6 Steps to Kick Start Your Building Product Content Marketing

Sept 4  6 steps 4603916996_39fc545a89_mSmart building product marketers understand that rather than using outdated methods of outbound marketing, content marketing builds trust with and attracts buyers. 

Buyers have virtually shut off the traditional world of marketing and chosen messaging that makes them stop, think and behave differently. And with content marketing now a cornerstone of inbound marketing efforts in building product marketing, what do you need to get started? A carefully planned strategy and well-coordinated implementation.

In content efforts we manage for clients, we’ve discovered six steps that will kick your content plan into high gear.

Define your audience. If your plan is to talk to everyone, think again. That net is much too wide. Who is your target audience? Defining it is a key first step to take before one piece of content is created.

Build personas. This task is fairly simple. Identify the attributes needed for someone to be your buyer. The goal is to describe who you will attempt to write for or who might already be reading your content. This exercise will help personalize your writing, identify ways to connect with your buyer and create more practical content with their needs in mind.

Determine digital footprint. How will you distribute your building product content? Even before you create it, decide where it will be hosted and published. A website or microsite is one of the more common platforms because your content can be disseminated through a blog, webinars, photo gallery, videos, podcasts, Tweet Chats, etc. Let social media play the role of distributor, as it can extend the reach of your content and foster authentic conversations with your buyers.

Do your homework on keywords. Knowing what words users type when they are searching for building product information is of the utmost importance. Do the research and choose words with the highest number of monthly searches and the lowest competition.

Think like a building product publisher. Publishers use editorial calendars to monitor dates, track specifics of content ideas and keep content consistent and relevant. These tools also allow you to see connections within your content and identify ways to repurpose it.

Report, analyze and adjust. One of inbound marketing’s biggest benefits is the ability to track and measure the progress you are making to see what is and isn’t working. Then you can adapt to optimize results.

Photo credit: Cameron Russell via flickr

Think Your Building Product Content Is Being Read? Think Again

Sept 3 think_your_contentWriting less and styling text so it’s easy to read are two ways to attract and hold the attention of your building product customers and prospects. 

Thanks to Jakob Nielson and his web usability studies, we’ve known for a long time that web users scan content rather than read it. We also know, thanks to real-time analytics, that there’s a pretty good chance you won’t finish this article. As a matter of fact, for every 161 people who landed on this page, 61 of you are already gone. In web traffic jargon, you “bounced” and spent no time engaging with this page.

But that’s okay. Losing 38 percent of you is the nature of the online beast. Good riddance, I say, because now we have a friendly, intimate crowd–just me and those of you who want to be here. I still have to accept the fact though, that you would rather scan web pages than read them in detail.

Therefore, there are some things I learned in English composition class I need to forget in order to keep my building product marketing readers tuned in.  I also like to incorporate some easy design techniques that make my content more reader-friendly.

Break up copy. 

To cover complex topics, I like to break up the subject matter into a series of posts. It’s a good way to keep your readers coming back and they’ll find it easier to digest your content if it’s in smaller, snackable pieces.

Write compelling subheads. 

Strong headlines get readers attention. Solid subheads keep readers engaged and help move them through the rest of your content. Compose subheads that are intriguing and informative.

Use bullets. 

Bullet lists provide an easy, scannable way to present multiple points in your content. I recommend using them as much as possible due to the fact it provides a break for the reader’s eye.

Format strategically. 

Emphasize important concepts in your web copy by bolding them. You want your reader to be able to scan and take away the most important points at a glance. Highlight only the main points so your reader can quickly pick them out.

Use odd numbered lists. 

Numbers are an effective way to capture attention and keep your reader interested. Large chunks of information broken up into odd-numbered facts, as research shows, helps the brain process information in manageable pieces.

While content is important, if it isn’t commanding attention, your building product prospects won’t stick around to hear what you have to say.  Incorporate these tips into your writing to attract and hold attention.

