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When Selling Building Products, Opt for Simple

21 Apr

Lessons Learned from the 2016 ISC West Show

ISC West

As building products marketers, are we overcomplicating things? Do we consult with people down the channel—including customers and even our own sales teams—to make sure we are delivering the best information in ways that are easy to consume? Most importantly, who can we look to for simplification inspiration in the building products industry?

I recently attended the 2016 ISC West Show, the largest security industry trade show in the United States, with technical reps from more than 1,000 exhibitors and brands in the security industry. While there, I explored and learned about the rapidly growing segment of the connected home and the integration challenges of hardware and software in the security and door hardware industry.

The attendees of the show are typically security dealers. They sell in consumer homes, similar to a lot of building materials products. And, like a window or siding rep, they have to “win the kitchen table” if they hope to sell their product effectively down the channel.

One of the tours that did a great job of demonstrating how to “win the kitchen table” based on their product offering was the Tektronix® Connected Home booth. There, I learned how their integrated system connects the video doorbell to the alarm, the sprinklers, garage door, network-boosting light bulbs, and so on. Obviously, Tektronix is not the only company doing this, but for manufacturers not thinking about what homeowners want, this is where they need to start looking.

What I found amazing was one of the final items on the Tektronix tour, which displayed their “upsell kit.” It’s what a marketer might call a sales rep kit or in-home kit. Over the years, we’ve probably created dozens of these for clients, ranging from somewhat basic to very complex and expensive to produce. You’ve likely done these as well.

The upsell kit Tektronix showed at their booth is their most requested and used of all time. So what makes it unique? Triple fold-out panels with a wiring schematic that integrates all the cool features? Maybe some electronic component that connects via Bluetooth to the reps phone?

Nope. It’s simply a printed image of all the pieces that might normally go into the kit.Unknown

Yes, you read that right. The sample kit doesn’t have physical samples. It has pictures of them and a call out image on the inside flap of the box. It’s very light, so it’s easy to carry. It’s very cheap to produce so dealers can have several of these for all their reps.

These are home security items—technology items. These are items that protect the homeowner’s family. But even with all that, they don’t require a physical sample. I realize they aren’t picking a color or finish, but compared to what most in the building products industry have always done, many might consider it a “fake” sales kit. But for Tektronix, it works well—and suits both their customers’ and sales teams’ needs just fine.

So, I’ve challenged our team and I’m challenging you to think about this when developing your in-home sales kit and other sales enablement tools. Have you talked to the dealers to see what works or why they don’t use one item or another? Have you ever tried a completely different approach? Have you asked why your company does it that way?

And most importantly, have you asked yourself if there is a simpler way to do this? That’s what drove this change in their upsell kit. We can do this too—find things to simplify in our increasingly complex lives, both as people and as marketers.

 

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SMX West Recap

22 Mar

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 8.33.19 AM

Lessons Learned from One of the Best SEM Conferences in the Industry

CoreyMorris3Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Digital Marketing Director

SMX West (Search Marketing Expo) is one of the premier events in the search marketing industry and is hosted yearly in a significant location for the search community—in the heart of Silicon Valley. I’ve been involved with SMX for many years. Last year, I had the opportunity to speak on technical SEO at this event. This year, I was able to catch up with colleagues, absorb as much new information as possible, and even make my first visit to Google HQ in Mountain View.

Coming into the event I anticipated several things, such as:

  • The reintroduction of the Google Dance (more on this below)
  • Industry reaction to the removal of right rail ads on Google
  • Insights and outlook on Google local search (since SMX West focused last year on details regarding the major shake-ups in the local search landscape, with local becoming much more like traditional organic search)
  • Specific details on how to harness added features and functionality in AdWords, including remarketing, customer audiences, and more
  • Seeing how the industry has grown and changed in the past year, as my focus has shifted to an integrated digital marketing model

SMX Google

Starting with the opening evening networking reception hosted by Bruce Clay, Inc., I realized that the buzz was definitely there. I’ve been to many shows in the industry (including West) several times, but this one had a different buzz about it. It seemed bigger and everyone seemed more engaged. Networking was at a different level this year, and while maybe it was just a perception due to the opportunity I had to meet a lot of great new people, I’d like to think that the industry has become more open and focused than ever before.

Key Insights from SMX West 2016

In terms of specific takeaways, I have more insights and perspectives in my notes than I can likely share, but here are some highlights:

