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2013 Building Products Resolution: Hold Productive Meetings

13 Dec

Efficient meetings in 2013

Make better meetings a resolution for 2013

I recently read an article about hosting better meetings and it got me thinking about the building products industry. Our industry is full of ambitious, talented people, but that doesn’t mean we always host productive meetings. For 2013, make it your mission to have better, more productive meetings. Here’s a few tips on how to do that:

Everyone should have all of the information ahead of time

  • Don’t use meetings as a place to drop loads of information on your employees. Everyone should have all of the information up front, so the meetings can be productive and action items can be determined.

Meetings exist to make a decision

  • Meetings are not a time to deliberate and discuss, they are a time to come in and make a decision. If you’ve followed the rule above, then everyone should know all information when they walk into a meeting and a decision can be made on the task at hand.

Brainstorming vs. meetings

  • If you really do need to get a group of great minds together to deliberate on an idea, make sure you treat your brainstorming sessions different than your meetings. While meetings exist to make a decision, brainstorming sessions exist to come up with great ideas. Foster great ideas, a feeling of collaboration and inspire creativity by mixing it up. Try having fun props to play with, light music in the background or do something different with the space or lighting to show people that brainstorming is different than meetings.

Start on time

  • And set a time limit. Meetings that take longer than they should not only waste time, but they get people distracted and push them farther off the tasks at hand. Show people that you respect their time by honoring the time limit you’ve set.

Only include the people who need to be there

  • Deciding who should be in a meeting can prove to be harder than it looks, but a good rule of thumb is to only include the people that need to be there.

Turn off all technology

  • Nothing kills a meeting more than someone checking their phone or tablet for email. Make sure everyone understands the importance of focusing on the task at hand to make the most efficient use of time for all parties involved.

Meetings can be productive and efficient if done correctly. Start 2013 off on the right foot by keeping these things in mind. For more information on how to have better meetings, check out Seth Godin’s blog post: Getting serious about your meeting problem.

5 Steps: Work with HR to Create More Engaged Building Product Employees

2 Oct

Working with HR can create more productive and engaged employees

As a building products CMO, you’ve no doubt crossed paths with HR, but how closely do you work with them on messaging to your employees? HR continues to evolve into a more strategic role as they focus on talent attraction, engagement and retention and they can be your greatest advocate and help create a stronger company built on a foundation of productive and engaged employees. How do you achieve this? The first step is to pair your strengths at brand messaging with HR’s perspective and expertise on your workforce. Here are 5 steps for working with HR to create a stronger workforce:

1. Gauge employee engagement

  • The first step in creating more engaged employees is to see where they stand now. Begin with research to get a pulse on your workforce. Send out an online survey to see where your employees stand and how they feel about your building products organization. Even this step shows your employees that your organization cares about them and is working to make improvements.

2. Create an employer brand

  • Use what you learn from the employee engagement survey to create a brand that your employees can connect to, while also furthering leadership’s vision for the future. A brand workshop using the data you receive and a few select executives is a great way to establish the right brand for your organization.

3. Work with HR to align employees with company goals

  • Create a plan to bring the brand to life. Host employee meetings, send out emails, hang break room posters, send a direct mail piece to your employees homes – whatever it takes to let them know that you are listening and value them.

4. Communicate, communicate, communicate

  • Once the brand has been developed and communicated, develop a strategic communication plan to build employee engagement. This should include ongoing communication like newsletters, videos, emails and other consistent touchpoints.

5. Test your progress

  • In order to see if your efforts are paying off, send out an employee engagement survey each year. While a lot of factors play into employee satisfaction, a consistent communication campaign can make a big difference over time.

Committing to a plan to strengthen your workforce ultimately strengthens your company. Engaged employees are more productive, more efficient and more likely to bring fresh, new ideas to your organization. They are more likely to over-deliver and your customers are more likely to come back again. So, what are you waiting for?

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.

