Tag Archives: innovation

IBS 2016: Innovation Starts at the End of the Channel

4 Feb

Why I’m Demanding a Disruption in Building Products Development

Trendsetters

It seems like every meeting I have been in over the last few months has the same common theme. When asking any building materials manufacturer what they want to be famous for, the one word I hear over and over is “innovation,” or being an “innovator,” or being “innovative.”

No matter the iteration of the word, they’re saying the same thing: they want to come to market with products that chart the path for the industry. The question is: what is anybody doing to really accomplish that? Just stating the word does not change the product development process or disrupt the industry with new and truly innovative products.

That’s why while I was at the 2016 International Builders’ Shower (IBS) and Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), I was delighted to run across a company doing exactly that. Cosentino® is a building products company that develops stunning quartz and stone options for kitchen and bathroom surfaces. One of their products, Silestone®, is a beautiful high-end surface made of 94% quartz.

But what makes this product so innovative is not just the advanced bacteriostatic technology or its incredible resistance and durability, or even its numerous designs; it’s the way Cosentino develops those designs.

Through the support of their Silestone Trendspotters, a diverse group of top designers from across the country, Cosentino creates new looks every year inspired by some of the most cutting-edge and forthcoming designs in the market. How do they accomplish this? Cosentino goes straight to the other end of the channel to talk to the people using their product (and, presumably, their competitors’ products), and then gets their insights to develop a product that will set the course for tomorrow’s trends.

Let’s be clear: these designers aren’t just choosing colors. Manufacturers everywhere bring in a designer or two to pick out colors; that’s nothing new. The Trendspotters is a team of designers from all different places across the country, from different points in their careers (some veterans, some up-and-comers), from different styles and backgrounds, from different philosophies and clienteles.

Cosentino made a bold move in picking them, flying them to Italy, and turning them loose to work with engineers, product developers, and others on the manufacturing team to create a product they collectively thought reflected where design is headed. The magic of this is in how fearless Cosentino was in being open to the opportunity of what could be made when this diverse team of forward-thinkers got access to their resources, intelligence, and the inspiration of Italy.

Here are two of the new looks from the Etchings collections created this year by the Trendspotters:

  • Ink EtchInk: This jet black design is a classic, clean, and simple showstopper in most decor. By complementing the boldness of the Etchings design with a timeless shade, homeowners can feel confident their choice won’t go out of style any time soon.
  • AquaTint EtchAquatint: Look familiar? Our Art Director, Stephanie Voss, wrote a blog last year about how calming blue hues like Pantone’s Serenity will influence the building products industry in 2016. Proof pudding.

This approach to product development and design is brilliant precisely because it seems so obvious—but it’s not. Not everyone in building products is doing this. In fact, a lot of manufacturers either base their designs on focus group input or simply create designs based on studies published through standard trade outlets. Both options have their place, but are also inherently reactive—not always the best option for companies who seek to be innovative.

But who better to tell building products manufacturers at the top of the channel where design is going than some of the top designers in the country? By using these designers’ “on the ground” knowledge, Cosentino’s Silestone product is poised to set the tone for other designers and consumers in the coming years.

It takes time, energy, patience, investment, and courage to utilize an approach like this—an approach that empowers someone outside of your company to not only influence product design, but to create it. But that is true innovation. It’s listening, it’s using resources, it’s collaborating, and it’s understanding the channel on every level and using those insights to better your product and better the entire industry. Using focus groups and studies is also necessary for understanding today’s trends, but setting tomorrow’s requires further channel insights—exactly what Cosentino is doing with its Trendspotters.

I’m certain that this new line is going to be a hit, but I’m even more certain that the process will open the building products world to even more innovative creations.

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Plan Towards Innovation

3 Jun

 Stand out from the crowd

Create a New Future with Innovation-Focused Strategy

As most marketers navigating the building supply channel know, strategy and innovation go hand in hand. I’ve discussed in past articles how creativity can play an important role in innovation, but often overlooked is the strategy that goes into actually implementing the changes necessary to make a creative innovation a reality.

A recent article by Vijay Govindarajan describes this dynamic between innovation and strategy – specifically, how innovation should always inform strategy-making.

Govindarajan suggests that there are four key factors to consider with innovative strategy-making:

  • Know Your Industry – It’s not enough to assume that the same strategies that innovated faster-paced, larger industry will work in a smaller, slower one. Some innovations can take a decade, while others can take ten decades. Don’t confuse the two.
  • Innovation Is Complex – Innovation can be linear or non-linear, which is to say: in line with current business practices or deviating slightly from current business practices. But as Govindarajan points out, these linear or non-linear business practices can also unfold into even more complex layers with incremental or radical innovation: happening over time or overhauling a pre-established system in a sudden, disruptive manner. Whatever the innovation you’re considering, make sure to know the implications.
  • Just Do It – If an idea gets pushed down the table time and time again, it’s a money drain. Plus, the more times it gets pushed down the table, the greater the likelihood that it will eventually fall off the table entirely. You can talk about an idea or even set strategy all you want, but there’s something to be said for actually making it happen.
  • Innovation Isn’t Top Down – Folks at the bottom tend to know customers better – use their knowledge to set strategy that disrupts the status quo. In fact, Govindarajan argues that senior-level employees have often played such a key role in the setting status quo, which makes it difficult for them to consider an innovation that could disrupt past ways of doing things.

