Why the Marriage of Solar Panels and Metal Roofing Matters to Building Product Marketing

AugustBlog1Happiness, for most homeowners, means never having to replace your roof—or any other part of your home, for that matter. Realistically, that’s simply not possible.

What is possible, however, is helping your sustainably focused customers maximize efficiency, recognize how to get the longest service life possible out of their roofs and identify overall cost savings. A great way to do that is to educate your customers on the advantages of metal roofing particularly when they are also considering adding solar panels, also known as a photovoltaic (PV) system.

According to the Metal Roofing Alliance, 5 million new roofs are installed annually, with 47 percent of U.S. households willing to consider metal roofing. Although metal roofing is the No. 2 roofing choice behind asphalt shingles, it offers far more value, particularly when paired with a PV system.

Dynamic duo

The energy and life cycle cost savings your customers can potentially realize with PV systems that use solar panels on metal roofing are tremendous. More and more green-conscious customers are looking toward PV systems as an efficient heating and cooling solution that captures free, renewable energy. Customers can realize significant savings on energy bills with these systems—up to 40 percent in the summertime, for example.

PV systems also offer customers low life cycle costs. On average, these systems have a service life of 30-plus years. When marrying PV panels to a metal roof, the service life is extended even further.

That’s because a properly installed metal retrofit roof can last up to six decades. That means PV systems can even be installed on 8- to 10-year-old metal roofs since the service life of the average metal roof (40-60 years) is longer than the life of most PV systems. In contrast, conventional asphalt shingle roofs have a service life of 15 to 25 years.

For those customers who need a new roof and are also planning to add a PV system, going with metal can make a lot of sense—and cents.

Why metal?

Although upfront costs for metal roofing are higher, it’s still a sound investment for your customers, and it’s important that they understand this. Metal roofing affords customers a list of long-term savings, including:

  • Low to no maintenance
  • Harsh weather resistance, including wind and fire resistance
  • No need to tear off the existing roofs in most cases

Metal roofing also contributes to greater efficiency and lower cost since it’s able to lower air temperature by 12° F, which means your customers:

  • Spend less money on utilities
  • Depend less on energy resources
  • Reduce general air pollution

As an added bonus, since metal roofing can often be added to existing roofing, less materials end up in landfills. When a metal roof reaches the end of its useful life, it can be recycled, since many of the panels of a metal roof are largely made up of recyclable content.

Encourage your customers to consider metal roofing and a PV system as a single asset. Then have them consider the total life cycle cost of ownership over the life of this asset. The market is primed and your customers are ready and willing to listen. All that’s left for you to do is show them why the metal roof and the PV system really are the perfect couple.

Photo credit:  Thinkstock.com

20 Ways to Beef Up Your Building Product Tradeshow Marketing (Part 2)

4412520824_eb4be82ea3_zAs I mentioned in part 1, tradeshows are a great way to keep up with what’s going on in the building product industry, capture leads and network with your peers.

In this article, I’ll focus more on what to do and not to do during and after your show.

Less is better. When it comes to conferences and tradeshows, more isn’t necessarily better. Presenting less information is better than overloading your building product prospect with information. Too much clutter and too many handouts are not going to help you seal any deal.

Gimmicks and giveaways are good. Although it may sound corny, games and contests at tradeshows do work. A couple of ideas that will draw extra traffic to your booth are prize wheels, cash cubes and good ol’ fashioned giveaways. Nike Fuel bands and Fitbits have been popular at some of the shows I’ve been to this year.

Tweeting and re-tweeting are musts. I previously mentioned tweeting when it comes to pre-show contests. During the conference, tweet! Tweet about your upcoming presentation, people you meet, presenters you enjoy hearing, etc.

Stand, don’t sit. Sitting doesn’t convey an air of approachability. While manning your booth, you will want to stand while attendees are on the show floor.

Listen more than you talk. Listening stops when you start to speak. Don’t be in a rush to give your sales pitch. Your job is to prequalify leads and find opportunities to follow-up. Listening to what your building product prospects need will help you secure those opportunities.

Track your leads. How are you going to determine the show’s ROI if you don’t have lead conversion tracking in place? There are many software solutions that track and monitor conversion. Find one that suits your needs and your budget.

Customize your displays to stand out. Generic, boring displays will do nothing for you. Invest in a custom booth that represents your brand and its products. Be creative with the space you are allotted. Most tradeshow spaces have really high ceilings. Think about doing something taller for greater visibility and to really stand out.

