Archives for Building Products

Surprising Your Customers Never Gets Old

Happy birthday!

Today is my birthday. My 47th to be exact. I know, I know, you’re shocked because I look way younger.

My first day of 47 started of with a bang! I awoke to fresh flowers, breakfast, cards and special letters from my two girls. My husband and I have been married since, well, dirt and we’ve had many opportunities to “top the year before.” And something he wrote in my card gave me an idea. He said:

“We’ve celebrated 31 birthdays together and it never gets old!”

Because we’ve spent so many birthdays together and celebrated in so many different ways, it is getting harder to “keep it fresh and surprising!” This is not only a marital dilemma, it happens in customer relationships too? Here’s my question:

“How do we continue to surprise and delight customers year after year after year?”

Or, experience after experience. It becomes increasingly difficult—but it doesn’t have to. All we need to do is remember back to the first time—similar to when you first started dating your mate:

…the first time we looked into each others eyes (connected with the prospective customer)

…the first time we asked them out (created awareness and curiosity)

…the first time we went out on a date (they made a purchase)

…the first time we spent a holiday together at her parents house (gave them a thoughtful gift)

…the first time you surprised her with flowers just to say “I love you” (sent a handwritten thank you note)

…the first time you created a surprise birthday experience (threw a customer appreciation day party)

…the first time you created a new tradition (added something new to the buying experience, with them in mind)

If we get creative and treat customers like it’s the first time, every time, the relationship will never get old!

Here’s to cultivating customer chemistry year after year after year.

Now, who wants cake?

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

Create Curiosity Without Pointing To Your Own Naval

It's not about you. Create curiosity.
A common assumption in B2B marketing—particularly so in the building materials industry—is that because you’re reaching out to a business you don’t need to be “creative.” Or different. And certainly not fun.

Just inform the target audience that you’ve been in business for 50 years, you have what they need, your prices are fair—and the orders will come. Right?

Not in today’s competitive, cinch-this-belt-any-tighter-and-I’ll-stop-breathing market. The simple truth: boring brands don’t spring to mind first when there’s a need. Brands without a clear personality and voice, who aren’t saying anything different or making a difference are not seen, heard or felt. The ones that do have something to talk about, and do so in a way that resonates, create curiosity. They’re perceived as dynamic, relevant and authoritative. And, dare I say it, maybe even fun!

So how do you become the interesting brand? Create curiosity? Become so compelling that customers and prospects are always eager to see what you’ll say or do next?

For starters, say and do things regularly.

Make an introduction – to a thought leader, a mindset or a new product or service. Share something that could possibly change the way they do business or live their life. Issue special offers or bundles on a monthly basis. Hold product demos at  your trade shows at regularly scheduled times (give them a heads up in advance). Communicate with your target audience at least once a month—via e-mail, snail mail, social media or blog. In other words, get on their radar and stay there.

Don’t be afraid to shift to customer-centered advertising.

Instead of talking about the company behind the product, focus on the benefit to the customer. Address their pain points. Connect with your reader emotionally—or in an unexpected way. Remember, you don’t have to show your entire hand in each ad either. Create curiosity by sharing bite-sized nuggets. A taste, if you will. Also, put away that “Make My Logo Bigger Cream” and keep your logo/branding smaller and in a supporting role. I know, I know, but it’s not about YOU.

Leave a popcorn trail of information.

Be THE source for useful information about the building materials you make or sell and the stories around them. Survey your customers about a hot topic and share the results. Produce a video or slide show demonstrating how to use a new product in a creative way. Name and brand every “kernel” appropriately, so that all searches/links/SEO lead back to you. This can also aid in crafting better site content (aka: mapping it to the buying cycle).

Dispense this information via your e-newsletter or blog or social media channels, then archive it on your website in an organized way that’s easy to navigate. Soon you’ll have a library of information your customers want and need—one they’ll return to again and again.

Give it a name.

Introducing a new product? Don’t just identify it: urethane resin flexible mouldings. Give it an identity: Valuflex™. (Incidentally, this moulding from EL & EL Wood Products was used by a contractor in my own home, and I love the results. Would I have remembered “urethane resin flexible moulding” and mentioned it here? Probably not.)

Products aren’t the only nameable aspects of your brand. Instead of “July’s Special Offer,” try something like “July’s Things-You-Can’t- Live-Without Sales Event.” Your blog, e-newsletter, and the online library mentioned above could also benefit from memorable, brand-centric names. Which is more memorable, “our eNewsletter” or “Freshly Squeezed”?

Use social media to leak the story.

Remember that new product you’re about to introduce? The one with the intriguing and memorable name? Pique curiosity before the launch with a teaserly Tweet such as: “Coming October 1st … meet the hardest working lubricant in the industry.” Closer to launch, post photos of the product on your Facebook and Pinterest pages. Use LinkedIn to conduct a poll related to the product, then share the results. Be sure to tie these posts to specific landing pages on your site for tracking and metrics.

Remember, there are people like you and me behind those businesses you’re marketing to—people who respond to brand messages on an intellectual and emotional level. Keep them interested (read: curious) and they’ll keep you top of mind.

Here’s to creating curiosity…and a sensation!

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

All Blogs Are Not The SME

Blogs Help Business

A blog is like a sound system made just for your brand

The word “BLOG” strikes fear in many businesses. What will we write about? We don’t have anything to say. But wait—you actually do!

You are ALREADY an SME (subject matter expert) on your brand: what it does better than anyone else, AND how it solves real pain points for your customers.

Help people by sharing your valuable insight on your company blog. Don’t miss the opportunity to be a SME in your industry.

We all consume information in different ways—give people one more way to connect with your brand: ROCK YOUR COMPANY BLOG.

p.s. If you need more reasons to get your blog on, here’s a great post by Carolyn Cohn of Compukol, The Many Reasons Why Blogging Helps Your Business


Make your presence felt.


Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| Leave a comment

Made in the USA

Hardworking. Honest. Inventive. Passionate.

These words describe our customers and probably yours.

So many companies, founded over fifty years ago, by a young man or woman with two nickels to rub together and a dream, to build what people needed because they couldn’t find it anywhere else.

Made in the USA means “built with heart.”

It’s why I love this country. It’s why we chose to specialize in the building materials industry. We have the privilege of working with genuine hardworking people who create something from nothing. Committed to honoring the past and laying a solid groundwork for the future, they are the infrastructure of this nation.

It’s exciting to see the torch passed from one generation to the next. Brimming with new ideas, a whole lotta gumption and a healthy amount of fear, Jr. takes up where Sr. leaves off and commences to carry on the family tradition. The next generation always has new ways and means, however, there is one thing that remains unchanged—pride. Pride in making great products, in the employees and families they support and in helping their customers succeed. Also, pride in supporting this great nation and carrying on the Made in the USA tradition.

Ironically, we’re all Made in the USA. WE ARE American made.

Being that most of us reading this are Americans, we’re preparing to celebrate with good food, beautiful weather (cross your fingers) and maybe some spirits (if the mountains are blue). Now, we each have our own library of memories stored up from many Fourth of July’s passed. When I think about the 4th of July all sorts of happy memories come rushing to the surface; family reunions at Chesterfield Park (a giant burg in Indiana), watching my Uncle Larry and my dad compete for the title of “best burger flipper”, nearly burning a finger off with sparklers, laying back on the hood of the car waiting impatiently for the sky to light up, and feeling my eyes well up when I hear the words to my favorite American tribute song ( during a fireworks spectacular.

What are some of your favorite Fourth of July memories? What does Made in the USA mean to you?

Create a sensational memory this weekend. Happy 4th!


P.S. My Aunt Barb’s specialty was Cherry Delight…yum! What’s your favorite food on the 4th?

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

Social Media Posts: A Day In The Life

If You Haven't Seen It, It's New To You

If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.

Recently, Melissa Leiter wrote a great post on the Lifespan Of Social Media Posts, and broke it down by the 7 most popular platforms: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest.

It is interesting to note that posts last the longest on two image dominant platforms: YouTube and Pinterest. We are fans of Pinterest for many reasons, but first and foremost for an easy (and fun) way to drive direct traffic to your website.

One of the things we’ve noticed on both YouTube and Pinterest is the “second wave” effect—especially on Pinterest: New users are constantly joining and creating boards with their interests, they often seek board content from existing Pinterest users.

Users benefit in three ways:

  • users connect with like users
  • users increase their own content
  • users connect with and existing community of people with like interests

Reminiscent of that old NBC campaign “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you”, second wave pinning brings a whole new life to existing Pinterest content by putting it back in the main (read: most visible) content stream.

Consider the brevity of most social media post’s lifespan when you’re repurposing existing content. Not all your social media followers/connections might have seen something the first time around, and if you haven’t seen it, its new to you.

Make your presence felt.


Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| 2 Comments

What Contractors Want from Manufacturers

Mind Meld

Contractors want the lowest prices, quality products and maybe a cool T-shirt now and again. Right?! Unless you’re a mind-reader, how do you really know what they want unless you ask them.

Recently, Tradesmen Insights asked contractors what they want from manufacturers and produced a series of interviews and podcasts highlighting their answers. Their intention: find out what manufacturers could do to better support contractors in the field. Those interviewed were a mix of electricians, plumbers, HVAC and general contractors. Here is a sampling of some of their most common wants (aka: opportunities for manufacturers):

  • Quick Response to Questions – access to knowledgeable tech people for problem solving.
  • Regular Site Visits – have your salesman make regular visits. Most contractors say they very rarely see the manufacturers. Great way to build relationships and identify possible product problems or shortcomings.
  • Application Training  - quick tips on doing a process better/quicker. If not in person, via email.
  • Best Way to Communicate with Them - mobile phone or email.
  • Not Super Social Yet - (Twitter, Facebook).
  • Recognize that they are professionals.

There are some prime opportunities here for manufacturers to up their game.  Our recent research yielded similar findings. Contractors want to be recognized and engaged with regularly—and not just about “what’s on sale” or “what’s new,” but how your product affects their bottom-line. Here are 10 ways to make your contractor experience richer and more rewarding:

10 Ways to Give Contractors What They Want

  1. Responsively designed Web and Mobile Sites –  Sites crafted to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors to tablets).
  2. How-to Videos, Demos and Easy Installation Instructions – Short, concise, available online / YouTube channel
  3. FAQ Section – Easy to find online, expansive and always current
  4. Live Tech Support – Knowledgeable, friendly, easily accessibly, separate 800#
  5. Email Communications – Rich consistent content that educates, inspires and reaches contractors on a deeper level (think “substance vs. sales”)
  6. App – Contains useful tools, specs, inventory and more they carry in the palm of their hand (beyond what’s on your site)
  7. Campaigns – Themed effort with a central message, communicated in promotional pieces and activities to recognize and unite contractors
  8. In Person – Live on-site visits and events
  9. Support – education and information about best practices to inspire and empower
  10. Forums & User Groups – Create an online community that supports, unites and celebrates contractors (excellent way to listen too–bonus!)

Tradesmen also shared this powerful statement, “There wasn’t a contractor I talked to that would turn away a visit from you, the manufacturer.” That sounds like opportunity knocking!

With sales people already spread thin across accounts, it can be challenging to fulfill the face to face need on a regular basis. Luckily, there are numerous ways to satisfy a Contractors’ craving and so much that they can have seconds.

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment