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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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Millennials Want an Internal Communications Renovation

13 Sep

Effective B2B Marketing Starts from Within

whitney1

Guest Contributor:
Whitney Riker, Account Executive

Let’s face it: the building industry is in a rebuild phase. A shift in workforce demographics and the housing market is forcing even the largest corporations to take a second look at their business strategies to adjust. Marketing is a major player in your business strategy, but building product marketers who want to be effective in their marketing strategies need to take a look within. After all, effective marketing starts inside. Build your toolbox to execute a better plan.

Picture a Different Landscape Before You Break Ground

As a Millennial, I can say in true Gen-Y fashion, that I am sick of hearing about us. Nonetheless, my generation is the largest and the building industry will have to adjust.

  • In 2014, 28 million people entered the workforce
  • Survey says these workers have close to zero interest in LBM
  • Millennials have been assured from early age that their opinions matter (good luck ignoring them)

Is your organization prepared for the changing workforce? Start by building an internal communications plan.

  1. Envision: What do you want internal communications to do for your company?
  2. Strategize: Where does it stand right now, and what needs improvement?
  3. Evaluate: How soon would you like to reach your goals and how will you get there?

Use these questions to start building your strategy—simple or complex—so you can adapt to the changing workforce. Have a plan you can realistically stick to so you can track your progress and re-assess your approach.

Now That You Have a Plan, Fill Your Toolbox

A strategy can’t be executed without the right tools. So take a look inside and see what you have in your toolbox for communicating internally. Are they the right tools for your Gen-Y employees? Consider that Millennials value time and communication to be on their terms. Most of their day-to-day conversations take place digitally and that expectation won’t go away at work. There are many technology platforms that make it simple and easy to improve internal communication with this generation. Don’t be overwhelmed—just pick one and stick to it. Consistency is key here:

  1. Implement company chat software like, Slack, Yammer, or HipChat
  2. Use cloud tools like Google Drive for documents and spreadsheets
  3. Choose one platform where email, calendars, documents, processes can be shared

Ask your team for their feedback. How can we work together to make communicating with each other better? Trust me. This goes a very long way. Without these channels, brilliant ideas and helpful criticisms can go dark and that’s the last thing you need.

The Nuts and Bolts of Millennial Communications

Don’t lose sight of the big picture. If all else fails, remember the golden rule: Treat others how you would like to be treated and…

  • Make your communications engaging and fun
  • Use visuals to make what you’re communicating more entertaining and effective
  • Maintain transparency to establish trust
  • Avoid communication overload

It’s one thing to open effective communication channels internally and use them; in fact, it’s vital to your organization’s success in the changing environment. It’s another thing entirely, however, to really inspire greatness by leading your team. How you walk in the door everyday, how you speak to your employees, your tone…need I go on? All of this is a form of communication. Internal communications should involve, motivate, and inspire. Take a look at how you are communicating that with what you do, not always what you say.

Building Effective Marketing Starts from Within

So, while we’re all sick of the “Millennial talk”, you can’t avoid the effect they’re having on the workforce, and the building industry is not immune. Take this opportunity to renovate your internal communications so you are better equipped to handle a new kind of workforce. Once you have a plan, build up your toolbox and remember: you can’t just talk the talk—inspire leadership by communicating with your actions, too. Building effective marketing always starts from within. Execute a better plan today.

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3 Tips for Using Video to Market Building Materials

21 Jul

Film Industry

Video can be a highly effective element in your digital marketing efforts. Why try to tell your customers about your building products when you can show them? Technology is also driving the trend in video. With more and more customers accessing the web through mobile, video has become increasingly important.

To get the best results, keep these video marketing tips in mind:

  1. Choose the right length for the medium and the customer.
    Videos that are too short may not provide enough information. When videos are too long, there is a risk of prospects getting bored and navigating away before they are finished. Videos intended for prospects new to your brand should be short. Experts say that videos for Facebook should be two to three minutes. On YouTube, you can gain traction with videos anywhere from one to five minutes in length. To reach customers further down the sales funnel, try in-depth videos that thoroughly explain the value and applications of your products
  2. Get to the action quickly.
    You only have seconds to gain prospects’ interest. Instead of starting with a long introduction, consider jumping straight into the action. Begin with an arresting visual or a surprising fact about your product. By drawing people in quickly, you get the chance to keep them watching and convince them to check out your brand.
  3. Use a mix of video types.
    How-to and explainer videos can show your customers how your products perform in the real world. Testimonial videos allow your prospects to hear for themselves what your happy customers have to say about your products and services. Product showcase videos allow your customers to get a better look at what you are offering than they can get with still photos and text descriptions. By including a range of types of content, you can give prospects more of the information that they are looking for.

Video gives you a chance to connect with busy professionals who don’t have the time to read marketing materials or who prefer to get information in an audio/visual format. By adding this type of content to your marketing mix, you can reach a wider array of prospects and show them just how your products can work for them.

