Archive for February, 2010

By Jeff Williams

I remember the first time someone asked me if I had tweeted yet. I just stared at them as if they had just spoken to me in Swahili. It’s probably the same way many of today’s C-suite executives look at their marketing managers when they request funds for social marketing initiatives. They just can’t comprehend the recent sudden changes in consumer behavior and communications technology and how quickly these changes have reshaped the marketing universe.

home depot 300x244 Social Marketing: The Overlooked Victim of the Housing CrashThe recent history of the home and building industry is partly to blame. Rewind the clock five years, virtual eons in Internet years. In 2005 the home and building industry was just beginning to realize the full impact of the mass retailer model. Centuries old wholesale distribution networks were in disarray. Manufacturers were no longer the most powerful entity in the channel. The Big Boxes were calling the shots. And speculative real estate was taking off like a rocket. Housing starts began to escalate.

Who had time to notice that high-speed Internet had become a household essential? That streaming video was becoming the norm? That blogs, RSS and forums were seriously eroding magazine market share? Our world was focused on building brands and driving awareness. Reach and frequency. TRP’s. Realigning channels of distribution. Supporting product introductions. Just sell baby!

Two more years of extraordinary prosperity and then the market collapsed. In a single year, housing starts plummeted from an all time high of 2.6 million to less than 500,000. Budgets and staff were cut reciprocally. CFOs were asking their President’s, “Do we really need to advertise?” “What can we cut?” “Shouldn’t you be running sales promotions?”

The boom and bust economy has been a smoke screen for some companies. Intent on retooling their bottom line, the head-honchos have focused on staff reductions and tired sales and marketing gimmicks aimed at generating immediate sales. And who can blame them? They have missed a fundamental shift in market dynamics that is essential to survival in this new conversation economy.

 Social Marketing: The Overlooked Victim of the Housing Crash

pic from

During this same period, marketing managers were tasked to do more with less. We hardly had time to process the multitude of e-mails we were receiving, much less figure out what a retweet was. We all struggled to understand the implications of social media.

So many of us were focused on the channels themselves instead of understanding the value of the conversations occurring in them. We sensed the way consumers were making decisions about brands was changing. We heard the horror stories about educated consumers that knew more about our products than our dealers. We began to see that consumers expected a response to their tweet to our customer relations department.

I have a unique vantage point in that I get to talk to H&B marketing decision makers across the country. Everyone is wrestling with the enormity and complexity of what we now call social marketing. And, in the midst of dramatic budget and staffing shortfalls, most will tell you they’ve had to muster the nerve to explain to their CEO that they need funding for a Facebook page or Web site optimization only to receive a blank response. And most are beginning to realize that this is so much more than a communications initiative.

The companies that have embraced social marketing, and have wrapped their consumer facing operations around these powerful tools, are taking share at an exponential rate. They have torn down traditional barriers to honest, transparent relationships with their customers, and they have measurable results to prove that it is working.

Too many companies still don’t get it. They view social media as a passing fad and don’t understand the implications of doing business the same old way. You see them going out of business on a regular basis. If you are in this boat, don’t give up. Do yourself a favor, seek out educational tools to help educate your senior management team.

By Building Experts Team

As you might have already heard, more negative news for residential remodeling was released last week with the announcement of new figures from the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI). According to the updated RMI, the market conditions index fell to 36.4 from 39.8 in the third quarter.

 Remodel Your Business Through Relationships

The RMI measures remodeler perceptions of market demand for current and future residential remodeling projects. Any number below 50 indicates that more remodelers say market conditions are getting worse than report improving conditions. The RMI has been running below 50 since the final quarter of 2005.

These figures, measuring perceptions of the remodelers, contradict the most recent Lowe’s earnings report and leading industry indicator, the 2010 Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA). In January, the LIRA forecasted consumer spending to grow up to $105.5 million in the first quarter and rise to $107.6 million in second quarter 2010.

