Decide If Adding Marketing Automation Into the Building Products Marketing Mix Makes Sense

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If managing your customer relationships has become a bit unwieldy, consider adding marketing automation to the mix. For the uninitiated, marketing automation is a software system or online service that streamlines and automates marketing processes to improve performance and helps grow revenue.

In addition to more efficiencies, marketing automation is a much more strategic way to give your customers more personalized attention and be taken care of all along the sales funnel journey—and beyond. In fact, according to a MarketingSherpa study on B2B best practices, by using marketing automation software, companies realize a 96 percent higher ROI on lead generation.

Some aspects of the business that marketing automation manages include:

• Email marketing
• Central marketing database
• Landing pages
• Lead management (lead capture, lead scoring, lead nurturing)
• Social marketing
• Web forms
• Website visitor tracking

The shift toward marketing automation did not happen overnight. Three key factors have been identified:

1. Buying behaviors are changing, forcing companies to adapt the way they market and sell their products

2. How companies approached revenue generation and measurement fundamentally shifted after the 2008 recession

3. The delivery model changed making the technology broadly available to more companies

If it sounds like a welcome improvement but the thought of how to choose the best platform overwhelms you, follow these steps when considering a marketing automation platform:

Determine if you really need one. Perform a comprehensive assessment of your organization’s business goals, capabilities of internal staff, management support and overall cost.
Find vendors that meet your criteria and are aligned with your goals. Identify your must-haves as well as your pie-in-the-sky wants to see which vendor fits best.
Set up a demonstration to make comparisons and ask questions. Consider such factors as ease of use, implementation time and training and support offered. Make sure that those who will be using the platform are invited to the table to participate.
Check references, then negotiate the contract. Talk to other customers, particularly those in a similar industry to see how the software or service performs. Take this opportunity to ask questions not thought of during the demo. Also, ask the vendor about any additional costs and get them in writing.

Finding success with a software automation platform is possible as long as you don’t rush implementation and expect this to serve as a simple, quick fix. Change is not easy for everyone. There will need to be a cultural shift, which means you’ll need to clearly state the benefits and make it as simple as possible for those users who will be in the driver seat. The overall advantages that marketing automation will offer your organization, however, far outweigh the potential bumps in the road on the way to implementation.

Is your future foggy?

foggy stairsCategory5 can help you focus. We provide clients with the clarity and perspective they need to propel their business to the next level. Using our signature C5 Process, we can help set your company apart from the competition and ultimately, make you money. And the best news of all: We’re interviewing clients.

Our Process:

1. Discovery
A careful study of your building product is made, with the express goal of uncovering the total value it offers to its buyers — your customers and consumers.

In this phase, C5 also explores how it plays with the 5 Forces: cost, health, eco, codes and credits (tax, energy and LEED).

2. Analysis
Taking what we’ve learned, we apply The 5Forces™ process for determining the building product’s true value, presenting it in a new light.

We review our findings with you and help you see the product the way we do, including all of the possibilities for leveraging this new point of view for growth.

3. Strategy
Next, we create a marketing strategy and plan that reflects the best paths for your business, including the best use of your marketing budget.

With the information discovered in the previous steps of our proprietary process, we tap our deep knowledge of the building products industry and the building product buying audience to identify the right marketing strategy and plan. The final suggested plan will not only maximize the impact of marketing resources and budgets, but also ensure that what’s done is what’s best for the business.

4. Application
Plan set, it’s time to apply. Bonus: When you engage our sister company Malone Group Design to execute on tactics, C5 will oversee the process.

At this point you will have a plan in hand and are ready to start implementation. Category5 can help with all aspects, from branding, design and packaging to direct marketing, advertising and public relations — whatever is needed to ensure that the true value of your product is being represented and communicated to buyers in a way they can’t resist.

5. Rediscovery
Knowing your product line and your manufacturing capability, we can continue to add value through new product design, product development and more.

C5 can continue to provide value by helping you expand product lines with new product design and design development or extend your reach even further through additional innovative marketing approaches.

Book an interview today. We may not  be a good fit, but schedule an interview now to learn if you are. Email at info@category5-inc.com or call: 918.745.2201.

ABOUT CATEGORY5
We are a business consultancy for building products manufacturers, with emphasis in advertising and marketing. We help you make money and grow your business. Check us out.