The New Role of the Building Products CMO

12 Jun

10 Lessons from Greg Brown, CEO of Motorola Solutions

Recently I heard Greg Brown, the CEO of Motorola Solutions, speak at the Business Marketing Association International GROW! Conference. He spoke about his role as a CEO, which he defined as deploying capital and developing people, but spent most of the time talking about Eduardo Conrado, the CMO for Motorola Solutions, and what he’s done that helps define the new role of the CMO. Here’s what I learned from Greg that can help building product CMOs be successful:

  1. Make tough decisions and rally the troops.
    • As building product marketers, tough decisions are something we are all too familiar with as of late, however – we can’t forget the second part to this (which is equally important) – rally the troops. Our people are our most important asset and if they don’t believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, your company cannot succeed in the long-term.
  2. Learn the business you’re in.
    • This may seem obvious, but far too many marketers don’t take it to the next level. Beyond knowing marketing, you need to know three things in the building products industry: technology, process and people. Especially in our business, people remain the most important element.
  3. Deliver on your brand promise.
    • Greg defined brand as the image you create and experience you deliver. As building product CMOs, you need to define that image, create it and ensure the experience is consistent. Transparency is key.
  4. Drive culture.
    1. As a building product CMO, you have the ability and the responsibility to drive culture. Culture can be defined as a lot of things, but I like how Greg put it – culture is what you do and how you do it. More and more as products and services are put on a level playing field, it is the culture of a company that makes a difference and creates loyalty.
  5. Decide your voice.
    • CMOs need to create the brand’s voice and be sure to use it in everything the company produces. For Motorola Solutions, their voice is defined as human, confident, clear and imaginative.
  6. Focus on ideas.
    • The building products industry is lean and it’s often hard to get away from what needs to get done everyday to focus on new ideas. To combat this, host a regular meeting with your team and talk. Don’t have an agenda, don’t have notes, just toss out ideas and see what sticks.
  7. Speak up.
    • You didn’t make it this far in your career by sliding by, but this is an important lesson and something to share with your team – silence means agreement. If you don’t say anything, you’re in. No pocket vetoes.
  8. Be innovative.
    • Beyond being innovative, foster an environment of innovation. Get people out of their comfort zones and have strategy meetings that focus beyond what’s happening today.
  9. Create leads.
    • As CMOs, this is the ultimate way to drive business for your company and make it easier for your sales team to sell more. Focus on getting new leads and nurturing them.
  10. Let your actions speak for themselves.
    • Don’t preach about what other departments in the company should do or complain about what your team could do with a bigger budget, do what you can and let the results of your actions show the rest of the company your impact.

Marketing is the integrated format that makes companies run. It brings together all parts of the organization – investor relations, public relations, internal and external relations – and enables them to work together. As a building products CMO, you are the core of the business and have the ability to impact the entire company for the better.

Top 8 Ways to Onboard Rookies to the Building Products Industry

30 May

Does this remind you of your company’s onboarding process?
Dilbert comic linked from

How do you get new people up to speed on this industry they’ve entered?

Last week, I talked about the aging workforce of the building products industry and the personality differences of the milennial generation that is the future of our business. Beyond those things, however, there’s another fundamental challenge: getting to know the ins and outs of this business.

They’re a generation that does less work with their hands than their parents or grandparents did so, overall, there’s going to be a fundamental challenge of understanding the tools and processes that go into building and remodeling. Then, there’s the dynamics of a a multi-channel business like ours: the manufacturer>distributor>dealer>pro>homeowner sales process isn’t the same as the manufacturer>retailer>consumer one most of them may have an understanding of.

With all that in mind, I came up with this list of the Top 8 Ways to Onboard Rookies to the Building Products Industry. This list may not apply for all businesses, but I’ve focused on manufacturers in creating it:

