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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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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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10 Trade Show Tips That Speak for Themselves

22 Dec

Be in the Know Before the Show

Trade Show Gift

When you’ve been in the building products industry for long enough, you learn some valuable lessons about attending a trade show and making the most of your time there. That’s how I know that every year, January marks more than just the start of the new year—it’s also the start of what we in the building products industry call “trade show season.”

Trade shows are fun and an  teffective way to meet prospects; they’re also hectic and crazy. Over the years, I’ve lost count of all the trade shows I’ve attended, but the lessons learned have stuck with me.

I’ve compiled a quick list of tips for attending a trade show that need no further explanation:

  1. Follow all the handles/hashtags for the event to keep current—before, during, and after an event.
  2. Visit the website before the show to view the map against the schedule of speakers you’d like to attend. Don’t be that freshman who schedules back-to-back classes across campus.
  3. Download the app for the show beforehand (if they have one).
  4. Wear comfortable shoes—you’ll be walking. Hint: if your feet are hurting, seek out the booths that paid extra for carpet padding.
  5. Bring enough business cards.
  6. Have a plan for how you’re going to follow up with the prospects you meet. Then, follow through with it.
  7. Pack a backup phone battery and bring it with you. Thank me later.
  8. Don’t be that guy who eats your lunch at a table in a booth. Sit with prospects and meet new people.
  9. Know how long it takes to get to the nearest bathroom and back so you don’t miss something important.
  10. Wi-Fi isn’t always a given. Plan accordingly.

I’ve had to learn some of these lessons the hard way—but follow these tips and you won’t have to. Consider it my trade show season gift to you.

For more trade show tips and tricks, see my last roundup post here.

Bonus tip for those who made it to the bottom of this post: If you take nothing else away from this, remember that the Lowe’s booth always has fresh-baked cookies. Just be careful not to burn your mouth if they’re fresh out of the oven.

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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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Building Products Trade Show Tips Roundup!

29 Sep

What You Need to Prepare for This Year’s Trade Shows

Tradeshow Floor

It’s official: trade show season is in full swing. As someone who attends his fair share of them, I can attest to it. This week, I will be attending the DeckExpo and Remodeling Show, where I will visit booths from many companies in the building industry. I already have an idea of which booths I want to visit and which products I want to learn more about. This isn’t uncommon in the building products industry—in fact, about 76% of attendees already have an agenda of which exhibitors they want to visit. So how can you, as a building products marketer, capitalize on an exhibit to get the best value out of your time there?

In the past, I have written several blog posts about trade shows and what building products marketers need to do—and avoid—to maximize their return on investment. Here is a quick roundup of those posts:

  • Bring Your “A” Game When You Exhibit: Many companies who exhibit at trade shows can spend thousands of dollars (or even millions) to draw in new customers and show off products. 67% of attendees represent a new prospect, and 81% of them have buying authority. Read this article for 5 tips and tricks to raise awareness and create memorable experiences for your building products trade show audience.
  • Is Your Brand Ready for the Big Show: There are a lot of questions that building products need to consider when planning their trade show exhibit or booth. This article isolates several of the most important questions you can ask yourself before attending the trade show to make sure that your booth represents your brand well during the “big show.”
  • The 5 Most Common Trade Show Mistakes (Part 1 & Part 2): After more than two decades in the building products industry, I’ve seen it all: the good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly. In a two-part series of blog posts, I outlined the five biggest mistakes that building products marketers can make when planning their trade show exhibit.
  • WHITEPAPER: Killer Booths!: What can building products trade show marketers learn from horror movies? As it turns out, a lot. Download this free whitepaper if you’re afraid that your trade show marketing is falling victim to horror movie clichés—it just might help you live long enough to make it to the sequel.

Building products trade shows can be an enjoyable time and a great opportunity to produce qualified leads. But they also take a lot of planning, research, and hard work to make them successful. Any one of these articles are a good start for building products marketers who want to make sure their booth is up to snuff.

Read more of our recent posts at Navigate-the-Channel.

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