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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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Lessons From The Builders’ Show

18 Feb

An Open Letter To Trade Show Exhibitors

Dear Friends,

According to the Convention Industry Council, trade shows added more than $280 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012, drawing more than 225 million participants. That’s a staggering set of figures and it underscores the importance these shows play. As marketers, we all know exhibiting at trade shows can be vital to our business—to see and be seen, to market products and services, and to nurture relationships.

Over my career, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a variety of trade shows across numerous industries, the most recent at the building industry’s combined 2016 IBS & KBIS in Las Vegas.

And over the years, I’m struck by one constant of booths, regardless of time, region or industry…

Chances are, your booth sucks. It’s cramped, cluttered, and really boring.

While harsh, it’s also probably true. Worst of all, you probably know it. But take heart because you’re most certainly not alone in this. Everywhere, at every show, are long swaths of cluttered and uninspired landscape—overwhelming collections of shapes and colors, fixtures and messages, all masquerading as brand. It’s as pervasive and inescapable as it is predictable.

Why? When did this happen? When did it become okay to develop a trade show booth as if someone pitched the idea “You know what people will want to do after spending thousands of dollars and traveling hundreds of miles? To stand inside our 4×9 brochure!

Sure, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s the reality we’ve all seen time and again—and sadly, what we’ve come to expect and attendees to accept. Throngs of people shuffling past a booth, each scanning over it and moving on. And that’s after you’ve spent—what?—tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of marketing budget, ostensibly to get exactly their attention.

So now that I’ve pointed out the obvious problem, let me point out the not-so-obvious remedy. The secret, the greatest missed opportunity, comes down to a simple idea that the majority of exhibitors overlook which is…want a hint? Here you go: International Builders’ Show, Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, International Consumer Electronics Show, SHOT Show, Club Industry Show, Nightclub & Bar Convention & Trade Show…

Notice anything in common? They’re trade shows. And what is a show? It’s an event, a spectacle, something to witness and enjoy. It’s active, not passive—and that’s the key. If you were invited to “dinner and a show” you’d naturally expect to be entertained, and yet at trade shows, we invite people to come see us and then reward them with opportunities to stand around and read something. Where’s the spectacle? Where’s the pizazz?

Face it, contemporary trade shows are overgrown ice trays of bland inactivity. But there is hope, bright morsels of brilliance among the milquetoast masses.

As recently as the IBS/KBIS in Las Vegas, I found a few who got it right and as a result, got noticed—some with every chair filled and some with onlookers clogging the aisle (drawing even more to come and see what the buzz is about). Others would do well to follow their lead.

CertainTeed

IBS Certainteed

If you have the budget, go big and use celebrities. CertainTeed brought in HGTV star Mike Holmes for an appearance and photo opp, plus constructed a climbing wall. What does a climbing wall have to do with their products? It was lost on a lot of people. But see the woman in the foreground…she’s capturing it on her phone, probably sharing it with others. She’s sharing images of a B2B trade show booth unsolicited. Money shot, indeed.

GAF

IBS GAF

Don’t have big budgets for big talent? Go traditional and use models and simple RTW giveaways. Your own team is paid to be productive experts, but hired talent is paid to be charming, inviting, and generally attractive. At the GAF booth—just inside a major entry point—a smiling woman with a bubbly personality was getting grown men to register to win stuffed animals. And it worked; in the few moments it took for me to grab this picture, two men asked where to sign up.

Plastpro

IBS plastpro

I walked by the Plastpro booth a few times and each time I did, people were standing-room-only to watch a pro install a door. To most people, this would be a punchline, but to attendees it was interesting, valuable, and yes, entertaining. The presenter was upbeat and personable…and he presented, not simply talked. I’ll admit, I stuck around and learned how to square a door much easier than I used to (and I’m not even the target audience).

Okay, so it’s great if you have the resources for a 30×40 booth with big events and headline talent and boxes of prizes. But what about the 10×10 along the back wall? What about those who spent a third of their marketing budget just to get it all to the show?

Bad Dog Tools

IB baddog

For more than 10 minutes, I watched two men at Bad Dog Tools do nothing but demo their product and answer questions. No brochures, no giveaways, no models. Yet people were constantly lined up on two sides of the booth to watch drill bits bore through everything from rasps to brake discs. Bad Dog Tools could have made a video of it and had it looping while two of their salespeople sat on bar stools and watched attendees shuffle by and not stop, but instead they made the product the show. Brilliant.