Steal a booth strategy. The best place to see the most effective booth strategies is on the trade show or business conference floor. There’s a quote that goes something like, “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.” I don’t know that I would wholly adopt this philosophy, but for your tradeshow marketing, I think it’s okay.

Cater to younger attendees. Use a tempered approach when it comes to the younger attendees. They want more personal attention, but prefer to be approached after they’ve decided they want more information. Observe their body language and use non-verbal cues to express your awareness of their presence.

Help people get what they want. Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said,You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.” This statement has never been more true than it is in today’s business climate. Think like your prospects and listen to what they are really asking for. And if you can help them solve a problem, even if you aren’t the solution, it’s a good way to develop relationships.

Never underestimate the value of networking. A great way to build your referral system is to send leads to friends you meet on the floor.

Ditch the pitch. Old school, pushy sales tactics do not work at tradeshows and business conferences. Be someone with whom your prospect wants to have a professional relationship.

It’s okay to disqualify. By having clearly defined goals and pre-defined qualifying guidelines, you can focus your time on potential leads and not waste time on attendees who aren’t.

Follow up on leads. According to Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), nearly 80% of business conference leads are never followed up on by your staff. By all means, follow up with everyone you meet during the show. Don’t leave it for weeks on end, because you never know when or how a contact could help you in the future.

PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Blight via flickr

20 Ways to Beef Up Your Building Product Tradeshow Marketing (Part 1)

4412520824_eb4be82ea3_zIndustry tradeshows and conferences are a valuable and effective way for building product marketers to stay on top of what’s new, learn what your competitors are doing and network with peers and potential prospects.

Done right, your tradeshow presence can be a quick path to increased business. Done wrong, it can be a quick way to blow a chunk of your marketing budget. As the saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail.

Make sure you know what you are doing and that you have a plan in place before you head to the show. If you want to beef up your tradeshow marketing efforts, then read on for some of my advice, which has been divided into two articles, part 1 and part 2. Part 1 provides recommendations on what you can do prior to the show and Part 2 recommends activities to focus on during and after the show.

Select the right show. Before you decide at which building product shows you will exhibit, determine why you want to exhibit and who your target audience and potential prospects are. You will want to find shows that have a high proportion of your potential prospects attending.

Set clear goals. What are you trying to accomplish? Acquire the most leads you can get or is it more of a branding event? Be clear as to what you want to achieve at the show or conference and plan for it.

Get social. Social media should be one of your primary communication platforms. If you aren’t comfortable with channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, then it’s time to get comfortable with them. Communication with your building product prospects begins with social media. Let’s take Twitter, for example, It’s a great way to conduct pre-show research. If you aren’t already following your prospects, start following them. Re-tweeting their blog posts and press releases is a great way to get noticed and make connections before the event even begins. Another excellent way to generate pre-conference awareness and buzz is to start promoting your presence at the show via your social media channels. Find out what hashtag the show is using and start tweeting it.

Choose the right staff and train them. 85% of the positive feelings visitors have are due to the staff you have in your booth. They are responsible for drawing in your customers, engaging them and creating leads.

Give your booth staff greater confidence by training them to follow a 4-step process:

1. Stop and engage. Start by stopping attendees and engaging them for 30 seconds by asking them open-ended questions.

2. Prequalify the lead. By questioning attendees, you will determine who is worth presenting to.

3. Tailor your demo. Focus your presentation or demo on just the prospect’s needs. Be prepared to respond to objections and answer questions.

4. Close and move on. Be sure to get the lead’s business card or contact information so you can follow up, then move on to the next lead.

The time it takes from engagement to closing should be less than 10 minutes. Ideally, your staff should practice by being timed.

For the rest of my recommendations, read part 2

PHOTO CREDIT: Andrew Blight via flickr

LEED Categories as Value Offering to your Building Products Marketing Customers

JuneBlog1_pic1 thinkstockLeveraging your knowledge of LEED credit categories, particularly for retrofit projects, can go a long way toward showcasing the value you bring to your customers. Much of the opportunity to generate or affect savings in some way occurs through credits related to building system improvements and retrofits/upgrades. For your customers working from a paid-from-savings approach, understanding which credits offer the greatest savings potential is critical.

