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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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Palate Cleanser: Why Building Products Marketing Matters

24 Nov

Now More Than Ever, Marketing Still Matters to the Bottom Line

Bruce Case

Those of us who have been in the building products industry for many years know that when times get tough, marketing can be one of the first things to get cut. The simple, undeniable truth is that B2B marketing is often underrated, and sometimes under-appreciated—but still effective and important to sales strategy in 2016 and beyond.

I recently came across a video from the 2015 Remodeling Leadership Summit and Big50 Awards ceremony, in which Bruce Case, the President/CEO of Case Remodeling, discusses the importance of marketing to his business. It’s a simple little palate cleanser, but worth watching. Here are a few quotes I pulled if you don’t have time to watch the whole thing:

“The marketing plan is the lifeblood of the business…[yet] a lot of people are tempted to cut that expense. But then that begins the ‘death spiral’ because the calls stop. In today’s world of social and digital marketing, you can do it in creative and less expensive ways.”

  • On the importance of marketing.

“What we’re really trying to do is drive people to our website, use the website, get people educated, and then get them come to us.”

“We need to look to where we’re going to be in five years. With Houzz and Porch, things are going to be vastly different in five years. And it’s trying to figure out how we’re going to be in the wave, not in front of the wave so the wave crashes over. Look at other industries. Taxis were bowled over by Uber in a short time.”

  • On why the building industry needs to always look ahead and innovate. As marketers, we will get pushback on this, but he’s right—it’s not enough for us to address current challenges; we have to be that much smarter and look ahead to tomorrow’s challenges as well. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

Those were just a few of my favorite quotes from the video, but check out the whole clip here. (Don’t worry—it’s only about two minutes.)

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Is Housing Really Back?

3 Sep

Why That Question Might Be More Complicated Than You Think

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As anyone who works in building products can attest, this is not an industry for the weak of heart. The last few years have required everyone—from the manufacturers to the distributors to the dealers to the pros—to weather a lot of ups and downs. As we all know, the economy is now recovering from those difficult times, and so is the building products industry. But the real question on everyone’s minds is simple: is housing really back?

It may seem like a simple question, but the answer is far from it; in fact, the July 2015 Building Products & Construction Industry report from Piper Jaffray offers some important information on this topic:

  • Residential product manufacturers are up 19.4% over last year
  • Lumber/wood product manufacturers are down by 11.5% from 2014
  • Homebuilders have experienced modest growth over last year’s numbers—about 2.8%
  • Builder confidence and remodeling spending remain positive as of July 2015—an exceptionally good sign for residential product manufacturers

As most in the building products industry can agree, the big number will always be starts. In its heyday, the building products industry was at around 1.5 million starts. As of July 2015, housing starts in the US are up to 1,206,000—the highest since October of 2007.

So the question remains—is housing really back? You’re not likely to find a single answer on this, because a simple, universally agreed upon answer doesn’t exist. There are glimpses of great happenings in the industry including multi-family growth and remodeling growth, but most of us in the building industry agree that getting back to 1.5 million starts isn’t going to happen. Ever. Those times are gone—and maybe that is a good thing. We are back to numbers that are reasonable and—dare I say it—sustainable. The trick is now, as building product marketers, to capitalize on these upward trends to promote further growth.

Here’s a quick digest of relevant articles about the state of housing. Give them a read!

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Renovation ROI = Marketing ROI

10 Jun

The top home renovation values for marketers to capitalize on in 2015.

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As building products marketers, it’s easy to get swept up in the features and benefits—or even just the aesthetics—of a new product. Beauty shots, clever copy and more all combine together to market a new product. But it’s important to remember the financial benefits these building products can provide customers, from pros to homeowners all the way down the channel. That’s what makes the 2015 Cost vs. Value report from Remolding Magazine such an important read for building products marketers: it helps us learn what payoffs can be gained from simple home renovations that use the very products we market.

