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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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Book Review 3: The Fred Factor (Part 1/2)

7 Apr

4 Lessons Anyone Can Learn from Fred’s Example in Customer Service

fred-factor

I was at an event recently and had a chance to visit with different people with varied backgrounds and professional pursuits. Someone asked the group, “are you a Fred?” and maybe more importantly, “do you have any Freds in your organization?”

That intrigued me enough to pick up a book written by Mark Sanborn titled The Fred Factor. What a simple, yet compelling book for anyone to read and think about to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

The book starts out with a story about how Sanborn’s mailman and his mail delivery created an extraordinary experience. According to the author:

“This postal carrier stopped by my house right after I moved in to introduce himself and welcome me to the neighborhood. When he learned I traveled almost 200 days a year, he suggested I give him a schedule and he would hold my mail, bundle it up and only deliver it on the days I was home. I suggested he just leave the mail in the box on the side of the house and I would pick it up when back in town. Fred, the mail carrier, suggested that was a bad idea because burglars watch for mail building up in the box. He suggested putting what he could in the box and the balance between the screen door and front door.

I started to wonder if this guy was for real and really worked for the U.S. Postal Service.

Two weeks later, after coming home I noticed my front door mat was on the side of my porch. Under it was a note from Fred. While I was gone, another mail carrier had delivered a package to the wrong address. He went and got it, left it on my porch and covered it with the doormat so it was safe with a hand written note so I knew what was going on.”

Over the next 10 years, the author received exceptional service from Fred the Postman. He could always tell when a substitute was on the job, as mail was jammed in the box as opposed to neatly bundled. These encounters inspired the author to figure out what the “Fred Factor” is and what it takes to become one.

So, how can we get more Freds in the world? That’s easy to answer: Be a Fred! Only if you make the ordinary extraordinary will others see the possibilities for themselves. One thing seems common to all human beings: a passion for significance.

So, what does it take to be a Fred? There are lots of nuggets and good points in this book but a great place to start is with the 4 main principles the book outlines: 

Principle #1: Everyone makes a difference.

Only employees can choose to do their job in an extraordinary way. Yes, the right management, structure, procedures, and culture of a company all matter, but in the end, only employees can CHOOSE to do their job in an extraordinary way. Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be exceptional. The question to ask yourself everyday is what kind of difference you made on that day. A good reminder is to know more and notice more.

What we haven’t been told nearly enough is that people give work dignity. There are no unimportant jobs, just people who feel unimportant in their jobs. B.C. Forbes, the founder of Forbes magazine, said, “There is more credit and satisfaction in being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth-rate executive.” Think about that for a minute!

The Fred Factor emphasizes that the more value you create for others, the more value will eventually flow towards you.

Principle #2: Everything is built on relationships.

Fred is proof that, in any job or business, relationship building is the most important objective, because the quality of the relationship is what differentiates the quality of the product or service. Most mail carriers can get the mail in the mailbox, but Fred got to know the person so he could deliver exceptional service custom tailored to them.

Principle #3: You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny.

Don’t have enough money? The necessary training? The right opportunities? In other words, do you ever complain that you lack resources?

Then consider Fred. What resources did he have at his disposal? A blue uniform and a mail bag. That’s it! He walked up and down the streets with that bag of mail and his heart and head full of imagination. By the end of the day, Fred had beaten a silent competitor that threatened his potential. That competitor is mediocrity—a willingness to do just enough and nothing more than necessary to get by.

Principle #4: You can reinvent yourself regularly.

The only difference between a rut and a grave, as the old saying goes, is the depth.

Become a sponge for ideas. Learn how to distinguish between activity and accomplishment. If you want to reinvent yourself, answer these questions:

  • What are the most important lessons you have learned?
  • What did you once deeply desire to accomplish that you never attempted?
  • Whom do you most admire?
  • Which of their skills and characteristics would you like to develop in your life?

Work on your IQ (implementation quotient). How many good ideas die for lack of action and follow through on your part? Knowing you could have made someone’s day and actually doing it are two different things.

You might want to practice the one-a-day plan. If you do one extraordinary thing a day, whether at home or work, your work will be a record book of the extraordinary.

These four lessons can apply to anyone in any industry, but it is especially true in the building products industry. Building is unique in that, despite all sorts of modern and technological advances, it is still almost entirely built around relationships. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how smart or creative we are with marketing if the people making, maintaining, and nurturing the relationships aren’t acting like Freds.