The LEED for Existing Buildings: Operations & Maintenance rating system is designed to measure improvements, operations and maintenance while reducing environmental impact. The credit categories that offer savings opportunities within this ratings system include:

  • Sustainable Sites (SS) credits: These credits address maintenance activities and building systems related to a building’s exterior and site. This may include programs that reduce automobile use, heat island effect and light pollution.
  • Water Efficiency (WE) credits: Points earned here devote attention to plumbing fixtures and fittings, water usage, landscape irrigation systems and cooling tower water management.
  • Energy and Atmosphere (EA) credits: These credits promote innovative strategies that improve building energy performance. Areas addressed include building commissioning, refrigerant management, energy-use monitoring and emissions-reduction reporting.
  • Materials and Resources (MR) credits: Successful points support sustainable purchasing and solid waste management.
  • Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) credits: These credits promote improvements to outdoor air ventilation, indoor air quality, occupant comfort and green cleaning.
  • Innovation in Operations (IO) credits: Points here are awarded for outside-of-the-box design measures and building expertise not addressed in the other five LEED credit categories. They can be earned by achieving exemplary performance of an existing credit or by putting in place an operation, practice or upgrade not outlined in the rating system.

Your customers’ green retrofit projects mean that they will be paying close attention to green performance measures to help them realize economic savings and lessen environmental impact. Look to LEED’s credit categories to show your customers that you understand the importance of smart business decisions and that you serve as a resource to help them achieve a successful paid-from-savings approach.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

5 Considerations for Building Product Marketers When Adopting a Housing Cause

JuneBlog2_pic1 thinkstockAdopting a housing cause can begin a partnership that creates a mutually beneficial relationship—if you make smart, strategic choices along the way. Not only will you burnish your image and brand, as well as boost sales, you’ll also do something for the greater good and uplift your community.

Assuming that you’re now convinced of the value of housing cause adoption, here are five (more) things to consider as you begin the adoption process.

  1. Choose carefully. When selecting a cause, make sure it’s both relevant to your business and something internal and external stakeholders will also want to get behind.
  2. Stay humble. As you begin to integrate the cause into your brand, focus on promoting the overall mission rather than on using the cause as a device to talk customers into actions that will benefit your business immediately or directly.
  3. Be inclusive. Provide your customers with opportunities to participate in the cause. Be clear about how their efforts can make a difference, then measure and report back to them on the impact of those efforts.
  4. Embrace Millennials. The Millennial demographic’s defacto expectation is that the building products industry will do their part to make the world a better place. Begin to engage these brand influencers now through social networking, such as Facebook or Instagram campaigns that promote your cause and whose low barrier to entry makes participation effortless, and they will reward you with their business later on.
  5. Go old school. Don’t ignore traditional marketing approaches such as messaging on packaging, media interviews promoting events related to the cause and print advertising, as they can add dimension as well as reach to your housing cause campaign.

Careful consideration and a strategic approach to adopting a housing cause will resonate with your customers and the community at large. This in turn creates a lasting impression and sparks a relationship, which garners loyalty. When done well, it raises your brand’s visibility and can provide the best opportunity for you to connect with your customers.

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

Tips for Winning Big in Building Product Search Engine Marketing

Win-Win SituationSearch engines play a dominant role in the research phase of a building product buyers purchase cycle and leveraged properly, can increase online visibility and drive sales. 

Search engines play a leading role in making purchase decisions. Studies show that more than 90% of business buyers lookup information online prior to making a decision. Since buyers rely so heavily in the early and mid research stages of their buying cycle, shouldn’t your Search Engine Marketing (SEM) plan be primed and optimized?

The goal of SEM is to increase your website’s visibility on Google and other search engines. SEM can include:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • SERM (Search Engine Reputation Management)
  • PPC Advertising (Pay-Per-Click Advertising)

The most popular pay-per-click (PPC) program is Google AdWords, as it accounts for about 90% of PPC ad dollars. PPC advertising is a form of inbound marketing and offers the ability to capture leads fast and efficiently. Building product buyers who type in search keywords in Google or Bing are essentially raising their hands to say they’re interested in your building products.

But AdWords is becoming more competitive and costly, which reduces the return on every dollar you invest in it. Below, I’ll touch on tips that will help ensure you are maximizing your SEM efforts to achieve success.

Tip #1: Be specific. Due to the character limitations, there’s no room for fluffy marketing copy in your AdWords ad copy, so you’ll want to get right to the point. Don’t write generic ad copy. Be as specific as possible so that your ad delivers the right message to your buyers. You will want to create multiple ad groups for your different sets of keywords so that you can write specific copy for each ad group.

Tip #2: Use keywords. Traditional advertising copy is clever and creative, but when it comes to PPC, too much creativity can hurt you. Due to the nature of PPC ads, you need to grab a searcher’s attention right at the beginning. When you write ad copy for your building products, be sure to include your main keywords in your headline and description. Having your keyword in the ad copy also makes your ad more relevant and will give you a better quality score.

