My Life in an iPhone: One Year Later

It seems hard to believe I've only had my iPhone for one year; it's had such an impact on my home and work life that it feels like it's been around for a lot longer. In that year there has also been a significant cultural shift in the way we use mobile, so much so that it's easy to forget only about a third of cell phone users have smartphones.

It is useful, given the predictions of explosive smartphone adoption in the coming year, to look at some of the ways smartphones have changed the game, and try to understand how they can assist a marketing campaign.

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GreenWizard - Free Directory Listing

"GreenWizard is the only data-driven marketing solution that brings green building products and green building materials face to face with decision makers in the design and construction community actively engaged in projects."
The basic functionality of GreenWizard is to allow a designer or builder to search for a product by potential LEED credits associated with the product. As an online marketing channel, it provides FREE listings for building product manufacturers. The price is right, and I recommend you take advantage of the offer.
They also have a Pro version that offers more features that may appeal to some manufacturers. For example, once a contractor finds a product that meets the LEED requirements, the contractor can place an order for the material from within GreenWizard. The fee for this service is two percent of the sales price. This makes the website a cost effective "sales rep" for products that can be purchased off-the-shelf.

Like most new products, GreenWizard is still trying to work out kinks in its system. My associate, Vivian Volz, RA CCS LEED-AP reports that the firm was responsive when she called to report a concern.

Contact Michael Chusid if you would like help discussing how to use GreenWizard in your business. Call 818-774-0003 or email michael@chusid.com.

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Fed Ups Building Requirements to LEED Gold

From ENR:

The nation’s biggest landlord, the U.S. General Services Administration, is requiring LEED Gold certification as a minimum in all new federal building construction and substantial renovation projects. GSA is updating its facilities standards by the end of the year to enable the projects to meet the LEED Gold requirement...
This is clearly good news for manufacturers targeting government construction, but I'm more excited about the larger message: our expectations for sustainable design are increasing. Green building has been a big enough topic for long enough that it could be suffering from idea fatigue, but instead people seem to have internalized the message; "sustainable" is now the baseline.

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‘Detailing’ specifiers to stimulate sales: Personal introductions generate product awareness and save money

This is an encore posting of an article Michael Chusid wrote about 20 years ago. The prices and players have changed, but the need for detailing services remain higher than ever as many manufacturers cut back their field sales forces.

My company used to have sales engineers who called on architects to get our products specified. We dropped those reps a few years ago to cut costs. I am concerned, however, about losing personal contact with designers, and sense we are losing ground in the specifications. Is there a more affordable way to make sales calls on specifiers? C.B., vice president

The most effective way to present a building product to a specifier is through a personal sales call. A good sales rep can uncover customer needs, shape a presentation to address those needs, identify and defuse objections, respond immediately to questions, recognize buying signals and make a close. No advertisement, product binder or Internet site can do all this—at least not yet. But a personal sales call can cost several hundred dollars when you consider compensation, training, travel and other costs.

It appears that many building product manufacturers have reduced or eliminated their architectural sales force during the past decade. Just like you, these manufacturers have turned to alternative promotional programs, including direct mail and telemarketing. Yet there is another marketing option that delivers most of the benefits of a traditional sales call at a fraction of the cost.

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A Look Back for the New Year

I wrote the following Q+A column in 1992. A lot has changed in the intervening years. 

For example, Sweet's catalog files no longer exist, although the brand name lingers on in cyberspace. Now, it's hard to imagine a marketing campaign that doesn't include electronic media.

Other things, however, are timeless. Switching from selling contractors to working with design professionals is still a challenge. And for many building product sales reps, the Construction Specifications Institute can still open doors for you.  

As 2010 year draws to an end, perhaps this piece of nostalgia will help you reflect on the ongoing changes in our industry, and those things with timeless value.  

Happy New Year. MC 

Is Sweet’s Catalog File still a valid medium for distributing building product information? What is the best way to use it?— H.K., marketing manager

This column has spoken frequently about the potential of electronic media for distributing building product information, but design and construction still take place primarily in a “hard copy” environment. And though several new directory and catalog services are challenging McGraw-Hill Inc., its Sweet’s Catalog File is still a vital marketing channel for many products.

