If You Want to Sell Internationally, Look International

Here’s a tip for any US business seeking to sell on an international scale: revise your phone number.

At World of Concrete, I offered my client’s press kit to an Australian journalist.  He said, “Oh, I saw that on the table, but I didn’t bother because they’re not international.” 

I asked how he figured that out (since my client was adamant that he would sell anywhere in the world).  The journalist pointed to the telephone contact number at the bottom of every page of the press kit.  “They only have an 800-number.  Those don't work internationally.  If this company ever got or wanted international customers, they’d show the international calling code.”

An 800-number is great for your North American customers, prospects, etc., However, if it’s your only contact number, it’s a quick tip-off that you don’t have foreign customers and don't have experience doing business overseas.  An international caller to the US would expect the international calling prefix “1” to dial North America, sometimes referred to as a “plus code.” 

Thus, the international-friendly number for Chusid Associates would be shown as +1 818 774 0003. 

Go over your sales literature, press materials, website, letterhead, etc, and see if you’re projecting the international image you desire.


Why You Should Ditch the Flash Intro

On a comic listing types of bad websites I found this gem:

That about sums it up. Would you put any impediment outside the door to your store, especially a loud, obnoxious one? Of course not. The only businesses I can think of that do this are car dealerships, furniture stores, and places having "Going Out Of Business Sales". And even then you are not required to interact with the guy dressed like Uncle Sam on stilts; he's just an attention-getting device.

Even worse are the cases where if this guy's not there, because he's on break or something, you can't get in at all. Most people won't spend time looking for an alternate entrance; they just leave and may never return.


Confessions of a neo-Luddite: Create your Web presence now, but don’t forget: People buy from people

With the Internet growing so rapidly, how should I decide how much of my marketing budget to put into online services instead of traditional marketing activities? Will I get left behind if I don’t act now to build an Internet presence?— T.L., marketing director

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement about the Internet. Though I believe online communication will have a profound impact on all fields of commerce, many people are overreacting to the Internet’s short-term impact on building product marketing.

Electronic construction product information is not new. As far back as 1983, I worked in an architectural firm with a mainframe computer that connected me to 100 megabytes of master specifications (an incomprehensibly large number back then).


Social Networking Use Doubles Among Older Internet Users

According to a new Pew Internet & American Life Project report:

While social media use has grown dramatically across all age groups, older users have been especially enthusiastic over the past year about embracing new networking tools. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.
What does this mean to building product marketers? A few things.


Should you write less?

This is not a question typically asked by publicists. It's definitely not a question encouraged by current SEO theories, or the advertising mindset that conflates number of impressions with success of the campaign.

And yet, I find myself asking this question recently.

A few months ago I went a bit wild adding new podcasts and RSS feeds to my daily feeds, mostly focused on the wider marketing and advertising industry. I found a number of "experts" who impressed me with both the information and entertainment value of their offerings, and quickly became a loyal listener.

But now, four months later, I've unsubscribed from almost all of them. Why?


Cement Emissions and Social Justice

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing final rules that will protect Americans' health by cutting emissions of mercury, particle pollution and other harmful pollutants from Portland cement manufacturing, the third-largest source of mercury air emissions in the United States. The rules are expected to yield $7 to $19 in public health benefits for every dollar in costs. Mercury can damage children's developing brains, and particle pollution is linked to a wide variety of serious health effects, including aggravated asthma, irregular heartbeat, heart attacks, and premature death in people with heart and lung disease.
I have a personal connection to this news item:


SWRI Call for Presentations

The Sealant, Waterproofing & Restoration Institute (SWRI) is looking for presentations for the Winter Technical Meeting in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Feb. 27-March 2, 2011. This is a great opportunity for manufacturers and sales reps to display your expertise in a large variety of areas, make technical contacts, and to get some sunshine in the frigid months. 

The committee is looking for a variety of business/technical presentations with topics ranging from the following suggested items. They are interested in both presentations for a 45-minute time slot and the 20-minute Project Showcases. The committee is also actively searching for projects focusing on sealants and waterproofing as the backlog is a bit thin on these topics. 


Remember the Convention?

Mark Kalin, FCSI, FAIA, CCS, SCIP, a leading specification writer, reminds us that good old-fashioned tradeshows are still an important part of your marketing mix.

