2017 Trends in Building Materials Sales & Marketing

11 Apr

 

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The building materials industry is unlike all others. The approaches you must use to market and sell product differs from nearly all other industries. This year, you can expect the following trends to lead the way in terms of building materials sales and marketing:

  1. Go Digital

If your building materials business doesn’t have a website – or if the one you have is outdated – you’ll likely miss out on some business. Whether it’s an architectural firm searching for materials for a client or builders and contractors doing the same,  most of them start by looking online at websites. If yours isn’t easy to navigate and full of the sort of information your audience is looking for, they’ll go elsewhere to find it.

  1. Use Videos

It’s likely that your target audience is much like you: busy, focused, and goal-oriented. You need to make sure the message you’re trying to convey fits into their lifestyle. Using videos to explain the features of a particular building material in action is a quick and easy method of drawing in the viewer. Video entertains as it explains and can lead to further inquiries or solidify the thought that a particular material is the right one for the job.

  1. Become a Thought Leader

Simply making your building products available isn’t going to be enough to get your audience’s attention these days. Instead, you’ll need to become a “thought leader” by producing online content like articles, blog posts, and videos that offer your audience solutions to their problems.

  1. Understand How to Use Social Media

Barring a few examples – Home Depot and Lowe’s come to mind – most businesses in the building materials industry aren’t sure how to use social media to their advantage. 2017 is the year that your business needs to tap into the possibilities that come with connecting with the  65% of adults who use social media. The key is to discover what matters to your audience, then become a thought leader by posting the results of that research on your profiles.

  1. Mobile is a Priority

If you’re like most people these days, you treat your phone almost like a miniature computer that you can conveniently access while you’re on the go. It’s a safe bet that most of your audience relies on their smart phones in much the same way. This is a key reason why  your website must be optimized for the mobile user.

Tap into the growth that is expected in 2017 by ensuring that your business is positioned so it can take advantage of the above trends. ER Marketing is effective at helping brands meet their marketing and sales goals. Contact us today and find out how we implement our cores values and building products expertise to deliver real solutions to clients.

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The 5 Immutable Laws of Reputation Management

6 Apr

 

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A search on Google doesn’t just bring up your website anymore. It brings up your site, your Facebook profile, and every single review site that has comments about your brand. To protect your reputation online, never forget these five immutable laws:

1. Listen first.

Problems can sneak up on you if you are not listening to what your customers are saying online. People expect to hear back from a brand within a few hours when they detail a problem on social media. If you aren’t listening, you can’t respond.

Listening first also gives you an idea of the conversations people are having on a specific platform and the etiquette there. Many brands have made embarrassing mistakes by jumping into a conversation before they understand what it is about.

2. Keep a cool head.

No matter how unfair, inaccurate, and wrongheaded a negative comment is, do not go on the defensive. Look at it from the point of view of other posters: the complainer is just a customer expressing their mind. You are the big, powerful brand. When you respond negatively or angrily, it makes you look mean and bullying.

3. Know when to answer and when to stay quiet.

A number of brands have found great benefit to doing their customer service right in their social networking channels. Not only do they get to rescue a relationship with a customer; they get the chance to demonstrate their high levels of customer service to everyone who reads the interaction.

There are also times when comments from a brand can do more harm than good. As we described above, answering when you are angry and defensive is never a good move. It is also a good idea to keep out of sensitive subjects. Brands who have attempted to use these in a promotional manner have seen it backfire.

4. Remember that the customer is in charge.

We are well past the time when brands controlled the conversation. In the modern digital world, everyone has the ability to have their say. Do not attempt to delete negative comments. Things that are posted online have a tendency to live forever; you never know when someone has screencapped something for posterity.

5. Provide excellent service.

The most fundamental aspect of reputation management involves doing everything you can to earn a sterling reputation. See the same complaints from a number of customers? Do your best to address these issues so that future customers have a better experience.

Public sentiment can be hard to manage. However, by working to be responsive and helpful online, you can better ensure that the people who find you there will be happy with what they see.

