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Tesla: Innovation in the Driver’s Seat

18 Oct

The Building Materials Industry Can and Must Continue to Innovate

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I recently attended the inaugural Housing Innovation Vision Economics (HIVE) conference in LA. Kudos to Hanley Wood for a successful first-time event.

The opening keynote was JB Straubel, co-founder of Tesla. Arguably one of the more innovative companies right now, Tesla is doing more than just making a beautiful electric car.

When Tesla brainstorms, they start with the problem they’re trying to solve. Their team wanted to reduce harmful emissions. How could they do that? By making an electric car that people would actually buy.

JB and his team looked at how established companies were building cars. Tesla realized how inefficient the process was and created a new way.

During HIVE, two consistent problems kept bubbling up: the housing industry’s labor shortage and the increasing challenge of affordable housing.

How do we create a new way?

How do we build a better process for attracting, hiring and retaining labor? How do we hack and disrupt and innovate to make homes more affordable?

How do we follow Tesla’s lead?

Innovation isn’t industry specific. You don’t have to be Tesla to push the boundaries. A mature industry like ours can continue to innovate – in fact, we have to.

Better design. Better space planning. Better land management. All are important to meet the needs of shifting demographics, sustainability measures and first-time homebuyers.

HIVE was definitely not the typical building materials and housing industry conference. But the conversation about how our industry innovates can’t be limited to an annual event.

What “blue sky” idea is our industry pursuing today that will be mainstream tomorrow?

 

 

 

 

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Damn you B2C Advertisers

13 Oct

You Make Our Life a Living Hell

Retro TV Commercial

No offense, I love being tricked into thinking a Twinkie will make my day better, or that breakfast at Taco Bell really is a good decision, but you still get to live in a carefree life of old school advertising.  Simply tell enough people and somebody will respond. It’s media math. Get that cost per thousand down and hope that some of us zombies will follow. Easy (assuming the company has enough media budget) and no one is getting fired because someone ordered a pizza and didn’t like the cheese-stuffed-crust. The customer will move on or try another option. Easy.

In the B2B world, our decisions have to be a bit more calculated.

For example, we have a client who is a large multi-national manufacturer.  They sell into several industries. Our task: launch a product that cost around $10 million dollars and is an optional product to the buyer. Bonus points – there’s only about 100 people who could actually buy the product (heavily regulated industry) and we already know who they are. Now that’s a challenge. And one where your margin for error is pretty small.

I don’t mean to diminish those Twinkies ads – given my waistline, they must work, along with running to the border. But as a longtime B2B marketer (and converted CPG advertiser), I think it’s time we stand up and be proud of the incredibly challenging and rewarding work of B2B.

In B2B, we work to educate and inform businesses about solutions to problems that our clients’ products or services could solve for them. Real solutions to real business problems.

I challenge us as an industry to remember those business buyers with real problems are also real people. The same people buying Twinkies, tacos and pizzas.

They order a $50 item off Amazon and in most cases they can have it tomorrow. And they can track the process at every step on their phone. They bring that experience to work with them, so let’s talk to them as real people who don’t want to hear why you can’t deliver on time or with a quality customer experience for that $50,000 purchase.

I call this the consumerization of B2B and its rapidly changing the expectations of clients and customers alike. Are you ready for this? Just remember that B2B can’t be boring to boring and it has to be people to people. And remember, it’s all the B2C advertisers’ fault.

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Visiting New York on 9/11: A Note on Perspective

15 Sep

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Don’t Lose Sight of What Really Matters

I recently had the unique experience of traveling to New York City for a Business Marketing Association (BMA) meeting that coincided with the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Consequently, this year was a little different than past BMA meetings in that my trip was an opportunity not only to talk about the B2B marketing industry with some of the leading companies and agencies in the country, but also to gain some important and much needed perspective.

This year, I arrived on the day of September 11 and decided to visit the memorial and see the lights, which are illuminated only a couple of nights a year. As I walked around Ground Zero, I saw firemen in dress blues from Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Miami, and many other cities. These men and women had been at Ground Zero in the weeks and months after the attack, lending a hand with the recovery, clean up, and other support efforts for their brothers and sisters in the NYFD.

As I walked from the reflecting pools where the Twin Towers once stood, I saw a big crowd around the Irish pub next to the fire station. Approaching the pub, I realized this was the place to be for all the firemen and women. I wasn’t sure if I could even go in, but as I entered, I realized I was more than welcome.

The firemen and women in the pub and the streets surrounding it were all talking, hugging, laughing, and sometimes even crying with their brothers and sisters who work to serve so many Americans in different cities across the country. Several times I attempted to buy these amazing, everyday heroes a beer or a drink. But every time, they replied with, “No, let me buy you a drink.”

“What? You’re buying me a drink? I should be thanking you.”

But because of their honor and pride, they wouldn’t allow me to buy them one.

We don’t always value the relationships with the people we serve, or who serve us. If you were offered something by the very people you serve, would you accept—or refuse and offer them one instead? Do you say thank you enough to the people who work for you? How about the people you work for?