So, how about giving it a go? It’s time for those in the building products industry to learn from Fred—and help create more of them.

Stay tuned for part two of this book review, which will cover how to find and develop Freds as employees.

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Book Review 2/3: Year of Yes

1 Apr

What Building Products Marketers Can Learn from Saying “Yes”

Year of Yes

As building products marketers, the word “no” comes up a lot—either from us saying no or being told no. It’s easy to take those as referendums on our work or be discouraged from putting forth that next game-changing idea.

I recently had the opportunity to read a book that is different than my typical literary fare. Usually, I opt for building products-specific books, or other books that directly apply to business and marketing. This one was different in that it was written by Shonda Rhimes—one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, and the creator of three hit shows. Anyone who has ever watched Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, or How to Get Away with Murder likely knows about this extraordinary creative talent.

Year of Yes is about a challenge that was lobbed at her one Thanksgiving by her older sister. That sibling muttered six little words to her: “You never say yes to anything.” Saying no had become an easy choice to make, because it meant having nothing new to fear. 

Those six words set the course for the next year of her life, as she committed to one year of saying yes. Here is how that worked. Rhimes agreed to say yes to everything that scared her. In the book, she states she is an introvert, terrified of encounters like live interviews, speaking engagements, cocktail parties where she doesn’t know a soul, and so on. With this new pledge, she resolved that things were gonna’ change!

So she started saying yes, and this book is the story of that. Through this transformative year, Rhimes accomplished the following:

  • Gave commencement speech at Darthmouth and here are a few significant points from that speech to those graduates:
    • Lesson 1: Ditch the Dream. Be a doer, not a dreamer.
    • Lesson 2: Tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever for you.
    • Lesson 3: Anyone that tells you they are doing it perfectly is a liar.
  • Appeared live on Jimmy Kimmel
  • Lost 100 pounds by saying yes to health
  • Gave speeches across the country
  • Hosted industry-wide events
  • Gave up fake friends by saying yes to the truth

I am going to embrace this idea and see what saying yes will mean to me this year. I challenge the building materials industry to think about a simple concept like this.

What would saying “yes” do to our efforts? Would excuses fall by the wayside? Would we be more focused on trying new things and moving beyond fear or hesitation? Would we create new products and services that could change our industry? Would we market them in bold new ways that engage our customers instead of doing what we’ve always done? Would we challenge ourselves to do better work that pushes us outside of our comfort zone and delights customers? Might we embrace new technology and use it to build up our business and our customers’ businesses? Would we sell more? Grow more?

I’ll venture a guess and say that the answer to those questions is a resounding yes.

See? I’m doing it already.

 

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Learn Something New from These B2B Marketing Accounts

15 Mar

Follow on Twitter

Your B2B Crash Course Is Just a Follow Away

Guest Contributor:
Jenee Meyer, Office Administrator

After 15 years building my career in advertising and account service, I took 14 years off to be a stay-at-home mom. Needless to say, my focus changed dramatically. Snacks and play dates became much more important to me than Facebook, Twitter, search engine optimization, and blogs.

Now I’m back in the advertising world as an office administrator at ER Marketing, and it can sometimes be scary teaching myself new things. But in marketing—and especially in ever-changing industries like building—it’s important to always strive to learn and try new things.

While I was a stay-at-home mom, I took my daughter and son to a Google® event called CoderDojo. The kids would sit at long tables and the mentors would write a few words on the whiteboard stating what the goal was for the day. Maybe it was creating a weather page or maybe it was making a simple game. The beginners had some on-line lessons they could work through to get started while the more advanced kids just started working on their projects, asking questions of mentors when they were needed. At the end of three hours, two or three kids would come up to the front and show what they had created.

No elaborate instructions were given. No one was “taught” anything by listening to an instructor standing up front. It was up to kids who were 10+ years old to figure out how they were going to create something. It was amazing to watch how kids aren’t afraid to teach themselves new skills. So why, as adults, are we often afraid to learn new skills ourselves? More importantly—what can we do to learn them?

For me, I’ve turned to content: blogs, tweets, whitepapers, studies—anything I can get my hands on. Admittedly, the amount of content there is on the web can be intimidating. It can feel like everyone is talking and no one is listening. If I want to listen, how do I find the blogs and posts that will nurture my career and mind vs. ones that will leave me feeling like I’ve eaten too much candy? It’s a conundrum.

