IBS 2016: Innovation Starts at the End of the Channel

4 Feb

Why I’m Demanding a Disruption in Building Products Development

Trendsetters

It seems like every meeting I have been in over the last few months has the same common theme. When asking any building materials manufacturer what they want to be famous for, the one word I hear over and over is “innovation,” or being an “innovator,” or being “innovative.”

No matter the iteration of the word, they’re saying the same thing: they want to come to market with products that chart the path for the industry. The question is: what is anybody doing to really accomplish that? Just stating the word does not change the product development process or disrupt the industry with new and truly innovative products.

That’s why while I was at the 2016 International Builders’ Shower (IBS) and Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), I was delighted to run across a company doing exactly that. Cosentino® is a building products company that develops stunning quartz and stone options for kitchen and bathroom surfaces. One of their products, Silestone®, is a beautiful high-end surface made of 94% quartz.

But what makes this product so innovative is not just the advanced bacteriostatic technology or its incredible resistance and durability, or even its numerous designs; it’s the way Cosentino develops those designs.

Through the support of their Silestone Trendspotters, a diverse group of top designers from across the country, Cosentino creates new looks every year inspired by some of the most cutting-edge and forthcoming designs in the market. How do they accomplish this? Cosentino goes straight to the other end of the channel to talk to the people using their product (and, presumably, their competitors’ products), and then gets their insights to develop a product that will set the course for tomorrow’s trends.

Let’s be clear: these designers aren’t just choosing colors. Manufacturers everywhere bring in a designer or two to pick out colors; that’s nothing new. The Trendspotters is a team of designers from all different places across the country, from different points in their careers (some veterans, some up-and-comers), from different styles and backgrounds, from different philosophies and clienteles.

Cosentino made a bold move in picking them, flying them to Italy, and turning them loose to work with engineers, product developers, and others on the manufacturing team to create a product they collectively thought reflected where design is headed. The magic of this is in how fearless Cosentino was in being open to the opportunity of what could be made when this diverse team of forward-thinkers got access to their resources, intelligence, and the inspiration of Italy.

Here are two of the new looks from the Etchings collections created this year by the Trendspotters:

  • Ink EtchInk: This jet black design is a classic, clean, and simple showstopper in most decor. By complementing the boldness of the Etchings design with a timeless shade, homeowners can feel confident their choice won’t go out of style any time soon.
  • AquaTint EtchAquatint: Look familiar? Our Art Director, Stephanie Voss, wrote a blog last year about how calming blue hues like Pantone’s Serenity will influence the building products industry in 2016. Proof pudding.

This approach to product development and design is brilliant precisely because it seems so obvious—but it’s not. Not everyone in building products is doing this. In fact, a lot of manufacturers either base their designs on focus group input or simply create designs based on studies published through standard trade outlets. Both options have their place, but are also inherently reactive—not always the best option for companies who seek to be innovative.

But who better to tell building products manufacturers at the top of the channel where design is going than some of the top designers in the country? By using these designers’ “on the ground” knowledge, Cosentino’s Silestone product is poised to set the tone for other designers and consumers in the coming years.

It takes time, energy, patience, investment, and courage to utilize an approach like this—an approach that empowers someone outside of your company to not only influence product design, but to create it. But that is true innovation. It’s listening, it’s using resources, it’s collaborating, and it’s understanding the channel on every level and using those insights to better your product and better the entire industry. Using focus groups and studies is also necessary for understanding today’s trends, but setting tomorrow’s requires further channel insights—exactly what Cosentino is doing with its Trendspotters.

I’m certain that this new line is going to be a hit, but I’m even more certain that the process will open the building products world to even more innovative creations.

Share via email

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

10 IBS Insights You Need to Know (Part 2/2)

28 Jan

Part Two: 5 Design Trends from IBS 2016

Indoor Outdoor Living

Every year, the International Builders’ Show (IBS) is the best place for marketers to keep a finger on the pulse of where the building products industry is going. The ER Marketing team and I attended this year, and we were able to learn everything from the latest marketing trends to a general economic housing outlook to the latest products that will impact everyone down the channel.

There’s no question that tech and high-performance homes are big, overarching trends to look for in 2016. But the show proved that neither of those trends can come at the expense of design, so the onus is on marketers at the higher end of the channel to educate their customers how these products can integrate into a home’s design beautifully and seamlessly.