5 Elements Building Products Marketers Need To Tell Their Brand Story

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Everyone loves a good story. There’s the character you root for, the thorny situation, and in the end, most importantly, the resolution to the problem. These elements draw us into each story and make us come back for more. Similar relationships are what drive business. Without a compelling brand story, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with your customers. So what’s your story?

Who’s your protagonist? Every great story needs a hero. Powerful storytelling lets your customers know they play the role of hero. Your role is the trusted advisor or guide. You ensure that your heroes’ voices are heard and help them overcome specific obstacles so that they become transformed in some way.

Who’s the antagonist? Heroes always have an anti-hero. What problem are you trying to solve? Align yourself with your customers by identifying their antagonist as yours as well. Your story serves as the bridge that moves your heroes from where they are now to beyond their obstacles. When you bond over troublemakers in an effort to overcome them, your mission is the same and your customers’ connection—and loyalty—to you only deepens.

How will you connect emotionally? Facts can only do so much. Find ways to tap into your customers’ emotions. Weaving facts into the emotional fabric of your story creates meaning for your customers. Consider sharing their experiences and what role your brand plays in their stories. Let your customers do the telling.

What’s your value offering? This is why your customers seek you out in the first place. It sets you apart from your competitors so this will be a key component of your brand story. It is your brand’s foundation and helps you stay in lockstep with your customers as well as grow your brand in the future. Be clear and direct about what this offering is. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope and ask how you can offer your customers more value.

Define who you are, whether it’s the industry thought leader or the one-stop solution center. And make your voice authentic. Authenticity pays; PR stunts don’t. Customers are less likely to be resistant to stories—as long as they are genuine. People know when they’re being served a marketing spiel. Tell your story in a way that’s relatable, honest, simple and sharable. Your customers will reward you for it.

Storytelling does not have to be difficult. There are no set rules. The medium doesn’t even matter. Stories can be told using infographics, a blog post, a video or web content. It is, however, a skill that requires a careful blend of art plus science. Providing honest answers to these questions enables your brand to begin crafting a compelling story that makes a connection, reinforces your brand’s value and empowers your customers to achieve a happy ending.

Why Locally Sourced Building Products Make a Difference to Customers

1 Dec Locally Sourced NikkiYour customers now live in a society where people’s relationship to their environment truly matters. This means a growing number of people are paying more attention to how everything impacts their communities. By promoting your locally sourced building products and materials, you show your company’s commitment to community investments in the future and the active role you’ll take.

Sustainable buildings and spaces factor in the entire life cycle of the construction process. The amount of energy it takes to make and transport materials is almost as critical as the selection of materials and the building process itself. Materials and products vary in the amount of energy they require for production, as do various transportation modes. For example, ocean and rail shipping are the least energy-intensive while aircraft is the most.

When transportation contributes to pollution, it affects public health. When you reduce transportation and lower energy use, emissions that cause climate change are also lowered. Building materials sourced locally mean shorter trips to haul, lower diesel fuel consumption and less greenhouse gas emissions. This presents an important marketing opportunity for you as a building products manufacturer.

Point out to customers that often times local materials and products can be less expensive, “greener,” very unique aesthetically and help keep the local economy afloat. Let’s also not forget that locally sourced products and materials are excellent for retrofit projects as well. These materials can easily be used in more traditional construction.

Here are four more reasons why locally sourced building products matter:

Transparency pays and consumers want the truth. With questionable ethics rampant in food production and mass production in general, consumers are rightfully concerned about what not only goes into their bodies, but the health of their living spaces. With that comes the desire to know where the products they’re living with come from. Having traceable products that boost the local economy engenders trust. Trust engenders loyalty.

Solid community bonds are forged. Making your community’s needs a priority with locally sourced product and materials ties you more closely to the community. Local material use can support the economy and foster connections with the community. The community then recognizes that you share its vision for sustainability and builds a deeper connection with your brand.

You are perceived as a responsible corporate citizen. When you share that you use locally sourced materials and products, it shows the community that you care about the health, quality and safety standards of your products, the surrounding environment where these materials are used and those who use your products. You’re now viewed as “one of the good guys.”

It’s a hallmark of quality. Consumers are seeking out that “made in the USA” label in hopes of finding quality. Use of local materials celebrates tradition and a simpler time when “homegrown” was preferred. It lets people know your company is authentic, and authenticity ups your street cred.

By educating your customers on your locally sourced offerings, you integrate community engagement into your brand’s identity while demonstrating the value of sustainability.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

5 Tips to Rehabilitate Your Building Product Social Media and Email Marketing

Nov 4 5 tips to rehabilitateAligning and integrating your building product email and social media marketing efforts will extend the reach of your email by increasing opens, clicks and conversions. 

Social media and email marketing are much more effective when they work together as part of an integrated building product campaign.  The smart way to integrate them is from a business strategy. Since each of these channels is complex in their own right, it’s best to plan their integration from a high level.

Getting started includes going back to your business model and business plan and asking:

What’s your strategy for reaching customers?

What’s your strategy for keeping them?

What’s your strategy for getting them to spend more time with you?

Before you get lost in the weeds of email and social technology and individual campaigns, think long-term and high-level strategy and consider these five pieces of advice:

Create cross channel social media and email marketing campaigns that feed back into each other. Social is perfect for extending the reach of your email campaigns. Likewise, good email campaigns can deepen your relationship with social media contacts, thereby turning those followers into buyers. Think about occasionally pitching your newsletter through your company’s social media channels.

Leverage the power of each channel to map opportunities along your building product customer’s path to purchase. Find opportunities to send behavioral or triggered emails such as welcome emails to new customers by encouraging them to share your content, check out a demo video on your YouTube channel, retweet one of your Tweets, etc. Email gives you ample opportunity to cross promote your building product content.

Let email and social media marketing work together to meet your marketing objectives as well as your building product customer’s needs. Be sure to promote your newsletter signup prominently within your social channels and your social channels in emails. You’ll also want to track new email subscribes and give social the proper attribution when appropriate. Whether it’s a Facebook tab or a Twitter lead generation card, use your social media platforms to build your email list.

Make it easy for your email subscribers to share your content. In addition to including social sharing buttons in your emails, use tools like Click to Tweet to make tweeting key points very simple. This tool allows your readers to click a link within an email and a pre-composed Tweet pops up for them to share. The easier you make it to share, the more people will do it.

Ensure you have clear calls to action when sending emails. You’ll also want to make sure each call to action stands out. Consider mentioning it more than once and don’t just put it at the end of your email. Think about where to position it within the body of your email. And, as I mentioned before, if you’re trying to encourage people to share via social channels, make it as easy as possible for them.

Photo credit: Sean Davis via flickr creative commons

Visual Content Amplifies Your Building Products Marketing Message

Nov 3 Visual content amplifiesWhen it comes to effective building products marketing, the creation and dissemination of relevant and compelling content continues to reign supreme.

What makes content relevant and compelling hinges on the quality of the marketing message. That message can be communicated in any number of ways.

The way most of your industry (heck, most of the business world) is communicating their message is with words. The problem with this is that it creates a literal information traffic jam for your buyers.

The good news is that there is another way, which is to deliver that message or amplify it with visual content.

Visual content could well be the secret sauce you’ve been seeking to juice up your marketing plan. Research has shown that our brains process visual images much faster and more easily than words – written or spoken. And reportedly, most of the information received by our brains (90 percent) actually is visual.

In addition to faster, easier processing (or perhaps because of it) visual content is also more shareable. Visual building products marketing content such as photos, videos, infographics and even visual “memes” may prove effective within a campaign, on your social media platforms, and on your website.

Here’s how to best leverage four types of visual content for building product marketing:

Photos. Pictures stir emotions, and one image can convey an entire story. Photos engage customers right away. They establish a connection, which makes your brand personal and (hopefully) beautifully capture the essence of your offering.

Videos. Videos are generally the most preferred form of visual content. People love them. In fact, according to EyeView Digital, videos that appear on landing pages increase average page conversion rates by 86 percent. Videos quickly tell your story and can offer instruction, a bit of play for viewers or a little of both.

Infographics. A relatively new form of visual content, infographics are among the most shareable. Statistics show that businesses that use infographics in marketing gain an increase of 12 percent on average in the traffic to their sites. To create them you can contract with a freelancer or use use free online resources such as Canva.com, or paid sites such as KISSmetrics.com, both of which allow you to create them fairly easily.

Memes. Those hilarious pictures or images with clever text (some of which immediately go viral) can provide humor along with value to customers. They’re easily shareable, easy to create, generate traffic and visibility, plus they’re highly engaging. (Just make sure your audience will understand the meme and think it’s funny.) Consider trying Memegen.com or Imgflip.com.

Words might dominate building products marketing at present, but now you know another, faster and more powerful way to connect with your buyers. Photos, videos, infographics, memes, or simply adding clarifying visual elements to existing text can amplify the effectiveness of your building products marketing and enable buyers to more quickly and deeply grasp how your offering can enhance the quality of their homes and ultimately, their lives.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

LEED Professionals Add Value to Building Products Marketing

Nov 2 LEED professionals add valueIf IKEA’s chief sustainability officer Steve Howard is to be believed, we need to “go all-in on selling sustainability.” It’s not enough to just talk the talk—being knowledgeable about sustainability and selling this to your customers. It’s also about walking the walk—making it an intrinsic part of your organization by ensuring that credentialed LEED professionals are key members of the team.

Green or sustainable design has become the standard in building, and its growth will only continue. Reports from the McGraw-Hill Construction’s Outlook 2014 Executive Conference reveal that in 2013, 44 percent of all U.S. non-residential projects were green. In 2014, it’s projected that nearly 50 percent will be green building projects.

Projects aiming for LEED certification require a certain level of expertise, particularly when it comes to materials and products used, which means the demand for LEED professionals will grow along with it. To stay competitive—and relevant—to the building products industry, it’s now more important than ever to have LEED accredited professionals in your organization.

LEED expertise as a credentialed professional is one of the most sought after skills. The U.S. Green Building Council reports that in a study of U.S. job postings, the demand for LEED accredited professional (LEED AP) and LEED Green Associate credentials grew 46 percent over a one-year period. Since LEED is quickly becoming the gold standard, these are the leaders in your organization who will help advance the industry, continue educating customers and keep your business and brand relevant.

Here are the top five ways having LEED credentialed professionals in your organization benefits the business:

Business growth. Having this knowledge base within your manufacturing business adds to the bottom line. According to the 2013 Dodge Construction Green Outlook, nearly 70 percent of firm execs said having a green credentialed workforce enabled them to grow their green business.

Relevancy and competitiveness are baked in. These professionals help drive business value. With required continuing education and staying current on the latest in sustainability, LEED professionals have a greater understanding of customers’ needs and are better able to help your organization address them over time. They also serve as sustainability ambassadors who can relay the importance of this concept to internal clients and stakeholders.

Credibility increases. By having LEED credentialed professionals in your organization, you will be seen as a go-to source for LEED knowledge and expertise.

Transparency and authenticity demonstrated. Organizations that invest in their employees by supporting them as LEED credentialed professionals or work closely with marketing professionals who have these credentials show a commitment to sustainability as a companywide priority and to well-trained employees to meet the changing needs of the marketplace.

Expertise is proven. The LEED program is standards-based. Having access to a demonstrated knowledge of the LEED rating system and green building practices means your organization can help customers achieve their LEED goals. These credentialed professionals can offer suggestions on ways your customers can earn credits without incurring additional costs and identify opportunities for savings in other areas.

Consider credentialed LEED professionals in your organization as key value-added components of your business and a smart investment in the future of your enterprise.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

Why Your Building Product Content Needs Social Media (and Vice Versa)

Nov 1 why you building product content vice versaiHaving your building product social media and content strategy efforts work in tandem will support business objectives, engage audiences and produce more meaningful results. 

According to Content Marketing Institute’s latest research, business marketers are working on an average of 13 content marketing initiatives and 69% are producing more engaging content. It seems there’s no slowing down the content marketing train anytime soon!

In a recent webinar I attended, How to Integrate Social Media and Content Strategy, moderator Jay Baer posed the question, “Which comes first, content or social media strategy?” As content production continues to increase, more and more marketers struggle with this question.

Content is fire, social media is the gasoline. –Jay Baer

When working together, content marketing and social media are a powerful duo. With an understanding of how and where to share information, content can be distributed strategically to drive action. Also, content created with an understanding of the strengths of specific social networks gives you the ability to drive conversations around relevant topics.

