Archives for brand strategy


Is Your Brand Unique?Greeting You From Unique, Iowa!

Last month, we began our 2016 Road Trip to A New State of Marketing in a city that played a leading role in the historic West Coast lumber trade: Eureka! Located in Humboldt County, Eureka sits along the coast in the Redwood Empire region of California. We talked about how finding lasting success has always been about strategy, both when Eureka was founded in 1850 and today.

This month, you’ll be riding along as we travel to the Midwest — specifically UNIQUE, Iowa. We’ll admit we chose it for the name, but it’s a place that says a lot about what makes a business distinctive to its customers — even if their products are similar to the competition’s.

If you build it, they will come. Or will they?

Many folks in our business believe that creating something great is enough to attract business. Sadly, merely existing isn’t a competitive edge.

if-you-build-it-will-they-comeLike many of America’s great manufacturers, Unique was founded to take advantage of an opportunity. Back in the 1870s, the hot new thing was the railroad, and a few sharp operators were certain tracks would soon be laid through their lonely patch of Iowa marshland. This idea gave birth to Unique, and soon there was a post office, two schools and a church.

Unfortunately, what Unique didn’t have was a distinctive Identity that made it stand out from every other hopeful railroad boom town. Unique’s founders figured they just needed to build a great whistle stop to attract business. It wasn’t enough. The railroad never came, Fred Harvey never built a restaurant here, and the post office closed for good in 1902 after just 24 years. All that remains of Unique today is an illegible rusty sign at the corner of 230th & Florida Avenue in Humbolt County.

Brand identity isn't about what's on the outsideMany people think identity is about what’s on the outside — like what color your car is or the size of the fins on the tail — but all that’s basically window dressing. Your identity is more like your license plate, because nobody else can use the same one.

But at the end of the day, what’s most important is who’s driving the car. Nobody can copy that.

In the same way, your identity is more than your logo and your company name. What matters most is what’s on the inside — the stuff that makes your brand unique — and how your distinctive strengths align with what’s important to your buyers.

When you take a road trip you don’t just discover new places, you also learn new things about yourself. New surroundings give you a new perspective that helps you see yourself with new eyes.

give-your-brand-a-tune-upGiving your brand’s identity a tune-up has similar benefits. You may not know what makes your company special, especially if you’ve been around for a while. When you live with a person (or a business) for a long time, it’s easy to lose track of what makes them great — things a stranger might notice in the first five minutes.

It’s also tough to stay unique over time, because your buyers aren’t waiting for you to tell them about your company, products or services anymore. They’re researching you extensively before they call. By the time you hear from them, they already know what you sell and how you do business.

That means your identity can’t just be about you. Today it’s more like a crossroads, a place where what you have to offer intersects with what’s important to them. So if you’re still using the same identity strategy that worked when your company was the only game in town, you’re effectively driving with one foot on the brake.

A strong identity is the difference between selling a profitable brand instead just selling a commodity. It helps you stay up to date with what’s motivates people to buy from you. To learn more about how it works — and how it can protect your business from going the way of Unique, Iowa — let’s talk.

We’re having a coffee emergency, but the closest Starbucks is half an hour away in Fort Dodge. Time for us to leave Unique in the dust!

See you down the road,

Your friends at FELT

Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| Leave a comment

EVERYONE Is Not Your Potential Customer—SOMEONE Is

EVERYONE is not your customer!
“The people you most want to reach are likely to be the very people that are the most difficult to reach. Attention is not yours
to take whenever you need it. And trust is not something you can insist on.
 You can earn trust, just as you can earn attention.
Not with everyone, but with the people that you need,
the people who need you.”

-Seth Godin

You have a great product and you want to sell it to everyone! Anyone who will listen to your message, stop and peruse your ad’s or LIKE  or FOLLOW you on Facebook or Twitter is a potential customer. So, the more you sell to EVERYONE, the better.

And, the best way to go about talking to EVERYONE is a one-message-fits-all approach…because EVERYONE is the same. Right?! Men, women, young, old, curious or “ready to buy”; they’re all the same. They like the same things. They speak the same language. They all get their information from the same sources. And, your message is so share-worthy they’re talking you up to EVERYONE they know.