Reminding customers that there is potential ROI to be gained from many home projects is a great way to move building products. Although not every home renovation project is done to add monetary value to a home (some are just for the homeowner’s own benefit), when it comes to prioritizing long lists of projects, looking at the cost vs. value of certain renovations can help. This year, the Realtors who contributed to the report increased the value of 17 projects by up to 11.6%.

So which projects offer the most payback?

  1. Entry Door Replacement (20-Gauge Steel)
  2. Garage Door Replacement
  3. Roofing Replacement
  4. Vinyl Siding Replacement
  5. Entry Door Replacement (Fiberglass)

These five projects are the only projects to see their cost-value ratios rise for 2015, while the other 30 projects declined. This means that homeowners wanting to add actual resale value to their home need to select their renovation projects carefully, and prioritize them. As marketers, this is a prime example where professionally-produced content is needed to aid them in making these kinds of decisions. (Think home renovation timelines, guidebooks, etc.)

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The fact that all of these projects regard the exterior of the home is not that surprising, given the outdoor living trend that I covered back in March. As some of the traditionally-accepted value-boosting interior projects fall in ROI (master suites, large kitchen remodels, etc.), building product manufacturers (particularly in exterior doors, vinyl siding, roofing, and garage doors) that focus on exterior products are presented with a timely opportunity to capitalize on a growing trend towards outdoor living and curb appeal.

More importantly, this year’s numbers revealed that simpler and lower-cost projects drove higher cost-value ratios. In other words: building products manufacturers who specialize in simple replacement items like front doors could feasibly produce content straight down the channel to homeowners. Any building products manufacturers that don’t require highly specialized pros for the installation or use of their product should take advantage of this opportunity.

For more information about this year’s home renovation payoffs, read the full article here.

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The Next Big Trend for Building Products Marketing

25 Mar

…And How It Can Boost Your Sales

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Having worked in building products marketing for close to 30 years, I’ve seen firsthand how changes in the economy and homeowner mentality can affect trends in the building industry, design, and more. As the economy bounces back and a new generation of homeowners enters the market (and others find new ways to turn their current home into their dream home), one of the biggest trends in building will be exciting, beautiful outdoor living spaces that bring the inside out. A recent article from Hardware and Building Supply all but confirmed the impact this trend will have on the industry.

So as building products marketers, how does this trend affect us? It means we need to adapt. According to the article, “today’s homeowners are coming into the deck planning and building process more informed than ever before.” In other words, thanks to Pinterest, Houzz, and the rise of good content marketing, they’re able to travel incredibly far down the sales funnel before ever making contact with dealers. This heightens the need for more content and an increased push to social—despite the argument I often hear from those in the building industry, which is that social doesn’t apply to their audience.

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But it also means we will need to change the way we market these products. It will no longer be enough to show pictures of a nice pergola with some clever copy and expect to make a sale. It’s important to depict what that pergola can do for a buyer—that it can be wired for speakers, that it is a great place for a fire pit where homeowners can gather for late night drinks with friends, or a table for outdoor dining. And the copy needs to match the image, highlighting all the ways that these products contribute to an overall lifestyle that frees homeowners from the confines of their living or dining room. It’s a fundamental messaging shift that can’t be ignored.

Another standout fact is that regardless of their size and budget, homeowners want more than the traditional square space for decks and patios. That means that even if we are marketing a decking product, for example, the images we use should feature not only multi-level decks, curves, and cantilevers, but also accessories (chairs, grills, fire pits, dining sets) that define different functions and align with consumer interest. Ask yourself: how will they use this product in day-to-day life?

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Homeowners are now looking at their outdoor living space as an extension of their indoor living space, and have proven they’re more than willing to invest in high-quality building products to make that extension a reality. Homeowners want to spend money on these kinds of building products. So what are you doing as a marketer to capitalize on this trend?

To get all the insights from the article, click here. (Note: You will have to register to read it in full.)

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