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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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The Housing Economy Experiences Gradual Growth

2 Aug

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Study Releases Important Data

Human hand add a  coin in the final row

With numerous housing reports coming out each month, many have debated what these new economic performance measurements will mean for the future of housing rates and for the building industry. According to Harvard’s The State of the Nation’s Housing 2016 report, new home sales are strengthening with a 6.39% increase to 5.3 million. Although these numbers may indicate that the housing economy is not back to where it once was, it does show that there is substantial improvement from recent years.

Major report findings:

  • Multifamily starts rose 11.8% to 397,300, the highest in 27 years. Single-family starts were also up, rising 10.5% to 715,000.
  • Sales of both new and existing homes are up. The existing homes inventory remains tight with a supply of 4.8 months.
  • The inventories of for-sale homes in the low and middle price tiers dropped 9% between 2014 and 2015, contributing to a total decline of 38% between 2010 and 2015.
  • The median price of existing homes rose 6.6% to $222,400. Rising home prices have contributed to a reduction in the number of homeowners with negative equity.

However, other issues have risen, specifically the cost burden for renters. According to the report, 36.4% of households in 2015 opted to rent, which is the highest numbers seen since the late 1960s. This stems from low-income rates, as well as millennials who still are deeply in debt with school. Many millennials say that they envision themselves purchasing a home of their own one day, but due to financial troubles do not see themselves buying a home in the near future.

The report also shows that US housing starts have risen more than excepted in June due to construction activity. Despite the rise in housing starts, data points show that there will be a leaner second quarter, especially with it being an election year. While we are still far away from a boom period in housing, the latest housing starts from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Study shows that we are on a gradual recovery path.

Key Takeaways:

  • Americans remain optimistic toward homeownership
  • Household growth is on the rise
  • Rental housing remains in high demand
  • New construction of single-family homes is on the rise

While the numbers show a gradual recovery, there’s still a lot of situations in which the housing economy may not reach the housing peak that it once was. Although, with those numbers being as unstable as they were, it’s possible that they may not be such a bad thing.

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IBS 2016: Innovation Starts at the End of the Channel

4 Feb

Why I’m Demanding a Disruption in Building Products Development

Trendsetters

It seems like every meeting I have been in over the last few months has the same common theme. When asking any building materials manufacturer what they want to be famous for, the one word I hear over and over is “innovation,” or being an “innovator,” or being “innovative.”

No matter the iteration of the word, they’re saying the same thing: they want to come to market with products that chart the path for the industry. The question is: what is anybody doing to really accomplish that? Just stating the word does not change the product development process or disrupt the industry with new and truly innovative products.

That’s why while I was at the 2016 International Builders’ Shower (IBS) and Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), I was delighted to run across a company doing exactly that. Cosentino® is a building products company that develops stunning quartz and stone options for kitchen and bathroom surfaces. One of their products, Silestone®, is a beautiful high-end surface made of 94% quartz.

But what makes this product so innovative is not just the advanced bacteriostatic technology or its incredible resistance and durability, or even its numerous designs; it’s the way Cosentino develops those designs.

Through the support of their Silestone Trendspotters, a diverse group of top designers from across the country, Cosentino creates new looks every year inspired by some of the most cutting-edge and forthcoming designs in the market. How do they accomplish this? Cosentino goes straight to the other end of the channel to talk to the people using their product (and, presumably, their competitors’ products), and then gets their insights to develop a product that will set the course for tomorrow’s trends.

Let’s be clear: these designers aren’t just choosing colors. Manufacturers everywhere bring in a designer or two to pick out colors; that’s nothing new. The Trendspotters is a team of designers from all different places across the country, from different points in their careers (some veterans, some up-and-comers), from different styles and backgrounds, from different philosophies and clienteles.

Cosentino made a bold move in picking them, flying them to Italy, and turning them loose to work with engineers, product developers, and others on the manufacturing team to create a product they collectively thought reflected where design is headed. The magic of this is in how fearless Cosentino was in being open to the opportunity of what could be made when this diverse team of forward-thinkers got access to their resources, intelligence, and the inspiration of Italy.

Here are two of the new looks from the Etchings collections created this year by the Trendspotters:

  • Ink EtchInk: This jet black design is a classic, clean, and simple showstopper in most decor. By complementing the boldness of the Etchings design with a timeless shade, homeowners can feel confident their choice won’t go out of style any time soon.
  • AquaTint EtchAquatint: Look familiar? Our Art Director, Stephanie Voss, wrote a blog last year about how calming blue hues like Pantone’s Serenity will influence the building products industry in 2016. Proof pudding.

This approach to product development and design is brilliant precisely because it seems so obvious—but it’s not. Not everyone in building products is doing this. In fact, a lot of manufacturers either base their designs on focus group input or simply create designs based on studies published through standard trade outlets. Both options have their place, but are also inherently reactive—not always the best option for companies who seek to be innovative.

But who better to tell building products manufacturers at the top of the channel where design is going than some of the top designers in the country? By using these designers’ “on the ground” knowledge, Cosentino’s Silestone product is poised to set the tone for other designers and consumers in the coming years.

