Is Housing Really Back?

3 Sep

Why That Question Might Be More Complicated Than You Think

aa048908

As anyone who works in building products can attest, this is not an industry for the weak of heart. The last few years have required everyone—from the manufacturers to the distributors to the dealers to the pros—to weather a lot of ups and downs. As we all know, the economy is now recovering from those difficult times, and so is the building products industry. But the real question on everyone’s minds is simple: is housing really back?

It may seem like a simple question, but the answer is far from it; in fact, the July 2015 Building Products & Construction Industry report from Piper Jaffray offers some important information on this topic:

  • Residential product manufacturers are up 19.4% over last year
  • Lumber/wood product manufacturers are down by 11.5% from 2014
  • Homebuilders have experienced modest growth over last year’s numbers—about 2.8%
  • Builder confidence and remodeling spending remain positive as of July 2015—an exceptionally good sign for residential product manufacturers

As most in the building products industry can agree, the big number will always be starts. In its heyday, the building products industry was at around 1.5 million starts. As of July 2015, housing starts in the US are up to 1,206,000—the highest since October of 2007.

So the question remains—is housing really back? You’re not likely to find a single answer on this, because a simple, universally agreed upon answer doesn’t exist. There are glimpses of great happenings in the industry including multi-family growth and remodeling growth, but most of us in the building industry agree that getting back to 1.5 million starts isn’t going to happen. Ever. Those times are gone—and maybe that is a good thing. We are back to numbers that are reasonable and—dare I say it—sustainable. The trick is now, as building product marketers, to capitalize on these upward trends to promote further growth.

Here’s a quick digest of relevant articles about the state of housing. Give them a read!

Share via email

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Not Ready to Speak? Try Listening.

25 Aug

With Building Products Social Media Marketing, Start by Listening

Stock Photo for Blog 8:24

I hear constantly from building product marketers that social media doesn’t apply to their business—that it’s “a B2C thing” or that it’s “for Millennials” and has no use when it comes to generating marketing qualified leads and closing sales. But when someone says this, what they’re really telling me is they’re not ready to use social as a platform to talk. My suggestion is this: if you’re hesitant about incorporating social media into your marketing plan, start instead with listening.

Quick story. I was at a trade show two years ago when a UPS delivery truck left behind a package containing my client’s pop-up booth. While an account coordinator at my agency tried frantically to get through to someone to talk to on the phone, I tweeted at UPS for help.

In the time the UPS social team responded to me, contacted the nearest store manager, and had the truck re-route to come and pick up the package, the account coordinator still hadn’t even reached an actual person on the phone.

These are the kinds of opportunities companies miss when they don’t at least listen to what’s happening in the social space. But there are many more benefits to social listening beyond just customer service. A recent article I read outlined a few that GE Lifesciences experienced when they began using social listening tools to monitor their industry:

  • Understanding language and terminology prospects were using
  • Learning the topics their audience was most interested in and creating content based on this information
  • Creating keyword search repositories for SEO and website taxonomy

Not every building products company is ready for a full social media marketing plan. I get it. 68% of CMOs openly admit their companies aren’t ready to fully incorporate social media into their strategies. But just because you’re not ready to use social as a platform to market your products doesn’t give you a free pass when it comes to listening to what your audience is saying.

At its heart, the building products industry is still about people. And as generational dynamics shift (hint: they’re already shifting), you can bet that those people are going to be on social media. One day social media won’t be optional—start listening now so that when that day comes, your company is prepared to speak.

Share via email

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I Want B2B Marketers to Talk Dirty

13 Aug

Why Now Is the Time for B2B E-Commerce

notebook with shopping items on online shopping concept

There’s a dirty word in the world of B2B marketing. A word that strikes fear in the hearts of B2B marketers and sales people everywhere. It’s a word many are afraid to say, but not me.

I’m talking about e-commerce. (See? Told you—not afraid.)

Many B2B companies—and marketers, for that matter—are hesitant about e-commerce. How will it impact my business? How do I implement it? Whose feathers will I ruffle in the process? What will be the repercussions if I spend money on an expensive system and it fails?

These are important questions, and yes, there are a lot of those complications to consider. But this article makes a compelling case for B2B e-commerce by talking about how a luxury sunglass maker deployed an e-commerce portal for their 2,000+ wholesale clients and saw sales increase by 35%.

And guess what? It’s not just sunglasses; it’s building products, too. I can go to BuildDirect.com and order a pallet of vinyl siding right now. On the industrial side, Grainger is closing in on about 40% online sales—and with Grainger, we’re talking billions of dollars. Whatever your industry, you can no longer say e-commerce has nothing to do with you.

As more and more Millennials move into B2B buyer roles in the next 5 years or so (and yes, there are many who already are in buyer roles—my business partner Renae wrote about that here) it will be important for B2B companies to have some sort of e-commerce system in place. The companies above are proof that there is not only customer demand for these systems, but lucrative and untapped sales opportunities to be had by adopting them.

And for B2B companies hesitant and worried about the complications surrounding a B2B e-commerce portal, perhaps now is the time to work out those kinks. Because this issue is not going away, and I predict it will very quickly change from “something to do tomorrow” to “something that should have been done yesterday.”