  • Consider use of customer match remarketing in AdWords. This was rolled out last year, but most of us took a wait and see approach with this (as we do with many new Google features). Two specific case studies showed an average of 50% conversion rate with this tactic. It has been on my “To Test” list for a while, but has since moved up to a tactic to absolutely work into the remarketing mix and lead nurturing process for my clients. In basic terms, it allows you to upload your email list into AdWords and remarket to users that Google can match to their email address or Google account address.
  • A conversation that I had over a meal (that I can share) included a strong reminder to never forget that while search marketing is more widely accepted than ever before, that there are still skeptics out there (in US, Canada, and Australia…we have similar stories) based on the actions of a small minority and/or those that used shady tactics years ago. Search marketing isn’t in the silo that it used to be. Three of the six of us in our group did not come from search marketing backgrounds and are either new to the space or are working in companies providing the service as a value-add or new component (ex: printing company, PR agency)
  • Another takeaway is a great reminder to not lose sight of the basics in account structure and hierarchy in PPC. Advanced tactics and strategies are great, but you need to cut wasted spend and poor performers before scaling out into other areas.
  • The best slide that I saw in a presentation served as a simple, yet great reminder for PPC accounts:

ad-group-defnition

  • We received several very interesting insights from Google engineer, Paul Haahr, on the final day. I have a new vocab word in “shards.” The best insight from that session is that it’s rare to look at Google search results and not see an experiment. The oft-quoted stat that Google changes their algorithm over 500 times a year and the fun name associated with the Google Dance are strong reminders that nothing is done in a vacuum. We’re way beyond the days where results were somewhat static and we could see absolute ranking positions. Always be mindful that Google is changing—just like our competition is changing—and we’re (hopefully) also changing as we optimize our sites.

Google Dance

Google Dance

You may have started your reading here by scrolling down to see images of what a Google Dance looks like. Let me start with the
history lesson and detail that hopefully wasn’t missed by those that attended who are under 30. The Google Dance was agoogle-dance historical reference to the early days when Google would roll out updates to the algorithm at off-peak hours that would impact rankings and would often roll back the update (or continue a cycle of pushing out and pulling back updates). This garnered the nickname of the Google Dance from the SEO community.

Fast forward—Google started to hold an event for the SEO community (that Google refers to only as “Webmasters”) at the Googleplex in Mountain View. It was a great outreach event and stopped happening before 2010.

Maile OhyeThis was the first year that it was brought back for a VIP audience of 500 attendees at West. The whole experience felt special—food, drinks, trivia, a DJ, and even a cupcake bar. But the highlight for many was the brief return of Matt Cutts. Since he stepped away from the role of being the face of Google to many in the SEO community, it is now considered a treat when he makes an appearance. The night at Google rounded out with a great conversation that I had with Maile Ohye, a lead engineer at Google and a popular speaker at industry events—be sure to attend one of her sessions if you can, as they are very insightful.

Many items on my industry bucket list were checked off at SMX 2016 and I can’t emphasize enough the high quality of people I engaged with and both the validation of my strategies and supplement of new tactics that this event offered.

 

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Book Review 1/3: Built to Sell

1 Mar

Building Something with a Life Beyond You

As part of a blog series, I’ve decided to complete three reviews of three separate books. The books are about topics like marketing, business, and leadership. My goal with this series is to draw out some teachable lessons for anyone attempting to grow—personally, professionally, or otherwise. In this blog, I will cover some humbling lessons that leaders, business owners, managers, etc. can learn about creating a business and developing people to be able to grow independently of their leadership.

It’s a relevant topic to almost anyone with direct reports or a business to be accountable to. Haven’t you ever wondered how you can create a department or a company that can thrive without you? If you aren’t a business owner in the building materials segment, do you run a department or product category? Could some of the same principles necessary to generate a sustainable business work in this scenario—one without you?

To that end, I recently finished reading a book titled Built to Sell by John Warrillow. What a fabulous read. Throughout the book, John offers valuable insights and tips to help the reader build a sustainable business or department that can continue on without the leader.

I’ve compiled a few of the tips I found most interesting—and if I’m being honest with myself, the most humbling as well.

  1. Don’t generalize—specialize. If you focus on doing one thing well and hire specialists in that area, the quality of your work will improve and you will stand out among your competitors.
  2. Owning a process makes it easier to pitch and puts you in control. Be clear about what you’re selling, and potential customers will be more likely to buy your product.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say no to projects. Prove that you are serious about specialization by turning down work that falls outside your area of expertise. The more people you say no to, the more referrals you’ll get to people who need your product or service.
  4. Hire people who are good at selling products, not services—even if you are in a service business. This expertise leads to scalable solutions as opposed to all customized one-off solutions.
  5. Build a management team and offer them a long-term incentive plan that rewards their personal performance and loyalty.
  6. Think big. Write a 3-year business plan that paints a picture of what is possible for your business. Remember, the company that acquires you will have more resources for you to accelerate growth.
  7. Always know your pipeline prospects and what their worth is to your company. This metric is essential to be on top of market opportunity and your potential for a percentage of that.

Don’t take the book too literally—this concept is not just about business owners and it’s not just about selling; it’s about leadership and creating something sustainable beyond you. Elton and I aren’t trying to sell ERM, but the lessons from this book are ones that any business owner, manager, or leader attempting to make something bigger than themselves can learn from.

Whether you own a business or manage a department, these are tips that should influence how you approach the work if you want to create opportunities for long-term success. At the end of the day, none of us can be in our roles forever. The more you can do to lay the foundation for success, the more poised for success you—and the business—will be.

