Archives for brand strategy

Thank me now. Sell me later.

Thank You 

We’ve made the descent and are on approach — destination: Thanksgiving. That time of the year when our hearts and minds turn to all that we are thankful for. 

We express our gratitude to customers in various forms; phone calls, emails, cards and letters. Maybe even a ham. It’s all well and good when it’s heartfelt and genuine. But the minute it takes a nose dive into empty or salesy, the intention is lost and the opportunity to connect on a heartfelt level tailspins into a fiery explosion.

I experienced this just today. I received a message on Linkedin from a connection that I don’t know personally yet. I have admired this persons content and thought leadership and so I clicked open with great anticipation. And there it was! A sales message with a bit about Thanksgiving tucked neatly onto the end. My emotional radar just went haywire. And it didn’t help that my name was misspelled. Abort! Abort!

If you’re going to make it personal, make it personal. 

When showing gratitude, just say thank you.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful opportunity to give thanks. Thank me now. Sell me later.

P.S. Consider showing gratitude all year long. That’s how you can harness the real power of emotional connection.


Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

This is Your Brand on Pinterest

How Building Products Brands Can Benefit from Pinterest 

If you went to your CEO and said, “I want to allocate time to a website that is primarily used by furniture restoration geeks and women designing their dream wedding,” what kind of response would you expect?

Now, if you went to that same CEO and said, “I want to investigate a new social platform that’s driving more referrals than Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined,” how do you think that would go over? (Jesse Noyes, Eloqua)

You know the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” That’s the power of Pinterest. It’s the epitome of that expression. On a daily basis over 20 million people use Pinterest to discover, share and get inspired by people with similar interests. Marketing Profs recently reported, “Pinterest is arguably the hottest social media site on the Internet—user traffic to the online social catalog has skyrocketed since mid-2011—but the website also boasts strong audience engagement, retention, and virality among its core demographic.”

So, how can a brand in the building products industry benefit from Pinterest?

Let’s take a closer look. The Huffington Post recently published an infographic with these amazing Pinterest user insights:

  1. Pinterest users spend an average of almost 16 minutes on the site per visit (12.1 for Facebook).
  2. 50% of Pinterest users have children.
  3. Almost 70% of Pinterest users are female.
  4. 97% of Pinterest’s Facebook fans are women.
  5. As of January 2012, Pinterest had received just under 12 million unique visits.
  6. Pinterest receives almost 1.5 million visitors each day.
  7. Pinterest provides more referral traffic to other sites than Google+, YouTube and LinkedIn combined.


Your customers aren’t even on Pinterest yet, or are they?
Take a minute, go to Pinterest and do a search for contractors (hold on to your hat). Wow, there are so many. You’re in disbelief. You’ve been talking about reaching out to architects and designers too, to drive awareness and sales through that segment. Guess how many of them you can listen to, follow and talk to on Pinterest? I’ll give you a hint….it’s a number with at least 5 zeros. Bazinga!

So, how does all this relate to you and your brand?
In order to be interesting to decision-makers, you need to be interested in what they like and why they like it. 97% of users on Pinterest are women. Research shows that they make the majority of purchasing decisions. They are on Pinterest for an average of 15 minutes a day. Looking for ideas. Researching products. Making purchasing decisions. Sharing their finds and opinions with everyone. Word-of-mouth is a powerful byproduct!

Your Brand on Pinterest
There are so many reasons for your brand to become Pinteresting, but what’s the real value? Can it help you leverage your brands position in the marketplace? The answer is yes! Start with these:

  1. Interact with specific audience segments more intimately
  2. Garner awareness and participation through conversation and visual stimulation
  3. Showcase new products
  4. Idea Gallery – “How To’s” for using products creatively and more efficiently
  5. User Gallery – Customers showcase success stories
  6. Drive traffic to your site
  7. Influence purchasing decisions

Pre-pinning Strategy
Before deciding whether Pinterest is right for you, consider four things:

  1. What marketing goal can it influence?
  2. How do we measure the results?
  3. Who will manage it?
  4. What added value does it provide to our current marketing mix?

Pinterest may be new, but it’s no novelty. Your brand can benefit from becoming Pinteresting. Happy pinning! Here’s to making your presence felt!

P.S. Don’t look now, but more opportunities are just around the corner. Manteresting is in beta…I’ll keep you posted!