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Is There More Opportunity for Green Builders in 2016?

19 Jul

HouseLawnPlan

The number of contractors involved in more than 60% of green products is growing and is set to grow to 31% both inside and out of the United States, according to a study by Dodge Data and Analytics. The largest green growth is occurring in First World and emerging economies around the world, such as the US, Brazil, South Africa, Germany, and Saudi Arabia. The rate of green building in the US, the UK, and Germany—even in the wake of Brexit—is expected to double by 2018.
The opportunity for green builders in the near future seems inevitable, but is there a way for a new construction product manufacturer to find his way into the market in 2016?
The answer lies in understanding the drivers for green building and positioning your company to take advantage of the developments.
Contractors who do business with government are at an advantage, especially in the United States and a few other Western countries. The US and Germany both have set a priority to expand new initiatives into other countries. Approximately 21 percent of contractors that are currently in the US now report that more than 60% of their contracted projects are green.
Some of the drivers for green building include new environmental regulations around the world, a market demand for sustainable energy construction, and individual client demand for green construction within certain industries. Part of the reason that green building is accelerating more quickly in the US than in the rest of the world is the client demand in the country. Clients in countries that are not the US are much more concerned with market demands, a great deal of which is keeping up with the money that the US spends on green construction.
Contractors outside of the US are more concerned with the impact of building sustainable energy buildings on the health of the actual occupants of that building. Basically, if you are trying to build inside of the US, your investors will want to know if you can reduce water and energy costs. Outside of the US, you should present how you will protect natural resources in the surrounding environment.
Overall, the US is trying to stay ahead of the world in the new green economy, and global competition is increasing because of the value inherent in green building. Depending on the contract that you are trying to get, focus on the needs of the partner organizations and clients in order to take advantage of the new, wide open green market. If you are selling to contractors inside of the US, make sure they know your products can help with energy costs—sell yourself as the supply-side cost reduction expert. Outside of the US, you might be able to get a leg up by featuring the ways in which your products will eventually help the people who will live and work in the buildings that will be created.

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When Selling Building Products, Opt for Simple

21 Apr

Lessons Learned from the 2016 ISC West Show

ISC West

As building products marketers, are we overcomplicating things? Do we consult with people down the channel—including customers and even our own sales teams—to make sure we are delivering the best information in ways that are easy to consume? Most importantly, who can we look to for simplification inspiration in the building products industry?

I recently attended the 2016 ISC West Show, the largest security industry trade show in the United States, with technical reps from more than 1,000 exhibitors and brands in the security industry. While there, I explored and learned about the rapidly growing segment of the connected home and the integration challenges of hardware and software in the security and door hardware industry.

The attendees of the show are typically security dealers. They sell in consumer homes, similar to a lot of building materials products. And, like a window or siding rep, they have to “win the kitchen table” if they hope to sell their product effectively down the channel.

One of the tours that did a great job of demonstrating how to “win the kitchen table” based on their product offering was the Tektronix® Connected Home booth. There, I learned how their integrated system connects the video doorbell to the alarm, the sprinklers, garage door, network-boosting light bulbs, and so on. Obviously, Tektronix is not the only company doing this, but for manufacturers not thinking about what homeowners want, this is where they need to start looking.

What I found amazing was one of the final items on the Tektronix tour, which displayed their “upsell kit.” It’s what a marketer might call a sales rep kit or in-home kit. Over the years, we’ve probably created dozens of these for clients, ranging from somewhat basic to very complex and expensive to produce. You’ve likely done these as well.

The upsell kit Tektronix showed at their booth is their most requested and used of all time. So what makes it unique? Triple fold-out panels with a wiring schematic that integrates all the cool features? Maybe some electronic component that connects via Bluetooth to the reps phone?

Nope. It’s simply a printed image of all the pieces that might normally go into the kit.Unknown

Yes, you read that right. The sample kit doesn’t have physical samples. It has pictures of them and a call out image on the inside flap of the box. It’s very light, so it’s easy to carry. It’s very cheap to produce so dealers can have several of these for all their reps.

These are home security items—technology items. These are items that protect the homeowner’s family. But even with all that, they don’t require a physical sample. I realize they aren’t picking a color or finish, but compared to what most in the building products industry have always done, many might consider it a “fake” sales kit. But for Tektronix, it works well—and suits both their customers’ and sales teams’ needs just fine.

So, I’ve challenged our team and I’m challenging you to think about this when developing your in-home sales kit and other sales enablement tools. Have you talked to the dealers to see what works or why they don’t use one item or another? Have you ever tried a completely different approach? Have you asked why your company does it that way?

And most importantly, have you asked yourself if there is a simpler way to do this? That’s what drove this change in their upsell kit. We can do this too—find things to simplify in our increasingly complex lives, both as people and as marketers.

 

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