All Over the Internet

One of my clients depends on online sales -- they have no external sales force and do almost no print advertising. In addition to google ad words and a little bit of online banner advertising, they actively maintain a presence, as individuals and as a company, on:

Google Profile

And these are just the sites I know about.  They also have multiple websites, with urls and landing pages that are distinct for each of their major markets. Keeping their content fresh on all these channels is a full time job for their marketing department.

Apparently it is worth it the effort as their business keeps growing.  How about yours?

New Internet Top Level Domains for Building Products

Move over .com and .net, the internet will soon have many more top level domains that will offer exciting branding possibilities for the building products industry.  Imagine, for example:

These and other extensions will be released soon, and internet service providers are already taking reservations.  

Even if you do not actively use one of these top name domains, you may want to buy your brand name to prevent mischief by competitors and to protect your trademarks.  For example,,, and

Of course, labor organizations and professional societies may want to get into the game. Consider, for example:

New Internet Top Level Domain Candidates

The governing body of the Internet, ICANN, has been taking applications for top level domains (TLD) that can be used as alternatives to the common .com, .org, .edu and other TLD. For the application fee of $185,000 plus $25,000 per year, you to can own a TLD named for your company, brand, or industry.

For example, Lanxess, a global chemical company that makes pigments for concrete has their current website at If their application is granted, you will be able to find them at "" or even by entering the stripped down url "lanxess". Email could have addresses such as colors@lanxess, john.doe@lanxess.

The first batch of applications of "sponsored" TLDs was announced yesterday. It contains a handful of building industry terms, including: 
  • architect
  • build
  • builders
  • codesconstruction
  • contractors
  • design
  • engineer
  • engineering
  • equipment
  • diy
  • lighting  but not light
  • solar 
Only a few construction brands are are on the list, and these mostly by firms with interests that extend into many industries:
  • bosch
  • bostick
  • dupont
  • dwg (the file format used by Autocad)
  • homedepot
  • lanxess
  • rockwool 
Mitek has applied for several names, including "connectors".

Many of the applicants for TLDs are brokers that buy and then resell terms. for example: "glass" is applied for by a domain holding company, making it unclear whether their intention is to use it for window glass or for beverages. Other construction-related terms have been applied for by companies with other applications in mind: Microsoft has applied for "windows" for example.

There are no industry sector names such as:
  • ceiling
  • concrete 
  • lumber
  • steel
  • stone
  • wall
  • wood
There are no construction industry publishers on the list, no trade associations, and few major manufacturers.

Most of the construction industry has, apparently, taken a wait and see attitude towards TLDs. Perhaps the price will decline. And it remains to be seen whether owning a TLD gives a competitive advantage. For example, if Pepsi saw no reason to register their brand, why should Lafarge or USG or other building product companies. When I need a url, I generally just type the company name into a search engine; for Lanxess, I just guessed and went straight to

The industry seems to be saying, "ICANN wait."

Smarter Buildings

According to IBM, smarter buildings will be able to use resources more intelligently, which will lead to reduced costs and greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately to smarter, more efficient cities. Their Smarter Buildings team helps customers "listen to the enormous amounts of data" their buildings are generating. By listening to this data through embedding smarter technologies into the physical assets of an organization, building owners, facility managers and other stakeholders can analyze energy use to squeeze out inefficiencies.
The five trends they predict may be useful in planning new products and services for building product manufactures:

Smart Neighborhoods

Groups of buildings will mimic living systems. Neighborhoods are the building blocks of smarter cities, which are just systems of systems—water, power, transportation, etc. Like a living system in nature, they can be highly complex, especially when considering the conglomeration of infrastructure over a city's 100- to 200-year history. In Washington, D.C., water pipes date back to the Civil War, for example. A neighborhood is a microcosm of the city; to make a city smarter, starting at the neighborhood level is more manageable. IBM is working to help the community become early adopters of smart grid technology that will electronically monitor, analyze and minimize power consumption in residential and commercial buildings—as well as of on-site solar and other clean-generation systems.

X-Ray Vision
Occupants of smarter buildings will get better visibility into building’s functions, such as how much water and energy they are using. Most businesses and residents now find this out by looking in their rear-view mirror—the previous month's utility bills. With smart meters, residents and businesses are getting closer to real-time views into their actual usage. With smarter buildings technology, building managers have a cross-building view into actual performance of all systems so they can make adjustments and repairs when needed, a key step when looking at large facilities, campuses and cities. Using analytics provides deeper, X-ray vision into what's happening in real time.

As buildings and cities are instrumented, managers will rely more on analytics to flag outlying behavior and to recommend optimal settings for heat, water and other facility maintenance. Predictive maintenance will become condition-based. At its 3.2-million-square-foot Rochester, Minn., campus, IBM integrates data from more than 300,000 data points, consolidating it into a common repository for effective analytics. Through this solution, the Rochester facility cut energy use by 8 percent, on top of the 6 percent reduction already being driven through aggressive energy-improvement programs.

Beyond Parking
Applications that pull data from a building and a city's "Internet of things" will proliferate. Parking applications can help drivers find available parking spots, for example. But it goes beyond that. The Internet of things gives people information, the first step toward making change. Through the increasing connectivity, people can act as living sensors to provide data and feedback to make changes and create smarter cities and buildings. For instance, some cities are extending that Internet of things to city services such as enabling citizens' to alert cities to potholes, graffiti and water issues by taking photos and sending them to city management, where they can be prioritized and dealt with. Cities are using geospatial intelligence to send crews with the information they need and the overview of where the projects are to map out the best driving routes.

Now Serving at the Energy Cafe

Building managers will order from a menu of energy, allowing them to choose energy by source and/or cost. Just as shoppers can chose which type of produce they want based on cost and source, city and building managers will be able to do the same with energy sources. With smart meters, building occupants know how much energy they are using. However, organizations in the future will also be able to choose the source of their energy. If they have carbon footprint targets to meet, they can decide to get 30 percent of their energy from renewable sources like solar and wind. If that gets too costly, they can shift more to natural gas.

Real Estate Management Becomes a Science

A company's finance/real estate team is evolving into a smarter buildings team. In the next few years, accounting changes will require all publicly traded companies to add billions in new assets to their balance sheets. As organizations begin to itemize all their property assets, they'll also look into ways to reduce costs. What they're discovering is that by learning how their buildings are wasting energy, they are finding new ways to cut costs and reduce their carbon footprint. The cost of energy use in New York City municipal buildings totals more than $800 million each year and accounts for about 64 percent of the greenhouse gas emission produced by government operations. With carbon intelligence software, the city is aiming to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2017.

Edited from material posted at 

Copy Websites (Yours & Your Competitors')

Make copies of websites.
Building product manufacturers should make copies of their websites and other online assets. Having off-line copies will be helpful:
  • In case your website crashes and your webmaster forgot to save on offline version.
  • To preserve a record of your marketing claims to use in preparing a product liability defense.
  • To preserve your company's history for future reference.
  • You can refer to your website even when off line, such as during air travel, on a jobsite, or to make presentations at a prospect's office without having to access their internet service.
Also consider making copies of your competitors; online assets; you may be able to glean valuable intelligence by observing changes in a competitor's presentation.

A useful tool for copying websites is For your archiving to be successful, you will need the discipline to download sites on a regular basis and save them to a permanent storage device. will effect online marketing

schemalogo-1.jpgThe web's three leading search companies -- Google, Bing, and Yahoo -- have announced a new collaboration called, where more than 100 new types of website markup for content like movies, music, organizations, TV shows, products, places and more will allow search engines to better understand and present what they find on the pages that show up in search results.

This will change the way people design websites, it will change the way people do search marketing, it will change a lot of things. It should be very interesting.

The Future of Marketing is Being Decided Right Now

Two bills introduced in Congress last week, one in the House, one in the Senate, may well mark a significant turning point in the history of our economy.  Both of them concern Internet privacy.

The House bill, The Consumer Privacy Protection Act of 2011 (H.R. 1528) introduced by Representatives Cliff Stearns (R-FL) and Jim Matheson (D-UT), requires sites to inform users that information is being collected, to offer certain limited opt-out provisions, and the bill creates the concept of approved self-regulatory programs that companies can join to demonstrate compliance.  The law is administered entirely at the federal level by the FTC.  The Senate bill, The Kerry-McCain Commercial Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2011 introduced by Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and John McCain (R-AZ) goes considerably farther: all information collection must be opt-out/opt-in, clear notice must be provided that info is being collected and more.  It is administered by partly federally and partly at the state level.

The bi-partisan nature of these bills is a good clue to how politically popular this issue is deemed to be.  The topic of Internet information, data-mining, and the disappearance of privacy is a hot one.

What may not be obvious is that either of these two bills could decide the future path of a significant portion of our economy.

The story until now:

1) 1995-2010 – the birth of the World Wide Web leads to the destruction of the Print/On-Air Advertising system, as audiences drift away from old media. Print/On-Air advertising is the marketing system that created the consumer/industrial juggernaut that was America of the 20th century.

2) 2005-2010 – The internet enterprises that were responsible for this destruction discover that they, too, need a sustainable business model to support their continued production of new media.   The business model they turn to is, not surprisingly, advertising online.

3) 2011–  Online advertising agencies and space brokers announce that hence-forth, advertisers will not need to buy “content” as the carrier for their ads, they can "buy audiences."

So, the business model currently being touted by some of the more knowledgeable people in the online advertising field is that the Internet allows advertisers to find individual consumers, rather than simply talking to whoever comes to a likely site.

That means tracking Internet users, based on their data-mined interests.

And here come Congress, ready to regulate that process, perhaps a little, perhaps to the point of effectively eliminating it.

What neither bill contains – although it is one of the most widely-discussed and popular ideas for protecting internet privacy –  is a Do Not Track List, a grand one stop shopping opt-out-of-everything mechanism.  But as the bills get debated, even that might emerge.