That point was driven home recently when I visited the offices of a major Chicago-based architect. The firm’s library of manufacturer catalogs was on another floor in the wing farthest from the production areas, and some of the binders had not been updated in 10 years. A current set of Sweet’s catalogs, however, was readily accessible in each design studio.

As an encyclopedic directory, Sweet’s is an essential reference for designers and builders. While advertising in Sweet’s does not guarantee product acceptance, staying out could make a specifier wary that a brand is not a serious player in the construction industry.

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Internet Privacy: Meet Little Brother

Big Brother has gained renewed life in the internet age, as the specter of governments and corporations observing our every move gets continually larger as more and more of our life is online. We all know this and are learning how to protect our privacy. But now, as a guest on marketing podcast The BeanCast puts it, the greater threat may be coming from "Little Brother".

Little Brother is an amalgamation of all the people we give our information to voluntarily: family, friends, co-workers, etc. All the people we have no qualms about sending our contact information and embarrassing pictures. The risk is not that they will sell or use your information maliciously, but that they may inadvertently make your private information public. And building product marketers and sales reps are part of the problem.

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Landscape Orientation for Online Newsletters

Most paper-based documents use a "portrait" orientation, with the long dimension of the page vertical. However, most computer monitors are in a "landscape" orientation with the longer dimension in a horizontal direction. Most internet-based documents still use the portrait orientation. This can make it awkward to see an entire page at a size that is still legible.

As an alternative, check out how this e-newsletter uses a landscape format to create pages that fit naturally on a monitor.




The newsletter, published by Los Angeles Chapter of CSI, allows a variety of page layouts. It is based on an 8.5 x 11 inch format, so it can still be printed on conventional paper if required.

I expect we will see more of this format for all sorts of documents, including technical data sheets, brochures, and sales sheets as well as for newsletters.

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Our Cumulative Achievement

Every time it rains heavily enough to make noise on the window – which is not very often in L.A. – I am reminded of standing on the roof of my house with my long-suffering real estate agent the day we closed escrow.  The roof had acknowledged leaks, and we were hurriedly spreading a tarp in a fierce downpour.  That was the day I learned what a tough job roofs do every day, the moment I really began to appreciate what it means to have a roof over your head.

At a time of year when thoughts often turn towards both appreciation for the blessings we’ve got, and assessment of what we’ve achieved, I would like to put in a word of praise for the blessing and the achievement represented by the Built Environment.  It’s hard to find a better example of the method by which the human race grows as a species, and how far we’ve taken that growth.

We grow by being able to accumulate knowledge and capabilities across generations, by being able to quantify and record what we learn, and transmit it beyond the span of our individual years.  From the time when people first realized that caves weren’t going to be enough, we have been accumulating the skill of transforming our environment to adapt it to us, the short-circuit of the evolutionary process.

For an illuminating example of this achievement, one could look to the great pyramid at Chichen Itza, the Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo.  Standing 98 feet tall, it is actually a shell built over a previous pyramid, which itself was built over the original pyramid.

I once visited the inner pyramid.  It’s not on the regular tour, but we had heard it existed.  We were standing outside the pyramid when my wife saw a park employee going into a little door under the most fully-restored of the four grand staircases.  She ran up and asked if that was the way to the inner pyramid, and he agreed to take us up.

Within the door, we were in a dimly lit, low-ceilinged stone chamber.  The steps of the previous pyramid stretched upwards like a narrow, rising tunnel.  The stone treads were worn as deep as an inch in some places.  The walls sweated with little blobs of moisture that glistened in the light of the bare 40 watt bulbs strung along the ceiling.

We raced up the stairs like they were on fire, tremendously excited by this weirdly threatening place.  We arrived gasping at the top to realize that, while the Mexican government had done a great thing excavating this path and stringing the electric lights, they might have been well advised to install ventilation, as well.  We already used up most of the oxygen in the place. 

Soon our gasping turned to gaping.  Before us stood a large sculpture of a jaguar (one of the gods worshipped at this site during one of its several changes of ownership), colored bright red, with three large stylized spots made of a green stone that looked like jade.  Its back was flattened in a way that strongly suggested it was a sacrificial altar.