Tip #3: Feature your UVP. What makes your building products different from your competitors? When you write ad copy, you should include your differentiator.

Tip #4: Include a call-to-action. ALWAYS include a good call-to-action in order to increase your click-through-rates and your campaign’s effectiveness. Searchers need to know what’s in it for them if they click on the ad. Be sure your ad copy matches the landing page your searcher will be directed to when they click on your ads.

Tip #5: Stand out. Don’t believe the myth that by copying the ads of your competitors, you can make your PPC campaign successful. It confuses searchers when they see the same kind of ads lined up in a column. They will go for the one that stands out and is different than the rest of the group.

Tip #6: Format correctly. It is absolutely imperative that you format your ads properly, with correct casing, spelling and character count. The format for AdWords looks like this:

Headline: 25 characters

Description line 1: 25 characters

Description line 2: 25 characters

Display URL: 35 characters

Per Google’s advertising policies:

  • The display URL field can’t be used as another line of ad text
  • Your ad text can’t appear cut off or incomplete
  • The description lines can’t lead into the display URL [e.g. the second description line can’t say, “Learn more at…”]

For a step-by-step video on how to create an AdWords campaign, click here

If you violate these formatting rules, you risk having your ads disapproved, which means they won’t run until the violation is corrected and the ad is approved, or worse, your domain could be disabled until the problem is fixed.

Tip #7: Test. Then test again. Lastly, and most importantly, test your copy, landing pages and offers to see which will produce better results. You should have a couple of ads setup for each ad group and then let them run to see how they perform.

PHOTO CREDIT: garryknight via flickr

What’s the One Key Ingredient Your Building Product Content Marketing Needs?

3227380581_de390eedc8_zIn today’s content-driven world, smart building product marketers use search insights to create content that is spot on, engages their audience and is never boring. 

All content is not created equal. 

How are you determining what content is relevant to your audience? If you are basing it on hunches, or what you think your audience wants, then you may be under delivering. The days of just having content on your website to suffice are long gone.

Relevant content placed along your customer’s journey lets you demonstrate your expertise on a topic, drive leads and convert leads into customers. 

To ensure you are developing content that speaks directly to your building product customers, you need to understand the digital consumer. In fact, understanding your audience’s online behavior is the first thing you should do before starting content efforts.

Using free tools such as Google’s AdWords Keyword Planner and Trends, YouTube’s keyword suggestion or premium providers such as Quantcast or comScore will provide data that can tell you:

  • Most used keyword phrases
  • Where users go and what results they click on
  • When and where they search
  • Devices they use to search

In order to make search insights work for your building product content marketing effort, it’s important to understand how you can make them work for your organization.

  1. Know your best keyword phrases, don’t think you know them. Many times building product marketers use corporate jargon instead of using language people actually use. If you want a shot at engaging your audience, then you need to use the search phrases they are actually using. Google AdWords Keyword Planner will help you determine search volumes for particular keyword phrases.
  1. Determine what your audience cares about. Search insights can help you hone your content by revealing the intent of keyword phrases and showing the types of content users are seeking.
  1. Find out what format your audience prefers. Should you create a white paper, an eBook or a video? Base these types of decisions on data, not a hunch, by examining search insights for the types of content users are viewing.
  1. Understand the nuances of regional search behavior. Search behavior can vary depending upon the part of the country from which they are searching. Google Trends can help you determine the differences and the search volume from a regional perspective.

PHOTO CREDIT: Travis Swicegood on flickr

Mama was Right; First Impressions Matter in Building Product Marketing

4268291295_4a7755f533_zA well-executed building product website can do the job of 100 salespeople by helping to drive revenue. 

Just as our mamas told us when we were young, always make a good first impression. This is true with people and it’s especially true with brands. Increasingly, your customers’ first impressions are formed online and have a huge impact on what they decide to buy.

Today’s business marketing landscape of connected consumerism demands that your building product marketing strategically puts you at the right place, at the right time and with the right content. By paying attention to your customer’s experience, their buying journey and your relationship with them, you can recreate the experiences you want your customers to have and share.

Your building product website is your brand’s front door and is just as important, if not more so, than your company’s physical presence. 

When prospective customers land on the home page of your website and begin their journey of seeking information, what impression are you making? Is it clunky and slow? Can they find what they’re looking for? Is your information too restricted? Do they know what to click on next?

Your website is how your customers learn about your building products and where they go to stay connected with you. It needs to give them the information they come to your site for quickly and should lead them down their journey by always providing clear calls-to-action.

Fast and Furious.

