Tag Archives: building product industry

5 Building Product Trends In the New Housing Market

18 Apr

Housing Market On The Up

The Housing Market is Evolving – Be Ready

As we move into 2013, I think everyone is in agreement, the housing market is recovering. In some places, it’s recovered, others sill have excess inventory or foreclosures, but overall – we are through the worst time our industry has ever seen (or wants to see).

So as we look forward to this ‘new’ normal what will the housing market look like? What trends do we think will occur or impact our business? the home buyer? the manufacturer? the lumberyards?

Heres my take on 5 things this ‘new’ normal means to our industry

  1. We all have to remember what we have gone through these past few years. It’s human nature to only remember the good things and let those bad memories fade away. We can’t let that happen this time. We need to manage inventories, not simply look for the quick buck and actually manage our businesses with the long-term in mind. Too many bad decisions combined with bad business practices left too many companies out of business.
  2. People will continue to stay in the homes longer. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like homeowners have also learned some hard lessons. Too many people bought a home they couldn’t afford and then wondered why they couldn’t make that huge payout after 2 years. There’s enough hedge funds buying up real estate. People need to buy a home they can afford.
  3. Universal design and aging in place will explode. As a component of #2, people are aging in their homes. Some because they love the house they have lived in, but for many, it’s a very easy financial decision. The cost to make your home more accessible and useable as you age far outweighs the cost to sell your home and move; especially to any assisted living facility. Manufacturers and pros need to look at this as a huge opportunity.
  4. Multi-generational living isn’t going away. While initially people saw this as the Millennial generation moving home after college, it’s much more than that. In a growing number of family’s, the older generation is moving in with their ‘kids’. These homes typically were the primary home and may have kids off in college and now the grandparent(s) are living with the family. Again this becomes a financial, but also a great emotional, challenge for the entire family. Creating homes and products that work, in some cases, for three generations will be key.
  5. Millennials are in no rush to buy a home. For most of us, buying a home was something you wanted to do. It meant you had arrived. You were an adult. We need to understand that’s not at all how the Millennial generation approaches home ownership. That’s part of their contentment with living at home into their mid 20s. As an industry we need to realize that constant stream of new buyers may take a hit for a few years. Although there are plenty of hard working, financially stable 26-32 year olds, they simply don’t feel the need to buy a home right away.

So the housing market is really coming back, but it will be different and we all must learn from the past, and be prepared for the future.

10 Building Product Lumberyards You Should Follow on Twitter – Part 1

8 Apr

Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 2.38.10 PM

Even the local lumberyard is on Twitter

While most of the ‘big companies’ are on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, etc. you may be surprised to find many of the local lumberyards are on Twitter; and quite active as well.

For many Twitter users, the hardest part is knowing who to follow – with over 500 million people on the platform, cutting through the clutter is a challenge, so I’ve created a list: the Top 10 Lumberyard Follows Worth Your Time, and here are the first 5:

1. Dunn Lumber – @DunnLumber

With over 8,000 followers and over 15,000 tweets, this Washington lumberyard is very active on Twitter with tips, product updates, promotions, and more. Most importantly they are very responsive on Twitter. They get it and use it.

2. Parr Lumber – @parrlumber

This Pacific Northwest family-run chain of yards is an industry leader in its marketing efforts. Parr has been active for many years on Twitter. They use it well to update their followers on products and relevant news.

3. National Lumber – @NationalLumber

With nearly 3,000 followers and over 1,500 tweets, this large NE group of yards have been very active in social media well beyond Twitter – utilizing Google+, Facebook and more. They use Twitter for customer events and updates on everything from products to training.

4. Turkstra Lumber – @TurkstraLumber

This Canadian lumberyard and manufacturer uses updates and hashtag (#) contests to engage and inform their customers.

5. J & W Lumber – @JWLumber

You can find weekly specials, product introductions and more at this Southern California lumberyard Twitter account. They have nearly 800 followers and have had several hundred updates over the past couple of years.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of the list for the rest of my 10 lumberyards you should follow on Twitter.

Creativity in the Building Products Industry

22 Mar

Practice Creativity to Get the Best Results

burst through arrow

“To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

Creativity is a funny thing. People often label themselves as creative, or more likely they say, “Oh, I’m not the creative type.” If you’re in the former category, its time to rethink your creative position.

Especially in the building products industry, creativity is more than designing a great product, putting together a fabulous sales presentation or making your meetings exciting.

Creativity sparks innovation. Have you heard of the artist Henri Matisse? Old age and illness made using his hands more difficult and he became bedridden, but he didn’t let it be a hindrance. In fact, he made a breakthrough in his final years with a new form of art. He found that he could still hold and use scissors, so he cut out colored paper to form beautiful work. He made creativity a choice. He opened his mind to being creative and reached outside of his comfort zone. Are you doing the same thing? Here are some tips to add creativity to your life:

  1. Stretch yourself. Be like Matisse and don’t accept limitations. Set a goal that makes you make choices that you haven’t had to make before. This could be as simple as going for a walk over lunch, meeting in a new spot or rearranging the furniture in your office.
  2. Choose to connect with life and other people. Start a creative network of people that you can share ideas with and provide support to each other. This could be a professional organization in your area, a handful of like-minded people in the office or a new group waiting to be formed.
  3. Change. Think about the rules in your life… Do they need to change? Change can be scary, but it can also be powerful. The building products industry has been doing a lot of things because ‘it’s the way its been done’ but our industry is changing and now is the time to make changes to thrive in the future.

Bottom line – choose to be the best you. Take the best ideas around you and improve on them and don’t hold back for the risk of failing.

For more information, check out Sam Harrison of Zing Zone, a creative author and speaker.

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.

Buyer Personas in the Building Products Industry

19 Oct

Buyer personas give your marketing direction and ensure your message is accurate

Whether or not you know it, you’re likely using buyer personas everyday – it’s just a matter of how accurate they are. Buyer personas are representations of customers that are used to better understand why they purchase what they do. As building product marketers, we all say things like “Contractors will like this product because it’s easier/cheaper/faster”, but what is it that really influences them to buy? Establishing the specifics allows you to craft a message that resonates with these buyers and beats out the competition.

So how do you establish an accurate buyer persona?

  • First off, you can just make it up. As building industry marketers it’s important to go deeper than a list of bullet points that describes our key buyers. We need to really spend time with these people and complete an in-depth analysis of their buying trends. According to Adele Revella, the founder and president of the Buyer Persona Institute, the Five Rings of Insight are the “most overlooked and essential aspect, simplifying decisions for persuasive messaging, content, launches, campaigns and sales enablement.”

Here are the “Five Rings of Insight” that will allow you to define your buyer persona:

  1. Determine the Priority Initiatives: Define the three-to-five problems or initiatives where this buyer persona is dedicating time, budget and political capital
  2. List Out Success Factors: Figure out the tangible or intangible rewards that your buyer persona wants to achieve as a result of buying your solution
  3. Recognize Perceived Barriers: List the reasons your buyer persona believes your solution won’t be the best way to achieve the Success Factors
  4. Chart Out the Buying Process: Include the resources and steps that your buyer persona relies upon to assess available options and make a final decision
  5. Figure Out the Decision Criteria: List the aspects of the product, service, solution or company that this buyer persona evaluates during the purchasing process

Accurately defining your Buyer Persona’s takes time, energy and effort, but once established can pay dividends in assuring your messaging is correct and sets you apart from your competitors.

We’ve used buyer personas for years. We actually have cardboard cut-outs of our “guys” – dealers, contractors, big box sales reps, deck builders, etc. When we have a meeting these guys often join us as a reminder of who we’re talking to. If they’re not in the room with you – it’s time you invite them!