The tiny chamber we stood in had once been the exposed top platform of the previous pyramid.  The tiny room in front of us was the previous inner temple. I reflected how much grander the current top platform and inner temple – above our heads – were, how the capabilities of these people to move, shape and build with stone had advanced from one civilization to the next. Within this man-made stone cavern was the reflection of one large page in the story of civilization, written over hundreds of years.  Then, the page turned, but the building that characterized it lived on.

I looked upwards and realized we were beneath tons of stone, and I had no idea what was holding them up.  Yet I had confidently taken my life in my hands and raced up that staircase in complete faith that whatever held them up was going to perform as expected.

Not to belabor an obvious symbol, but all of the built environment is constructed on top of the achievements of the past.

One could examine the latest and greatest architectural and engineering achievements to understand how far we’ve come.  A modern building has so many different kinds of technology that make it perform.  It protects its occupants and contents against wind, water, fire, and earthquake. It provides locations for all manner of human endeavor.  It modifies the (interior) weather.  It gives light in the darkness.  It has hot and cold running water.  It transmits communications.  And there are so many levels of concept embodied in it that allow it to serve the functions required of it.  It is logical.  It is expressive.  It offers the visitor a multi-sensory experience.  It creates functional spaces.  It provides confidence, comfort, safety, and security.

I would suggest, however, that perhaps the most illuminating example of what “cumulative achievement” really means, in terms of the built environment, is the network of standards that have been developed for construction and for building materials.  Those standards represent the length, breadth, and extraordinary depth of our knowledge, but that’s not all.  They represent our commitment to accumulating, quantifying, and transmitting our knowledge and hard-won achievements.  They further represent our commitment to our fellow human beings, to provide reliable structures for today and the future. After all, we pass along not only the knowledge, but the buildings themselves.  The inner pyramid at Chichen Itza, for example, is over 1500 years old.

Construction standards are, I believe, our most sincere expression of pride in our work, our determination as an industry to do the right thing on every project, and to continue thousands of years of advancement.

People who work in the construction industry are part of one of the signal endeavors of our species.  We have a right to be proud.  We have a responsibility to be careful, thorough, and to work by the rules, because we are, quite literally, building the world.

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18 Hidden Rules for Trade Shows

Skyline posted a list of "18 Hidden Rules for Trade Shows" on their blog. The list is great for two reasons.

First, it's a great example of posting content useful to your customers to encourage a sale. Skyline is a trade show exhibit manufacturer; this list encourages prospects to visit their site, helps them make better displays, and increases the likelihood readers will buy their future displays from Skyline.

Second, the list has some good tips. I've reposted some of the best points below with my commentary; read the article for the full list.

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Websites without Phone Numbers

If you want to do business, make it easy for your customers or prospects to find you.

That would seem to be obvious. Yet many building product websites do not list phone numbers or email contacts.

Case in point:  www.BoralBrick.com.  Boral is one of the largest brick manufacturers in North America. Yet their website does not list a phone number or email address on the front page or any of the customary, obvious locations. Even their Contact Us page omits contact info. It has just a form that I can use to send them an email -- if I am willing to give them all my contact info. Some calls are too urgent to wait until someone responds via email, and their form does not allow me to attach documents, copy others, or get a copy for my records.

While it is probably just a oversight, they even omit their phone number where they intended it to be. Their Privacy Policy page provides corporate boilerplate saying:

How To Contact Us
Should you have other questions or concerns about these privacy policies, please call us at [phone number] or send us an email at [email address].
After several minutes of searching, I did find their phone number -- at the bottom of a press release. But how many potential customers would have given up the search and moved on to another supplier's site?

For reference, Boral Brick can be reached at 800-5-BORAL-5.


------------
By the way, spelling out phone numbers is cute and can be memorable, but it does not work anymore. Few mobile phones have letters associated with numerals on the "dial" pad anymore.

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Signs of Change: Procter & Gamble Abandon Soap Operas

Procter & Gamble, the reason why soap operas are called soap operas, has officially moved its advertising focus online. The death of soap operas happened in September, but it was earlier this month, when P&G announced its new social media focus, that the news really sunk in. As Joseph Jaffee said, "This is like Budweiser pulling out of the Super Bowl'; the company whose advertising and support defined the genre has moved on to greener pastures.

Nostalgia aside, this was clearly a smart business decision. Viewership has dropped substantially for daytime tv, and the remaining viewers present the joint challenges of increasing median age and skipping commercials via DVR.

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Product lit: Your secret sales rep

When this was written in 1995, the internet was still in its infancy, and printed media still governed building product sales. Still, the core concepts advanced below can be applied to contemporary marketing materials.
 
When I redesigned the brochure for my architectural product line, my reps and dealers complained that it was too “flashy” and lacked in-depth product information. But they had also griped about the old brochure, saying it droned on about the products without promoting their benefits. Since preparing and distributing the brochure is the biggest expense in my marketing communications budget, how can I make it as effective as possible?—C.E.B., vice president of sales

Your architectural brochure or catalog is often the first or only piece of sales literature your customers and specifiers see. It is an important sales tool for your reps, but it must also be able to stand alone when no rep is present. Your brochure is particularly critical in marketing to architects and other specifiers, who must consider thousands of products when they design a complex building. Most designers have little experience with many of these products, so they must rely on your literature to quickly find, assess, and act on product information.

You have run into two problems I often find in building product literature. First, many brochures appear to have been created by “technocrats” from the engineering department, and are so crammed with product information that they lack customer focus. Readers get lost in the detail without understanding product features and benefits.

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Comments Wanted for New Building Standards

ACI and USGBC both have drafts of their new standards available, and are looking for public comment now through mid-January.

  • The US Green Building Council is taking comments through Jan. 14 for the draft update to the LEED green-building rating system.
  • The American Concrete Institute is taking comments through Jan. 17 on the 2011 update of ACI 318, Building Code Requirements for Structural Concrete and Commentary.

[H/T ENR]

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Fortune 50 Companies Use of Mobile, QR Codes Increasing

A new study came out Wednesday that shows mobile usage by Fortune 50 companies is on the rise. What can building product manufacturers, especially smaller ones, learn from this? Let's examine the results:

  • 62% have a mobile website or app, but only 39% publicize it on their website.
  • Mobile websites focus on simplified navigation and on-the-spot utility.
  • Mobile is being used for shopping, requesting quotes, paying bills, checking accounts, and placing orders. The study points this out as "Transactions, not just information".
  • Mobile includes voice, images, video, and location-based content.
  • 22% are using QR codes.

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Utilitas, firmatas, et venustas: A Latin lesson for product literature designers

Written about 20 years ago, this essay has stood the test of time and continues to provide insight into building product sales and marketing.
 
I work for an ad agency that has just been hired to design product literature for a building product manufacturer. I have experience creating sales collateral pieces in other industries, but this is the first time I have done work for an architectural product maker. What do I need to know to meet the needs of my client's target audience: designers? - A.C., account executive


Like all sales collateral, building product literature must stimulate awareness of and interest to your firm's products. But unlike product literature used in other fields, building product literature must also provide designers with the information they need to engineer, detail, and specify products. While these objectives appear simple, designing an effective piece of product literature can be as challenging as designing a building.

Vitruvius, a classical Roman architecture critic, wrote that good architecture is characterized by "utilitas, firmatas, et venustas," which means, "utility, firmness, and delight." Like architecture, sales literature has to be useful; it must help someone evaluate and select appropriate materials for a project. It must have firmness; the information provided must be accurate, reliable, complete, and clear. Finally, the literature must also delight the senses by being visually attractive.

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Product Packaging - Slimming Down the Waste

During this time of year, we are surrounded by a lot of packaging waste -- shopping bags, boxes, food packaging, and other wrapping paper from holiday gifts fill our living rooms, hallways, closets, and hopefully recycle bins.  This got me thinking about how we can reduce the waste generated by construction products, and how these changes can become part of your marketing strategy.

Building products need to be shipped around the world to distributors and construction sites.  Shipping requires packaging, and that packaging has to protect its contents from rough handling, inclement weather, and other abuse over which a manufacturer has no control. The one thing you have control over is the type of packaging you use. By streamlining your packaging and ensuring that you have only the basic necessities for safely delivering your product to its destination, you will save the environment, money, and can better market your green message.

