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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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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.

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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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2015’s Top 10 Building Product Dealers and Lumberyards to Follow on Twitter (Part 2/2)

2 Oct

Prepare to Click Follow—Even More

iPad Finger Follow

Increasingly, building products marketers are taking advantage of social media to promote their business, products, and services—and with good reason. After all, the building products industry is still about people, and as generational dynamics continue to shift, social media provides a simple and affordable method to communicate directly with the people that make up your audience.

Throughout the past year, I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of dealers adopting social media to communicate with their own audience in their own timeframe. Even better, I’ve noticed some lumberyards using social media really well. Last week, I rounded up five of the top dealers to follow on Twitter—and I promised to bring you five more. Here are #6-10 of 2015’s Top 10 Building Product Dealers to Follow:

  1. 84 Lumber Company (@84lumbernews): Looking for a one-stop shop for the most important housing/building industry news? Look no further than 84 Lumber Company. This account is great about scouring the web for relevant and informative articles that people in the building products industry need to know.
  2. Hingham Lumber (@hinghamlumber): Hingham is a bit of a grab bag of industry news, product factoids, and news, but one thing they’re good about is using Twitter to push their promotions, classes, and special events.
  3. Schutte Lumber Co (@schuttlumberco): DIY is big right now—the rise of Pinterest is a testament to that fact. But Schutte Lumber has managed to utilize Twitter well to provide DIY tips to more industrious customers. Besides that, they also smartly utilize Twitter as a platform to push their blog content.
  4. Economy Lumber (@economylumber): Economy is consistent about tweeting inspirational home ideas, DIY articles, wood-working tips, Houzz favorites, and general project ideas. Plus, they have an excellent blog that posts on the 1st and 15th of every month, and they tweet out links to these posts to keep their followers in the know.
  5. Midtown Lumber (@midtownlumber): With only 315 followers, we might classify this as “one to watch,” but they’re already doing plenty right. Not only do they post the DIY tips, product information, and other standard fare that one would expect from a lumberyard, but they are excellent about reaching out and using Twitter as a way to have conversations with others in the industry. Midtown seems to have already learned an important lesson: social media shouldn’t be a one-way communication.

That wraps up this year’s Top 10 Building Product Dealers to Follow on Twitter. If you’re looking for even more Twitter accounts to follow, look at our previous lists here and here.

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