use the 10-4-1 rule. When posting content, share 10 links from other sources, create 4 original posts and use 1 link to a company landing page to promote your building products company.
  3. Provide value with your social media. Provide information that your customers and others in the industry want to learn about
  4. Remove the speed bumps. Make it easy to share things – whether it’s retweeting a post, liking a blog post or sharing a promotion – make sure it’s seamless for your customers.
  5. Engage. This may seem obvious, but in this age of sharing many companies simply bombard their customers with company information. Now, more that ever, it’s important to engage in meaningful conversations. Like many things, you get out what you put in.
  6. Be consistent. Like I said earlier, the half life of a social media link is 3 hours, so if you’re not posting with frequency, you’ll be left behind. Customers might not seek you out, but they’ll notice you if you consistently provide valuable information.
  7. Have a purpose. Your social media efforts should support your general marketing efforts. Don’t just share cute pictures and funny sayings, make it count.
  8. Keep it personal. People want to connect with other people, not companies.

Keep an eye out for more posts from the BMA International Conference.

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.

IBS Buzz – Social Media in the Building Product Industry

21 Feb

Social Media Can Provide Builders Results

We all know the story, in fact many of us have seen the movie, Facebook is the biggest social media site with over 800 million users.  However, why is this important to the building product industry and more specifically how does this impact homebuilders?

Last week during IBS several homebuilders shared their successes during a morning educational session.  Claire Easley, Senior Editor at Builder, recapped many of the topics, which included Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging.

Here are some of the ideas shared by builders during the session.


  • Make it Public:  At Southern Homes the sales reps are encouraged to “friend” prospects to aid in the prospecting process.
  • Incentives:  Provide buyer incentive by hosting giveaways on the builder’s Facebook page.
  • Philanthropy:  Use this social media tool to promote charity on behalf of the builder.


  • Dialogue with potential buyers:  Many homebuilders use Twitter to “chat” with potential buyers.


  • Heartland Homes in Pittsburgh, PA, partners with suppliers to provide homebuyers details on manufacturer features and benefits.


  • While not identified in the session, YouTube can be used to provide potential buyers tours of their dream home.  YoutTube is the 2nd largest search engine, behind Google.

Lets face it, social media is established, it isn’t going anywhere soon.  Therefore, the building product industry along with homebuilders are embracing it as a valuable communication tool with their prospects.



6 Tips For A Killer Building Products Tradeshow Booth

16 Feb

Observations from IBS can help your tradeshow investment pay off

Walking down a tradeshow aisle-especially large shows like IBS-your’re bombarded by shapes, colors, movement, and messages.  It’s all jumbled mess of sensory overload.  It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle as an attendee but far worse to get lost in the crowd as an exhibitor.  Here are some thoughts on what made booths successful at the show:

1) Define Your Space

Often it’s difficult to tell where one booth stops and another starts.  Make sure your booth clearly defines your territory-walls, enclosures, carpet-anything that says “This area is unique” is critical to getting noticed.  The huge Ford commercial vehicle space was nearly empty except for the trucks, carpet and people.  Sound boring?  It wasn’t.  The open space was noticeable (and welcome!) and it kept the focus on their products.

2) People Make the Difference

It sounds superficial, but attractive, engaging people bring a booth alive.  And attractive doesn’t have to mean “pretty” (although it clearly doesn’t hurt), but rather, people who are born to talk to others and smile when they do it.  Watching the attendees, you see time and again how true this is.

3)  Style is Everything

The booths that got noticed were tech-driven in their design (simple, clean, and open), with the exception of natural/green products where a rustic theme was common.  Dated designs stood out for all the wrong reasons, and like an old website, they seemed to unfairly date the products they promoted.

4) Booths

The K.I.S.S. principle (“Keep It Simple Stupid”) was behind the best booths we saw.  The crammed and jumbled booths were easy to ignore (and there were a lot of them!), but the open and airy booths with only a few areas of focus were traffic stoppers.  What I observed: one idea, one message, one solution = many, many visitors.

5)  That’s Entertainment

No matter how stylish or fancy or informative a booth was, it’s hard to beat booths that entertain as well as educate.  There’s no denying that the booths with crowds and lines were the ones with a reason to stop by other than to pick up a brochure.

6)  Remember Why You’re There

I think most exhibitors are hoping for traffic to build awareness and drive leads.  One company (will remain nameless) paid what I’m sure was a lot of money to have branded carrying bags set out with the show programs.  Unfortunately both times I stopped by, the staff was too busy talking to one another to notice the people bothering to visit their booth.  So if they were hoping to drive awareness of their staff’s disengagement, well, it worked.