Using our own team hashtag, #IBSDoubleTake, we captured the things that made us stop and take notice during IBS 2016. And they’re things you should take notice of, too—they’ll be impacting the way we market these products as we get deeper into 2016 and the coming years. Here are some of the design trends spotted at IBS 2016 by my team:

Top 5 Design Trends from IBS 2016:

  1. You are no longer in the building business. You are in the technology business. As customers at the end of the channel nutonebecome more and more tech-savvy (and tech-reliant), so too will their homes and the products they choose to build it with or put in it. Even down to seemingly simple products like this Nutone doorbell with 250 MB of space for custom doorbell rings/music, tech was the showstopper. Nutone did an excellent job of showing how a fun piece of technology can also inspire a clean and simple design aesthetic.
  2. Tech is big, but so is functionality. And new tech needs to integrate seamlessly into any design, including traditional, to be truly functional for customers. Wellborn Cabinets did that well with their remote control island—super functional, super classic, super innovative.Kohler Bath
  3. Lighting is big. Kohler highlighted the fact that whether in the home or in the booth, eye-catching lighting will be important for building products marketers to account for in 2016 and beyond. Consider how you might use unique lighting tactics to modernize your product photography as well.
  4. The style of the New American Home was “Rustic Modern.” What does that mean for building products marketers? Focus on a design that combines natural elements, textures, and colors with clean, simple, and crisp lines. In fact, the home executed this so effortlessly, it appeared to be a part of the natural landscape!New American Home 1
  5. Wondering how outdoor living plays in? Don’t worry—it hasn’t gotten away. In recent years, outdoor living has meant bringing amenities you would normally expect indoors (fireplaces/pits, speakers, covered seating) to the outdoors. Now it’s about bringing outdoor elements in with seamless, even tenuous, transitions from the indoors to the outdoors. This means floor to ceiling glass, pocket doors, cable or glass railing, clean lines, and corresponding design elements (like using recessed lighting and using the same flooring styles inside and outside, for example).

If you missed our post earlier in the week, make sure to read the Top 5 Marketing Trends building products marketers need to know from IBS 2016.

Share via email

Tags: , , , , , , ,

10 IBS Insights You Need to Know (Part 1/2)

27 Jan

Part One: 5 Building Products Marketing Lessons from IBS 2016

This year, several members of the ER Marketing team and I attended the annual International Builders’ Show (IBS) and KBIS in Las Vegas, NV. As anyone who has ever attended can attest to, this is a big event that can be overwhelming. We’re not talking your average trade show. It’s one of the biggest—if not the single biggest—event of the year in the building products industry. While there, you see all the cutting edge technology that will be setting trends for the coming years….not to mention educational sessions, model home tours, and more. And hey—as a bonus, it’s in Vegas. Who can complain?

While there, the ER Marketing team was using #IBSDoubleTake to share all the things that made us do a double take at the event—the things that really caught our attention. Here is a quick list of the top 5 marketing lessons those in the building products industry need to know.

Top 5 Marketing Lessons from IBS 2016:

  1. When it’s not easy to explain your products or services in a booth, sometimes it’s a good strategy to go all in on your brand. ARCAT did that well with their booth.
  2. When you can manage it, taking your booth from product showplace to play place can work well. CertainTeed’s wall climbing demo and celebrity guest, Mike Holmes, proved it; they had high traffic and buzz throughout the event.
  3. If your product is easy to install, don’t just say it—show it. Plastpro doors drew a crowd with some fundamentals of door installation. It just goes to show that good lessons are always interesting to those in building.
  4. Speed is now a matter of trustworthiness. Whether in marketing or customer service (and some would argue those lines are getting blurry), responding quickly is proven to increase trust with your audience.
  5. Booth tech makes a difference, especially when prospects can engage with it. Johnsmanville had a spray foam simulator at the event that felt a little like a game. We competed, using the actual install gun, virtually pointed at a screen so users could spray the fill area with a virtual, 3-inch expanding insulation. What a smart way to showcase this product!

If you want a taste of what it’s like to experience the IBS show in person, we also put together a short walkthrough video. You can view that video here. (Dramamine recommended—we cover a lot of ground.)

Look out for part two of this blog series—coming this week. We’ll be discussing the Top 5 Design Trends from this year’s IBS that building products marketers need to be aware of in 2016 and beyond.

Share via email

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

Don’t Let Words Overpower the Message

21 Jan

Avoid These Marketing Buzzwords in 2016

Buzzwords

When I was at the B2B Marketing Forum this past year, we played a little game called “marketing bingo.” Some of you might be familiar with it. You play by creating a card of marketing lingo, slang, and overused words, and then you work to fill up your board as you hear these words used throughout the conference. And you’d be amazed to learn how quickly those bingo cards fill up.

Towards the end of last year, I wrote a blog post about how marketers need to focus on being classic rather than trendy. Reports show that as marketers are trying more and more to push the envelope to keep up with the latest trends, they’re missing some of the fundamentals of marketing. I believe that a lot of the time, marketers are too focused on who can throw out the most marketing buzzwords in a conversation rather than having a substantive discussion of the deeper issues at hand.