Just because current remodeler perceptions continue to dip doesn’t mean that a rebound isn’t possible, it will just take time, and more proof of an impending recovery. Maybe we just need an attitude adjustment? As we wait for more positive news, here are a few easy tips to help remodelers, and other battle-tested professionals, build new relationships that will support the future of their business:

1. Join Regional Building Groups – Regional building groups are a great way to grow local roots. Development of friendships with regional builders and architects offers the opportunity for referrals and other mutually beneficial, long-term relationships.

2. National Association Membership – Membership with national associations like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), allows for the sharing of case studies, best practice for marketing your business and opportunities for continuing education. Many trade associations, like NARI, do a great job of adding value to members with real benefits, including industry research, public recognition, certification and most importantly, lead generation services. And most likely you’ll find dues cheaper than they were a few years ago.

3. Trade Show Attendance (Regional and National) – Attendance at trade shows are a terrific opportunity to, again network with peers, but in addition, take advantage of developing relationships with product manufacturers and suppliers. These folks will be able to keep remodelers up to speed on the latest products and trends and help customers with personalized services, including discounted pricing.

4. Customer Referrals – Maintain regular “check-ins” with past customers. Staying connected with past clientele keeps you top-of-mind for future projects and those customers are more likely to refer you to friends and family. This can be done through a simple phone call or sending a regular eNewseltter to past and potential clients.

5. Social Marketing – Using online applications like LinkedIn and Facebook can be a great, inexpensive way to gather customer testimonials/recommendations into a single mainstream, intuitive channel. It’s also a great way to attract new customers if the channels are used properly and align with your business strategy.

So what have you found to be a successful marketing strategy in this tough market?

By greeniq

Earlier this month, we highlighted the importance of reducing job site waste, and one of the most effective ways to do so is by recycling building materials from construction projects. According to The Construction Materials and Recycling Association (CMRA), approximately 350 tons of construction and demolition debris is generated and disposed of in the United States each year. What does this shocking statistic mean to building professionals and the greater sustainability movement? Aside from the obvious detrimental effects on the environment, construction waste disposal leads to the loss of useful property, resources and energy. To make matters worse, this cycle repeats itself as new building materials are produced, causing greater environmental stress. By implementing job site recycling programs, builders have the ability to slow the rate of construction waste generation.

Not sure where to start? Though the thought of recycling building materials may be a daunting for some, fortunately there are several associations and organizations in place to help builders and manufacturers recycle their unwanted (yet salvageable) materials. Following are three reputable organizations currently advocating for job site recycling while providing the resources to help us do so.

· Construction Materials and Recycling Association (CMRA) – The mission of the CMRA is to provide positive support and representation to the building industry in all matters impacting the recycling business. This non-profit organization acts as an advocate to promote construction recycling and to serve as a liaison between its members and legislators as well as member recycling companies and agencies. As a member, you’re able to interact with groups that touch the recycling at every stage in the process from waste generators, haulers and even end users of recycled products. With the CMRA, you have access to an unlimited network of groups whose end-recycling goal mirrors your own.

· Whole Building Design Guide (WBDG) – The WBDG’s Construction Waste Management Database ( is a national, online network of companies that haul, collect and process recyclable building materials from construction sites. This database allows free and unlimited online searches for construction recycling companies by state, zip code and even down to the materials you would like to be recycled. In addition, the site offers a construction waste management resource page with best practices and considerations for implementing your own effective construction recycling program.

· The Building Materials Reuse Association (BMRA) – The BMRA is another non-profit whose goal is to facilitate the reuse of recycled building materials in a manner that is financially and sustainably sound. The organization firmly believes that through recycling and reusing building materials, not only will we benefit the environment but stimulate the economy through new markets and job creation.