"I don’t tweet, have instant messaging, nor a Facebook page. Visits to blogs are a rarity and if I could take a video with my phone, I wouldn’t know how to upload it to YouTube.

The best way for me to stay connected is to attend CSI Convention! My ‘human library’ is there to answer questions, and I can ‘feel the pulse’ of the industry.

The trade show was much reduced in size, but I’m using three products in current specs that I didn’t know about before the show. And old-fashioned me – I like to see people smile in person rather than on skype or a webinar.

We didn’t solve the problems in the economy, couldn’t completely abolish the 5-digit section numbers, nor find enough elbow room in the social at the pump house – but we saw and were seen, and I’ll be back next year! (It’s still the future that counts you know.)"

This is edited from Mark's article in the August 2010 issue of Fellows newsletter published by the College of Fellows of the Construction Specifications Institute.


Concrete Decor Show & Spring Training Call for Presentations Extension

The 2011 Concrete Decor Show & Spring Training has extended the Call for Presentations Deadline to September 13, 2010. Now in its second year, this is the only industry event focused exclusively on the full spectrum of decorative concrete.

From the webpage:

The Concrete Decor Show & Spring Training is headed to Nashville, Tenn. We are looking for innovative and informative presentations and workshops on the art and business of decorative concrete. By submitting a proposal for the 2011 Concrete Decor Show & Spring Training, you will help shape our educational programs as well as the future of your industry. As a speaker/trainer, you will gain visibility in the industry and contribute to the advancement of your profession. Earn recognition for your expertise and leadership, and help the industry grow at the same time.

We are looking for hands-on workshops, seminars and panel discussions to complete our educational line-up. Also, just like in 2010, when we partnered with the Children's Museum of Phoenix for workshops, we have a special community outreach program planned for Nashville. The Concrete Decor Show & Spring Training will partner with Nashville's popular youth community center, Rocketown. The decorative concrete industry will perform the ultimate concrete makeover there as part of our Spring Training program.

Don't wait! We are selecting courses now for our 2011 program. To review presentation guidelines and submit your presentation online please visit Presentation Information.


Building Design + Construction is back!

We are very excited to announce that Building Design + Construction is making a comeback this September!  

The magazine will have a new, more professional look. Their website, www.bdcnetwork.com, will be relaunched with new features as well.  We're happy to have one of our favorite publications up and running again.


Help architects with costs to stay in the specs

Are architects interested in what products cost? It seems most architects pay little attention to price in their designs. Twice this week I lost jobs on which my product was specified because the project went over budget and the contractor persuaded the owner to accept a cheaper substitute. What can I do about it?—A.J., manufacturer’s rep

I hear this gripe frequently from building product sales reps. There is a great deal of truth in the stereotype that architects do not maintain tight control of costs. Substitutions are often made to get costs back in line—and the specified manufacturer suddenly loses the sale. To prevent that from happening, sales reps must understand why architects do not have a good feel for construction costs.


Spec Writing Changes

How will changes in construction specification writing affect building product manufacturers?

I had a conversation today with an architect developing what he calls the next-generation computerized system for researching products, preparing guide specs, and coordinating construction documentation.  When I asked him why he started work on the database-driven system, he said that, "young architects today don't seem to understand specs or want to write them." He went on to describe how the new system will help them "write specs more quickly." But when I asked him if the new system would help them write "better specifications," he paused and said, "probably not."


Draw on illustrations to bolster marketing

How can I make sure the drawings in my marketing presentation communicate as effectively as possible?—T.R.M., vice president of marketing

Drawings are the first language of architecture and construction. They are crucial marketing material for almost every building product. Photography and electronic media are playing an increasing role, but drawing is still the primary tool used to design buildings, analyze and solve construction problems, and communicate contract requirements.

Whereas photography excels at showing a product’s appearance, drawings are usually better at explaining how something works. And by including, omitting, or emphasizing certain portions of a product or system, you can use drawings to simplify complex relationships or to focus the viewer’s attention on selected data. Cutaway or section drawings allow viewers to see inside a construction assembly. And by using elevations, plans, and other drawing views together, you can communicate three-dimensional assemblies on two-dimensional paper.

Notes and dimensions can be used to elaborate on what is shown.


Cost to Correct Errors in Construction Documents

This graph illustrates that the cost of correcting defects in design and specifications can quickly escalate if not mitigated early in a project.

For building product manufacturers, this suggests the benefits of having a proactive sales force during a project's design phase, and of reviewing bidding documents carefully prior to entering into a contract. If you can help an architect, engineer, or other specifier to use your product correctly during the design phase, there will be less economic risk during construction.

Graph is from "Using Spec Writers Properly" by Derek B. McCowan, PE in the June 2010 issue of Consulting-Specifying Engineer.


CSI Webinar: A Marketing Tool for Manufacturers and Sales Reps

CSI Webinar
Guide Specifications: A Marketing Tool for Manufacturers and Sales Reps

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 from 2:00PM to 3:00PM


Michael Chusid, RA, FCSI, CCS, SCIP
Vivian E. Volz, RA, CSI, CCS, LEED AP
Building product manufacturers often provide guide specs to specifiers for use as starting points in the writing of project specifications. A simple guide spec is a useful tool, but much more can be accomplished when a manufacturer understands the guide spec’s potential. A well-crafted guide spec, employing CSI’s principles of specifying, can educate the design professional, hold the keys to successful installation, and build trust between the manufacturer and the design team. This course, led by two experienced specifiers with expertise in guide specification writing, will help suppliers identify whether a guide spec would be a valuable addition to the product literature. The course will offer insight into preparing documents that will be valuable to design professionals, contractors, and customers.

Register here.


Tiny Type

Can you read the following? I can't.

This was printed in a catalog I received in the mail. There are eleven lines of type per vertical inch, making the type size about 7 point. It is the same font size the catalog uses to keep its copyright notice small and inconspicuous. While a font this small might be acceptable for a short footnote or caption, a full page of it is just too difficult to read.

If it is being printed for the convenience of a customer, then it is worth printing at a size the customer can read.

However, there is little reason to print a guide spec in a catalog. Few specifiers will take the time to type your spec into their word processor when your competitor's website has a digital copy of its spec ready to cut and paste.
Chusid Associates will be sharing more tips on guide specs in a webinar on September 21. The webinar is sponsored by CSI. Click here for more information.


Build business with sustainable architecture

My competitor is making some questionable claims about the environmental benefits of his building products. I think he’s doing it to capitalize on the “sustainable architecture” movement. How can I legitimately jump on this bandwagon?—B.T.W., CEO

 Sustainable architecture means building in ways that have minimal impact on the land, reducing the energy required to build and maintain buildings, conserving nonrenewable resources, and creating and maintaining buildings that do not have toxicity problems. The growing interest in this trend means building product manufacturers are facing new consumer attitudes, regulatory requirements, manufacturing considerations, and competitive challenges.


Does Spamming Twitter Improve SEO?

Maybe. But I still recommend against it.

From the ReadWriteWeb article by Sarah Perez:

A Dutch design and development firm Conceptables noticed some odd behavior regarding Google's use of the Twitter API during their development of Mopinion, an online feedback tool. It appears that simply repeating the same tweet over and over was having an impact on the actual Google search results.
 Each tweet contained a link, so the large number of tweets created a strong association between their webpage and the desired search term. Perez equivocates a bit about whether it actually works or was coincidental, but seems to grudgingly admit it works before concluding "the Google.nl domain is a different database and may operate differently than Google.com, especially when it comes to social signals."

This sounds good in theory, but I have a practical and ethical objection to Twitter SEO spamming.


Google Discontinues Wave Development

From ReadWriteWeb:

Google Wave, the revolutionary product, platform and protocol for distributed, real time, app-augmented collaboration will no longer be actively developed and may be shuttered after the end of the year, Google announced this afternoon.
Wave never seemed to gain much traction in the construction industry, so this is not too hard a loss for us. It always seemed a tool that had more potential in theory than in practice; I loved the idea of the collaborative creation space, but in the end it was usually easier just to email something back and forth.


URL Shorteners for SEO

URL shortners, such as bit.ly and tinyurl.com, have become ubiquitous. They received a huge boost from Twitter's rising popularity because https://webportal.csinet.org/events/vieweventdetail.aspx?code=C72DFE83-657D-DF11-BD27-0019B9E160B2 (a link to our upcoming CSI Webinar on Guide Specs) takes up many times more characters than http://tinyurl.com/28as8nr (98 to 26, in case you were wondering). Beyond reducing character count, a post at SEO Chat blog explains their potential SEO benefits.


QR Product Certification Marks

The Japan Coolant Material Association has started using QR codes as product certification marks. From an article by QR Code Magazine:
The script across the middle has the association name and the code resolves to a mobile site with the product manufacturer’s details and more information about the product.
No additional information on this yet, as the site is in Japanese and I have not found a translated source.

I like this idea. A common complaint I hear from manufacturers is they spend all this money getting a certification, but no one knows what it means! Granted, if the certifying agency is unknown that might be a warning sign. But considering how many highly specialized certifications are out there, it's entirely reasonable a specifier might not yet know the one your company uses. Making the logo scannable means instant information about the certifying organization, and what exactly certification means.

More than that, the codes are easily customized so instead of scanning to go to the GreenFormat homepage, for example, I could scan to go directly to your product's GreenFormat profile. This would be very useful for specifiers, giving them instant access to very detailed information.

It would also benefit the certifying organization. Many manufacturers misuse, intentionally or not, certifying agencies' logos, implying an endorsement that does not exist. To cite a common example, the USGBC does not certify or endorse products. Many manufacturers, however, claim USGBC or LEED certification for their products. If USGBC integrated a QR code into their logo, it could point to a page explaining this.

How would QR product certification marks help you?

[UPDATE] Corrected the name of the source site from 2d-code to QR Code Magazine.


Branching out?: Consider regional product preferences when venturing into new geographic markets

"My company’s building-product sales have been concentrated in one regional market. I now want to expand into new territories. What kinds of market variations can I expect? How should I decide where to make my next move?"—N.C.T., president

I once asked an executive of a foreign building-product firm what he learned about the United States after introducing a product here. He observed that the United States is not really a single country, but dozens of different regions. What sells in New England is not the same as what sells in the Rockies.

“Before I brought my product to America, I knew I would have to deal with different climates in such a big country,” he said. “But I had no idea how much construction practices, design tastes, regulatory controls, and distribution patterns would vary. Even the terminology for our product is different from one region to the next.”


More Grammar and Spelling Errors on Sales Literature

We've caught more grammar and spelling errors on a building product manufacturer's sales literature:

At least this company didn't create a grammar error that could find itself as a point of ridicule on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.  However, it's still important to ensure that your sales literature presents your company as being professional and having high quality control.  If a simple grammar or spelling mistake makes its way through numerous edits of an 11-word advertisement, a consumer might think twice about your company's manufacturing control methods.  Ultimately, this could be detrimental to your sales.

See our other recent post about proper grammar and spelling in sales literature here.


Greenwash of Week - Brick Competition

If you promote the sustainability of a product, you should be willing to have the market scrutinize all aspects of your product's environmental performance. Unfortunately, this concept is lost on the organizers of the Second Annual BrickStainable Design Competition.

Their website declares:


Utilities to use Amazon business model?

Could the power company start selling electricity the same way Amazon sells e-books? Jim Rogers, CEO of Duke Energy, thinks they could.


Are Digital Natives Media Savvy?

No, says a new study from Northwestern University. In fact, they seem more impressed by a site's search ranking on Google than by pesky details like who wrote it, is it an unbiased source, or is it useful information. From the study's abstract:

We find that the process by which users arrive at a site is an important component of how they judge the final destination. In particular, search context, branding and routines, and a reliance on those in one’s networks play important roles in online information-seeking and evaluation. We also discuss that users differ considerably in their skills when it comes to judging online content credibility.
This is important for construction product marketing in three ways.

Michael Chusid has been a consultant to over 100 successful organizations in the building products industry. He serves an international clientele from offices in Los Angeles, California.
- Marketing Strategy, Start-Up, Repositioning
- Product Development, Testing, Approvals
- Advertising, Public Relations, Online Media
- Promotion, Continuing Education, Trade Shows
- Sales & Technical Literature, Guide Specifications

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