From the memorial itself to the people I met in the city on this day, the experience of being in New York on the anniversary of 9/11 is something I wish everyone could experience. While a somber reminder of the worst attack on American soil, it’s also the location where thousands of people perished on what should have been just another typical Tuesday at the office.

As marketers, we have lots of “typical days” in the office. They tend to involve helping our companies or clients sell their products and services—they don’t tend to involve saving lives.

For us, making a mistake means a painful meeting or a brutal phone call—it doesn’t mean life or death.

When every project is rushed, we say it’s hot—but it’s not actually on fire.

We might run into a crazy meeting—but it’s not a burning building.

There is always another “typical day” at the office. But as we recognize and recall the events that forever changed our world, let’s also keep our perspective and remember that we can always be more humble, more thankful, and more appreciative of the opportunities we have. In short, more kind.

Appreciate the people you work with and work for, and those who work for you.

Do good work, but remember that your work isn’t the only thing that matters.

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Go for the B2B Gold

11 Aug

Butterfly Stroke Swimming Champion

The Olympics Inspire B2B Excellence

The Olympics has become one of the most anticipated events throughout the globe. You may even have favorite athletes or events that you always enjoy watching. With such stories of triumph, unity, and humanity the Olympic brand is personal and inspirational. From watching some of the games with my family, I realized that they can teach B2B marketers a thing or two when it comes to creating a long-lasting brand and engaging audience experience.

According to Sponsorship Intelligence, the Olympics not only wins on appeal, but scores higher than many other global brands on values such as inclusiveness, inspiration, and excellence. The games strive to bring the world together through sport, and its overall movement is for a higher purpose—going above and beyond consumer expectations.

Although the colorful rings are one of the most recognizable and beloved logos, branding doesn’t just stop with a logo. Branding is essential because it shows the development and thinking behind who your company is and why people will connect. These days people are bored of perfection, and throughout the Olympics there is a healthy amount of achievement, as well as humanity. A powerful moment in Olympic history that captured hearts across the globe was Jamaica’s first-ever bobsleigh appearance, and although they went medal-less, their story was so inspirational that it even led to a Disney movie.

During the Olympic games, the moments that have been most memorable for fans have showcased the personality of individual athletes, their “brand,” like Carl Lewis or Michael Phelps—it’s the people who define the movement for fans. It’s important to realize that while you may be marketing for business-to-business, there are people who are making the decisions within each interaction and are who you need to build relationships with. By doing so, your business can create its own legacy.

Whether it’s watching Michael Phelps win eight gold medals in 2008 or fans being inspired by the 2012 London Olympics to get out and get active, the Olympic brand tells a story of inspiration that virtually anyone can relate to. Most importantly, the experience for both fans and athletes from around the world is unforgettable. As B2B marketers, we need to strive to create shareable moments, just as the Olympics did with record-breaking tweets during London’s 2012 opening ceremony. Engaging with your audience across your brand’s many different channels to reflect your brand’s true personality—and for transparency—results in winning the gold.

So whether you are a marketing giant, or a triumphant underdog, this year’s games serve as a great source of inspiration for both branding and customer experience. Take heart like an Olympian, and bring your brand center-stage with inclusiveness, inspiration, and excellence.

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When to Use PPC Advertising

4 Aug

PPC,pay per click written on blackboard

When so many obstensibly free options are available to promote your brand, it can feel like Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising is a waste of money. However, there are a few things you can accomplish with a PPC campaign that would take months to accomplish with blogging, social media posting, and other earned media. Not sure if PPC is right for your goals? These are a few times when PPC is the right pick:

When You Want to Build Traffic Quickly

Organic traffic is highly sustainable once you build the content to get people to your site, but it can take awhile for your work to show results. PPC allows you to put your site in front of a lot of people all at once, giving your brand a giant traffic boost.

When You Want to Focus on Specific Geographic Areas

Trying to build traction in a new city? Geotargeted ads can allow you to use your PPC budget to hit exactly the audience that you want. Choose by city name or get even more granular by targeting zip code by zip code. You can also save money by incorporating negative qualifications, such as eliminating from your ad campaign any areas where you do not do business.

When You Have a New Product or Division to Promote

One of the benefits of PPC is that it allows you to build momentum quickly. If you want to give a new product a jump start, a PPC campaign that focuses exclusively on what’s new can give you a big boost. Create specific landing pages for this campaign so that you get maximum mileage out of your efforts.

When You Need to Show Measurable Results Fast

It can take a while for an organic campaign to show measurable results and even then, there will always be a need to continue content generation. PPC marketing, particularly on search engines, gives you results that are detailed enough that you’ll know which part of an ad is working and what kinds of users are responding. If you want data quick, a PPC campaign is the way to go.

PPC is part of a robust and healthy digital marketing strategy. By deciding on specific goals and using PPC for the right reasons at the right time, you can make the most of your marketing dollars.

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