We put these tools to the test, in search of organizations across the country doing innovative work in recycling. Here’s what we found:

logoevergreenrecycling If You Build It, You Can Recycle It: Job Site Waste Part 2

· Evergreen Recycling is a full service recycling company based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, whose services include construction waste planning, post construction recycling for new and existing buildings and recycling management plans to fit your needs. An innovative feature of the company is its roll off bin service for all recyclable materials. No need to sort and separate building materials on site, Evergreen Recycling does the work for you and processes everything from concrete to carpeting. For more information visit

logo If You Build It, You Can Recycle It: Job Site Waste Part 2

· We’re all aware of the tremendous work Habitat for Humanity has done to provide shelter for countless deserving individuals over the years, but the organization also contributes to our recycling efforts through the Habitat for Humanity ReStore Network. Organizations are encouraged to donate recycled building materials that are then sold to the public at a fraction of the price. Through their efforts, ReStores keep reusable materials out of landfills and into the construction of Habitat homes. To find a Habitat ReStore in your area visit

logo If You Build It, You Can Recycle It: Job Site Waste Part 2

· The Loading Dock in Baltimore, MD is an example of an organization using recycled materials not only to benefit the environment, but the community as a whole. The company obtains usable building materials from contractors, retailers, manufacturers, and even directly from landfills. Through its efforts, The Loading Dock has been able to rehabilitate low-income housing in Baltimore City using materials that would otherwise be thrown away. Visit for a glimpse at some of the items available at The Loading Dock.

Based on our findings, we at Build Intel see great opportunity in recycling for builders and manufacturers alike. As the green building movement continues to grow, so does the need for better recycling practices. For example, under the LEED program, projects earn construction waste points by developing a waste management plan, establishing quantifiable recycling goals. With LEED standards and other building certification programs as a top priority among the industry, building professionals must implement and live up to their recycling claims. With the desire to be green, recycling is sure to follow.


greenintel imre If You Build It, You Can Recycle It: Job Site Waste Part 2

Are You Positioned for Success?

By Shawn Draper
 Are You Positioned for Success?

AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

Watching the Olympics on television is fascinating. You listen to the commentators explain how important, or even critical, it is for the athletes to be in the right position during the events. The figure skaters must coordinate their hands, feet, and bodies to assure the success of a spin or a jump. The skiers speeding down the mogul hill need to keep their knees and hands in the proper position. Even the curlers know that the position of the stones is paramount to winning. The importance of proper positioning is just as important for your business, which begs the question, “Are you positioned for success?”

Within the home and building industry, sustainability is the fastest growth segment in a slow growing market. Do you know or understand the position of your company within the sustainability market? The sustainability market place is slated to grow 146% by 2013. In real dollars, this is growth from $52 billion to more than $128 billion. This is nothing to sneeze at. Do you know how your competitors are positioned within the market? What does the market think of your company in the context of sustainability? Where is the opportunity for your company to succeed? Knowing where your business stands within this highly scrutinized industry may mean the difference between a good year or another down year.

msp success key 300x213 Are You Positioned for Success?

Social networking will have a strong impact on your business in the near future. Is your business positioned to take advantage of this sea change or will it wash ashore? The ability of manufacturers and service providers to engage directly with their customers – trade and consumer – and influence their decision making will change your business. You need to decide if your business is positioned to succeed or fail with social networking. Is your business dependent on the relationships your distributors have with your customers? Do you pay a premium because of these relationships? With social networking, you can begin to engage these customers directly, gain first person insight, and reduce your risk of dependence on your distributors.

Finally, it may be time look at the position of your business within the category you historically serve. Is there an opportunity to re-position yourself to reflect new capabilities, services, and products? Has the market landscape changed to the point where your business may be able to differentiate itself based on this change?

At the end of the day, how you position your company defines your business, what’s makes it unique or important or valuable, and why your customers should buy from you. So, “Are you positioned for success?”

The Blueprint of a Re(Brand)

By Building Experts Team

One mission we have here is to deliver perspectives on the building industry in ways that can positively impact your brand. So, we determined it might be of interest to take a closer look at what defines a brand and what you should expect if/when the time comes to rebrand.

We sat down with Chris Denney, vice president and creative director of IMRE, to gain insight into his experience building brands – both B2B and B2C. Chris began his career as a photographer, working with top agencies and clients and learning to tell their stories through imagery and advertising. He moved to the marketing and corporate world when he began his branding career at Men’s Health, which was experiencing explosive growth around the world. Next came a stint at Time Warner where he helped brands like Ford, Trane and Andersen Windows find their voice. Now at IMRE, Chris specializes in B2B brand development and appreciates the authenticity that comes with the territory.

BI: How many brands have you worked with and/or helped develop?

CD: I’ve worked with many brands on different levels but helped at least 15 brand from the ground up.  I get extremely excited when we work through the branding process.  If you’re rebranding or even just reexamining, you get to the core of what the brand is about and start understanding things like personality and vision.  You envision how a brand can speak about itself at its root and then ideas are born from true understanding, not assumptions.

BI: How do you define a brand?

CD: To me, a brand is a vision. It is holistic and needs to be looked at holistically. It’s embodied in the vision of what the company or service wants to provide. Underneath vision falls personality; what’s the brand’s promise and what does it stand for? The vision, personality and promise are all embodied in a positioning that informs what goes out to the marketplace and makes up who you are and what you stand for.

A brand is not a communications strategy or a logo; it is not a color palette or a singular CEO. It’s an entity, a force of what it wants to accomplish, and it could be as simple as making widgets and as complex as making airplanes.

BI: What do you see as the key components of a brand?

CD: I have found that a key component is for a brand to be honest and transparent.  The emotional part is the hardest; telling yourself “this is what I do well, this is not what I do well,” “this is what I stand for and this is what I do not stand for,” “this is what I want to deliver and promise and this is what I don’t, etc.”  It’s about having the ability to put a mirror to your brand and put it out there, and then reflect on the core values of a company and the products/services it delivers.

blueprint The Blueprint of a Re(Brand)

BI: How would a company recognize the need for rebranding?

CD: There are many business factors that inform the need to rebrand.  It could be that there are wholesale changes in the product offering, or the brand has become stuck because of competition catching up to them or copying them. I’ve seen brands own market share and then competitors start copying their success, making them become part of the pack and no longer relevant; the brand goes from #1 to below the radar.

BI: What steps are involved in rebranding?

CD: Everything varies depending on the company and the brand.  However, if you look holistically at rebranding there are three modes of intrinsic and extrinsic activity.  First, you need to look intrinsically at where your brand stands.  Discover what affects your business, like the strengths and weaknesses of your competitive set, the state of the industry and industry forecasting.  You really need to look at what the company thinks of itself, identify its challenges, explore the “feet on the street,” and understand the state of the C-Suite.  Then, look at where they all converge.

From there you go into extrinsic mode and start to formulate assertions and messaging triggers that get tested.  Go to customers and focus groups; ask questions like, “Is this who you think we are?  How does this feel to you?”  Also, gauge how the assertions resonate internally.  If everything’s done properly up to this point, including all of the research, you’ll start to get really great insight.  Gather all of that feedback, bring it back to the three pillars – vision, personality and promise – and then create the brand positioning, the messaging and then the creative.

BI: What makes a rebrand successful?

CD: Success vitally depends on insight and approval from the top down, including all key stakeholders.  It will fail if there’s no buy-in from the C-Suite at the very beginning to act as ambassadors, and the sales force should be very much involved for most B2B companies.

Metrics for success of a rebrand can vary based on the size of a company and what stage of development it is in. It’s so important to be honest.  For a long-term vision to work and convert to sales, you’ve got to look at yourself and be truthful so you can deliver against competition in honest and transparent ways.  Then you’ll deliver relevancy to your customers and make people feel good when they put money on the table and give it to you.

Sales are always going to be the ultimate measurement, but awareness is probably the first metric you want to measure right after a rebrand.  If you’re getting the message out and it’s resonating, you did a good job in the first stage. Sales ultimately follow.


