Archives for building products industry

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

Create Awareness without Breaking the Bank

Cultivate Customer Chemistry - Create a Sensation  

Think about your favorite brands—the coffee you crave each morning, the car company you trust, the shipping service you rely on for overnight deliveries.

What do those brands mean to you? Why are you loyal to them? Chances are it’s because (a) you feel you know them, and (b) you’ve consistently had good experiences with them, or you know others who have.

Now think about your own company, and how it’s perceived by your customers and prospects. What mental image do they associate with your brand? What qualities? If you aren’t sure, it’s time to focus your attention on creating awareness. And you can do it inexpensively. Here’s how:

Be Consistent

Whether you’ve been in business for five years or fifty, a clear and consistent message is essential for building brand familiarity. That means identifying the difference you make that sets you apart from your competitors and communicate it effectively at every touchpoint. Always!

A good way to test the consistency of your messaging is to conduct a communications audit. First gather samples of all the printed materials associated with your brand—ads, brochures, flyers, catalogs, sales presentations, even business cards and letterhead—and print screen captures of your website, online advertising and e-newsletters. Spread them all out on the conference table and ask yourself:

Do the pieces have a similar look and feel?
Your customers should recognize at-a-glance your brand’s visual characteristics—on every communication you send. (That consistency should extend to your signage, tradeshow displays and outdoor advertising as well.)

Are we differentiating ourselves from competitors?
Your uniqueness should be obvious to customers and prospects alike. Aim for clear, simple and concise messaging, so they know who you are and how you make a difference in their lives.

Make your audit even more valuable by doing the same with competitors’ marketing materials. If you see too many similarities among the brands, you may need to sharpen your message or rethink your brand’s POD (point of differentiation). Revisit your WHY.

Understand Your Target Audience

Specifically, make sure you understand what they want, need and value so you can better focus your branding efforts. Services such as Survey Monkey make it easy to query different segments of your market to discover how best to relate to them. You can send surveys for FREE to a list of 500 or less. In past client surveys, we uncovered some surprising discoveries about what customers ACTUALLY valued most. This knowledge is then instrumental in changing your processes to deliver the kind of experience customers really want. A few tips for conducting an effective survey:

  • Craft well-written questions for your survey
  • Create specific lists of employees, customers and vendors
  • Call ahead of time; let them know the survey’s coming
  • Review the results with an open mind
  • Use the info to revise your marketing strategy

Live Up to Your Brand Promise

This goes without saying, particularly when it comes to existing customers. But consider also your prospects, whose perceptions are based on both your brand messaging and the real-life experiences of industry colleagues who’ve done business with you.


Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool and one that you have more control over than you might think. Make sure everyone in your organization understands your brand’s uniqueness and the message you’re trying to convey. Stress the importance of consistently delivering a good customer experience, so you’re not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

Remember, YOU CAN understand your target audience, live up to your brand promise and be consistent without breaking the bank. These steps are inexpensive and extremely effective in creating brand awareness. Fully living up to your brand promise? Felt can help.

Here’s to creating a sensation!

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

Building Materials Brands Gaining Critical Advantage, by Design


Building materials brands, both large and small, are gaining critical advantage by leveraging something that may surprise you. Although companies are enjoying better numbers and expanding operations again, there is an abundant resource available that, when left untapped, leaves big money on the table. This missed opportunity is design.

During a conversation with Festool Marketing VP Michael Williams, I asked him what is the driving force behind the company’s growth? His answer, “We design tools that will have an impact on our customers lives. We have a common vision.” This resonates in Festools credo as well:

“At Festool, we design our power tools…
To solve problems.
For the way work happens.
With your comfort in mind.
To save time.
For quality, reliability and flawless execution.
For healthier environments.
To work together.

A key word in Williams’ answer is DESIGN. In a sea of “quality” and “solutions” and “customer service”, here is just one example of a company in the building materials industry that’s leveraging design to gain critical advantage over their competition. But isn’t design just about logos and annual reports and websites? True, these communication tools are an important part of your brandhood, however, there is something much bigger at work here.

We can learn a big lesson from, not a design pioneer, but a technology geek–Steve Jobs. He wasn’t trained as a designer or engineer, but was a user of technology himself. He was a visionary. As Jobs told Inc. magazine in 1989, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try and give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.” It isn’t necessarily about market research anymore. It’s about prolific thinking. It’s about focusing on the customer at all times and staying true to your brand truth. Design plays a major role in everything from marketing and advertising to production processes and supply chain.

“From GM to 3M, in boardrooms
and on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley
and on Madison Avenue,
design matters more than ever.
-Linda Tischler, Fast Company

A perfect example of this is the 99-year old quietly creative innovator, 3M. Why would a $27 billion dollar giant, best known for it’s notes, tape and sponges, have any need to hire a 26-year old designer from Milan? They were already successful. What would design ad to the mix? Sales, that’s what. From the redesign of their mini-projector to his new line of tape dispensers, Mauro Porcino has had a profound impact on 3M’s bottom line. Think “double”.

So, do you spend hundreds of thousand of dollars on brand awareness or take a step back and design a better experience. I believe in starting with the experience. People ask me all the time, “So, I have X to spend on marketing our brand…what should we spend it on?” My answer is always the same. “Slow down and take look around you before you start throwing money at a billboard campaign or hosting a golf tournament.” What’s worked in the past? What’s currently in play? How do customers feel about your brand? Where do they go? What are they talking about? What would serve them? When was the last time you walked through your buying process “like a customer?” If all that’s in order then let’s take a look at the customer touch points and design a strategy. There’s no faster way to erode brand equity than to throw a bunch of money at brand awareness only to have customers irritated or disappointed once they respond.

What’s Working Well

At one time Festool had a monster marketing budget and sold many things to many people. This worked well for a long time, but they knew it could be better. By aligning sales, marketing and upper management, the Festool team speaks the same language now. They know exactly who their customers are and what drives them. They also know who their customers aren’t. No more selling all things to all people. Design is driven by design. Festool took a step back to design a better approach. To have a better understanding of customers needs and desires. Their attention to detail is second to none. Their system of tools is not only extremely efficient, but beautifully designed—not to mention highly coveted by building professionals and enthusiasts alike.

Design Matters

You don’t have to be Apple® to realize good design matters. From marketing strategy and product design to photography and messaging—company’s in the building materials industry are thriving on design. What used to be considered an after-thought or “something your nephew could do” is now at the center of what’s driving corporate America. Finding an edge is becoming harder. As Farenheit 212’s Mark Payne notes, “Design is differentiation made visible, visceral, and experiential. Creativity and innovation are emerging as disciplines because we have no other choice.” Design, in other words, can be the critical competitive advantage.

Driven, by design?

Here’s to creating a sensation.

Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| 1 Comment

The Benefits Of Not Knowing

Sade, accidental success

Helen Folasade Adu, better known as Sade is a Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, composer and record producer. Active in the music industry since 1983, she characterizes her career as an accidental success.

Sade has been nominated six times for the Brit Award for Best British Female.

In 2002, she received the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) from Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace for services to music. She dedicated the award to “all black women in England”.

In 2012, she was #30 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Women in Music.

She is the most successful solo female artist in British history.

Make your presence felt.


Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| Leave a comment

Trust Yourself

Do it.

Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| Leave a comment

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