For more information, give Govindarajan’s article a read.

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10 Building Product Lumberyards You Should Follow on Twitter – Part 1

8 Apr

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Even the local lumberyard is on Twitter

While most of the ‘big companies’ are on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook, etc. you may be surprised to find many of the local lumberyards are on Twitter; and quite active as well.

For many Twitter users, the hardest part is knowing who to follow – with over 500 million people on the platform, cutting through the clutter is a challenge, so I’ve created a list: the Top 10 Lumberyard Follows Worth Your Time, and here are the first 5:

1. Dunn Lumber – @DunnLumber

With over 8,000 followers and over 15,000 tweets, this Washington lumberyard is very active on Twitter with tips, product updates, promotions, and more. Most importantly they are very responsive on Twitter. They get it and use it.

2. Parr Lumber – @parrlumber

This Pacific Northwest family-run chain of yards is an industry leader in its marketing efforts. Parr has been active for many years on Twitter. They use it well to update their followers on products and relevant news.

3. National Lumber – @NationalLumber

With nearly 3,000 followers and over 1,500 tweets, this large NE group of yards have been very active in social media well beyond Twitter – utilizing Google+, Facebook and more. They use Twitter for customer events and updates on everything from products to training.

4. Turkstra Lumber – @TurkstraLumber

This Canadian lumberyard and manufacturer uses updates and hashtag (#) contests to engage and inform their customers.

5. J & W Lumber – @JWLumber

You can find weekly specials, product introductions and more at this Southern California lumberyard Twitter account. They have nearly 800 followers and have had several hundred updates over the past couple of years.

Be sure to check out Part 2 of the list for the rest of my 10 lumberyards you should follow on Twitter.

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Creativity in the Building Products Industry

22 Mar

Practice Creativity to Get the Best Results

burst through arrow

“To live a creative life we must lose our fear of being wrong.”

Creativity is a funny thing. People often label themselves as creative, or more likely they say, “Oh, I’m not the creative type.” If you’re in the former category, its time to rethink your creative position.

Especially in the building products industry, creativity is more than designing a great product, putting together a fabulous sales presentation or making your meetings exciting.

Creativity sparks innovation. Have you heard of the artist Henri Matisse? Old age and illness made using his hands more difficult and he became bedridden, but he didn’t let it be a hindrance. In fact, he made a breakthrough in his final years with a new form of art. He found that he could still hold and use scissors, so he cut out colored paper to form beautiful work. He made creativity a choice. He opened his mind to being creative and reached outside of his comfort zone. Are you doing the same thing? Here are some tips to add creativity to your life:

  1. Stretch yourself. Be like Matisse and don’t accept limitations. Set a goal that makes you make choices that you haven’t had to make before. This could be as simple as going for a walk over lunch, meeting in a new spot or rearranging the furniture in your office.
  2. Choose to connect with life and other people. Start a creative network of people that you can share ideas with and provide support to each other. This could be a professional organization in your area, a handful of like-minded people in the office or a new group waiting to be formed.
  3. Change. Think about the rules in your life… Do they need to change? Change can be scary, but it can also be powerful. The building products industry has been doing a lot of things because ‘it’s the way its been done’ but our industry is changing and now is the time to make changes to thrive in the future.

Bottom line – choose to be the best you. Take the best ideas around you and improve on them and don’t hold back for the risk of failing.

For more information, check out Sam Harrison of Zing Zone, a creative author and speaker.

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MarCom Portals Make Big Impact in Building Products Industry

25 Oct

Catering to the channel shows your loyalty to customers

As a building products industry CMO you know the importance of supporting the channel. It doesn’t matter if you’re a manufacturer, a distributor or a dealer – you need your customers (or your customer’s customers!) to help carry your message down and get your products sold.

While co-op programs can go a long way, a marketing portal can make an even bigger impact. They allow you to control your brand while giving your customers the power to easily carry it down the channel for you. MarCom Portals can feature anything from posters and postcards to emails and brochures. I have been a proponent of MarCom Portals for a while – here’s why.

Advantages of a MarCom Portal

  • Complete brand control: You provide the marketing templates in accordance with your brand guidelines. Customers can customize what you want them to be able to, but items like your logo, tagline and images remain intact ensuring brand consistency.
  • Control costs: Instead of guessing at the inventory you’re going to need, a MarCom Portal lets your customers print on-demand. Whether its 1 postcard or 500 – the cost remains the same and you can choose to pay for it or have your customers pay for it.
  • Reward your customers: What better way to promote your business than to make it seamless for your customers? Put money into their account, so they can use your tools for free.
  • Let someone else do the heavy lifting: Once the templates are created, the system can customize what is needed, so your team only has to create each file once. No more one-off requests and no more adjusting file sizes. A MarCom Portal provides maximum efficiency.
  • Flexible and scalable: A MarCom Portal can be built to fit your needs. Whether you want to offer a few tools or a wide-range of customizable options, it can fit your needs and budget. Plus, it can grow with you and your budget.
  • Security and peace of mind: A third party system can even be used to ensure absolute privacy for your channel partners.

Not convinced you need this solution? Stay tuned – in a future post I’ll share some key elements to consider adding to your portal.

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