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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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Lessons From The Builders’ Show

18 Feb

An Open Letter To Trade Show Exhibitors

Dear Friends,

According to the Convention Industry Council, trade shows added more than $280 billion to the U.S. economy in 2012, drawing more than 225 million participants. That’s a staggering set of figures and it underscores the importance these shows play. As marketers, we all know exhibiting at trade shows can be vital to our business—to see and be seen, to market products and services, and to nurture relationships.

Over my career, I’ve had the opportunity to attend a variety of trade shows across numerous industries, the most recent at the building industry’s combined 2016 IBS & KBIS in Las Vegas.

And over the years, I’m struck by one constant of booths, regardless of time, region or industry…

Chances are, your booth sucks. It’s cramped, cluttered, and really boring.

While harsh, it’s also probably true. Worst of all, you probably know it. But take heart because you’re most certainly not alone in this. Everywhere, at every show, are long swaths of cluttered and uninspired landscape—overwhelming collections of shapes and colors, fixtures and messages, all masquerading as brand. It’s as pervasive and inescapable as it is predictable.

Why? When did this happen? When did it become okay to develop a trade show booth as if someone pitched the idea “You know what people will want to do after spending thousands of dollars and traveling hundreds of miles? To stand inside our 4×9 brochure!

Sure, it sounds ridiculous, but it’s the reality we’ve all seen time and again—and sadly, what we’ve come to expect and attendees to accept. Throngs of people shuffling past a booth, each scanning over it and moving on. And that’s after you’ve spent—what?—tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of marketing budget, ostensibly to get exactly their attention.

So now that I’ve pointed out the obvious problem, let me point out the not-so-obvious remedy. The secret, the greatest missed opportunity, comes down to a simple idea that the majority of exhibitors overlook which is…want a hint? Here you go: International Builders’ Show, Kitchen & Bath Industry Show, International Consumer Electronics Show, SHOT Show, Club Industry Show, Nightclub & Bar Convention & Trade Show…

Notice anything in common? They’re trade shows. And what is a show? It’s an event, a spectacle, something to witness and enjoy. It’s active, not passive—and that’s the key. If you were invited to “dinner and a show” you’d naturally expect to be entertained, and yet at trade shows, we invite people to come see us and then reward them with opportunities to stand around and read something. Where’s the spectacle? Where’s the pizazz?

Face it, contemporary trade shows are overgrown ice trays of bland inactivity. But there is hope, bright morsels of brilliance among the milquetoast masses.

As recently as the IBS/KBIS in Las Vegas, I found a few who got it right and as a result, got noticed—some with every chair filled and some with onlookers clogging the aisle (drawing even more to come and see what the buzz is about). Others would do well to follow their lead.

CertainTeed

IBS Certainteed

If you have the budget, go big and use celebrities. CertainTeed brought in HGTV star Mike Holmes for an appearance and photo opp, plus constructed a climbing wall. What does a climbing wall have to do with their products? It was lost on a lot of people. But see the woman in the foreground…she’s capturing it on her phone, probably sharing it with others. She’s sharing images of a B2B trade show booth unsolicited. Money shot, indeed.

GAF

IBS GAF

Don’t have big budgets for big talent? Go traditional and use models and simple RTW giveaways. Your own team is paid to be productive experts, but hired talent is paid to be charming, inviting, and generally attractive. At the GAF booth—just inside a major entry point—a smiling woman with a bubbly personality was getting grown men to register to win stuffed animals. And it worked; in the few moments it took for me to grab this picture, two men asked where to sign up.

Plastpro

IBS plastpro

I walked by the Plastpro booth a few times and each time I did, people were standing-room-only to watch a pro install a door. To most people, this would be a punchline, but to attendees it was interesting, valuable, and yes, entertaining. The presenter was upbeat and personable…and he presented, not simply talked. I’ll admit, I stuck around and learned how to square a door much easier than I used to (and I’m not even the target audience).

Okay, so it’s great if you have the resources for a 30×40 booth with big events and headline talent and boxes of prizes. But what about the 10×10 along the back wall? What about those who spent a third of their marketing budget just to get it all to the show?

Bad Dog Tools

IB baddog

For more than 10 minutes, I watched two men at Bad Dog Tools do nothing but demo their product and answer questions. No brochures, no giveaways, no models. Yet people were constantly lined up on two sides of the booth to watch drill bits bore through everything from rasps to brake discs. Bad Dog Tools could have made a video of it and had it looping while two of their salespeople sat on bar stools and watched attendees shuffle by and not stop, but instead they made the product the show. Brilliant.

What’s the takeaway? Don’t settle, make a spectacle. Create a booth that’s a destination, or at the very least, an interruption. Remember that people can get information about your products or services at your website, so use your trade show booth to interact with them in a way you can’t otherwise—and in a manner that doesn’t feel like you’re pressuring them to buy a timeshare.

And here’s one final thought to consider…

“People will pay more to be entertained than educated.” –Johnny Carson

So come on, marketers. Show us what you’re made of.

Sincerely,

Matt Hillman

ER Marketing, Creative Director

hillman

 

 

 

 

 

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