Archives for building products industry

Check the Expiration Date

Check the Expiration Date

Feelin’ it? 

That buzz…that energy in the air. Business is rocking’ and rollin’ in the first quarter and Spring has sprung (or maybe there’s just less smog in the air) whatever the reason, this is a great time to check the expiration date. No, not in your fridge or on your shelves.

Your customers expiration date.

Inspired by a recent post from Seth Godin, I was reminded how precious customer shelf-life is and how many companies aren’t paying attention to it. 

Whether you’re audience is B2B or B2C, there’s a real opportunity here–to pay attention. To surprise and delight our customers. To keep them for a lifetime instead of taking them for granted. (Read Seth’s full post here: ) After all, what is the average customer expiration date? If the expiration came and went, what are you doing about that?

What’s one new thing you could do to deliver on your brand promise? What would make your customers stop and take notice? Feel how much “you get them.” Feel special, understood, supported?

On that note, I challenge you to try something new. Fun, free and, promise, it won’t hurt. 

The Challenge 
Make an appointment with yourself and your team and once a week spend 30 minutes brainstorming how you could surprise and delight your customers. That’s it! Just 30 minutes! The cost is zero and the payoff is priceless. A few ground rules: put it on the calendar, cell phones off and laptops closed during, just a pad of paper and a pen/pencil. Be present and remind your team, “there’s no bad idea.” The results will surprise you. The real key here is what you do afterward…put the ideas into action. Immediately! Talk is cheap.

As Seth says, “think lifetime, all the time.” 

I think this goes for more than just our customers… What do you think about that?


Allison DeFord POSTED BY: Allison DeFord| Leave a comment

It’s The Way We’ve Always Done It


When challenged with a new idea or doing things differently, have you ever uttered the phrase, “It’s the way we’ve always done it.” Yep, I have too. In this day and age it kinda makes me feel like my granddad. That was his pat answer. He was comfortable with the familiar and change might require time, energy and possibly $$. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?! Sure, keep doing what you’re doing and you’ll get more of the same results.

But what if you want different results?

A dear friend and colleague of mine always says, “If you want something different, you have to DO something different.” So, what to do? What results do you want? A wise business coach told me, “When the why is clear, the how to will appear.” Ultimately, the answer is adapt. 

The other day I ran across an interesting article about our nation’s first bookless public library. I have to admit, being a book lover, I felt a little sad when reading about this computer based facility. But, on the flip side, I totally admire the creativity. This doesn’t mean books are going away. They are just changing and perhaps disappearing in the formats with which we’re familiar. A book is really about content, and content doesn’t have to exist on the printed page in a binding. Yet while other libraries, bookstores and newspapers are all fighting change, this particular library is embracing change and making the necessary adjustments in order to stay relevant and alive. On the local level so many public library systems are talking about removing some very valuable services, including access to online databases, because of the cost.

Big mistake and the opposite of adapting—cutting some of the more important, relevant services, all in the name of maintaining their traditional business model: books. I’m not suggesting physical books aren’t important, but libraries, like newspapers and other traditional media outlets must adapt. The way they’ve always done it doesn’t work anymore.

The best businesses are the ones that adapt. Did you know that Taco Bell started as a hot dog stand, Marriott was a root beer stand, and Nintendo was a playing card company?

These and many other companies started with one focus. You know I’m a fan of differentiating. Of doing one thing so well that nobody does it better. Clearly though, Marriott decided to fulfill a need, adapt, and shift their focus from feeding people to putting them up for the night. Still a form of hospitality, just a different focus. Ultimately, a great shift!

Take a good, long, hard look at your business. Are you making it easier for customers to buy? How could you adapt and serve them better? 

Root beer float, anyone?!

AllisonDeFord(image courtesy of Trip Advisor)

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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

Where’s The Fun?

Where's The Fun?

What’s fun about your brand?


We’re fond of saying that people don’t do business with companies, people do business with people. Its no surprise then, that successful brands are built on relationships and social interaction. What’s a great way to enhance both? Humor. 

Laughter makes everyone feel good. And the good feeling that we get when we laugh remains with us even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps us keep a positive, optimistic outlook. It attracts us to others, eases anxiety and fear, and strengthens relationships. Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond acts as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.

How could humor, laughter and fun benefit your brand?

1. Humor gets people out of their heads and away from their troubles.
Humor can create a more spontaneous connection with your customers.

2. Laughter helps people forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts.
Humor can create a cooperative environment for customers, instead of a defensive one.

3. Fears of holding back and holding on are set aside.
Humor can create a safe zone for your customer relationships to grow.

4. Deeply felt emotions are allowed to rise to the surface.
Humor can create an emotional connection with customers based on transparency.

Let’s look at two companies that have tapped into the power of fun and are laughing all the way to the bank: New Pig Corporation and Big Ass Fans.

Can you imagine what could possibly be fun about “cleaning the oil and grime off tanks, equipment, walls and floors in dirty factories”? Not much, right? Sometimes finding the fun can be right in front of you, if you just open your eyes…

The New Pig Corporation’s original prototype was a 40-inch nylon sleeve filled with ground corncob. While testing its absorbency in a pool of dirty oil, someone called it a pig because it looked like it was wallowing in the stuff. The name stuck. They loved it. Their first users loved it. But when it was time to trademark it, they weren’t sure that “pig” would be the best name for an industrial product. A big-city advertising agency even advised them against it. “Your target market will never accept it,” they were warned.

New Pig trusted their customers and their instincts instead. They named the product the PIG® Absorbent Sock and co-founder Ben Stapelfeld chose the name “Pig Corporation” for their fledgling company. When he discovered it was already registered to a Pennsylvania farmer, Ben simply added the word “new” at the beginning to create “New Pig Corporation.” (

What could be funnier than the study of air movement? Well, a lot of things. But that didn’t stop some dedicated big fan experts from taking a hint from their customers and capturing the humor in their brand…

Big Ass Fans started in 1999 as the HVLS Fan Company, but after 3 years in business finally bowed to the sentiments of its customers and conceded that they did, in fact, design and manufacture some Big Ass Fans. It was therefore a natural step to change their name to Big Ass Fan Company, and to “adopt” their mascot, Fanny the Donkey, shortly thereafter. (pun intended) (

Their career page begins with: Work Hard and Play Hard at Big Ass Fans. That’s right, PLAY.
They note that they have “an outstanding work environment allowing employees to meet professional goals, learn new skills and most importantly, have fun.” They invite those who “like being an ass”, to don the Fanny suit for a number of charitable events they support. Fun is an essential part of their company culture. (

Is there something fun lurking inside your brand? Harness the power of humor and create a deeper, more meaningful connection with your customers.

Make your presence felt.


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Lori Sallee POSTED BY: Lori Sallee| Leave a comment

Creating Wild Anticipation

Create Wild Anticipation
There’s a famous story about two shoe salesmen – each visiting a developing country to begin selling shoes. The first salesman gets off the plane and quickly notices that no one is wearing shoes. Downtrodden, he calls the home office and laments, “No one wears shoes here. Please book a return flight for me as quickly as possible.” The second salesman gets off the plane and notices the same thing. He quickly calls the home office and with uncontrollable excitement exclaims, “NO ONE WEARS SHOES HERE! Get ready for our inventory to fly off the shelves! ”

Perspective is everything.

People often talk about how quickly business is changing – some see it as a dirge and others see it as the door opening to an unlimited future. How do you see it?

In a recent Forbes article, Will Burns wrote an article entitled, “Beck ‘Produces’ A Genius Innovation That Appeals To The User-Generated Generation”. The article focuses on the possibilities of releasing an “album in an almost-forgotten form” and simultaneously creating limitless possibilities. The form: an “album” of sheet music – unrecorded in a beautiful, full-color package.

Simplicity. Nostalgia. Innovation. Seemingly disparate, opposite ends of the spectrum inviting and cultivating user-collaboration.

As the author speculates, “We will see Facebook albums, YouTube videos, web sites Tweeted. Anyone who takes a stab at producing these songs will pick up where Beck left off and promote the album for free. These songs will be everywhere. Touring bands may find new life if they can bill their act as “THE” interpretation of Beck’s album. It’s endless.”

This creative invitation for user collaboration, interpretation and sharing will inspire fans to create a new Beck community before he ever records the new album, coincidentally inspiring “wild anticipation” for his next concert.

My question: hasn’t there always been a “user-generation”? We call them “customers”. Its the people who use our products – either the way we designed them to be used, or “off label”, inspiring innovation. Is there a way to bring back something in your business to inspire wild anticipation for your brand?

Change your perspective. Make your presence felt.


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Why We Love the Building Products Industry

Big Love 

Ever ask yourself why you do what you do? We talk about it all the time. Why we chose to be designers. Why we chose to specialize in one industry over all others. This is why we love the building products industry:

1. People  :  genuine, down-to-earth and smart

2. Longevity  :  this entire industry is steeped in tradition and long-lasting relationships

3. Loyalty  :  always going the extra mile because you want to

4. Surprising  :  we never cease to be surprised or to surprise those around us

5. Products  :  the smell of wood, the power of a tool, and what they create

6. Fun  :  every day is an adventure

Why do you love it?


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