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Tis the season...for new press kits!

The air is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and we're coming up on that magical time of year that means something special to everyone...It's time to update your press kits for 2011!


World of Concrete is coming early this year (Jan. 17-21), and the holidays are going to cut into that time. If you have not already started revisions, now's the time to do so. 

Even if your company does not attend WoC, this is a good time of year to look at existing materials, add new product announcements, remove outdated articles, and find new photos. A good press kit is a must if you are attending trade shows, and are also a valuable sales tool. In addition to the 5 Essential Press Kit Pieces I recommend, here are a few useful stories to consider for your 2011 press kit:

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Publicity: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Two days ago, I received a phone call from a structural engineer.  She had read an article on the Web about lightweight studcast precast concrete walls.  She wanted to propose them for a project, at a meeting in 24 hours.  She wanted to know where she could get the walls, and since the article had our name and phone number on it, she called.

The article was published in 2007.

The company, Ecolite Concrete,  invested in publicity in 2007, and that investment is still paying dividends.  It might get them a project with a major big-box chain.

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Fire Safety is now a Green Issue

My associate, Aaron Chusid, is fond of saying: "The green building movement is over; it won. We don't talk about a 'fire-safe building movement' anymore because fire-resistive design has become a regular part of construction. We have to start discussing sustainable design in the same way."

Aaron's insights may be a bit premature, because a new report by the National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) makes it clear that fire safety is also a green building issue.

Their report, titled Fire Safety and Green Buildings - Bridging the Gap is a free download. I recommend it as required reading for all building product marketing executives during their midwinter break. It is chock-full of issues and challenges to inspire fresh marketing strategies for the new year.

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Continuing Education on my iPod? Yes, please!

I love podcasts. Living in LA there's lots of time stuck in traffic, and podcasts become drivetime educational opportunities, which is why I am excited to see The Continuing Architect - an online continuing education course catalog from the publishers of Architectural Products - now offers streaming and downloads for iPad and other mobile devices.

There are a lot of online course catalogs for the A/E/C community; I haven't had enough experience with all of them to endorse the course quality, selection, or ease of use, but I predict The Continuing Architect's mobile-compatibility will be a winning edge. Or at least spur the others to introduce similar capabilities.

Tim Shea, publisher of Architectural Products, was telling me about The Continuing Architect's features when he came through town last month. Based on what he said, and my experience browsing around the site, this site is angling to be the most useful for marketers. Effort was made to make it as easy as possible to link to a course directly from your website (or a QR Code on your business card...) and the interface is clean and easy to navigate.

It's great to see this convergence of two trends - mobile computing and continuing education. It means architects get the content they need in the format they want. McGraw-Hill and AEC Daily currently have the biggest audience, but The Continuing Architect is an upstart worth watching!

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Ethics and Advertising Sales Reps

The sales rep for a major architectural magazine called me today to see about getting business from one of my clients. In a candid conversation, we strategized what might be best for my client and how to present that to the firm. We also exchanged news and views about players in the industry; I suggested a firm that might be open to advertising, and he pointed me towards a company that might need marketing consulting support. All is well and good.

The rep then told me that my client's competitor had just made a major advertising purchase in the magazine.

At first, I was elated. This was valuable marketing insight into what a competitor had planned.

But then, I realized that the rep had just violated the confidence of one of his/her publisher's clients.  This makes me wonder -- can I trust the rep or the publisher with insider news about what my clients are planning?

The ethical slopes are steep and slippery. Beware.

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5 Tips for Managing Changing Social Media Trends

The internet is a constantly changing landscape, as fluid and changeable as the ocean. That's not news to anyone, yet we're still always surprised to see signs of major changes. Early adopters are already predicting the death of RSS, location-services are seeing check-in burnout even as they start reaching the mainstream, and even techies seem to be fleeing Twitter! This year has also seen serious shots taken at Apple, Facebook, Google, and MySpace, all once or former stalwart, seemingly permanent, fixtures of the internet.

All of them will eventually fade, either to disappear, resurrect with a new focus, or hold a small corner of their once-great empire. Remember when AOL was the biggest thing on the web? Remember who Jeeves was, or why you would ask him anything?