  1. Send them to the International Builders’ Show (IBS), and not just for the exhibits. Send them for 3-4 days and get them to attend a variety of seminars, like this one I attended on panelized homes, for example.
  2. Ensure they’re subscribed to a range of publications. By that, I mean they should be reading a dealer-focused one (ProSales or LBM Journal), as well as at least one publication each targeted to builders, remodelers, architects and consumers.
  3. Put them in the passenger seat with one of your territory sales reps. Let them see the dynamics of a sales rep’s daily interactions, and see what a sales rep does each day.
  4. Put them behind the counter. Whether you sell through a distributor or not, your product is almost certainly being sold behind the counter of a lumberyard, big box or hardware store. Get your rookie there for a day to see what that’s like.
  5. Go build a house with Habitat for Humanity. What better way to understand how a house gets built then to do it yourself?
  6. Let them own a topic. Milennials love to “own” something at work, so give them the chance to dive it and get smart about a topic your team might be lacking for knowledge in.
  7. Put them on a committee. If there’s an opportunity for them to interact with people outside their department via an internal committee, let them try that.
  8. Put them on the line. Rookies should know how your product is made – the best way to learn that is to go to the plant and even work somewhere on the line if possible.

While it probably isn’t possible to invest in all these things for each new employee, keep them in mind as you bring on people new to the building industry. Just being able to do a few of them might make the difference in your employee embracing this industry and becoming a future star, and that employee moving on to greener pastures.

Gray Hairs Everywhere in the Building Products Industry!

24 May

Image linked from

Our industry is aging rapidly; how can we overcome this challenge?

Have you ever thought about how our industry is aging? Over the last several years, many people have been “right-sized” out of the building material industry, as well as made the decision to leave. Take a look at your organization including your outside sales forces, GMs, product managers, marketers; do you have a good mix of ages spread throughout? The sad fact is many younger people were forced out of our industry over the past five years, and now many organizations need to bring in younger people and train their future leaders.

So, if you believe we need new blood infused throughout our organizations to revitalize the future, what does that look like? What does that generation need and what motivates them to take the industry to the next level of success? And how does that group want and need to be managed to be successful? Let’s start with that.

First off, what the heck is a Millennial? It is an abbreviation for the Millennial Generation, a term used by demographers to describe a segment of the population born between 1980 and 2000 (approximately). Sometimes referred to in the media as “Generation Y”, Millennials are the children of the post-WWII baby boomer generation.

A few facts about this group:

  • There are about 76 million Millennials in the United States (based on research using the years 1978-2000).
  • Millennials are the last generation born in the 20th century.
  • 20% have at least one immigrant parent.
  • A number of studies, including one by the Center for American Progress, anticipate that Millennials will be the first American generation to do less well economically than their parents.
  • They’re the most-diverse generation of Americans yet, with over 40% being non-white. And their children will be even more diverse, as American being the “melting pot” of the world continues.

As a general rule, they have a “can-do” attitude about tasks at work and look for feedback about how they are doing frequently, even daily. They crave a variety of tasks and expect they will accomplish every one of them. Positive and confident, millennials are ready to take on the world. So, here are 8 tips for managing this diverse population:

  1. Provide structure. Goals are clearly stated and progress assessed. Define assignments and success factors.
  2. Provide leadership and guidance. Millennials want to look up to you, learn from you, and receive daily feedback from you. They want “in” on the whole picture and to know the scoop. Plan to spend a lot of time teaching and coaching and be aware of this commitment before you hire them.
  3. Encourage the Millennial’s self-assuredness, “can-do” attitude, and positive personal self-image. They are ready to take on the world. Their parents told them they can do it – they can. Encourage – don’t squash or contain them.
  4. Take advantage of their comfort with teams. They are used to working in groups and teams. This is different than earlier generations with a Lone Ranger mentality. Develop team environments and watch them thrive.
  5. Listen. Your millennial employees are used to loving parents who scheduled their lives around their children’s activities. Because of this child-centric upbringing, they need their opinions and ideas to be heard.
  6. Create a challenge. Boring is bad! They seek ever-changing tasks within their work. Don’t bore them, ignore them, or trivialize their contribution.
  7. Celebrate their multi-tasking ability. These employees can talk on the phone, send emails, text, answer a question . . . all at the same time. It’s multi-tasking to a whole new level.
  8. Provide a fun, employee-centered workplace. Millennials want to enjoy their work. They want to enjoy their workplace. They want to make friends in their workplace. Worry if your millennial employees aren’t laughing, going out with friends for lunch, and helping plan the next company event or committee.