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Pinterest Packs a Retail Punch!


Two of the most common challenges you’re facing right now are ONE how to engage consumers better and TWO how to engage architects and designers. Even though many of you are in the BtoB space, you can certainly take advantage of engaging consumers and specifiers earlier in the buying cycle. Someone is going to drive them there— that someone can be you. 

Consider these recent consumer statistics as reported by MultiChannel Merchant:

  1. Nearly two out of five (38%) online consumers follow retailers through one or more social networking sites.
  2. Four in 10 (43%) said they are looking for product information and 36% want to post/read comments about merchandise or services. 
  3. Three in 10 consumers who follow retailers via social media say they are looking for information about events (34%), current trends and ideas (31%), or photos and videos (30%), such as “how-to’s” and styling ideas, as well as expert opinions (27%).
  4. Online consumers in the U.S. already follow an average of 9.3 retail companies on Pinterest, compared to the average 6.9 retailers they follow on Facebook and the 8.5 retailers they track via Twitter.

I am asked daily, “With Facebook and Twitter and Google+, should we also have a presence on Pinterest?” My answer is YES. Pinterest is an obvious choice for ANY retailer interested in driving sales – especially in light of the phenomenal growth that Pinterest has experienced just this year alone. 

The sheer number of people flocking to it, spending time on it, and the referral traffic generated from it are reasons enough for brands to be involved with it. Historically advertising has focused on “words” and “information” to sell products to customers. Pinterest is different AND revolutionary because it is 100% visual. (not to mention FREE) You know the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words!”

Pinteresting Statistics

+ Average of 1.36 million users daily

+ The majority of visitors are females 25-34

+ 28% have a household income of $100k+

+ 15.8 minutes is the average time spent on Pinterest, ahead of Facebook and Twitter

+ 11,716,000 unique visitors in January 2012

+ Shoppers referred by Pinterest are 10% more likely to make a purchase than visitors who arrive from other social networks. They’ll also spend 10% more on average. (Wayfair)

The opportunity for connecting with your audience comes with linking each image back to your website, or to a landing page designed specifically to showcase a specific line, product or project. Imagine what you could say with images and idea “boards” of all the things you can do with the products you carry. The possibilities are limitless. And, the best part, it’s all trackable.

Brings to mind a question from a book I’m reading right now: Are you doing the most with what you’ve got? You’ve got a way to pack a real visual punch! Show consumers and specifiers what they can do with your products on Pinterest! 

Here’s to making your presence felt!

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Say Something New Inside a Fortune Cookie

5 Ways to Become a Star at Your Next Trade Show

So what do fortune cookies have to do with trade shows for building products? Nothing, really. But as a totally unexpected medium for your brand message—part of your overall show strategy—they’re a fun and inexpensive way to pull prospects into your booth and start a conversation.

But this post isn’t about fortune cookies. It’s about making the most of your 2012 trade show investment.

I know you’ve probably had some pretty successful shows in the past. You’re not new to this. But how are you measuring just how successful the shows have been? Are you taking advantage of all the leads you’re acquiring? Are they qualified leads? What’s your ROI (Return on Influence)? If you aren’t sure, you’re not alone.

After more than 20 years of working with clients in the building products industry, I’ve seen a disconnect that often stems from treating trade shows as individual events rather than integrating them into the overall brand-communications strategy.

Now, with the economic pitfalls that have paralyzed this industry, I know trade show exhibition has been put on the back burner for many of you. It still stands to reason, though, that the sheer power of trade shows to cost-effectively connect with hundreds—even thousands—of customers and prospects makes them an important way to showcase your brand.

Taking the time to strategize before embarking on your 2012 trade show program—and, in particular, pre- and post-show communication—is the most effective approach. Here are 5 ways you can effectively maintain brand consistency and reach brand stardom at your next trade show:

1. Stakeholders and Strategy
Kind of sounds like a Milton Bradley® game, doesn’t it? Get together with all key stakeholders and your creative team well in advance of the show to discuss overall strategy. Your creative team can help you formulate the best way to let your brand shine. Discuss the core messages you want to convey and how you can bring them to life.

These planning meetings should yield a succinct strategy for connecting with attendees before, during and after the show. The strategy will address how you will achieve your goals, influence exhibit design, and act as a script for your next blockbuster show.

2. Booths in the Zone
In a recent Marketing Profs article Stephanie Janard interviewed industry expert Les LaMotte, founder and CEO of Xtra Lite Displays ( According to Les, the key to maximizing booth traffic is to make sure the booth commands attention at several distances, starting with about 30 feet away. Your booth needs something eye-grabbing that attendees can spot from that distance. “Side wing” displays that catch attention from several aisles are also a good option.

The Big 3
1 The Memory Zone
—about 15 feet away.

2 The Sensory Zone—close enough to interact with booth materials and demos.

3 The Data Zone—as much a state of mind as a particular proximity, the Data Zone is where booth visitors are looking for evidence that your product or service will solve their problems.

3. Loud and Clear
Competition at trade shows is fierce, and many companies think creating an exhibit with a “wow” factor is the ticket to generating traffic. Although you certainly want your exhibit to be visually effective, it’s critical to make sure the brand doesn’t get diluted in the process.

Instead, focus on creating clear, concise messages that support your brand attributes and resonate with the target audience. Start with words on paper. Seriously. You should be able to express your core message in one sentence. Once that’s established, building on it visually becomes easier and ultimately more effective.

4. Social Bee
Engaging socially with attendees prior to and during the show can have an extremely positive impact on attendance and participation. It isn’t, however, something you should use as a one-off campaign communication. It should be part of your overall marketing efforts. Social media isn’t a solution. It’s a tool. A way to become more intimate with your audience.

You can use social media tools to create curiosity and anticipation prior to a show. It’s a vehicle for being human. Let’s face it—your company isn’t about a tool or a widget. It’s ultimately about people who make something for people. I recommend having a point person to be your social voice. Make someone responsible for monitoring the conversation. This person can also blog about the sensational things that are happening during the show and stay connected with attendees long after the show is over.

5. After Glow
Everybody’s all excited and gung-ho during the show—preparation, dinners, drinks, enthusiastic conversations. But what happens after the show? Here’s where the ball gets dropped—little or no follow-through with the new “show” friends you’ve made. Capitalize on everything you’ve worked so hard for. Follow up with a thank-you letter. Ask them to stay in touch by subscribing to your e-newsletter. Socialize with them via Twitter and Facebook.

Measuring your effectiveness is also paramount. Utilizing a toll-free “trade show” number is a great way to track response. You can also capture important information via an online survey. Find out what resonated with them most. Coded response cards are another way to glean information and connect post-show.

Need help mapping out your trade show strategy?
Download our free Guide to Trade Show Stardom for Building Products Professionals.

What’s your trade show track record? Any big hits or misses? I’d love to hear from you. Here’s to creating a sensation and saying something new!

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

Say Something New…To Your Inner Circle

How to Make Every Employee a Brand Ambassador

It’s a known fact that employees who UNDERSTAND the brand promise and BELIEVE in the brand work harder—and better.

Most importantly, when employees see themselves as brand ambassadors, they create BRAND DIFFERENTIATION for your customers—something hard for your competition to replicate.

(Think about it. Your competitors can match you in each of the 4 P’s of marketing: product, price, promotion and placement. It’s the PERSONALITY of your brand—its people—that truly separates you from the pack.)

This differentiation becomes part of your competitive edge, and your employees can provide that edge. But only if they understand your goals and philosophy and feel empowered to uphold them in their daily dealings with customers.

So how do you impart that understanding and sense of empowerment?

In Guy Kawasaki’s latest book, Enchantment, he says “the single best thing that a company could do to enchant its employees is to provide them with a MAP.” This allows your employees to “MASTER new skills while working AUTONOMOUSLY for a company with a higher PURPOSE than simply making a buck. The company should be making the world a better place in some way or another.”

Guy’s theory is that in a recession, cost-cutting efforts don’t have to impact how you enchant your employees. Paying them reasonably is only one part. You must use mastery, autonomy and purpose to enchant (MAP). Here’s how:

1. Teach them how to do their job better. Offer classes. Bring in specialists. Give them access to online info, blogs and/or training.

2. Help them set goals, then get out of the way. Remember, a sense of autonomy is key to building brand loyalty and ownership among employees.

3. Show them the bigger purpose your brand has in the world. For example, FedEx’s purpose is to give people peace of mind when they absolutely, positively have to get something delivered.

4. Trust them to make the right choices. Empower your employees to go the extra mile and do the right thing for a customer in need.  I omitted the reference to your transmission story, since non-subscribers reading this blog entry won’t have that context.

5. Don’t forget what it’s like to do their job. Empathy is powerful.

6. Celebrate achievements in a creative way. Think small and meaningful vs. big and expensive. Thank you notes go a looong way.

7. Remind employees that “you want them.” Verbally, in writing and in action.

8. Recognize employees in meaningful ways. Get business cards for everyone, even the warehouse guys. Give them an email address at the company. Make sure they have a workspace and that it’s inspiring in some way.

The bottom line: Enchant your employees and they will enchant others. They are your brand ambassadors.

Do you have other ideas for the list? What do you say to your inner circle? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to creating a sensation and saying something new!

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| 1 Comment

10 Ways to Create a Sensation Around Your Brand
Part 10


A Strategy For Putting Ideas into Action
Deciding which tools and techniques make the most sense for your company, who’ll implement them, how and when to do it requires a strategy. Or as we like to call it, a play book.

[This can seem daunting if you’re a brand in a crowded market with multiple competitors, few meaningful points of difference and too few viable positions. If that’s the case, look for new product or service offerings that create marketable points of difference.

Are you currently a CATEGORY OF ONE brand? Build on a strength you already have, such as creativity and innovation, and instead of “selling tools to the construction industry” you’re the brand that’s “reinventing building.” This can then be translated into a tagline, marketing campaign and a guiding force in strategic business decisions.

Four Steps to a (Sensational) Brand Strategy

Conduct a brand audit, an assessment of the current state of your brand. The primary goal is to learn, through surveys, personal interviews and website/blog conversations, how customers and prospects feel about your brand today.

Define your brand’s personality. Bold and brawny? Fun and friendly? Honest and hard-working? Smart and sensible? (If your first thought is bland and boring, or you’re just not satisfied with your current brandhood, decide which traits you’d like your brand to embody and work to make them a reality.)

Be the customer. Define your primary and secondary audience members and give each group a persona—Joe Customer, if you will. Literally create a page for each in your brand strategy document, complete with representative photo and profile of likes, dislikes, behaviors and patterns. You’ll be surprised how often you’ll mull an idea and wonder what would Joe think?

Create a positioning statement. Simply put, your brand does what for whom to support the why.

First, identify all points of contact with Joe Customer. Most B2B’s have at least 100 points of contact, many that have become dormant. Include the points you’re already taking advantage of (you advertise in an industry journal he subscribes to) and others you could be, per the profile you developed (he fans your competitors on Facebook, but you’ve yet to set up an account). Determine the best ways to connect, and develop a plan for integrating your brand.

As you move to Step 3, take a moment to review the first nine installments in our e-series via the links at right. They’re chock full of ideas and how-tos for making your brand the one to follow.

Sales goals are always a top priority, however, our concern here is brand awareness. The corresponding objective: To maximize the recognition of, and sustained interest in, your brand via communication touchpoints. (And ultimately, convert more prospects into repeat customers.)

Specific goals depend on the marketing tools you have in place and the results of Steps 1 and 2. Your goals might be to increase website traffic, page views or search rankings…grow your e-newsletter subscriber list (or its frequency)…boost your following in social media…or simply to put more product samples into hands at the next trade show.

The key to any brand strategy is consistency (visual and literal) and this is the bible for maintaining it across all platforms. Basic components include rules for logo size, color and placement, as well as guidelines for using taglines and other brand messaging.

Whether your style guide is five pages or 500, make sure it’s comprehensive, current and most important, consistently used.


Some of you may still be wondering why a B2B brand in the building products industry needs a brand strategy. Isn’t selling quality products and offering great customer service enough to set you apart as the leader?

We get that question a lot, and the answer is NO. Your competitors are saying the exact same thing that you are.
So who stands out? Who’s garnering the loyal fans?

Even if you’re a big fish in a little pond, confident in your brandhood, it’s critically important to solidify your brand promise and work to grow your following.

How are you winning over your fans? I’d love to hear from you.

Here’s to creating a sensation! Let’s get started.

Allison DeFord, Trailblazer

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