What’s the takeaway? Don’t settle, make a spectacle. Create a booth that’s a destination, or at the very least, an interruption. Remember that people can get information about your products or services at your website, so use your trade show booth to interact with them in a way you can’t otherwise—and in a manner that doesn’t feel like you’re pressuring them to buy a timeshare.

And here’s one final thought to consider…

“People will pay more to be entertained than educated.” –Johnny Carson

So come on, marketers. Show us what you’re made of.

Sincerely,

Matt Hillman

ER Marketing, Creative Director

hillman

 

 

 

 

 

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It Works If You Work It

17 Feb

3 Reasons Networking in the Building Products Industry Helps You and Your Business

Account Coordinator_LexiGuest Contributor:
Lexi Copeland, Account Coordinator

After moving from western Kansas (shout-out to Hays, America) to Kansas City more than two years ago, I initially felt like a very little fish in a very big pond. Starting off my career, I wasn’t sure where I could fit in. So rather than aimlessly float around, I decided to make a plan to grow into my new environment. What worked for me? I started participating in networking events hosted by a professional association specific to my field. My employment is a direct result of these efforts and I now hold a board position on the local chapter of that organization.

Have you ever heard that sometimes annoying phrase, “It’s all about who you know?” This is a universal truth when it comes to building your business and growing your professional and personal network—especially within the building products industry, where the relationships you nurture throughout your career could make or break a sale. Here’s exactly how networking can help you in more ways than one.

  1. Grow Your Business: When attending events within your industry, you are gaining an opportunity to be struck with inspiration and insights from members of the channel that you might not normally be exposed to. One of the owners of ER Marketing, Renae, just wrote about how Silestone’s team of “Trendspotter” designers are the perfect example of this. By interacting with a group in a different section of the channel, they have helped make their product better, in turn improving business and setting new style trends that will impact everyone in the industry. You also never know where new leads will come from. Wouldn’t it make perfect sense for a contractor looking for a new supplier to attend an event hosted by suppliers?
  2. Grow Professionally: An article recently published on attending B2B events emphasizes the importance of prioritizing new experiences because they help keep us fresh and creative. If you get so used to a daily routine that you never branch out, opportunities for new ideas and possibilities will pass you by. People also greatly respect those that position themselves as experts in their field but also share that knowledge with others. So also consider the speaking opportunities professional associations have to offer. In the world of building, it’s important to make sure you’re constantly evolving to meet your customers’ latest demands. Professional networking events and education sessions provide you with the opportunities you need to grow in that way.
  3. Grow personally: Relationships are essential to life’s happiness, and you may be surprised by the amount of meaningful connections that can be made through networking. Relating to others—inside or even outside of your industry—can give you a sense of fulfillment, perspective, and camaraderie not always possible (or at least easily accessible) in our normal day-to-day interactions. You should feel more energized, motivated, and inspired by your involvement. Not only that, but seeing what other people in your industry are doing can help you feel more rejuvenated during times when you might otherwise feel disenchanted with the ebbs and flows of your career—and the building industry.

It is also important to mention that networking is no longer just about saving business cards in a Rolodex. With today’s technology like LinkedIn and others, maintaining a network has never been easier. But access alone isn’t enough—your best chance at success will come from being real, authentic, and dedicating effort to helping others as well. In other words, don’t go into networking thinking only of what you can take or get from others; think of what you can contribute as well.

Here are a few of the best networking organizations for those in the building products industry:

 

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Say It With a Whisper

17 Dec

Color of the Year

What the 2016 Color Forecast Means for Building Industry Marketers

Stephanie Voss

Guest Contributor:
Stephanie Voss, Art Director

My favorite bedtime story to read to my daughter is about a whispering rabbit who has to make a very quiet noise to wake up a bumblebee. Because bumblebees, of course, are small creatures that do not pay attention to loud noises. The rabbit has to make softer and softer noises until the bumblebee will hear it. This is similar to the approach that Pantone has taken with their color choices this year. They are subtle—so subtle in fact, that they are causing people to take notice.

For the first time, Pantone has selected two colors: Serenity and Rose Quartz, which can most simply be described as baby pink and baby blue. If you are wondering if Pantone chose girl and boy colors intentionally, you are not alone; even The New York Times is calling out the move as a political statement about gender equality.

Pantone themselves stated they chose colors that fit what consumers are seeking: “Welcoming colors that psychologically fulfill our yearning for reassurance and security.”

As marketers, we can follow Pantone’s lead when selecting colors. Sometimes being the one to whisper when everyone else is yelling is what draws attention.

And while thoughts of Barbie’s dream house or your grandmother’s powder room might come to mind when you think of these hues, they can actually create a sophisticated and modern pallet when used in the right way. Pink and blue will gain popularity in the building industry for the same reason they did in the ‘50s—they bring calmness and comfort to a home. Using these shades for the right reasons can be very effective in reaching your audience.

Here are a few tips on when to use these shades, as well as RGB (on screen) codes to try out:

Rose Quartz, Pantone 677Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 11.21.48 AM

  • r 235, g 209, b 214
  • Warm and soft are the words that come to mind when you see this color. Therefore, it will work well to market any product that delivers warmth and comfort to its user, like insulation, heating, or carpeting.

Serenity, Pantone 659Screen Shot 2015-12-16 at 11.21.41 AM

  • r 120, g 150, b 207
  • You just can’t get a color that’s any cooler, calmer, or more collected than this one. It makes you want to take a deep breath. Use this in any communication intended to put your audience at ease. The tone for a warranty promotion or new customer service offering would be complemented nicely by this color.

Bring these hues into your marketing with purpose and you will be sure to stand out to your audience—not with a bang, but with a whisper.

References:

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6 of My Favorite Building Products Manufacturer Apps

10 Dec

Are You Using All the Sales Tools Available to You?

Unknown

As of July 2015, there are 1.6 million Google Play apps, 1.5 million Apple App Store apps, and 400,000 Amazon App Store apps*. The building products industry is beginning to take notice of this phenomenon with apps of their own—apps that can be used to visualize, quote, install, and educate customers about various products and services. These are apps that can make a huge difference when selling and marketing building products, and they should become a strong part of your strategy both in working with pros and consumers alike.

I’ve put together a list of some of the standout apps in the building industry. Of course, the apps most impactful to you will depend on inventory, product relevance, location, and so on. But these are a good sampling of the types of apps you should be looking to as standard-bearers within the building industry:

  • Sherwin Williams ColorSnap® Visualizer: This app goes above and beyond the call of duty for most visualizer tools—what you would expect from a household name. Not only can users see how colors will look in a space, but they can also match colors based on images, scan colors in-store, and view entire color schemes based on a single color number. This app considers how people live and allows them to design their home around it. Plus, by letting a user pull color matches from real photos in their camera roll, they add a certain playful element that makes a user want to spend time in the app.
  • AZEK® Deck Building Products iPad App: This app can be used as a 2D or 3D visualizer of the entire AZEK product line so customers can see how it looks before any purchase is made. Users can take notes on their creations, save, and share them when necessary. You can imagine a situation in which you or one of your pros could create a visualization of a buyer’s space, share it with them, and more easily close a sale. Not only that, but a buyer could use it with a pro or dealer so they could recommend the best product for them.
  • RDI® Railing Designer App: This one is especially useful for pros, who can access the SRP back-end of the application to create customer quotes. Meanwhile, all users have the ability to create a simulation of their railing configuration and then generate a materials list for shopping. Once the design is finished, it’s simple for customers to save and print out the materials list, which they can take to their local RDI dealer.
  • Therma-Tru® Doorways: Like the others, this is another mobile visualizer, but it works on all mobile devices and integrates with social media so users can post their creations and get input from others if they’re stuck between multiple options (mahogany and oak, for example). Product information is automatically stored in every design, and users have the ability to search for the nearest dealer of each product, bringing consumers and dealers closer together.
  • Ply Gem Designed Exterior Studio: While not a mobile app (must be accessed in a computer browser), Ply Gem has put together a great visualization tool for home exteriors. Users simply pick their home style, select an area of the home to change materials and colors, then select from stone, windows, siding, etc. Ply Gem recently added a new feature called MyHome, which allows a user to upload an image of his/her own house to modify.
  • Eldorado Outdoor™ Design Tool: I love this tool from Eldorado Stone. Like the Ply Gem one, this visualizer is for web browsers, but it is a seriously robust platform. You create your space based on layout size, then you can add in everything from cabinets to walls and fireplaces, appliances, etc. before you apply the Eldorado stone and brick of your choice. Like the others, it offers an easy way to save, print, share, and get quotes. With all of these features at your disposal, Eldorado Outdoor is not your average design tool.

A recurring theme of the blog lately has been a discussion of how the building industry will need to modernize in the coming years (see here and here for more). Integrating manufacturer apps into your sales and marketing efforts is a simple yet strategic way to meet the changing needs of today’s increasingly mobile/digital consumers. Whether you’re a manufacturer, a pro, a dealer, or you’re at some different point in the channel entirely, apps like these will be important parts of growing your business—in 2016 and beyond.

[*] http://www.statista.com/statistics/276623/number-of-apps-available-in-leading-app-stores/

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