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6 of My Favorite Building Products Manufacturer Apps

10 Dec

Are You Using All the Sales Tools Available to You?

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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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B2B Email: Only As Good As the Inbox It Lands In

16 Jul

Simple Tips for Email Deliverability

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You’ve done the unthinkable: you’ve crafted the perfect marketing email. A stunning design, perfect CTA, and breathtakingly relevant content.

And guess what? None of it matters if it doesn’t land in an inbox. Email deliverability is one of the most important things to keep in mind as you engage with your audience. And yet, it seems like it’s often overlooked. This article from Marketing Profs talks about the importance of email deliverability and a few tips on how to improve it. Here are a few of the best tips from the article:

  • Personalize Your Emails: The more personalized your emails are, the more likely your audience is to engage with it. This will produce a more positive sender reputation with ISPs, who can make or break sender reputations. This should be a “gimme.” In fact, we’ve recently discussed the importance of producing personalized content based both on Buyer Personas (who your audience is) and the Buyer Journey (where they are in their sales journey). But according to this article, even simple customizations like variable first names and region-specific modifications make a big difference. There is even evidence that some users will sacrifice online privacy for personalization—in other words, they’re giving up one of their most precious online commodities simply to guarantee that the emails that land in their inbox are actually relevant to them.
  • Optimize Email for Mobile: Sorry, B2B marketers—this applies to you just as much as anyone else. Mobile open rates are growing for B2C and B2B industries alike, and B2B marketers will need to adapt their email code accordingly. Shockingly, only one-third of content publishers say their emails are mobile-optimized. This is unacceptable; since emails are usually opened once, marketers have one chance to make a first impression, and that means creating a content environment that the audience wants to participate in. So maybe it’s not just about personalizing based on where your audience is in their Buyer Journey—it’s about personalizing based on where they are literally reading the content. Don’t let your email deliverability suffer because you’re not willing to optimize for mobile.

These are just a couple of the tips from the article. For the full list of email deliverability best practices, read it by clicking here.

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Email Marketing Must Be Mobile

11 Mar

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Email is not dead, but it might be if you don’t utilize responsive design (email that isn’t coded and optimized for mobile viewing across multiple screens and devices). The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) recently published an article about email and responsive design: ‘Delete This Email!’ Why Mobile Email Matters to Your Business.

Before any of you building materials marketers tell me how this is not applicable for ‘your’ audience, you better start preparing now, because it will be soon.

According to a recent McKinsey & Company study, email is still 40 times more effective at acquiring customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.

  • 91% of all U.S. consumers still use email daily
  • Emails lead to purchases at least three times more than through social media
  • The average order value is 17% higher

This means it is important to increase the scope of how recipients are viewing your emails, especially since people are increasingly on the go. According to U.S. Consumer Device Preference Report: Q4 2013, 65% of all emails are now opened on a mobile device.

Probably the most important fact of all: 42% of mobile users delete emails* that don’t display on their devices correctly.

That means, of the emails you send, four of every 10 recipients might as well have the subject line (you guessed it): “Delete This Email!”.

Froont Blog’s 9 Basic Principles of Responsive Web Design is a comprehensive explanation, complete with animated examples, about what responsive design is. Click the image below to view how breakpoints are utilized in emails for mobile responsiveness:

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Another great way to understand responsive design is to pay attention to the emails you receive and how you interact with them on your devices.

The CMI suggests looking into responsive templates offered by email providers, but be sure to test and preview the templates on a few different devices.

Now is the time to stop thinking of emails as a straight to desktop touch point, because they are on-the-go and you better be able to keep up.

*GetResponse Study, 2013

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The Customer Journey: The Future of B2B Marketing?

5 Mar

It’s Not Just a Buzzword—It’s a Requirement

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When examining the future of B2B marketing, it’s impossible not to think about the impact of the customer journey on marketing strategy. It’s not just B2C companies that are making it a priority; it’s a frequent discussion with B2B clients I deal with every day. A recent whitepaper by LinkedIn® and Salesforce, “The State of Marketing Leadership: How Senior-Level Marketers are Redefining Succcess and Integrating the Customer Journey,” addresses this issue with details about the current state of the customer journey and where companies and marketing agencies should focus their efforts to be successful.

What I’ve seen with my clients is the same as what the whitepaper says—that the customer journey isn’t just a buzzword, it’s actually a requirement for companies who want to succeed. It’s more important than ever to deliver very personalized brand experiences to customers if you want to get true engagement out of them. But when push comes to shove, it’s easier for many B2B marketers to maintain the status quo than to meet this new challenge. My favorite part of the whitepaper that proves that—and this is a classic marketing mistake—is that despite the widespread agreement among B2B marketers that the concept of the customer journey is important, only 37% of B2B marketers surveyed have adopted the term into their business strategy. Huh?