Photo credit: Moyan Brenn via flickr

3 Ways Building Products Marketers Can Turn Customers Into Brand Advocates

Sept 2 Brand AdvocatesBefore making a purchase, you want to be sure you’re making the right decision. The same rings true for your customers. Oftentimes that means seeking out the advice of people who already made the purchase and can offer some perspective and insights. These are individuals who are familiar with a product, can speak about it thoroughly—and champion the company as well. Enter brand advocates.

Start with knowledgeable customers who are thoroughly satisfied, essentially brand loyalists, and you have brand advocates in the making. Brand advocates can be cultivated—if you know the right way to do it.

Here are three ways to convert your brand loyalists into brand advocates:

Find out where they’re hiding
Monitor your social platforms to find those customers who are truly engaged with your brand and follow them. Look for customers who constantly have good things to say about your brand. Seek out brand enthusiasts who consistently take to social media to mention your name, say positive things about your products, and share content from your social media sites with their network.

Another possible source of brand advocates are self-appointed power users who love to teach others how to best use your products and offer guidance. These are  people who help others with technical challenges or explain how they can maximize the value of your product offerings. Power users tend to congregate in online communities and user meetups where they can have more direct, and lengthier, on-topic conversations.

Reach out to these sources and find out if they’d be willing to take on the role of brand advocate by burnishing your brand via social media or even heading up and moderating brand-sponsored user groups. Start the relationship by asking for a follow on Twitter or participating in blog comments. Once you’ve established a rapport (and assessed their interest) you can expand the conversation and explore additional possibilities.

Give them a platform
The value of brand advocates is that they are out there freely endorsing your brand. Their actions enable you to gain credibility, garner loyalty and grow your customer base. Why not make it even easier for brand advocates to propel your brand forward by giving them a proper forum.

Designate a space for them to share their voice and their experiences with your product. Make them a contributor to your blog, recruit them to answer questions during a Twitter chat, or moderate a Google+ Hangout. Provide them with ways  to deeply engage with your community and gain their acceptance.

Make it worth their while
To properly reward your brand advocates, you’ll need to think beyond a gift card or product discount. A better way to acknowledge their efforts is to offer an exclusive experience or an opportunity that will help them build their profile.

This could be a speaking opportunity at an upcoming conference, a chance for a sneak peak at a soon-to-be-released product, or an invitation to meet with your chief executive officer or product managers and contribute insights and feedback.

Brand advocates want everyone they meet to experience the value your brand has provided to them. The presence of brand advocates means your brand is doing it right. Maximize the benefits of your success by cultivating those customers who can’t wait to tell others just how right you are—for them.

 

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

5 Tips for a Successful Social Media Campaign for Building Products Marketers

Sept 1 Five Tips successfull socialThe National Remodeling Foundation reports that “homeowners are becoming more confident, demonstrating pent-up demand for home and building products.”

With homeowner purchase intent and actions on the uptick, smart building products marketers are leveraging social media to meet and engage with these buyers right where they are.

The results of a survey by L.E.K. Consulting, a global management consulting firm, indicates that building products buyers who are highly engaged with brands are active on social media and influenced by the information they acquire through social media channels.

They access their social media accounts several times daily

‘Like’ or are fans of 16 brands on average

Say that a purchase was a direct result of Facebook’s content (25 percent of users)

When properly designed and executed, social media campaigns are a very effective way for building products marketers to engage customers, gain their loyalty and influence their purchase decisions.

Homeowners are already comfortable using the Internet to get more information about products for their homes and they also increasingly expect better brands to enable them to connect and converse via social media.

Social media campaigns enable your brand to meet the needs of prospective buyers by anticipating and delivering what customers already are looking for. Social media campaigns can also increase buyers’ trust and respect for your brand by providing them with answers to questions they never thought to ask.

Use these five key tips to help launch a successful social media campaign:

1. Know your target

To be sure your social media campaign will have high engagement, the first step is to make sure you understand the audience you’re targeting. It can be helpful to segment your target audience into demographics that include region, education and income levels as well as social media usage habits.