It takes time, energy, patience, investment, and courage to utilize an approach like this—an approach that empowers someone outside of your company to not only influence product design, but to create it. But that is true innovation. It’s listening, it’s using resources, it’s collaborating, and it’s understanding the channel on every level and using those insights to better your product and better the entire industry. Using focus groups and studies is also necessary for understanding today’s trends, but setting tomorrow’s requires further channel insights—exactly what Cosentino is doing with its Trendspotters.

I’m certain that this new line is going to be a hit, but I’m even more certain that the process will open the building products world to even more innovative creations.

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10 IBS Insights You Need to Know (Part 2/2)

28 Jan

Part Two: 5 Design Trends from IBS 2016

Indoor Outdoor Living

Every year, the International Builders’ Show (IBS) is the best place for marketers to keep a finger on the pulse of where the building products industry is going. The ER Marketing team and I attended this year, and we were able to learn everything from the latest marketing trends to a general economic housing outlook to the latest products that will impact everyone down the channel.

There’s no question that tech and high-performance homes are big, overarching trends to look for in 2016. But the show proved that neither of those trends can come at the expense of design, so the onus is on marketers at the higher end of the channel to educate their customers how these products can integrate into a home’s design beautifully and seamlessly.

Using our own team hashtag, #IBSDoubleTake, we captured the things that made us stop and take notice during IBS 2016. And they’re things you should take notice of, too—they’ll be impacting the way we market these products as we get deeper into 2016 and the coming years. Here are some of the design trends spotted at IBS 2016 by my team:

Top 5 Design Trends from IBS 2016:

  1. You are no longer in the building business. You are in the technology business. As customers at the end of the channel nutonebecome more and more tech-savvy (and tech-reliant), so too will their homes and the products they choose to build it with or put in it. Even down to seemingly simple products like this Nutone doorbell with 250 MB of space for custom doorbell rings/music, tech was the showstopper. Nutone did an excellent job of showing how a fun piece of technology can also inspire a clean and simple design aesthetic.
  2. Tech is big, but so is functionality. And new tech needs to integrate seamlessly into any design, including traditional, to be truly functional for customers. Wellborn Cabinets did that well with their remote control island—super functional, super classic, super innovative.Kohler Bath
  3. Lighting is big. Kohler highlighted the fact that whether in the home or in the booth, eye-catching lighting will be important for building products marketers to account for in 2016 and beyond. Consider how you might use unique lighting tactics to modernize your product photography as well.
  4. The style of the New American Home was “Rustic Modern.” What does that mean for building products marketers? Focus on a design that combines natural elements, textures, and colors with clean, simple, and crisp lines. In fact, the home executed this so effortlessly, it appeared to be a part of the natural landscape!New American Home 1
  5. Wondering how outdoor living plays in? Don’t worry—it hasn’t gotten away. In recent years, outdoor living has meant bringing amenities you would normally expect indoors (fireplaces/pits, speakers, covered seating) to the outdoors. Now it’s about bringing outdoor elements in with seamless, even tenuous, transitions from the indoors to the outdoors. This means floor to ceiling glass, pocket doors, cable or glass railing, clean lines, and corresponding design elements (like using recessed lighting and using the same flooring styles inside and outside, for example).

If you missed our post earlier in the week, make sure to read the Top 5 Marketing Trends building products marketers need to know from IBS 2016.

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What Building Products Marketers Need to Know About Millennials (Part 2/2)

14 Jan

Lip Service Ain’t Gonna Cut It

Change
Last week, my business partner wrote about the changes coming to the building products industry as more and more Millennials step into a new role as homebuyer. It’s important for building products marketers to plan and adapt their marketing accordingly, but it’s equally important to consider how Millennials will impact the industry as employees.

In one of my presentations, I discuss how the Millennial values that mark their habits as consumers also have an impact on the places where they work. Those expectations, demands, and values translate in very real ways to their lives as employees. Here are a few of the most important things to consider as an employer of Millennials:

  • Millennials are on a mission to end the traditional 9 to 5; 45% choose workplace flexibility over pay. Flex time is becoming standard as a company benefit.
  • Millennials want to see a culture change away from traditional employee management to reflect their values; 60% who left their company indicated that the primary reason was “cultural fit.”
  • 80% of Millennials want regular feedback from their boss.
  • One of the top four qualities Millennials desire most in a leader is transparency.
  • 79% of Millennials want to work for a company that cares about how it impacts or contributes to society.
  • Evolving to Millennial-friendly, participative marketing models will usually require actual structural reorganization. With access to more information than ever, lip service won’t work for this generation.

Millennials are the most connected generation to date. They like to be involved in—and informed about—the world around them. That includes the companies they buy from and the brands they’re loyal to. They do their research, they ask for recommendations and referrals, and they’re extremely conscious of where their money is going.

So what does that mean for companies who prefer to stick to traditional methods of employee management? My thought—they may just see the impact of that decision trickle all the way down to the consumer. In other words, companies that don’t treat their employees in a way that reflects these new and emerging values will likely experience a disconnect with their Millennial consumers as well.

For more Millennial employee insights, view the PowerPoint on SlideShare here.

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