You’re a building materials manufacturer and you have an amazing product. That doesn’t necessarily mean you know the best way to get it out into the world, or that you think marketing it to an audience is even important. Marketing a brand or product is important but it’s also important how you market it and to whom. Here are some thoughts from Dean Horowitz, President of commARCH Magazine, on the subject starting with his top three ways to get your product and message in front of the right audience.
- MEDIA IS THE CONSTANT Media is the way to build and maintain a relationship as long as you choose the right forms of media to connect to your target. This could be video, digital, print or a combination of all those forms.
- ONLINE PRODUCT SELECTION/RESOURCE When the person you need to appeal to is looking for a solution that addresses a need, it is imperative that your product be a part of as many resources that your target may be referencing as possible. This allows you to be visible and also gives the architect the product information they need to properly source and spec your product.
- EDUCATION Inform the audience to the benefits of your brand/product. This can be done through Lunch & Learns, for example. Connect with forward thinkers and innovators of any age because these are the people who will be inspired by a new solution to a problem. They’re also the ones who will be most interested in trying something different or switching to a new technology.
Now that we’ve detailed some of the ways to amplify your message, here is something to consider in terms of who you should be targeting. When it comes to building materials manufacturing, there is a give and take that exists between architect and owner/developer that can have a big impact on what they’re creating together. Make sure your product and brand story messaging is compelling to both architects and developers. Otherwise, either one might not see the benefit of your product and you could be value-engineered out of the equation.
If an architect can’t advocate for choices they’ve made, it will be much easier for the general contractor to disregard the architect’s spec to save money. On the other hand, unless the developer can understand how something will ultimately benefit their bottom line in the long run, they’re likely to focus primarily on short term savings and go in that direction. In the end, there has to be the combined wish to make something great with a clear understanding of how your brand can be a part of making that happen.
The building materials industry is always looking for technologies that can reduce our carbon footprint, are more cost efficient and improve quality of life. As a primary heating source, radiant heat (in both the floor and ceiling) is one example. It can replace a more traditional boiler/radiator/baseboard or furnace/forced air/duct solution for heating in both residential homes and commercial buildings. While conventional heating systems heat the air immediately around them, radiant heat warms all objects in the room and they in turn continue to distribute the heat evenly throughout the space by convection. Ironically, this “modern” technology goes back to ancient Roman times and was employed by forward thinking architects like Frank Lloyd Wright at the turn of the century. Here are some of the benefits of radiant heating:
- Easy Installation
A no-brainer for new construction, recent innovations in radiant heating technology options also make it possible to easily install as a retrofit.
- Lower Energy Cost
Because energy is not used to heat air volume that rapidly dissipates, radiant heat can deliver comfort with over 95% radiant efficiency compared to below 30% for conventional heating.
- Stealth Space Saver
Post installation, radiant heating hardware is invisible. Imagine the design possibilities afforded by the elimination of all radiators and baseboards.
- Cleaner Air
Without the recirculation of air holding dust and allergens, this is an excellent option for reducing both asthma and allergies.
- Zoned Comfort
The use of radiant heating allows occupants to customize and adjust spaces to individual heating needs without impacting other rooms.
- Peace & Quiet
No more clanking, banging and hissing from radiators and baseboards.
- Green(est) Option
Homeowners, developers and landlords are increasingly looking for ways to reduce their carbon emissions and build in more sustainable ways. Radiant heat is significantly more carbon neutral than boiler systems running on oil or gas and can even be completely carbon neutral depending on what type of radiant heat is used and how it is powered.
If it’s the ultimate in efficiency and comfort you’re interested in, a radiant heating system is certainly worth consideration.
Net zero building design looks to be the direction of the future. A building is considered net zero when it produces as much renewable energy on-site as it consumes on-site on an annual basis. This is achieved by completely neutralizing or positively redressing carbon emissions, water consumption, solid waste to landfill and/or negative ecological impacts. Matt Jarmel, founder and principal of Jarmel Kizel Architects and Engineers, gives insight into material trends and technologies he and others like him in the industry are seeing that can be utilized in successfully moving towards net zero design and construction.
Flexibility and Sustainability
Flexibility and sustainability are reference points used to gauge the building material industry’s introduction of new processes or technologies and where the industry is heading next. They are also drivers for the transformation of the building industry because as technology evolves, the way we use buildings changes as well. As we move towards net-zero buildings, we need technology capable of bending to those changes. While design-build firms work to create buildings that can be repurposed and reused down the road, new opportunities for building materials companies arise simultaneously. Following are some of the evolving material and technology trends being used in net zero construction:
- Photovoltaic Solar Cells
Used to generate power, these are now being more seamlessly integrated into other building materials such as glass, shingles and roof membranes
- Wind Sail Turbines
Especially useful in skyscraper construction for producing power
- Solar/Thermal Applications
Can be used to generate heat and in combination with boilers and steam turbines, to further reduce energy needs
- Switching from AC to DC & Using LED Lighting
LED lighting uses DC current which is more efficient than AC
- POE (Power Over Ethernet) Lighting
Using a separate ethernet connection that allows for control over lighting in addition to providing the energy to power it
Whatever the building technology or material, it is important for companies in the industry to increase their visibility with the design-build firms who would be most interested in learning about and implementing their offerings. Make sure your company is educating architectural, engineering and construction firms with direct communications involving strategy and a strong web presence. And don’t forget the benefits of making sure the end-user of your product is also well educated. They can be your best brand advocates!