As we wrap up 2010 and finalize our plans for 2011, the best bet is to plan for flexibility. Here are five ways to keep your online marketing limber:

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Use social media to avoid disrupting your prospect's day

Jason Fried is the founder of 37signals, the company behind Basecamp and other popular online collaboration tools. He recently gave a great talk at TED about why work doesn't actually happen at work, citing the tendency of M&M - Meetings & Managers - to disrupt productivity. It's full of quotable lines ("It's only a one-hour meeting if only one person's there. If ten people are there it's a ten-hour meeting."), really wild ideas (Casual Friday? Meet No-Talking Thursday), and great insights into why these interruptions make it so hard to get stuff done.

As I watched, it occurred to me that Manufacturer's Reps and Marketers are in danger of becoming the next M; when you visit a busy architect at a major firm, are they glad for the chance to take a break or slightly frustrated by the interruption to their day? Ideally they are happy to see you, because they have a good relationship with you and know you bring valuable information, but even a pleasant phone call can disrupt workflow. If prospects start to see you as a disruption, are you going to get that sale?

Of course not. So how do you avoid that?

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Metric vs Imperial

Something fun to help you through your Wednesday:



On a serious note, this is a reminder that it's becoming increasingly important to provide all measurements in Imperial and Metric, especially if you do business internationally (Canada counts!) or plan to in the future.

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Environmental Risks Not Immediately Apparent

Manufacturers often rush to launch new products, hoping to gain a competitive edge. Yet the environmental risks of a new material or technology are not always apparent until the product has been on sale for a period. This is a problem even in industries such as pharmaceuticals in which products must undergo extensive testing and regulatory review for both effectiveness and safety.

It is an even bigger risk in the construction products industry. New building products may require testing to demonstrate certain aspects of safety -- such as fire resistance -- in order to comply with building codes. Yet there are not industry-wide  protocols for testing the environmental impact of a product, nor regulations mandating prior approval before marketing.

A case in point is nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide. The material has impressive potential for reducing airborne pollutants and making concrete self-cleaning. A marketing director promoting the product once assured me the compound is inert, and saw no reason to delay the product's introduction until it could be tested for impact on ecosystems. When he boosted that he could eat a spoonful without ill effects, I responded, "Yes, but you are not a coral polyp."

Now, new research suggests my concern was not unwarranted:

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The Lighter Side of Concrete – an occasional series

Concrete for the Holidays

With the continued economic slowdown, each of us ought to be looking around, close to home, to see how we can contribute to the recovery.

Construction has been particularly hard hit, since its downturn began a year in advance of the overall recession.  The concrete industry, makers of the world’s most commonly used construction material, has obviously been heavily impacted.  It employs many people, all over the country, and is a worthy target for a little concerted goodwill to help out neighbors and kickstart the economy at the same time.

Here’s my proposal: Concrete for the Holidays.

Since all concrete is local, buying concrete means Buying American and supporting people in your community.  Instead of spending your holiday dollars on ephemeral foreign-made gifts, decorations, etc, why not use concrete?  Here are a few suggestions how you could support your neighborhood readymix producer without any real changes to your traditions.

House & Garden

One obvious place for concrete is your front lawn. A concrete snowman is durable and attractive. If you use photo-catalytic additives, your snowman will not only be white but self-cleaning. It’s not subject to the vagaries of the weather, either.  This is an equal opportunity snowman, well-suited to both Bismarck, North Dakota and Phoenix, Arizona.  It’s comforting to know that, even if you don’t get a white Christmas, Frosty will be there lending a cheery atmosphere to the yard and (if properly positioned) protecting your house from a ramming attack by a truck full of ammonium nitrate. And best of all, you can use it year ‘round. (In fact, good luck trying to get rid of it.)

There are many other décor possibilities.  In the absence of snow, you could place a light fall of concrete all over the lawn.  (This will save you the expense of watering in the summer, too.)

Some caution should be exercised when substituting concrete for traditional décor materials, however.  A concrete Christmas tree, for example, might be less than practical, even assuming the floorboards could support it.  If it dropped a needle on you, it might break your toe.