So why is that? Because it’s a challenge and clear roadmaps aren’t necessarily laid out for adopters of the customer journey. The whitepaper goes on to say that marketers who integrated the customer journey into their strategy found the most effective tactics for success were tools like marketing analytics, CRM tools, and content management. Nonetheless, one of the largest obstacles expressed by them was that these tools and data systems were not always integrated with each other.

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There are a few things that B2B marketers will need to do to enhance the customer journey experience:

  • Better integration and analysis of data systems
  • Faster and more thorough adoption of mobile marketing
  • Mapping the customer journey by designating important touchpoints
  • Testing new tools like marketing automation, videos, content marketing, guided selling, and landing pages

For more insights from the whitepaper, click here to download.

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Using Mobile in the Building Industry and Beyond

23 Feb

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Tablets and smartphones enable people to text, send photos, use mobile apps and communicate faster then before. The key to utilizing mobile technology in the building industry is to make sure we have communication flowing; giving the right information to the right people so they make the best decisions on the job.

Some stats to consider:

  • Global smartphone use will reach 2 billion by 2015 (Bloomberg)
  • Across all industries, mobile traffic is increasing by 3.5 percent per month (Televox)
  • Tablet users access search 73.9 percent of the time, more than any other activity (eMarketer)
  • Local mobile searches (85.9 billion) are projected to exceed desktop searches (84 billion) for the fist time in 2015 (eMarketer)
  • 33% of contractors use a tablet ((The Equipment World 2014 Connectivity Study))
  • 46 percent of mobile users say they are unlikely to return to a website they had trouble accessing from their phone (Gomez)

There are many other components to consider when developing your mobile strategy. Working with a marketing firm with mobile expertise can help you to build the best approach.

Mobile Website:

In the past, we had to develop separate mobile sites for users accessing information via smartphones, but now, we develop these with responsive sites.  54% of contractors have internet enabled smartphones (The Equipment World 2014 Connectivity Study), yet many companies are still slow to develop a mobile experience.  At a minimum, have mobile friendly content and contact information.

Mobile Apps:

Develop an app with purpose, in order to help in achieving a specific goal. For example, apps are often developed for customers to access information when there is no cell signal or access to Wi-Fi.  Consider possible features.  Is this to show information and tips or actual mobile tools to help customers in the building industry? You must understand your audience and have a clear development and launch plan that includes app updates.  In addition, have a clear marketing strategy for getting your app downloaded and utilized. *could link to mobile app development article

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Apps for builders and developers

Hundreds of mobile apps have been developed or are currently being developed with the building industry in mind.

 iTopoMaps and Gaia GPS: Used to evaluate potential properties and puts USGS topgraphic mapping capabilities in your hands at the site.

Construction Estimator: Helps estimate materials and cost of a project.

Planimeter and Geo Measure: Curious about how many square feet or acres are in a potential development parcel or house lot? Use this app to also estimate the amount of material needed for a job. (Such as a driveway or decking, based on area.)

Construction glossary: Construction Glossary provides a comprehensive list of more then 700+ construction and civil engineering terms with a short definition.

iRuler: Turns your iPhone or iPad into a measuring device.

Easy Measure: Use Easy Measure to determine approximate lot lines by measuring from your location to a landmark in the distance. The app can also measure the dimensions of a room or building footprints for existing homes.

Mobile Coupons:

Many companies are starting to offer mobile coupons. These are delivered to mobile devices through an app, mobile website, or text.  This has been B2C driven and more B2B companies are starting to follow suite.  If you’re a dealer or a distributor, consider using mobile coupons to help drive business to your locations.

Location Based Services:

Location based advertising in B2B works well for people attending trade shows. You can also target people working in certain locations with more specific offers and information.  50% of respondents of JiWires’ Mobile Audience Insights report indicated that they wanted to receive location-specific advertising such as mobile coupons.

Social Media and Mobile:

Contractors are using social media sites at an increasing rate. Many businesses use these channels for marketing purposes as well as keeping in touch with their community.

Most visited social media sites per The Equipment World 2014 Connectivity Study.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn

Recap:

Why consider mobile? The stats do not lie. This industry is growing.  You need to make sure your content is mobile friendly. Companies who take the next step to develop mobile tools such as mobile apps and push out content to social media sites will inevitably beat out their competition.

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