Social media needs content strategy. 

Social media is a prolific medium that moves–and fades–fast. It happens quickly whether it’s organic content or a paid media promotion.

Content strategy needs social media. 

Content needs social media in order to validate the strategy, tie it back to objectives, establish meaningful connections and produce desired outcomes.

Use social media to promote great content first and company selling messages second. The social medium was never intended to be the world’s shortest press release. Think value and customer-centric content over hype. Understand what your building product audience needs from you and deliver it.

Addressing your building product customers’ needs and pain points will pay off in content quality, site performance, social engagement and conversions. 

To answer Jay’s question: you can’t succeed in social media if you don’t have something interesting to say. Social media needs content strategy.

View the entire Content Marketing Institute survey: New B2B Content Marketing Research: Focus on Documenting Your Strategy

Photo credit: Cristian Iohan Ştefănescu via flickr 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Marketing Green Building Products

Oct 4 Do's and Don'ts
The key to success in marketing green building products is gaining trust and keeping mind share with building decision makers. 

No matter how great your product is it’s the marketing that determines the sale. To build a successful company, you need a great building product. But having a great product doesn’t lead to success by itself. You can have the right product for the right market and still fail because no one knows you exist. You have to stay focused on marketing at every stage of your business.

Below I’ve assembled a list of do’s, and don’ts, to help reach your audience and gain trust with them.

Don’t Do This. 

Green promotion requires companies to be honest with buyers and not mislead them by over promising. An important piece of advice I’d like to share with you pertains to “greenwashing.” In this industry, the potential to confuse consumers of your products with misleading green claims is high. Green issues are highly technical, fast moving and complex. If your claims are unclear, then you risk being labeled a greenwasher, which can seriously damage your company’s credibility.

To avoid making misleading environmental claims, make a commitment to abide by the FTC’s Green Guides. Also, make sure the claims you make about your building products’ benefits are backed by third party testing. While the energy efficiency of a product is dependent on a building’s climate, size, location, construction, and other factors, make sure you do the legwork to provide an accurate estimate.

There are quite a few recent cases where the FTC fined business owners for making “deceptive and unsubstantiated” claims about the energy and cost efficiency of their products. The fines associated with these cases range from $150,000 to $350,000.

Do This. 

Since you know who is most likely to buy green building products, then you know where they go online, where they assemble in groups, etc. Below are what I consider to be basic prerequisites for marketing green building products.

Promote on Your Website.

Since so many buyers are self educating on the web, it’s important that your LEED certification information is easily accessible–by this I mean easy to find–on your website. You might consider producing a downloadable PDF that explains which LEED prerequisites and/or credits your product may be able to earn. This information needs to be clear and state why your building product is LEED-appropriate.

Participate in Green Building Conferences and Expos. 

Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is the largest green building conference in the world. It features three days of speakers, industry showcases, networking opportunities, LEED workshops and tours of the city’s green buildings. The tens of thousands of attendees include architects, builders/contractors, building owners, code officials, developers, engineers and other groups.

BuildingEnergy is a cross-disciplinary conference and trade show in the northeastern U.S. put on by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association. It presents 10 to 12 areas of focus on renewables and high-performance building to thousands of attendees, including engineers, builders, developers, policymakers, building managers, manufacturers, installers and others.

For a complete listing of green building events, visit GreenBiz.com or BuildingGreen.com.

Get Listed in Products Databases for Green Building.

EcoScorecard is a web-based tool that helps architects and designers measure the environmental impact of products and materials against LEED, CHPS, REGREEN, Green Globes and the Green Guide for Healthcare on a credit-by-credit basis. The goal of EcoScorecard is to make the search for green products easier and more efficient for the consumer. It’s also free for users since manufacturers pay for EcoScorecard.

GreenSpec is BuildingGreen’s online guide that lists over 2,200 green building products that meet the guidelines described in Environmental Building News (BuildingGreen.com’s publication). The difference between GreenSpec and EcoScorecard is that product manufacturers can’t pay to list their green building products. GreenSpec editors select products to feature in the guide. You can submit a product suggestion, but there is no guarantee that your product will be listed.

Learn more about the FTC’s Green Guides here.

Photo credit: Bryan Rosengrant via flickr creative commons license