Beyond 'Tickle Me Elmo'


The holidays are, more than anything else, about the spirit of giving.  Why not give the gift of concrete?  It’s such a versatile material, anyone can use some.  Who wouldn’t appreciate 2 or 3 yards of fresh, creamy concrete, delivered right to their door, to use in any way they choose?

Contact your local ready-mix supplier about getting a concrete gift certificate. Then the lucky recipient can choose whether they want a pool, a driveway, or just a cozy little bunker to ride out possible nuclear holocaust.  And for stocking stuffers, think about additives.  Everyone can use a little high range water reducer to help deal with the post-Christmas slump.

Getting in the Holiday Spirit

If you celebrate Chanukah, you may be uncertain whether there’s an appropriate response to your neighbor’s elaborate Yuletide light displays.  Perhaps this is the year to build the giant concrete lawn-menorah you’ve always dreamed of, the one with the propane-powered candles spitting four-foot jets of flame into the sky and emitting a roaring, grating noise that teaches all your neighbors how to pronounce the “Ch” in Chanukah. In one simple gesture, you can advance interfaith understanding, help light up the entire neighborhood to deter prowlers, and help out your local concrete industry.

Putting a little more concrete in your holidays will not only help the economy, it’ll work right in with your New Year’s resolutions, too.  What better way to get more exercise in 2011 than breaking up all that concrete?

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Use computers as a distribution channel

The following was originally published 20 years ago, back when data was still kept on 5-1/2" disks.  How much of my predictions have come to pass? What can we expect in the years to come? 

Today’s architects and engineers make on-the-spot decisions as they create drawings at the computer. Rather than search through catalogs, they’ll choose products from manufacturers whose data is available electronically at their fingertips.

Those manufacturers are today’s competitive marketers. They’ve managed to automate their product information right into the decision making process, says Michael Chusid, president of Chusid Associates, marketing consultants for the construction industry.

“Think of the computer as a channel of distribution for your product,” Chusid says. Automation offers many avenues for selling information and creating product awareness.

Get into the plan
Incorporate a computer- aided design/manufacturing (CAD- CAM) relationship into the product, Chusid suggests. The architect creates a design using a manufacturer’s CAD software. Based on that design, the manufacturer uses CAM to create samples and customize the product for the application.

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Signs of Change: "Shocking" Text Message Habits

New research from Nielsen shows that while teens 13-17 are still the most frequent texters, college students (18-24) are averaging 3 texts per hour. The "shocking" part is that they do this during classes.


I know, right? College students not paying attention to a lecture; who could have known? 

What does this mean to you?

The simple message is that 78% of your next generation of customers use text messages, and a growing number of them consider texting easier and faster than voice calls.

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Prospects for AIA Show in 2011

The AIA Show website shows that there are still many unsold booths for their May 2011 gathering in New Orleans.  This means you can still get good booth locations if you decide to exhibit there. But by most accounts, the AIA's show in Miami earlier this year was sparsely attended by architects.

What are the prospects for the upcoming event?
Attendance may be a bit better this year:
  • The economy has begun to turn around a bit, (I hope.)
  • New Orleans is more centrally situated for most of the country.
  • Who wanted to go to Miami in the summer, anyways?
  • I think many architects are curious to see how New Orleans is being rebuilt (at least I am).
Attendance may be up the show has new management -- Hanley Wood. HW's magazine, Architect, will become the official publication of AIA as of January. I suspect Hanley Wood will be pouring lots of resources into building the show this year.

Unfortunately, I don't see that yet. Their website, just six months before the event, is still little more than a place holder saying, "Continue to check back for more details."

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Gowalla Introduces One-Stop Check-Ins

Gowalla just made a major play to take over the location-based app market. Their latest update has integration with Facebook Places and Foursquare, meaning you can use one app to participate in several networks simultaneously.

I still think location-based programming has not matured enough yet to be very useful in our industry, but once it has this feature will make Gowalla much more useful to marketers by allowing them to multiply their efforts.

[h/t ReadWriteWeb]

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What's this [h/t] thing under my post?

You may have noticed a bracketed [h/t ] link at the bottom of some of my posts. A colleague asked me last week what it means, and I thought I should share the answer here.