Kitchen and bath products maker Kohler, for example, knows that its customers not only like beautiful products but functionality as well so they’ve implemented a #TechTuesdays feature on their Facebook page. Every Tuesday, Kohler highlights one of their products and the technology behind it. Kohler’s Facebook fans love it and share it widely.

2. Find the right platform(s)
There is no one Holy Grail in terms of social media platforms. A social media campaign that does well on Pinterest may have very little success with Instagram, depending on your audience. It’s also not necessary to be present on every single platform. Your best bet is to target social media platforms that have the strongest influence among your most attractive customer segments. Find out where your audience spends the majority of their time and are the most engaged and be there.

If you’re familiar with Google Analytics, setting up Social Analytics is an excellent way to track social interaction on social media and determine where you can get the most bang for your buck. However, the majority of social media platforms offer some sort of analytical tool to help you monitor engagement. Based on this data, you can easily choose a primary platform and then a secondary one as well.

3. Have a plan

Develop a strategy on how to leverage this platform to encourage brand evangelists and help drive sales with key tactics. Strategy here means identifying your overall campaign goal. Is it to generate leads, garner loyalty, raise brand awareness?

Tactics address short-term goals for each platform you decide to use, what type of content you will use on each and how your brand voice will be used. Tactics also include the best times to post and how to use the individual features of each platform (such as Hangouts on Google+, promoted posts on Facebook, etc.) for the most effective results. Hiring a social media manager or even a team whose sole responsibility is dedicated to managing your platforms, along with your campaigns, may be necessary.

4. Rise above the social clutter

Focus on one product with a value proposition that compels a buyer to buy. Emphasis on one product makes a campaign easier to execute. Plus the value proposition for that one product helps your brand stand out from all the others and makes your campaign memorable, which reinforces awareness.

Remember to also make the experience worth your customers’ time. Include offers and incentives that reward customers for following your campaign. Rewards make key elements of your campaign easily shareable. The easier content is to share, the more likely your customers are to share it.

5. Measure your results

Circle back to the original goal of the campaign to measure how well (or not) it did. If, for example, your goal was to generate leads, then find out how many sales came from your campaign. Or if it was raising brand awareness, measure how many new ‘Likes’ were gained during the campaign or how many mentions through keywords and hashtags were achieved. Determine what data is valuable to glean from your campaign and gather it into quantifiable results.

Social media is a great way for building products marketers to find new fans and strengthen the bond with existing consumers and customers. Effective social media campaigns can help your brand harness the power of these dynamic platforms to raise awareness, generate trust, and drive sales forward resulting in increased #success.

 

Photo credit:  thinkstock.com

Five Steps to Effective Building Product Email Marketing

Fine-tuning your building product email marketing campaigns will increase deliverability and return on investment. 

Aug 4 5_steps Effective emailIt’s the biggest driver of new leads and has the highest return on investment of any marketing medium. If email marketing isn’t one of your marketing team’s top priorities, it should be.

Statistics continue to show that email is the preferred mode of communication for the majority of consumers. How successful are your email marketing efforts compared to your other building product marketing activities? Being able to create, deploy and track email campaigns that work takes a lot of practice. I’ve assembled five steps to help you get the most out of your email marketing efforts.

Step 1: Have a robust online presence. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? You’d be surprised the number of building product organizations that still have a ho-hum web presence. Make the most out of your website because a great one can do the job of 100 salespeople. While you’re at it, add an email submission form on your home page to help build your list.

Step 2: Maintain a clean and current email list. Create a list based on people who’ve already expressed an interest in hearing about your building products. In order to keep your list clean of bounces and unsubscribes, you need to routinely remove the people on your prospect list who no longer read your emails. The quality of your list is more important than the quantity of prospects on it.

It’s also important to keep lists current. People’s addresses change, as do their interests. If you aren’t sending to your list at least quarterly, then you may be at risk of getting blacklisted or blocked. Once that happens it’s very hard to get your emails delivered. Sites like Barracuda, Spamhaus, Spamcop, Spamcannibal or Lashback can be searched using your domain and IP address to see if you may be blacklisted.

Step 3: Engage your audience with content. To really connect with your building product customers and prospects, provide them with insight that they can turn into action. How do you do this? By publishing research and engaging external experts to validate those ideas are great ways to engage with prospects.

If you’re needing help assembling a content strategy, you may want to check out What’s the One Key Ingredient Your Building Product Content Marketing Needs?

Step 4: Test your campaigns. Divide your lists and test campaign content using A/B or split-test functions to get a better understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

Step 5: Track campaign performance. Use data such as open rates and click-through rates to track growth and success. It will provide insights into the type of content and subject lines that are resonating with your building product audience and can help improve your approach.

Photo credit: Donald Judge via flickr

What Transparency in LEED v4 Means for Building Products Marketing

Aug 1 transparancy in LEEDProcessed foods and beauty products have long had their ingredients scrutinized and made public through appropriate labeling. Now it’s the building, construction and design industry’s turn.

The fourth iteration of the LEED ratings system, v4, launched in November 2013, focuses largely on transparency, particularly when it comes to material credits. Points will be awarded for companies’ disclosure to the public about what materials their products are comprised of and how their products are made. It’s sort of like nutrition labeling for building products.

Although some may feel this creates undue stress on certain players in the industry, it actually can serve as a wealth of opportunity for consumers. The more consumers understand about a product, its origins and how it can potentially impact them directly, the more likely they will be inclined to purchase that product. Knowledge, for consumers, is power.

Full disclosure
To leverage your product’s position within the LEED v4 rating system, it’s important to disclose three key things:

How your product is made, which includes base materials and/or ingredients used

Extraction point of the raw material

Location of manufacturing

Many opportunities exist for building products companies to be transparent about their product offerings. However, the building products and design industry is not totally in agreement about the best ways to convey that transparency.

Some believe environmental product declarations are the best way to go while others opt for health product declarations, which are similar to safety data sheets, and then there’s the product transparency declaration. Each of these has its limitations, but all strive to give a more comprehensive understanding of the product.

Whatever method you choose for disclosure, ensure that you don’t oversimplify any challenges and continue to perform best practices and ongoing education to give consumers the proper tools they need to select the appropriate building products for their needs.

The industry will soon accept LEED v4 as the standard. When that happens, building products marketers who have invested time and resources in educating buyers about their brand’s own green conscience through product transparency will be well prepared. In fact, they may find that they have blazed a clear path to success.

Photo credit:  Thinkstock.com

Category5 CEO Attains LEED Certification

Category5 green logo with SM 2

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
9/16/2014
Contact: Lori Malone
918.745.2201
info@category5-inc.com

CATEGORY5 CEO ATTAINS LEED CERTIFICATION

TULSA, Okla. — Category5 CEO and owner Lori Malone is a LEED® Green Associate as of Sept. 10, 2014.

The GBCI (Green Building Certification Institute) awards these nationally recognized certifications to confirm that an individual demonstrates knowledge and understanding of green building practices and principles needed to support the use of the LEED® Green Building Rating System.

Attaining the LEED® Green Associate certification validates Malone’s commitment to green building, saving energy, using fewer resources, reducing pollution and creating a healthier world.

With this certification, Malone is also seeking to differentiate herself and Category5 in the building product marketing world.

“Sustainability has always been an important part of my life and my business, and I am continually striving for new ways to integrate that and to provide further credibility and expertise to our clients in the building product industry,” Malone said.

Category5 is a Tulsa-based brand design and marketing firm for commercial and residential building product manufacturers. Formerly Malone Group Design, the company has been owned and managed by Malone since its inception in 1989.

For more information about Malone and Category5, visit http://www.category5-inc.com/. To request a consultation with Malone, visit http://cmo-scan.com/consulting/.

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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