The Int’l Builders’ Show is Still — And Always Will Be — About the People in the Building Products Industry

14 Feb

IBS Focus is Right to Remain “About The People”

I’m writing this on a flight home from Orlando after attending the International Builders’ Show (IBS).  I’ve heard attendance was up 10% this year. Still about half the size it once was, but the Show, as it has been forever, was full of great people.

Yes, great products were there, but those products just sit there, until a well-trained or knowledgeable person talks to me.  And, as is always the case with the building products industry, it’s filled with genuine people. People you want to be friends with, not just on Facebook, but face to face.

As I walked the show or sat in a meeting, I was continually reminded how many people have been in this industry for most, if not their entire career.   People you may only see at IBS or the Pacific Coast Builders’ Conference (PCBC) or another show/event, but people that greet each other by name, with a hug and almost always a smile.

I heard a speaker use this phrase one time speaking to business owners and it resonated well, especially after IBS:

 The race to the future will not be won by the companies with the best talent, but by companies who utilize their talent best. Which, coincidentally, attracts the best talent.

 So what can we, as building product marketers, do to take advantage of this? Here’s 3 things to remember:

  1. The home builder is about the trade. At a core level, the home builder of today is not that different from those of the past. While the world we live in, the systems we use, and the technology has changed, in the end, the people that love to roll their sleeves up and build something has not changed.
  2. Keep your message genuine. Speak to the audience as real people. Builders, distributors, rep firms, remodelers or your sales team all are working together and know when they are being ‘sold’.
  3. Get out of the office. Get to a trade show and talk to people. Stop by a job site and just talk to the people doing the work and using your products. Listen for the words they use. See what really resonates with them.

In the end, companies all work with people we know, like and trust. Fortunately for all of us, the building product industry is full of people like that.

Turns Out Building-Product Sales Really Are A Laughing Matter

17 Nov

Using comedy to sell can be good for business.

And as experience has shown, good presentations can lead to good business. That’s why the manager of the New York Comedy Club consults with companies looking to improve their technique.

April Joyner, in a recent article written for Inc. magazine, Why Learning to Tell Jokes is Good for Business,  noted:

“If you’re a good comedian, you’re probably a good presenter.”

Since comedians strive to make emotional connections with their audience, to draw them in and establish a rapport, learning the fundamentals of performing standup can be valuable training for individuals and groups who lead presentations. That’s because those connections can be the start of long-term customer relationships.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when introducing humor into your building products meetings and presentations:

1. Plan Your Spontaneity

Stand-alone humorous statements can appear like random accidents, so work on building a routine. And unless you’re Robin Williams, improvisation should only happen after you’ve scripted out everything else. Write down and memorize your jokes, leveraging what comics call “roll structure”—one joke followed by another in a series of related topics. In time it will become natural and adaptable to different situations.

2. Embrace Nerves

As the article points out, “Things that make you nervous are generally things you care about.” So take advantage of the extra energy and focus it on reinforcing weak sections until you feel confident you have them nailed down. Hands shake? Don’t hold paper and instead keep your hands in motion. Fidget too much? Try taking a couple small steps to one side of the room or the other. Rechanneling nerves can provide you with a boost in enthusiasm and make you more interesting.

3. Movements Are Messages

In presentations and meetings, we too often focus on what we’re saying and pay little attention to how we’re saying it. Watch someone perform standup, and you’ll quickly notice that their delivery is a vital component of their routine—if Steven Wright paced and waved his arms, his dry sardonic humor would fall flat. From where they walk (or if they walk at all) to the scale of gestures and expressions, the non-verbal speaks volumes.

4. Practice Makes Performance

Dolly Parton is known for saying, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap.” Similarly, it takes a lot of practice to make comedy seem natural. Only when we make an action habitual through repetition can we truly master it. Practicing and rehearsing your delivery is critical to making it a natural component of your presentation. Fact is, good comedy is rarely an accident

5. Get Personal

The best material you have is likely from your own life and experiences in the building products industry. Learning to relate stories and anecdotes makes your presentation more interesting but also make you more likeable. It adds depth and dimension to your content, piquing the curiosity of your audience and making them more engaged.

Even if you don’t have access to a professional comedy club, making use of friends, coworkers, and those “funny people” we all know to critique your jokes and offer suggestions is a great way to get started.


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