By some recent counts, 75,000,000 Millennials are preparing to join or joining the workforce. Think about how they could impact your building products company and what fresh thinking they could bring to your organization. Get ready for them. They will impact our future in a positive way!

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

Monitoring Your Competitors in the Building Products Industry – Great Quotes Series

24 Apr

Henry Ford in 1919. Linked from Wikipedia Commons

“The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”

– Henry Ford

This is the first in an ongoing series of posts using great quotes and applying them to the building products industry. We hope you enjoy the series!

As marketers, no doubt you’ve talked with the CEO or other leader of your organization and been told, “Competitor X is doing Action Y; why aren’t we doing that yet?”

In recent years, those conversations many times are related to technology like mobile websites/apps or social media. All too often, companies in all segments of business fall into the “me too” trap of simply copying what their competitors are doing, rather than examining their business and developing product or service solutions that truly move the customer forward.

Developing those solutions is the theme for blogs, conferences and books all over the world because it’s such a critical need for all organizations, but it’s incredibly hard to do at the same time because there are so many factors involved. However, I don’t think any single factor is more important in the building products industry than engaging the people out in the field (field reps, territory sales reps, territory managers, etc).


  • They’re with your customers every day.
  • They’re frequently younger and closer to the technology that drives so much innovation today.
  • Because they’re out in the field and younger, they’re less likely to be bogged down by organizational structure and history, which can both be barriers to innovation.

So what’s the best way to engage them? Here’s five ways to start:

  1. Take the focus off sales (momentarily). While those field people are many times salespeople, they need to understand what a difference they can make for the organization, beyond just hitting their quotas.
  2. Shut Up and Listen. Building off #1 – by understanding & engaging with a customer’s business, they can understand what a customer means, not just hear what they say – your field people need to embrace that.
  3. Get them together. How often do your field teams have the chance to get together and figure out how to move the customer forward? You’ve probably got sales meetings, but do those meetings include time to brainstorm and discuss ways to improve the overall business?
  4. Empower them. As the CMO, people in the field may not be direct reports for you, and it’s easy for great ideas to get lost in the chain of command. Empower those people to contact you directly or develop a system to bring ideas to the forefront, such as a forum/message board on your company Intranet.
  5. Reward them. It doesn’t have to just be cold hard cash, though that’s great too. People need to feel valued and appreciated, especially if their idea is the big one.

Further Reading:

Building Product Companies on LinkedIn

10 Apr

LinkedIn is a powerful tool for individuals and creating a company page can create the same kind of connections

Most of us are familiar with LinkedIn on an individual level – it’s a great way to connect with other professionals and organizations. It’s so popular that the network has 150 million members worldwide in over 200 countries and territories and is adding 10 new members every 5 seconds. I’ve personally found it to be a great tool to connect with old co-workers, colleagues and business partners.

But are you familiar with company pages? While company pages have been around for a while (we’ve had ours for several years), some changes late last year makes it even more relevant for building industry marketers like us.

LinkedIn Company Pages

Company pages are continuing to grow in importance and relevance for the network and for building product companies. In fact, more than 2 million businesses have a LinkedIn company page. Here are some of the reasons to consider adding a company page for your business today:

  1. Post a status update – Showcase important business information, new product news or relevant industry information
  2. Hire better employees – post about new positions on your company page and be able to directly review who’s applied for the position
  3. Set yourself up as a thought leader – utilize status updates and the page itself to set yourself up as a building products thought leader on the forefront of innovation
  4. Build followers for your company – whether it’s employees, industry peers, vendors or current or prospective customers – you can enhance your social presence
  5. Engage with people from other companies – LinkedIn is a great way to promote and refer companies you partner with or ones you would like to work with in the future

LinkedIn as Part of Your Social Media Strategy

Building product CMOs like you know the importance of having a social media strategy that supports your overall strategy and utilizing LinkedIn company pages is just another tool to do so.

–       Website: A LinkedIn widget can be added to your website to encourage followers

–       Twitter: LinkedIn can be set up to share posts on Twitter, although I’d recommend keeping these separate so you can ensure each message is targeted.

Think about getting your company page set up as one more communications channel for followers.

For more information on LinkedIn and their pages, visit: