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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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The Times, They Are A-Changin’

1 Dec

Keep Your Eyes on Generational Shifts in Key Decision Makers

Decision Makers

I was recently asked to offer some insights for “2016 Trends in B-to-B Marketing,” an article in Marketing Daily. As you might expect from the title, they wanted to know what trends marketers should be planning for in the coming year, and they asked several veteran B2B marketers for their insights.

I went ahead and took it as a compliment to be included in the group—being asked to participate in a trends article means I must be a trendy guy, right? But I also took some time to carefully consider my answer. After all, I’m constantly using Navigate-the-Channel to blog about the latest trends in B2B marketing—everything from sales enablement to content marketing to social listening. There’s no shortage of trends I could have chosen.

But the more I thought about it, one thing really stood out for me. The trend I’m constantly monitoring these days is the generational shift in the key decision/owner role within businesses—especially dealers and lumberyards. As many Baby Boomers worked longer than they had planned due to the recession, they are only just now leaving the workforce—but they are doing so in greater volume than ever before. The new leadership of 30-to-40 year olds is starting to impact their organizations’ view on technology and adoption of new business services. This single change will have major ripple effects that impact the building products industry for years to come.

It’s not just that marketing strategies that may have been previously disregarded will suddenly be back on the table; it’s that the people at the top of the food chain will be looking at new pages on the menu. Hell, they might throw out the menu entirely and ask for online delivery. B2B buying will change (e-commerce is going to be big, guys, I promise); human resources and hiring practices will change (meaning there will be new ways of thinking at all levels); and B2B marketing could very well become a lot less buttoned up and safe (think of how many trade show booths now offer beer compared to a decade ago).

But hey, that’s just my perspective. There are plenty of different ones for you to read from the other contributors, so give the full article a read.

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Renovation ROI = Marketing ROI

10 Jun

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


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.)


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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Start Marketing Today for Tomorrow’s B2B Buyers

17 Apr

(Because They’re Today’s B2B Buyers)


If you think the day when Millennials (born 1980-1993) begin making B2B purchasing decisions is far off, I have news for you: it’s already here. Not only are they making important B2B decisions, but they have strong preferences about what type of information is most useful to them when making these decisions. And I have even more news for you: They differ from their Gen X (born 1965-1979) and Baby Boomer (born 1954-1964) predecessors.

Throughout my career, I’ve heard many clients talk about how certain marketing tactics aren’t useful for their audience(s). Sometimes, this is true. Other times, it’s an excuse to spend dollars on the same tactics rather than experiment with new ones. That’s why as B2B marketers, it’s going to become more and more important for us to prepare for a time when one generation begins to leave the workforce and another begins receiving more direct purchasing power. In other words? What you’re doing today won’t necessarily work tomorrow—unless, of course, you’re already taking steps to prepare for it.

A recent article from Marketing Profs analyzed the data from an IBM report focused on the the B2B buying habits of Millennials vs. their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts. One notable finding is that they much prefer communicating directly with a vendor’s representative than do Gen X or Baby Boomers when researching products and services.

This is surprising, especially given how much we hear and read about Millennials’ Internet habits; specifically, that all of their research is conducted over the Internet. And while it is true that 69% prefer digital communications (email) and only 24% prefer in-person meetings, when it comes to doing research, they’re not opposed to going direct to the source. In fact, Millennials rely most heavily on content provided by vendors when researching products and services. This is a stark contrast to Gen X buyers, who rely on third party articles/blogs/reviews to research vendors, and Baby Boomers, who prefer tradeshows for product research.


Is this an experience gap? Do Millennials rely on information straight from the source out of naiveté and this will change as they get older, or do manufacturers and vendors have a real untapped opportunity to create trustworthy, valuable content for tomorrow’s (and today’s) B2B buyers? For B2B marketers that aren’t yet engaging in consistent and relevant content marketing, this is your opportunity to miss. If it’s already trending towards this today, you can bet on it impacting your strategies tomorrow. Get ahead, or get behind. That’s the choice B2B marketers need to make—ASAP.

There are even more great insights in the article (like the importance of testimonials, referrals, and recommendations for Millennial B2B buyers), so read the whole thing here.

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Fellow B2B Marketers, We Have a Problem…

1 Apr

…And It’s Called ROI.


SalesStaff put out a great article highlighting a recent report that surveyed more than 600 United States digital marketers in both the B2B and B2C space. If you haven’t already, give the report a read. It’s filled with excellent nuggets of information, like:

  • Lead generation is still cited by B2B marketing pros as their primary marketing objective
  • B2B marketers use marketing automation at a greater rate than B2C marketers (65% vs 55%)
  • Both B2B and B2C marketers agree that video is the most effective tactic
  • 32% of B2B marketers are not sure what digital marketing tactic is their primary revenue generator…

Tire Screech.

Hold up. Did I just read that correctly? As of February 2015, almost one out of every three B2B marketers (32%) doesn’t know which of their digital marketing tactics is the primary revenue generator. B2B marketers: when asked which digital marketing tactic is your biggest revenue generator—email, SEO, paid search, social media, display— “Not sure” is not a tactic, so it certainly shouldn’t be your answer to that question.

So what does this tell us? The #1 challenge for B2B marketers in 2015 and for the foreseeable future is proving ROI. The article also contends that generating and converting leads is as much a priority as ever, but our goal needs to be to prove that those leads were generated and guided down the sales channel through specific digital marketing tactics (email, Search Engine Marketing, display ads, and so on.)

Here are a few tactics you can use as B2B marketers to prove ROI:

  • iStock_000002902205MediumInvest in sophisticated marketing automation platforms and continually measure your results as part of your process
  • Buy media that is easily trackable, and track everything! (Include tracking codes and numbers wherever possible)
  • Before starting a campaign, set objectives and plan how you will track ROI prior to the launch.
  • Set a timeline for reporting, and stick to it.

For more insights from the report, click here to read the full article!

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