To learn more about the IMRE (re)branding process, contact Chris Denney at or Denise Kitchel at

By Building Experts Team

1013 45 banner build weeklyintel Weekly Intel: Top Links of the Week

If you live on the Mid-Atlantic it’s hard to believe there was anything going on besides Snowmageddon, but there was.

Five threats to housing

ASHRAE Standard 189 is here

Read the third annual GreenBiz State of Green Building Report

Radical transparency in green marketing

Foreclosures declined by 10% in January compared to December

The Living Building Challenge is coming to a city near you

Defaults on FHA Mortgages pass 9%

Massive commercial real estate foreclosures coming

A permeable solution with drivable grass

By greeniq


0805ms1 IPD: The Answer to Our Sustainable Building Prayers?

Complements of The American Institute of Architects

You’ve heard the old saying “There’s no “I” in team”, but for owners, architects, designers and builders, approaching project teams with “I” in mind (as in Integrated Project Delivery) may be the key to increasing sustainability in buildings today.

Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) does just as its name suggests, it assembles all parties involved in the building process at an early stage creating a highly collaborative environment at the inception of a project and throughout its entire life cycle. The holistic approach behind IPD allows owners, architects, construction managers, engineers, and subcontractors to contribute their individual expertise while looking at the whole picture, rather than just focusing on their individual role in the construction process. Driven by collective risk, IPD creates a mutual understanding of an owner’s goals, and is therefore able to meet and exceed these goals in a shorter period of time. Other benefits of this early collaboration and communication among all building parties? Increased efficiency, productivity and better value for the owner – just to name a few.

0805ms7 IPD: The Answer to Our Sustainable Building Prayers?

So what does IPD suggest for the future of sustainability? Here are three ways we at BuildIntel see IPD playing an integral role in the greater sustainable building movement:

  1. Facilitating efficient design through technology – Building Information Modeling (BIM) largely supports IPD by laying out a virtual model and strategy for a project, allowing all parties to collaborate on every element of the process at a much earlier stage. According to the American Institute of Architects (an IMRE client), BIM makes sure the building is cost effective by providing quantification metrics, reducing errors and unknown design conditions and resolving construction conflicts, thus reducing waste and fostering better management of a building’s overall energy consumption.
  2. The ability to use prefabricated building methods – Because of the deep collaboration and communication involved in IPD, contractors have the freedom to work independently as well, through prefabrication. This results in less waste and expenses as well as a more efficient installation.
  3. Controlling costs saves in more ways than one – The cost controlling capabilities established through Integrated Project Delivery has a direct affect on the likelihood that sustainable goals will be met. Early collaboration leads to greater efficiency and discussion of project options, which in turn leads to an increase in the probability of sustainability.

For more information on IPD or to begin setting up your own contractual agreements, organizations such as AIA Contract Documents (an IMRE client) are streamlining the process even further by providing the necessary contract agreements needed to fully implement the IPD approach. Visit to find out what type of agreement best suites your project needs.

A Brick-Stainable Future

By Building Experts Team

With all the talk of sustainable building and green products, why is brick always left out of the discussion? It’s easy to get lost among the vast products and materials that dominate our day-to-day lives. But after all, brick is the original, sustainable building material. Archaeologists have found manmade bricks dating back 10,000 years. Mixing together materials taken from the earth with moisture and then drying the shaped forms with fire is still the general formula for producing bricks. The abundance of brick-making materials and the durability of the finished product are as true today as they were thousands of years ago.

Brick provides an energy-efficient envelope for a building that reduces the amount of energy necessary to heat or cool the interior. Because of its durability, brick all but eliminates the need for exterior maintenance and outlasts most exterior cladding products on the market today, avoiding the energy usage, and costs, involved in upkeep and replacement.