In brief, h/t stands for "Hat Tip", as in "A tip of the hat to...". It is used on blogs to indicate, thank, and send traffic to the source you learned about a story from. For example, I learned about Autodesk's Project Bluestreak from BD+C's Building 360 blog, so if I wrote a post about it I would link directly to Autodesk's site in the body of the post and include a link to BD+C's post at the bottom of the page like this: [h/t Building 360]

Why do this?  Two main reasons:

  1. It's good netiquette. Someone wrote an article good enough and informative enough that you made use of them; give them credit.
  2. Cross-linking improves SEO. Linking to someone's blog improves the likelihood they will link back to you; search engines like this.
Ok, so that's why I want to give someone credit; why bother linking to the original source then? 

I recommend linking to the original source wherever possible. It's more authoritative, and reduces the number of clicks your readers need to make. Plus, the original source will probably be available longer than the articles linking to it, reducing the risk of dead links on your blog. It also improves the variety of sources you cite. Again, this improves your SEO by connecting you to more corners of the web.

Some people link to the blog's homepage; some link directly to the post they are referencing. I do not think it matters which way you go; the important part, in the spirit of last week's holiday, is that you give thanks.

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Samples on Beaded Chains

Photo Credit

Beaded chains of plastic laminate samples, as shown in photo, are a standard way of distributing small samples to customers. Compared to other methods of displaying samples, such as display boards, chains are economical and easy to assemble and ship. They can be displayed simply on a hook in a distributor's showroom or designer's library. When needed in the field or to bring to a customer's office, they are compact and easy to transport; unlike boxed samples, pieces will not fall out if a chain is tipped over. Chains allow samples to be held up against other materials for color matching, or to be readily removed if necessary for closer examination. Flipping through chain engages the customer kinesthetically, creating a stronger sales impression.

Environmentally, chains minimize packaging, and can be readily recycled with other metal scrap.

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Holiday Gifts for Architects & Clients

December is here again and it's time consider holiday gifts and greeting cards for clients!

Here are a few creative ways building product manufacturers can create holiday gifts that promote your business while spreading holiday cheer:

Miniature Bollard Reproductions
Christmas Tree Ornaments - Companies that manufacture decorative materials can craft ornaments from their materials, cutting them to shape, and then etching or engraving a design onto them. I have seen Christmas trees in designers' and builders' offices decorated with nothing but product samples.

A variation on this theme would be to make miniature reproductions of your products to hang on a tree.  Imagine, for example, the decorative potential of the bollards below if reduced to just three-inch height and made in bright colors.

Custom-produced luminaria.
Showcase your Capabilities - One of our clients uses very sophisticated, automated CAD/CAM machinery to produce ceiling and wall panels. They were able to showcase their capabilities by sending customers luminarias made with their own processes.

Creative Packaging - When Sweets Catalog Files were still published as a collection of thick, hard-bound books, Michael Chusid used to transform the old year's volumes into candy boxes; cutting the catalog pages to create a hollow space within. For other clients, we have packaged holiday cookies or other treats inside their regular product packaging.

Mary on Christmas card.
Customized Holiday Cards - Sometimes a photo from a project you worked on makes a great image for a holiday card. This is a technique that architects and builders also use in their holiday missives. Classic images include the illuminated Christmas tree mounted to a topped-out structural frame, and the newly completed building adorned with holiday lights for the first time. The text of the card can describe your connection to the project without being crassly commercial.
Several years ago, one of our clients was a supplier to the newly completed Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in Los Angeles. The haloed Mary over the main entrance to the cathedral was perfect for the season.

Other Ideas:
Decorative concrete coasters, envelope openers with your company information, product-shaped chocolates, etc.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Chusid Associates!

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New way to reach prospects.

Concept: Pay your prospects to read your email.

Description: Conventional methods of advertising may have a low response rate and go to many unqualified individuals, Instead, you can identify the prospects that interest you the most, and pay them to read your ad.

Background: A new website, http://myattn.com/, conducts what they call an "Attention Auction." Their site explains:

If you are a busy person? Receive too many messages? Forced to spend a lot of time reading crap but still lose useful information? Sell your attention at auction.

If you want to contact an important or busy person but never had chances to deserve his or her attention. Buy attention at auction.

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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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