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B2B Marketing on Snapchat and Other Video Sharing Sites

27 Mar

 

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Too many B2B marketing experts are missing the wealth of opportunity that comes from a solid presence on social media sites with a reputation for B2C and personal, non-business content. Savvy marketers recognize that the addition of business analytics to specialized profiles on Instagram and the plethora of articles that detail the business uses of Twitter’s Periscope are more than tangential to the success of these companies; after the initial buzz and funding rounds are over, social media platforms need the business world in order to grow.

Snapchat is no exception; rather, the latest addition to the must-have smart phone app collection is finding a home with brands who want to build stories with their core audience, according to leading social media-centric business leaders like Gary Vaynerchuck.

The Statistics You Need to Know

  • Six out of every 10 users who are online are now on Snapchat.
  • 60% of Snapchat users are currently Millennials between 18-34; however, social media apps that hit the mainstream and achieve satiety will naturally begin to attract an older, more serious demographic.
  • Ads on Snapchat can routinely receive over 1 million views in a single day
  • More than 20% of advertisers plan on using Snapchat moving into 2017

Top Brands Currently Using Snapchat for B2B Business

Many brands you might not think could find an audience on Snapchat are actually leading the charge into the new platform, IBM chief among them. The seminal tech company gives its audience behind the scenes videos to humanize itself. Cisco is not far behind, with its employees taking center stage to provide potential clients with a more personal experience. Purple-haired admins and IT pros will take Cisco’s audience on tours of the office as well as the annual Cisco Crawfish Boil. HubSpot is another leading company that is using Snapchat to send the most salient parts of its industry talks to its audience.

How to Use Snapchat as a Viable B2B Platform

In order to maximize the use of Snapchat, as these leading brands are, you must create something new that is of value to your audience. The unique platform that Snapchat gives you does not lend itself to traditional content, and you should not try to shoehorn the content that you normally create into the space. You can use Snapchat to give people a seat at your table without the need for a business class plane ticket.

Use Snapchat to humanize your business. Companies that do not normally have an inroads to using humor or levity to create business now have the ability to do so. You can utilize the quirky personality of your administrative assistant or mail guy – these become tools that draw people to your message without the need to pay for a Hollywood production.

Tell a story. Snapchat gives you your own cable network for free – you can take the time to tell the stories that will put your company in the best light. Forget crushing a message into a 30-second piece that you must continue to pay for in order to distribute. Snapchat isn’t TV or radio. You determine when the messaging stops. Although each individual video disappears, this is actually an advantage. You leave your audience waiting anxiously for the next installment, and you do not have to put together another $100,000 in order to deliver it.

Snapchat is a platform that you can rely on for high distribution, low cost content creation that will engage your audience in a new way. If you can look past the stereotype of teenage pranks on social media, you will find a treasure trove of opportunity for new business.

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Chinese Manufacturing Moving to the US – More Competition or More Opportunity?

23 Mar

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A reversal of fortunes for the US economy over the Christmas holidays: Chinese manufacturing billionaire Cao Dewang publicly declared that he would be moving operations from China into the US. This would be interesting in and of itself, but the reasoning behind the move is the true attention grab. Dewang is actually moving to the US to cut costs. As much as domestic media plays up the message of US business culture as expensive, why would China move in instead of staying put? Is there opportunity that media has overlooked?

The Facts

Cao Dewang is the chairman of Fuyao Glass, a glass manufacturing company that produces for many of the top auto companies in the world. The company will be moving to an old Ohio factory that originally belonged to General Motors. Dewang stated that rising taxes in China was the primary reason for the move. Although many companies have been moving from the US to China for the cheap labor costs and lax regulatory structure, Dewang actually called out the “value added” tax as so expensive as to negate all of those advantages.

Dewang noted that he would be able to save a substantial amount of money because of the cheap cost of land and energy in the US. He also mentioned other incentives that he received without noting what they were, but Ohio has a history of providing tax incentives to international businesses of a certain scale.