To drive this sustainability message, Potomac Valley Brick, with the help of premier sponsor Boral Bricks (an IMRE client), created the first international sustainable architectural design competition: Brick-Stainable. The competition sought innovative solutions for a building using brick as a primary material. The contest was designed for entrants to explore the potential of brick construction in the creation of an energy efficient building and challenged design teams to maximize the physical characteristics of this construction in the creation of integrated design solutions.

bs logo fin rgb A Brick Stainable Future

The results were astounding. The competition received 95 entries from over 17 countries. The winners were selected by a prestigious panel of jurors, including Carnegie Mellon Architecture Professor Vivian Loftness, University of Maryland School of Architecture Dean and Professor Garth Rockcastle, IDEO Practice Lead and Material Scientist Kara Johnson, and AXIM Director of Marketing Martin Vachon. Winners were from the U.S., Mexico, Cyprus, and Qatar.

We had the opportunity to attend the awards ceremony at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. And a suitable spot for such a ceremony it was. The National Building Museum defines sustainable building. Made with over 15 million bricks, the design of the roof to the ingenious ventilation system creates a continuous flow of fresh air throughout the building. A practical system of windows, vents, and open archways allows the Great Hall to function as a reservoir for light and air. It’s a beautiful building. If you ever have a chance to visit, be sure to take advantage. It’s an easy walk from Union Station.

 A Brick Stainable Future

With more competitions like Brick-Stainable in the future, the dialogue should continue to grow. The brick message is beginning to make its rounds in the sustainability movement. Make brick a foundation of your next sustainable building conversation.

By Building Experts Team

1013 45 banner build industryinsider Product Manufacturers Look Ahead to 2010

Officially wrapping up our 2010 International Builder’s Show coverage, we leave you with the thoughts of some of the industry’s largest product manufacturers and most recognizable brands.  These companies, including Kohler, LP, Masco Bath and Broan-NuTone, all have a positive outlook for 2010, although a cautious one that will continue to be influenced by housing trends.

Is it too early to start thinking about what’s in store for Orlando next year?  At a very minimum, this story should continue to take a different turn…

By Building Experts Team

On November 17, 2009, The New York Times broke the story “A Stimulus That Could Save Money,” introducing the phrase “Cash for Caulkers” to everyday nomenclature; at least in our industry. Three short weeks later, President Obama proposed the new program that would be part of a broader plan to stimulate the economy, create jobs and reimburse homeowners for retrofits with energy-efficient appliances and insulation.

Now, this post won’t get into all of the details and speculation of the program; we would’ve written it a lot sooner if so. Besides, just Google “Cash for Caulkers” and look through the 785,000 search results to see exactly what the bill’s all about.

cashforcaulkers Cash for Caulkers: Filling Up the (Business) Case

We’ve been following the buzz and offer the following recommendations, if you will, to capitalize on the program and the impending future of the building energy performance certification industry.

  1. If you, your colleagues or partners are not already, get certified. There’s no better time than now and the resources are more accessible – and qualified – and ever before. We suggest looking into programs with the Building Performance Institute (BPI), RESnet (Residential Energy Services Network), and Home Performance with ENERGY STAR (a national program from the U.S. EPA and U.S. DOE).
  2. Think globally, act locally. Look at the example from the Builders Association of Minnesota. They partnered with a remodeler and window manufacturer. The “trifecta” employed 600 people that quickly trained and certified contractors and insulation installers to make improvements to 1,400 homes. A Win-Win.
  3. Get your voice heard. A number of organizations, from national to grassroots, are cropping up to best position themselves, their employees and clients to meet the needs of both certified professionals and engaged consumers. We recommend looking into Efficiency First, “a national nonprofit trade association that unites the Home Performance workforce, building product manufacturers and related businesses and organizations in the escalating fight against global warming and rising energy costs.
  4. New product and program development – Although we have to believe Honeywell was planning their Enovate™PRO Contractor Program well in advance of Cash for Caulkers news, they have the right idea. With new products, marketing support and professional development training, the program comes full circle for the professional.

How is your business reacting to the Cash for Caulkers buzz? What expectations do you have for the program?

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