All Customers Are Not Created Equal
When I ask the question, “Who are your potential customers?” more times than not I get this answer, “EVERYONE is a potential customer.” This may have been the case once upon a time in 1956 when your granddad started the company and that’s why you’re still leaning on one catalog, one unsegmented website, one brochure and one message that fits all. This may be working perfectly for the results you’re getting. But let’s face it, EVERYONE is not your potential customer. SOMEONE is. Someone very specific. And to connect with them you’ve got to be specific, earn their attention and solve their problem.

Casting a Smaller Net Doesn’t Mean Smaller Sales
Instead of continuing to cast a wide net (think Forest Gump and the shrimp boat) and weeding through old boots and toilet seats, imagine casting a butterfly net. A smaller net with a finer mesh, specifically cast in the right meadows and valleys, will attract and retain the abundance of “monarchs” you desire. No more wasting time sifting through old boots and toilet seats.

Architect Speak
Let’s consider one of your segments–architects, for example. Your products are best suited for higher-end applications. Do all architects specialize in high-end projects? No. Only some do. That narrows the list down a bit. Your products are also very environmentally friendly. Now, how many architects on your list specialize in “green” or sustainable buildings? These same architects are always interested in what’s new and possible. Ironically, it appears your sales people have never reached out to ANY of these architects. Maybe, just maybe, they don’t know what to say. They don’t know how to talk to architects because they don’t really know them or speak their language. Bottom line—if your sales people were fluent in architect your sales would increase dramatically.

Be Specific
Revisit your audience and dig deeper than education, age and gender. Really get to know them:
Category | Architects
Specialty | Specialize in High-end Commercial Projects
Cares About | Unique or Energy Saving Materials, Solving Challenging Design Problems, Reputation, Referrals, Continuing Education Credits (LEED and now SEED), Easy Sourcing, Designing to Code, Partners they can Trust, Flexibility
Sharing | Opinions, Tweets, Project Case Studies, Articles, F2F Time, Presentations
Reading | High-end Architectural Publications, Specific Trade Journals, Plans, Blogs, Email
Hearing | Podcasts, Webinars, Trade show Speakers, Conference Speakers, Industry Hype, Colleagues Recommendations
Seeing | Videos, Industry Trends, News Reports, Tweets, Posts, Sales Reps, Job Sites, Websites, Ads

And this list is just the beginning. Would your sales people say that your brand is, indeed, everywhere THESE architects are? Talking about things that matter to them? Speaking their language, not yours. Are you talking to them differently at each touch point to mirror the buying cycle? Nothing is more off-putting than hearing from a company you already do business with who speaks to you as if you’re a prospect they’ve never met yet. (AT&T is famous for this)

Earn Their Attention
Just because you have a product to sell doesn’t mean you have instant credibility either. For your specific someone’s (in this case architects), they can’t simply hear what you have to say, they need to believe in what you’re promising. To be heard, however, you must first earn their attention.

Email, direct mail and other “disruptive” methods have made it easy to shout at and cold call large numbers of people, but the very ease of this behavior has also made it even less likely to work. Seth Godin reminds us regularly, “The economics of attention scarcity are obvious, and you might not like it, but it’s true. The bad news is that you are not entitled to attention and trust. It is not allocated on the basis of some sort of clearly defined scale of worthiness. The good news is that you can earn it. You can invest in the community, you can patiently lead and contribute and demonstrate that the attention you are asking be spent on you is worthwhile.”

Invest in what matters to each audience segment.
Contribute to the conversations and causes that matter to them.
Demonstrate that you understand them through your actions and creativity.
Create products, services and communications that are relevant.

This, by the way, takes much more now than throwing your catalog onto your website in a flip book, showing up at trade shows with nothing new and sending out a couple random tweets when your “social media person” feels like it. It takes strategy, creativity and a genuine interest in solving their unique problems. Distributors are not like architects. Architects are not like contractors and contractors are not like, well, anyone else. Each one is a SOMEONE special.

Different Results Require Different Actions
Identify your SOMEONE’S. Understand how your products and services solve their unique problems and then learn to speak their language. SOMEONE will be forever grateful you did and trust you to do it over and over again!

Here’s to building a brand that isn’t just seen and heard, it’s felt.

P.S. Already talking to your potential customers like they’re SOMEONE? What kind of a difference has it made for your sales team? To your bottom line? Share in the comments below or consider passing this on to a colleague or manager who still thinks EVERYONE is a potential customer.

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

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!


Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

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!

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

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