Granted, I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t read palms, tea leaves, or crystal balls. But this is less an act of looking through the fog to predict a far-away future than it is looking both ways before you cross the street—it’s not down the line; it’s right in front of us.

So say that “dirty word” and say it often. I promise no one will tell your mom.

Share via email

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

B2B Marketing: What’s Easy Isn’t Necessarily What’s Right

6 Aug

Is Your Marketing Making Life Easier for You or Your Prospects?

thumbnail

There’s a saying that doing the easy thing is not the same as doing the right thing. It’s definitely true for B2B marketers—what’s easy for us to produce might not be what is right for our audience to consume.

But we like easy; as children, we were taught that practice makes perfect. We were taught to do the same thing over and over and become an expert at it. We were taught that the more you do something, the more successful you’ll be—and the easier it will get.

All of this is ingrained into our very being from a young age. And yet as B2B marketers, everything we know goes against this way of thinking.

Case in point: for many years, B2B marketers (especially in the building products industry) knew what their audience wanted—simple, sales-focused materials like brochures—and we gave it to them…in excess. We practiced it until we perfected it. And we did the same thing over and over until we were experts at it. The more we did it, the more successful we were. The easier it got.

We were practically crapping brochures. After all, what better way to showcase the features and benefits of your product than a document that does so in exhaustive detail?

In 2015, the answer to that question is: content that helps, not sells. Sure, your sales team might still need a brochure, but a brochure is little more than a “kiss ‘em goodnight” add-on to leave a prospect with—it’s not a way to start a conversation, and it’s certainly not going to generate leads by itself.

Interesting, then, that a recent study by the NetlLine Corporation and the CMO Council discovered that brochures are still the most commonly produced materials by B2B marketers, yet whitepapers deliver the best leads when it comes to B2B content marketing strategies. So where’s the disconnect?

Simple. B2B marketers are doing what is easy—what they know. And in doing so, they’re ignoring the very clear numbers that prove this is not the content their audience (or sales team) needs when making a buying decision. They need materials that help—not sell: whitepapers, calculators, apps, quizzes, etc. Unfortunately, these tools are more complex, time-consuming, and expensive to produce, so some B2B marketers opt for brochures.

For B2B marketers, making sales-oriented materials that focus on features and benefits of what we want to talk about (like brochures) is easy. We’ve practiced it, perfected it, become experts in it, and even had success with it. But what is right is giving your sales team the content they need to generate leads and giving your audience the content they need to feel comfortable making a purchase—content that educates and helps.

Be the B2B marketer who does what is right—not easy.

Share via email

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is Your Sales Promotion Failing? Or Are You Just Failing Your Sales Team?

31 Jul

Drive Sales Promotion Results by Marketing to Your Sales Team

Sales Team

Here’s something you might not expect a veteran B2B marketer to say: The success of a B2B sales promotion does not hinge on the prizes, nor does it hinge on the theme. It’s not only about the bells and whistles. It’s not even only about the messaging.

A promotion is, however, dependent on buy-in from your sales team. So what would make a long-time B2B marketer and veteran of countless sales promotions say such a thing? Simple: experience. I’ve seen some of the best promotions with the biggest prizes falter—even the longest-running, most historically successful of promotions—without support from internal sales teams.

As a marketer, the ultimate goal is that your work drives sales, and often, a sales promotion might be one of the biggest projects of your year. Consider these tips to ensure your success with the support of your sales team:

  1. Tap Your Sales Team
    Sales teams are important in almost any B2B marketing effort, but they’re especially important in promotions that push a specific product (whether it’s more educated or sales-focused). The first step is to recognize the value your sales team brings to the table, and to make them feel valued. Your internal sales team should receive their own communications throughout the promotion—a “promotion within a promotion,” that will ultimately encourage them to drive a lot of its success. Send them results and updates throughout the promotion, not only to encourage their competitive spirit, but also to remind them what sales goals they’re working towards.
  2. Enable Your Sales Team
    We’ve discussed the importance of sales enablement in the past. With that in mind, just as you might send out weekly or bi-weekly emails to remind dealers to participate in the promotion, you should also send out weekly or bi-weekly emails to remind your internal sales team to encourage sign-ups and participation from the people they talk to every day. But don’t stop there—give them tips and tricks like scripts to use at the end of every sales call. Create unique product flyers and hotsheets that help them sell the product and push it that much harder during the promotion. You might even consider how a concurrent customer rebate could drive sales down the channel.
  3. Incent Your Sales Team
    Okay, I take back what I said earlier—prizes do matter. But they don’t matter to only the participants of the promotion. They also matter to your sales team, who must use hard-earned political capital with their customers to push a new promotion on top of their normal, day-to-day sales. Asking for the help of your sales team is great, but be ready to put your money where your mouth is and offer them the incentives they need to push that much harder. Consider that being able to offer huge prizes for participants of the promotion is only as useful as the participation it garners, the leads it generates, and the sales it closes.

Despite the changes in technology, B2B is still about personal interactions and relationship-building. If you’re not engaging the people on the ground to leverage their relationship, your promotion isn’t failing you—you are failing your promotion. Create a “promotion within a promotion” to encourage your sales team to get in on the action.

One guess what’ll happen…

Share via email

Tags: , , , , , , , ,