For more information about buyer personas and the Buyer Persona Institute, click here.

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!

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?

Houzz: A New Social Media Platform for Building Product Marketers

27 Sep

Houzz.com is a new building and design platform that offers users ideas for their home

Have you heard of Houzz.com? It is a new online platform that connects architects, designers, builders, and contractors with homeowners around the world who want to build or update their home. The platform is a mash-up of Angie’s List (reviews) and Pinterest (idea inspiration) and offers consumers design ideas, project advice, reviews, and product information.

Specifically for the building product industry, Houzz.com puts products at the fingertips of consumers to search and find your products. As a former building products CMO, I think it’s important to be aware of this new tool which could change the way people build and design their homes.

How It Works

Both homeowners and building products professionals can create accounts to browse ideas, information, and photos along with create an Ideabook. Much like Pinterest, an Ideabook makes it simple to click a button and add an inspirational design, remodeling, or building photo. Building product companies like architecture firms can use the Ideabook to display how the products can be used. In addition, homeowners can ask questions about specific projects to find out how they can utilize similar products for their projects.

Who Uses It

While the platform is used mainly by homeowners, architects, designers, and builders, several building product companies are taking advantage of the new marketing tool. Check out these building product manufacturer’s Houzz profiles.

Building Product Manufacturer Examples

Coronado Stone Products

  • Houzz: http://www.houzz.com/pro/coronado-stone/coronado-stone-products
  • As a stone products manufacturer with more than 50 styles of stone veneer, brick, and concrete floor tile products, Coronado Stone Products showcases internal and external projects on Houzz. They have an Ideabook with more than 20 different photos showcasing the versatility of their products.

E.T. Moore Manufacturing, Inc.

  • Houzz: http://www.houzz.com/pro/heartpine/e-t-moore-manufacturing-inc
  • E.T. Moore Manufacturing produces reclaimed heart pine products. Ideabooks have been created to show contractors, builders, and architects how the pine can be used for trusses along with other projects. In addition, the company includes a contact name, number, and a company address for quick reference if a customer were interested in purchasing their product.

While creating a profile on Houzz.com might not be right for your organization, being aware of this growing social media platform is. It’s a great tool for your high volume customers – builders, architects and remodelers and can provide both of you a great way to reach end users. For more information, visit www.houzz.com.

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

20 Sep

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

Earlier this week I talked about the decision to create a company Facebook page and offered 5 companies to check out – here are the final 5 companies that are doing a great job managing their Facebook pages.

CertainTeed

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CertainTeed

As a manufacturer of exterior and interior building products, CertainTeed is a prime example of how to interact with your fans and customers. They showcase their customer’s content and feature what those customers are doing with their product to promote their brand.

BlueLinx

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/bluelinx

As a distributor of building products, providing service and distribution options, BlueLinx is a solid example of what distributors and dealers who work with many brands can do to showcase their business and their manufacturers. Plus, they feature fun content to get their fans engaged with their brand on a personal level.

Clopay Garage Doors

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ClopayGarageDoors

As a manufacturer of residential garage doors, entry doors and commercial garage doors, Clopay does a standout job of showcasing their social media finesse into their Facebook Page. With links to Pinterest, Twitter and their blog, plus an app that allows users to “Try on a door” – they make it fun to interact with their brand.

Ply Gem

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PlyGem

Ply Gem is a manufacturer of exterior building products for the residential construction market and their Facebook page shows why they’re one of the leaders. With over 14,000 likes and over 500 people talking about their page, they get their fans engaged while showing off their product.

Allied Building Product Corporation

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AlliedBuildingProducts

Allied Building Product Corporation is a dealer of building products and millwork. Their Facebook page does a good job of showcasing events – Facebook can be a great tool for letting customers know what is happening with your brand.

Ready to make your brand more social? Check out https://www.facebook.com/business for more information and to get started today.