That’s why I was so excited to come across an article from Marketo last week discussing some of the top buzzwords that marketers should retire this year. I’ve picked out a few of my favorites:

  • Email Blast: A shotgun blasts, an email doesn’t. If anything, as marketers we should be looking for more and more ways to personalize our emails—not “blast” them out to the largest group possible.
  • Low Hanging Fruit: Aiming low is always a great way to get results, right? No. If you’re looking for low-hanging fruit, I can almost guarantee that you already have it—and it’s rotten.
  • Thought Leader: This one is tricky, because I use it myself. But the reason for not using it is strong—essentially, any content you produce should come from a place of leadership. Too often, though, this word comes from a promotional place. Aim to help, not sell.

As marketers, it’s easy to get caught up in whatever the latest buzzword is. And it’s not inherently bad to be aware of the concepts, but it is if it comes at the expense of actual deeper thinking. Don’t let the words overpower the message and don’t let fleeting trends override long-term strategy.

If you want to see the full list of marketing buzzwords to avoid in 2016, read the article.

Share via email

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

7 Tips for Effectively Communicating Marketing Results

19 Jan

Results

How You Share Your Results Is Just As Important As the Results Themselves

MattBartlett

Guest Contributor:
Matt Bartlett, Account Manager

A couple of years ago, I was tasked with presenting campaign results to a few C-Suite level contacts by one of my clients. I was extremely excited and wanted to give the best and most detailed presentation they’d ever seen. I included every number I could find. I included every detail offered by the tracking solutions we were using. And then, about halfway through my presentation, everyone in the room was reading email on their phones. I was crushed. How could they not care? What I’ve learned is that I wasted a lot of my time and theirs with that presentation…

We’ve written before about the importance of reporting and analytics when it comes to your marketing tactics. You won’t find many successful marketers arguing that results aren’t important. But the fact is, if you can’t communicate results effectively, you are wasting everyone’s time and money—particularly in the building industry, which has high expectations for ROI.

Your Client Is Not Your Only Audience

There are two audiences to consider when communicating marketing results. The first is obvious: the client (or, if you’re a marketer who works on the corporate side, it may be another department or a member of the executive team).

The second, and one that is often overlooked, is your internal team—the people that actually did the work. It’s just as important for them to regularly hear results (even throughout the campaign) so they know what works and what doesn’t for future projects, or so they can course correct in real-time if performance isn’t meeting expectations.

When Delivering Results, Speak Their Language

Below are some of my tips to make sure both audiences actually understand the results you prepare for them:

1. Include a Summary: And make sure to use common language when you do it. Remember that not everyone is a marketing geek like the rest of us, so dumb down the language and minimize the jargon. Raw stats are great and should be included, but don’t forget to provide a high-level summary for easy, at-a-glance consumption.

2. Focus on the Right Metrics: Does bounce rate matter? What about click-to-open-rate (CTOR)? Does your client care about impressions? All metrics are important in one way or another, but decide early on in the process which metrics tie directly back to the stated goals and only report on those. The rest will only confuse and distract from the point.

3. Define Your Metrics: Not only do you need to worry about which metrics to present, but you also need to make sure that your audience understands what they are. Consider utilizing a standard block of definitions for each of the words that you include in the summary. Make sure the definitions explain not only how the metrics work, but why they matter. Bonus points if you can alter each definition slightly to make it hyper-relevant to the goals of the project.

4. Make It Visual: Different people consume information differently. In addition to the summary and actual stats, consider how you can convert the data into easily digestible graphics. Maybe it’s as simple as creating a bar or line graph, but maybe some information could best be communicated as an infographic. In the case of the latter, you might involve your design team in creating a simple graphic to lend greater clarity to results. Could go a long way in helping all audiences understand.

5. Tie It to the Bottom Line: This can be difficult based on what financial information the client is willing to share, but the best performance reports include ROI and show how the marketing activity in question impacted the client’s bottom line. Understand your client’s overall business, not just their marketing. Your job doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

6. Share It Internally: All departments have skin in the game here. Employees often don’t understand marketing or how it impacts what they do. Make it matter by sharing performance.

7. Time Is of the Essence: In today’s world, waiting two months to report on metrics is pointless. Share performance during and immediately after the campaign. Better yet: if possible, give the client access to real-time metrics so they can monitor progress on their own time.

ROI is only good if everyone involved understands it—your team, your client(s), and the people your client reports to. All too often, you see marketers download a last-minute Excel spreadsheet or print out a screenshot from Google Analytics. But “lost in translation” is unacceptable when it comes to results. As marketers, the core of our work is about clarifying products and services through smart, focused, creative work; why wouldn’t we get just as creative to simplify and clarify those results so we can do even better work in the future?

Share via email

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,