The Takeaway

Domestic media in the US addresses the low cost of labor in China, creating the impression that this is the number one reason that China is “winning the tug of war” between the US and China for top companies. The truth is actually more complex, as Dewang made clear in his interviews with US and Chinese media. Labor costs are only one aspect of business, with the other costs of land, distribution and energy becoming more prevalent with every new business generation.

New policies in the US moving forward created specifically to compete with Chinese tax structure may cause China to lose its edge in the manufacturing market, Dewang perused. If there was already an advantage in land and energy, tax incentives may really be all that the US needs to compete. The much maligned US business tax rates that are often quoted by media and politicians are true as a baseline; however, savvy businesspeople never end up paying this rate because of the loopholes in the US tax law.

New Opportunities for American Businesspeople at Home?

Now that a story big enough has broken through mainstream domestic media to bring out the truth about the cost of doing business, entrepreneurs should take real stock of their opportunities. As Dewang noted, the trend of China imposing huge sanctions on its largest businesses did not start yesterday. Land in the flyover states of America has always been cheap, and the recent business crises in Middle America (Detroit, Flint, etc.) has made this land even cheaper. 

The real opportunity is only engaged when business leaders actually do the numbers, rather than depending on media for its assessment of business costs. Anyone who listens to the propaganda of US tax rates will certainly be scared away from domestic opportunities. However, when the actual costs are added up versus the opportunities provided in each country, the US may be more competitive than anyone wants to let on, at least when compared with China today.

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5 Doable Steps to Maximize CMO B2B Engagement

16 Mar

 

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Your sales team is doing its job, but you have yet to land the whale that will take your profits to the next level. Higher level communications tend to get big projects done with less bureaucracy. Here are 5 steps you can take to maximize communications between your Chief Marketing Office (CMO) and the customers that really matter.

1. Staying Agile

Strategic leaders within a company have the ability to look beyond immediate targets and short-term objectives. You can land the whale by simply staying on your toes in terms of industry trends. Instead of responding to hot RFPs for companies that are high in demand, you can do business with a strategic partner who will provide you profits far down the line. You spend less because you are doing your deals in the off-season, and your partner is validated because you recognized long-term potential instead of following short-term trends.

2. Continuous Relationship Building

Your sales team should have no problem initiating contact with their counterparts across companies if the C-Suite has already made an acquaintance. In contrast with a low-level salesperson, a CMO taking a potential partner executive out for a round of golf creates relationships throughout the entire chain of command. In effect, the CMO becomes the lead salesperson rather than the “man behind the curtain.”

3. Creating a Humanized Entity

You can save tens of thousands of dollars in marketing spend by creating a humanized relationship across companies through your CMO. The decision makers from other companies will not have to view your high quality advertisements in order to understand what your company is about. They got that information firsthand from your CMO during the trade show mixer.

If there are no industry events that give you an excuse to put a human face on your operations, make one. CMO is also head of PR, even if you have outsourced PR to a third-party specialist. Get in their business to make business.

4. Becoming the Organizational Storyteller

As the CMO, you have license to talk to people about your company in a way that no one else does. You can look at the Chief Marketing Officer as the Head Storytelling Officer if you have trouble remembering exactly what you are supposed to be doing out in the field. Your future partners want to understand how your company connects the dots internally and as it moves into its partnerships. As the CMO, you are the link between R&D, marketing, distribution and IT that can explain all of these connections with a human touch.

5. Challenge Your Industry

No one knows better than you what your company can accomplish. If you extend your position as leader of the company into your industry, you can set the challenges that potential vendors and partners respond to. In essence, you are creating a problem that you are the best company to solve.

Speaking engagements at industry events are always a great way to direct the trends of your industry culture in an advantageous direction. However, you can also do this on an individual basis, because you have access to all of the decision-makers in your industry. Do not waste your time with them, but let them know about how your company is moving your industry forward and why they need to get on board today. Once you have set this tone, your salespeople can work out the details later.

No less than Xerox CMO John Kennedy has stated on record that B2B marketing is more about personality than ever. Use the above tips to arm your CMO for the front lines, because the C-suite has to lead from the front in this business generation!

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