I can’t remember a time when website speed didn’t matter–to users or to search engines. The accepted benchmark for page load time is three seconds or less. There are free tools that can show you how fast–or how slow–your website loads and can identify problematic areas.

Compatibility, Please. 

Avoid the risk of lost sales, damaged reputation and never having the opportunity to win back leads by optimizing your website for the devices customers are using. Smartphones and tablets may not be the go-to devices forever, but they are the preferred devices of choice for the time being.

Tell Me Where to Go. 

Your web users need help understanding where they should go, where they are in the hierarchy of the site and the most important feature on each page. Study your website analytics, including heatmaps, to know what your website visitors are looking at, what they are clicking on, downloading, etc. This will allow you to make adjustments to tailor content to suit your visitors’ interests.

Photo credit: Horia Varlan via flickr Create Commons license

5 Reasons Building Product Marketers Need to Adopt a Housing Cause

shutterstock_163593227Whether it’s supplying materials through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity in your community or sponsoring a community event related to the health benefits of sustainable homes, your customers really want to know the products they’ve selected—your products—have wide-reaching impact.

In fact, after economic development, the area consumers most want companies to address is poverty and hunger—providing financial assistance, food and housing to people in great need, followed by environment—preserving and protecting our natural resources, according to the 2013 Cone Communications Social Impact Study.

Consider these statistics from the Cone study:

  • Nearly all U.S. consumers (93 percent) feel much more positively about a company when it supports a cause.
  • Ninety percent of consumers were more likely to be more loyal and trusting of companies that back causes.
  • In the last 20 years, consumers’ likelihood to switch to brands connected to a cause, given comparable price and quality, has increased to nearly the entire population in 2013 up from two-thirds of the population in 1993.

Using your resources and products to advance housing and environmental causes, gives customers something extra and sets your brand apart in the process.

Five reasons your building products organization should adopt a housing cause:

  1. Increasingly, the social impact of a building product factors into consumers’ buying decisions; they no longer buy based only on purpose.
  2. Research shows consumers are more inclined to buy a product associated with a cause.
  3. It provides opportunity for your brand to earn the loyalty of customers by demonstrating how your participation with a housing cause will make (is making) a difference.
  4. Customers will tell friends and families about your housing cause effort, increasing brand awareness and potentially, engagement.
  5. Contributing to the greater good by gathering resources around some of the most pressing environmental and societal issues can position you as an industry leader, by making you worth following.

Adopting a housing cause can help build a better future for your community and your business—literally. More importantly, housing cause adoption can show the building products market what you really believe in, making it easier for customers to believe in, buy from and be loyal to you and your brands.

 

Photo Credit:  Shutterstock

How Retrofit Benefits Your Building Product Marketing

shutterstock_117276403Your customers likely already understand that a green building approach, and meeting LEED standards, will result in high-performance building systems that can yield significant cost savings.

When it comes to greening existing buildings, however, most customers will automatically assume needed improvements will be cost-prohibitive. What those customers don’t realize is that projects requiring retrofits, system upgrades or renovations can be great for business when a “paid-from-savings” approach is taken.

Getting paid from savings

A paid-from-savings approach simply means an organization can use utilize cost savings gained through building improvements to pay for green building retrofit projects.

In fact, payback time for green investments on green retrofit projects is just four years vs. seven years for a new green building, according to McGraw-Hill Construction’s 2013 World Green Building Trends SmartMarket Report. Other benefits to be gained include:

  • Lower operating costs
  • Increased asset value of building
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Occupant productivity and health improvements

Show, don’t tell

So what are you doing to educate your customers and show them how your products can best meet their green retrofit project needs? Ordinarily, your customers may turn to industry associations to find more information about green trends and product information, but they would welcome an alternate resource for insights gleaned from successful projects.

The 2013 SmartMarket Report also revealed the two most effective ways for companies to get the word out about their products’ green attributes – case studies and lifecycle data.

  • Sharing case studies that demonstrate how your products meet and exceed green industry standards and showcasing your products’ green benefits in a compelling manner are great ways to capture your customers’ attention and earn their trust. Case studies should talk about the challenges and recommendations you made as well as concrete results those customers achieved by using your products thereby proving their effectiveness to other customers.
  • Lifecycle data, when available, reflects the full impact of the product – from its production all the way to installation. The analysis and combination of this data enable you to provide customers with a comprehensive picture of product benefits.

Green retrofit projects address financial, environmental and even social benefits that comprise the “triple bottom line.” Taking the initiative to educate your customers on the business benefits of green retrofit will enable everyone to realize not only the opportunities and paybacks now but also enduring benefits going forward into the future.

Photo credit:  Shutterstock