Pursuing long-term value and durability along with innovation and a balance between current and future trends is critical to success in the building materials industry. This has been the belief of Ralph Bruno, CEO of Derby Building Products Inc., throughout his many years in the industry. However he also feels there is another component to building a successful marketing presence – the role of the consumer.
Ever since big-box stores have played a significant role in the building materials industry, consumers have become more involved and invested in the materials selection process. People are increasingly choosing to act as their own general contractor, feeling more confident to make decisions based on knowledge acquired either online or through various building and DIY shows. Capitalizing on the end-user as an advocate for your brand is a direction many manufacturers haven’t seen the value in but, as Ralph Bruno knows, it is a trend that deserves some attention.
Years ago when he was launching a new product, Bruno agreed to a range of marketing materials that showed end users the emotional benefits of the product by presenting features and benefits in a meaningful way. This generated interest in his product offering beyond the obvious target of contractors alone. Consumers started asking their GCs for the product – essentially advocating for it to the very people who usually make those recommendations to their clients. At the same time, marketing materials were also provided to contractors so that they were fully informed and could speak to the feature benefits of the product to any client who expressed an interest in addition to being able to install.
It was a winning combination. By embracing the importance of brand strength in the DIY culture, he was able to dominate a building product category with the additional power of end user advocacy. It is an approach to marketing building materials that Ralph Bruno still believes in today and is certainly something for others in the industry to think about.
For businesses who rent space for their company, such as an office building, a warehouse, or a showroom, the lack of revenue to pay the landlord during the global pandemic is a challenging one. Both tenants and landlords are struggling. Debbie Myers, Managing Director at Newmark Associates, Inc., shares some insight into ways to navigate these uncharted waters.
Don’t Avoid Your Landlord, Talk
Avoiding the landlord or simply saying “I can’t pay” isn’t a solution. Here’s an example where following the golden rule will oftentimes get you the best results–so treat others as you would like to be treated. Instead, pose the question, “What can we do?” in a conversation or a personal email. Remind your landlord how long you’ve been their tenant and of past on-time rent payments. Let them know if you’re trying to get financial assistance through the CARES Act and a PPP loan or any other grant or loan. This shows a desire to work together toward a mutually beneficial solution.
Check for a Force Majeure Clause in Your Lease
These are certainly unprecedented times and if you have such a clause in your business lease, this may be exactly the type of circumstances for which it was designed. If possible, have your real estate professional or a real estate attorney take a look at your lease. See if there is anything in there that can be used to give you some time to set a plan in action.
Come Up with a Strategy
In the long term, landlords don’t want to lose good tenants. If you approach your landlord with a plan of action that involves compromise on both sides, they’re likely to be more receptive. Even though small businesses may feel they have more to lose than a larger landlord, that landlord is facing the same problems with every one of their tenants. Each situation has to be considered on a case by case basis, so a proposal that has you working with your landlord and not against them will get a warmer reception.
Forbearance on Mortgage When You Pay Rent in a Building You Own
Again, the situation COVID-19 has put so many businesses in is unprecedented. If you pay rent to an entity you own but are now unable to fulfill that obligation with your business operations at a standstill, you can appeal to the bank that holds your mortgage. There is hope that the sudden disruption of a good economy will allow the banks to give some leeway to a landlord with solid standing. There is no cost to engaging in the conversation and it may result in a temporary solution for the landlord that can then trickle down to their tenants.
Whether you are a business tenant or landlord, this is certainly a time for everyone on both sides to try their best to help one another in any way they can.
Are you a business owner, small or large? Matching your business with the right bank may make all the difference in ensuring your loan application is not only complete, but also accurate. Along with preparing and applying for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan properly, it is important to correctly allocate funds and keep diligent records after receiving your loan. Here are some points that James D. Nesci, President & CEO of Blue Foundry Bank and Board Member of the New Jersey Bankers Association, says to keep in mind.
Build a Relationship with the Right Bank
Small business owners may not have a dedicated CFO to deal with the loan process, often navigating on their own. Because of this, working with the right size bank for your business and creating a relationship with your account manager is critical. This important relationship, offering personalized, one-to-one attention is key and beneficial for your business. Establishing this type of relationship can not only be easier with a smaller bank, but it is also more likely that your key contact at the bank will be more available to you in this time of crisis.
Ensure Your PPP Application is Accurate and Complete then Get Your SBA Loan Number
Everyone in Phase One of the PPP loan process had a steep learning curve over a very short time period. The importance of getting the application filled out completely and accurately was one of the biggest takeaways. It might be the difference between receiving your loan or experiencing delays with your application that could result in funds being unavailable by the time the loan is approved. In short, even if you’ve heard that your loan has been submitted or your paperwork is in, unless you get an SBA loan number back from the bank, your loan may still be in a holding pattern and not fully processed. Ask for your SBA loan number.
Records. Records. Records.
What is done after your PPP loan funds are received is equally important to the steps taken to get it. Two words can sum that up: Keep records. As this program is ever-evolving, no one knows how it is going to finally unfold or how it will be audited in the future. Record when the money was deposited into your account and where every dollar went from that initial deposit, along with the timing of the use of the funds. And use the funds honestly and as they were intended.
These are unprecedented times we find ourselves in. Hopefully these suggestions will help to get your business through them and out safely on the other side.