When NOT to use your product

In Part 2 of Lulu Brown's The gentle art of product-rep self-defense she mentions that:

Some of the best reps I've ever worked with have flat-out told me when their product was not the right one for the job. It made me want to use them again on another project as soon as I could.
This is a common result, and an important one to keep in mind.


Maybe your sales rep shouldn't be local?

New research suggests that you may be more successful if you conduct your negotiations over long distance rather than nearby. If further research validates the findings and shows broader applicability, it could suggest new strategies for conducting sales negotiations. For example, it may be better negotiate via long distance instead of from across town.

Note that this research does not compare distance negotiations to face-to-face negotiations. However digital technologies are increasing the amount of negotiation done at a distance. 

According to a press release from The University of Texas:

Adding physical distance between people during negotiations may lead to more mutually beneficial outcomes...  Psychologist Marlone Henderson examined how negotiations that don't take place in person may be affected by distance. He compared distant negotiators (several thousand feet away) with those who are nearby (a few feet away) in three separate studies. While much work has examined the consequences of different forms of non-face-to-face communication, previous research has not examined the effects of physical distance between negotiators independent of other factors. 
"People tend to concentrate on higher priority items when there is more distance between them by looking at issues in a more abstract way," says Henderson. "They go beyond just thinking about their pursuit of the options presented to them and consider higher-level motives driving their priorities."
Stay tuned for more developments.


Use high-touch opportunities at trade shows.

This is an encore of an article Michael Chusid wrote more than 20 years ago. While the internet has become more robust than could be seen then, trade shows still remain an important part of the marketing mix.

Does it make sense to cut our exhibiting budget to finance Internet development? If we decide to go to shows, what should we do to get the most from our exhibit?- N. W., marketing manager

High-tech marketing, such as the Internet and other multimedia tools, will only increase the importance of trade shows in building product marketing. As online sales and customer support increase, personal contact between salespeople and customers will decrease. Trade shows let you maintain that personal contact.


New phones for contractors will increase mobile product research

Construtech reported on a new breed of cell phones that use native work tracking programs as a means to reduce jobsite paperwork and improve archivability.

According to Sonim [Sonim Technologies], its XP family of phones meets extreme-condition metrics called RPS (Rugged Performance Standards). The phone is completely waterproof at depths up to 6.5 feet and can withstand a 6.5-foot drop onto concrete. The device is also scratchproof with a Corning Gorilla Glass lens.
Beyond the impact on jobsite progress tracking, this type of "all-terrain phone" has implications for marketers.


Response to "The gentle art of product-rep self-defense"

Over at the Intern 101 blog, writer Lulu Brown (a pseudonym) posted a scathing piece about the role of product reps, and how and why young architects should learn to avoid them:

If you're ever caught off guard by a vendor, deflect and defer to your boss. If you get a phone call, transfer them to your boss with the indication to the rep that you aren't in charge of these kinds of decisions... If they catch you in person, say the same thing and take their business card to pass on to your boss. Taking product literature along with the card can be helpful as long as they don't give you a book. (A lot of product literature tends to go into the recycle bin, so it seems.) Remember: if any rep ever catches you off guard, defer and deflect, no matter the size of the project.
The full piece is even more painful, painting a picture of "vendors" as the enemy to be avoided or exploited as fits your needs.

Problem is, she might be right.


Gigabyte-Sized Photos add interest to website

A new digital photographic technique has exciting potential for building product presentations, websites, and social media.

Back in the days of film photography, I would take a dozen or more overlapping photos of a scenic panorama, then cut and paste individual snapshots together to show the entire vista. Software like Photoshop made the job easier as one could "stitch" images together digitally, even automatically. Recent advances take this a step further, making it simple to stitch together dozens of images. The composite files, which can contain gigabytes of information, capture an awesome amount of detail.

For example, this image of the most recent presidential inauguration is made up of 220 separate exposures. The composite image size is 59,783 X 24,658 pixels or 1,474 megapixels.

While an ordinary camera with a wide angle lens could capture the same view, it would not allow the viewer to zoom in to see details like the following:
When viewed online, one can see an amazing amount of visual information. In addition to the president, one can pan and zoom in to see thousands of individuals and details of Washington. For example, these architectural details are just below the dome of the Capitol:
If you have ever used Google Earth or the satellite or street views on Google Maps, you already know how powerful composite images can be. What is new is that an inexpensive device from Gigapan Systems now makes it possible for almost anybody with a digital camera to create gigabyte images that are easy to display and manipulate online. While the "pro" model costs $900, for only $300,
"the GigaPan Epic robotic camera mount makes it fun and easy to capture gigapixel panoramas with most compact digital cameras and works seamlessly with GigaPan Stitch software and GigaPan.com. Compact and lightweight, yet powerful and durable - the GigaPan EPIC is ideal for travel and adventure."

Scale: One of the challenges of architecture and engineering is to be able to move between scales. The architect needs to see an entire space or even an entire building within the context of its environment, but also has to understand how a doorknob or window detail fits into the the project. The structural engineer must understand how forces get distributed throughout an entire structure, but must also pay attention to individual joint and anchorage details.

GigaPan allows you to present your products in context. Beneath the overall composite, you can show thumbnails of interesting close-ups. When a thumbnail is clicked, the software zooms from the macro image to the indicated item.

A typical photograph will capture a viewer's attention for a fraction of a second. But a GigaPan invites a viewer to explore, increasing his or her time on your website page where other product-related messages can also be displayed.

Games and Contests:
This may be the ultimate "Where's Waldo" puzzle. A contest can encourage viewers to search an image to find your treasure or clues. Information about your product can be embedded throughout the image. Games like these can be especially attractive to a younger audience that grew up playing online games.

Technical and Quality Control Issues:
The stitching works not only with vast vistas, but also with micro photography. This opens many opportunities for use in technical presentations or for offering evidence of quality control.  Click here for micro images of insects.

Training and Presentations:
Complex products, machines, and systems can be made easier to understand when the viewer can move around and get in close to see parts of interest.

Social Media and Mobile Media:
These giga images can be inserted into websites or e-mail and used in other social media applications. They offer a way to display large images on a small mobile platform like an iPad or smart phone.

Search Engine Optimization:
Images can be posted at the GigaPan website and linked into Google Earth. Undoubtedly, other platforms will embrace the format and they will become integrated into video and photo sharing sites. These sites allow the use of tags and keywords that can help search engines and potential customers find you.

New Advertising and Publishing Format:
I can imagine giga photos as a type of online banner ad that allows one to zoom in or out to get more information. An entire catalog or magazine could be captured in a single giga image.

Final Thoughts:
I am sure I have just touched the surface what will emerge from this technology. Eventually you will be able to use systems like this to transmit real time images, and photos like this will be integrated into building information models (BIM) and virtual reality worlds.

I invite you to contact Chusid Associates to discuss how giga photos can be most useful in your marketing mix.
Here are links to a few architectural or construction images from the GigaPan website:
Burj Khalifa Tower
Burning Man Waffle Structure
Frank Gehry's Fred and Ginger Building
Leonardo Dialogo (nanotechnology art) - Interior
Union Station, Washington DC - Interior
Building after gutting by fire - forensic record

Another publisher of panoramic giga photos is at www.360cities.net.


Should you buy your friends?

In the lead-up to World of Concrete 2011, Wacker Neuson ran a fairly aggressive (and judging by their Twitter traffic, successful) campaign to increase their pool of Facebook friends. In short: they bribed them. This tactic can be very successful, but for most small to medium-sized manufacturers I recommend against it.


"Atmospheric Rivers" and Architecture

Q. What would happen in California if it rained for 40 days and 40 nights?

A. Massive flooding, landslides, and devastation exceeding that of the largest earthquakes predicted in the state.

This is not an idle concern. Such a storm occurred in 1861-1862 producing massive damage and bankrupting the state. And similar but smaller events have happened since then.

Relatively new scientific models say these storms are the result of "Atmospheric Rivers" that transport tropical moisture across the Pacific and throw it at the US West Coast with "firehose-like ferocity," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

What will this mean to building construction once regulators, insurance companies, and mortgage lenders start factoring these risks into equations?


16 Fun Things To Do At Trade Shows

To get you in the mood for World of Concrete, here's a fun list from Skyline:

  1. Look up on the show city’s Visitors and Convention Bureau website all the fun activities you can do outside of show hours (try indoor skydiving in Las Vegas, it’s a blast).
  2. Go to dinner with the funniest sales person who is staffing the booth. Repeat nightly.
  3. Count how many trade show booths you can walk by before a booth staffer tries to engage you.
  4. Visit your competitors at the show and ask them what they don’t do well. Watch ’em squirm.
  5. When you meet attendees in your booth, stop treating them like numbers on the sales chart, and treat them instead as if they are going to be your new best friend.
  6. Drinking game: Walk down the trade show aisle carrying a bottle of water (unless you are at a European show). Whenever a booth staffer says, “Hi! How are you?” you reply, “Fine,” take a swig, and keep walking.
  7. Pick up giveaways from your fellow exhibitors, and then give them back … to different exhibitors.
  8. Go to lunch with the second-funniest sales person who is staffing the booth. Repeat daily.
  9. Look up old friends you haven’t seen in ages that live in the show city, via Facebook, LinkedIn or other social media, and relive the glory days.
  10. Create a fun activity in your booth that helps get your message across to visitors.
  11. Walk into an island trade show exhibit and play with their products. Count how many seconds (minutes?) it takes for a booth staffer to engage you.
  12. Smile at your booth visitors, even if they aren’t. Pretty soon you’ll both be smiling.
  13. Have a contest with fellow staffers to see who can work specific obscure words into conversation when talking with booth visitors, such as “corollary,” “obtuse,” and “Sandra Day O’Connor.”
  14. Walk the show with a colleague. Have a bet on who can count the most: booth staffers sitting down or booth staffers on the phone. A third friend can count booth staffers eating or drinking. (This is like counting states on license plates when on a long drive.) Loser buys lunch.
  15. Have another bet: Before you hit the show floor, bet which trendy new color will be on the trade show displays. Then count the exhibits with that color. Loser buys drinks … that are the color they picked.
  16. Thank everyone who has helped you with the show – your booth staffers, your exhibit house, your manager, the show owner, the show labor, and especially your booth visitors. You’d be surprised how much fun that can be.


Using Wikipedia for traffic generation

Looking at our blogs analytics, I found something interesting: one of the all-time highest sources of referral traffic to our blog was a Wikipedia article on Taglines. Michael had edited it a few months back, adding a link to a post he wrote on taglines for building product marketing.

That post is currently one of our ten most viewed, and nearly a quarter of the traffic came from the Wikipedia page. But if you visit the page now, our link is no longer there. Which means, in turn, the traffic has dried up.

Here's what happened, both good and bad:


Put Dates on Product Literature

The following was first published nearly 20 years ago. While it addresses printed product literature, the same recommendations apply to online product literature.

When I asked an architect friend to critique my product literature, he said I should mark each piece with a date of issue. Since no one ever told me this before, I would like your opinion. -S.K., President

If your friend's experience is like mine, he is deluged with new catalogs every year. It is frustrating to have two slightly different versions of a catalog and not know which is more recent. Building-product literature should clearly indicate the date it is issued.

Some manufacturers mark literature with a form number indicating an issue date in code. However, you cannot depend on the specifier or contractor to translate your code. It is better to identify the month and year clearly in a prominent location such as the bottom of a data sheet. It may even be appropriate to state the date of superseded issues, for instance: "Effective May 1991 (supersedes August 1989)."


Why Net Neutrality Matters

Lifehacker has a great overview of net neutrality, the arguments for and against it, and last month's new FCC regulations. The issue is mainly being fought over entertainment services right now, but has future implications for the construction industry. As such, building product markets need to understand the issue now, and support the measures designed to defend it.


The Future of Design Tools

One of the most memorable parts of the recent Iron Man movies was the interactive holographic tool Tony uses to design his armor (if you have not seen the movie, watch this). This level of motion-based computing has become a sci-fi staple, and it is easy to understand why. How great would it be to design buildings the same way painters and sculptors create art?

Now watch this:


There's still time!

If you'd like help preparing a continuing education presentation proposal for Greenbuild 2011, contact Chusid Associates as soon as possible to have your entry completed by Monday January 17.

For more information contact jill@chusid.com.
Greenbuild International Conference and Expo


Know Your Hashtags: #worldconcrete

#worldconcrete is the official hash tag for World of Concrete 2011, according to the show's Twitter stream. However, I have also seen tweets under #WOC2011 and #worldofconcrete. If you are posting tweets, use #worldconcrete; if you are monitoring, check for all three.

Hash tags are an important tool for understanding and using Twitter successfully. A hash tag is a single word (or multiple words compressed scriptio continua) preceded by the # character. For example, #construction or #sustainabledesign. They assist in searching by categorizing related tweets; clicking on the above examples will pull up searches of recent posts on those topics.


Fill product lit with photos

This is an encore of an article first published 20 years ago. In some ways, it is more difficult to organize and track photography now than it was then. In the past, at least we had a physical negative or transparency that we could hold onto. Now, digital images have a way of vanishing if they are not rigorously backed-up and cataloged. Fortunately, digital asset management software can be used to make the task easier.

I am revising my company's product literature. So far, I have not been able to locate any of the photos used in our previous catalogs, and we have only a few new pictures showing our products or projects on which they were used. How can I keep better track of our photos, and how can I get the most from my limited photography budget?-A.S.J., assistant marketing director

While a catalog is being designed and printed, the marketing staff, photographer, ad agency, graphic designer, and printer diligently keep track of the artwork. But afterward, everyone quickly moves on to the next project and forgets about the photos until the next deadline. By then the trail is often cold and the photos lost. Photography can be expensive, so before you start hiring photographers, set up procedures to create and manage a photo library.

Good photography is an investment that will yield a return for years to come. Photos can help sell your product; many designers and builders are visual thinkers and will learn more horn the illustrations in your product literature than from the text. And project photographs often are interpreted as testimonials, showing the confidence other builders have in your product. Catalog photography can be reused in publicity features, advertisements, and audiovisual presentations.


Signs of Change: US #1 in Mobile Barcode Usage

The numbers are in, and in Q4 - 2010 the US became the largest user of mobile barcodes.

Mobile barcodes, of which QR codes are the best known format, are quickly gaining acceptance world wide. The release also reports a nearly 500% increase in usage over Q4 - 2009.

This is further evidence critical mass has been achieved. It can be expected that enough, if not all, US consumers (and those from the other nations in the top 10) are aware enough of what mobile barcodes are, and how to use them, that a mobile barcode campaign is a viable option.

To learn more about mobile bar codes, see these posts.

[h/t QR Code Magazine]


Do you have a generic trade show booth?

We've all seen them at trade shows, the "generic" booths that look like someone hung cheap carpet on a frame, and printed the company name on a banner using a home printer. We've all probably even stepped into one, at one point or another. Quick quiz: can you name the company of a single generic booth?

No. Of course not. So why are so many companies determined to keep using them?


Speaking Opportunity - EcoBuild 2011

Speaking at trade shows and industry conferences is a great way to establish yourself as an authority on a topic, build your brand, and reach industry leaders with your message.

EcoBuild America, to be held in December 2011 in Washington DC has issued a call for speakers:

The 2011 Call for Speakers submission page is now active. We are interested in receiving topics that feature real-world, solutions-based case studies and/or management discussions. Speakers will submit proposals for presentations with topics that fit the five conference tracks:

1. Building Information Modeling (BIM); Information Technology
2. Building Performance & Energy Efficiency
3. Green Building; Sustainable Design
4. Management/Marketing
5. Sustainable Sites; Infrastructure
Contact Chusid Associates for assistance writing a winning proposal.


Infographic: Social Media ROI

Click for full size
Calculating social media ROI is very important, and very difficult. The value is that you know whether you are getting benefit from your investment, or just wasting time and money. The difficulty is that it is not clear how to determine the "Return" on a social media investment. Social media frequently pays off long after the original investment is made, but like face-to-face networking can be slow to produce visible results.

Addressing this confusion, the Socialcast Blog has a great infographic explaining how to calculate ROI for enterprise social media. Because it focuses on enterprise social media (the systems used to communicate within your company) these ideas do not translate directly to engaging and selling to your prospects, but there are still some valuable lessons:


Architectural Billing Index Rises

The Architecture Billings Index (ABI) rose more than three points in November to reach its highest mark since December 2007. As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.


Kinect-type hardware for all PCs!

In a recent post I discussed the potential impact of Kinect's motion-detecting controller on the design process; today, I found this update:

PrimeSense, the leader in sensing and recognition technologies, and ASUS, a leading enterprise in the new digital era, announced today that PrimeSense Immersive Natural Interaction™ solutions will be embedded in WAVI Xtion, a next generation user interface device developed by ASUS to extend PC usage to the living room. WAVI Xtion is scheduled to be commercially available during Q2 2011 and released worldwide in phases. 
There is also a software development kit for designers wanting to create 3D-sensing applications to be distributed through an online App Store.

This is the next big breakthrough. Not just for the construction industry, but for the way we use computers. And, since computer tech is getting so small and light, potentially the way we interact with all our tools and devices.


Fax speed can propel you to competitive edge

This is an encore of an article Michael Chusid wrote more 20 years ago. We can look back at the introduction of fax technology for clues about how best to adopt newer communication technologies.

It seems as if I now send and receive more letters by facsimile than by U.S. mail. How can I make better use of the fax machine in my sales and marketing program? —T.M.J., vice president, sales and marketing

The phenomenally fast spread of fax machines throughout the industry leaves us wondering how we ever got along without them. Time is money; even overnight delivery of orders, sales directives, or product information can be too slow.

When writing a construction specification recently, I called two competing manufacturers for product information. One responded by overnight delivery. Not only did it cost the firm more than $10 for shipping plus the cost of the printed literature, it also cost the firm the chance to be specified. While I was still waiting for that manufacturer’s information, the second manufacturer responded by fax.

In fact, the fax arrived while I was still on the phone with the firm’s salesperson. We were able to clarify immediately which product met my requirements. By the time the competitor’s overnight package arrived, I had completed that section of the specification.


Industry Optimism About the Construction Market Returns

McGraw Hill Construction posted the following article, brightening the construction market future:

Industry Optimism About the Construction Market Returns


How NOT to comment

Commenting on blogs, forums, and networking sites is an important part of your online presence. Search engines are likely to find and index your comment, especially if it is on a well-known site, and links you post (when allowed) can send new traffic to your page. More importantly, it shows you and your company are participating in the conversation. But it is important to do it right.

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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