Here are a few of the Twitter accounts I’ve followed that help teach me new things and give me the B2B marketing information I need to get back in the game:

  • @ERMarketing, @EltonMayfield, @RenaeGonner: Okay, so it’s a bit of a shameless plug, but the founders of ER Marketing, Elton and Renae, are all over this stuff. Their accounts are focused on B2B marketing, with a slant towards the building products industry—but the insights are applicable for any industry.
  • @MarketingB2B: Not only does this account keep you up-to-date with helpful articles and trends, it also tweets helpful news roundups of the latest in B2B marketing.
  • @B2Community: Business 2 Community is all content, all the time. They have an open community of contributors, meaning that you’re getting insights collected from people across industries, careers, and experiences.
  • @MarketingProfs: Run by Ann Handley of Marketing Profs, this account is all about content. What I like about it is that it doesn’t just grab any random article—it’s carefully curated so no matter what you click, you get good, useful content.
  • @CMIContent: This account is great because it gives you a breadth of topics—everything from social media to search engine marketing to paid search. For someone like me, trying to jump in and give myself a crash course on what’s current in the marketing game, it’s very helpful.

Whether you’re new to B2B marketing, trying to jump back in, or just trying to stay current on the latest industry trends, it’s important to remind yourself that there is no right or wrong way to go about this. Just start following blogs and Twitter accounts, and if something isn’t working for you, you can always unsubscribe or unfollow with a simple click.

After taking 14 years to raise my family, I’m back in—and my game plan is to follow more people on Twitter and subscribe to more blogs. But most importantly, I’m going to actually take time to read those tweets and blogs. I can subscribe to everything in the world, but if I’m not reading it, it does me no good.

That’s my game plan. What’s yours?

 

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IBS 2016: “The New Big Thing” Is…

23 Feb

My Key IBS Takeaway for Building Products Marketers

IBS 2016

We’ve talked a lot about the 2016 International Builders’ Show (IBS) throughout the course of the last few weeks. You might even say we’re a little obsessed. But the reason why is that, for building products marketers, trade shows are a big deal. And there is perhaps no bigger one—or more important—than IBS. Every year, IBS represents where the building industry is going, from products to design trends to marketing. And every year, it’s at IBS where you can find “the next big thing.”

For me, the next big thing in trade show marketing is pretty clear: experiential booths. For a long time—too long, in fact—boring and uninspired booths have ruled the roost. Matt Hillman, our creative director at ER Marketing, even recently went as far as to describe the majority of booths as “brochures you stand in.” Not far off. But things are changing. In his post, he discusses some of the booths at IBS that delivered much better experiences for their audience. The common theme was that these exhibitors need to put on a “show” for their audience.

I think this is true no matter what trade shows you attend. In fact, it sparked my thinking on some other trade shows I’ve been to that have exemplified the experiential booth marketing that was such a hit at IBS. Here are some of the standout booth experiences I’ve had attending trade shows—experiences that should become the model for B2B marketers in the building products industry:

  1. At the Food Equipment Show, a commercial sausage making company proved the power of their product by doing multiple demonstrations using Play-Doh. This created a colorful (in more ways than one) experience for attendees.
  2. A simple product demonstration that proved effective was a window company that let attendees experience their good, better, best product offerings. By placing single, double, and triple paned windows in front of heaters, visitors could simply touch the glass to feel the difference in quality.
  3. A house wrap company had an innovative approach to showing their product’s resilience. By pulling their house wrap taut and placing it next to competitors’ products, they were able to demonstrate which was the strongest—by having a professional pitching machine shoot baseballs at the wrap.
  4. At the Deck Expo, one company created a competition in which attendees attempted to break their product with a hammer. If they were able to break it, they won a huge prize. It was simple to execute, and best of all, the loud noises of people attempting to break the synthetic decking drew a crowd.

IBS proved that the next big thing for building products marketers is creating an experience attendees will remember and breaking from tradition to do it. But that’s not exclusive to IBS—these examples demonstrate that it’s a change happening at all trade shows. B2B marketers in the building products industry need to do better. Your average, boring trade show booths are no longer effective. Worse, they’re very likely a huge waste of your money.

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