Marshall McLuhan once wrote that the newspaper contains two kinds of news: the bad news is the articles. The good news is the advertising; it is news of the commercial world.

In the networked world, product news itself has become split into two types (at least from the marketer’s point of view): controllable and uncontrollable.  The controllable news is advertising.  The uncontrollable is the vast interconnected communication morass that is currently buzzworded as “social media.”  Congress may limit how the controllable news gets spread or targeted.  The uncontrollable news will, of course, remain uncontrollable.

Congress is about to decide how advertisers may or may not find their potential customers.  That will, in the long run, decide the shape of 21st century commerce, and the future of US companies vs. those that fall under different (national) regulations or no regulations.  It will begin to define the shape of the world to come.

Stay tuned.

Another Magazine goes Online Only

Masonry Construction is the latest trade publication to drop its print edition and become online only. This trend has important implications for advertising and PR.

An announcement from its editor explains:
Being nimble and quick on your feet are necessary when business prospects become challenging. As unpleasant as they may be, sometimes changes are necessary. Masonry contractors know this as well as anyone. The publishing environment has been very similar the past couple of years. So we are moving in a different direction and have ceased publishing the print edition of Masonry Construction magazine. But along with this, there is also good news: Masonry Construction will still appear in various electronic formats to keep you up to date about the masonry industry.
No doubt the Great Recession was a factor, but it also reflects changes in how the industry gets its information. Watch for Masonry Construction and others to start publishing for mobile devices that contractors can read in the field.

Signs of Change: China converting phone booths to WiFi hotspots

I don't know if this belongs under "internet news" or "recycling", but at the end of last year China announced plans to convert its existing network of public phone booths to WiFi hotspots. It is not certain yet, but it sounds like access will be free, putting China a long way towards achieving universal WiFi coverage.

At least, for those that can afford smartphones or laptops.

As the largest emerging economy in the world, what happens in China can be a good predictive model for the US, especially businesses with global aspirations. And this report tells us a couple of things about what's going on in China.

One of the key points in this is that public phone booth usage has dropped so low (most phones are used less than once per day) because cell phone market penetration is nearing 100%. As we are seeing in the States, even "dumb" phones provide a startling array of features, and cellular technology in Asia tends to be ahead of what we have here. This means nearly 100% of the market has access to QR readers, web apps, mobile search, text messaging, and social networking. Pew estimates 83% of American adults have cell phones; a huge and growing number. Many Americans, though, have feature-poor phones, leaving a lot of room for future adoption of more advanced mobile technologies.

The other major point underlines the realization of wireless and universal connectivity. Cloud computing and data storage is increasing, and with that comes a need for reliable, continuous connections. This is why I got upset last year when AT&T announced their reduced data plans, but then I looked carefully at my usage patterns and realized I spend the bulk of my mobile computing time connected to a WiFi network. Between home, the office, and a few local restaurants with free WiFi, less than 2% of my data transfer was over the cellular network.

That's changed. Recently I discovered the joy of streaming video on my iPhone. I catch up on a lot of news, YouTube updates, and even movies via Netflix while on the road, and for the first time ever I'm nearing my monthly data cap.

Yes, I could probably live without watching movies on my phone while waiting in line at the grocery store, but video is growing as a digital tool; just look at Qwiki. Demand for mobile video will only increase, and people will continue using larger, more complex files and programs while on the road. Eventually we will exceed the data capability of the cellular networks, and the only way to continue growing will be increasing WiFi coverage.

Re-purposing the phone booth network is a brilliant idea. I would love to see it catch on here as well.

[h/t PSFK]

Are we running out of web addresses?

Every computer connected to the internet, from your phone to the Google servers, has an IP address, the numerical identifier that lies behind the URL we type in. Think of IP as the street address, and URL as the easier-to-remember PO Box. In a bit of a Y2K reload, the current IP system was designed with about 4.3 billion available addresses. Which is surely more than we would ever need, unless people suddenly start owning multiple web-enabled devices at the same time internet use starts expanding in developing countries.

The Wall Street Journal reports that, in a complete surprise to everyone, we are now running out of IP addresses. As of December, there were only 117 million left. For comparison, about 248 million new users joined Facebook in 2010. Assuming only half of new Facebook users are connecting on new devices, we should easily burn through the available addresses sometime this year.

As with Y2K, the solution (IPv6) is fairly simple and has been around for a while, but people have been reluctant to spend money on something that was not yet a problem. Expect to see IPv6 compatible devices and programs start rolling out with speed this year. However, this also means people on older systems may have comparability problems. Here are a couple tips to keep in mind to see your company through the transition:
1. Be sure any new hardware or software you get is IPv6 compatible. Anything that touches the internet will need to be checked. Some of your existing set-up may be upgradeable via patches and new drivers, so if you start having problems later this year check for updates.

2. This does not effect the supply of available domain names. URLs are limited almost exclusively by imagination, and worst case scenario, a new domain can always forward traffic to your existing website. Still, if you were planning on setting up a new domain in the near future, I would recommend doing so sooner rather than later.

3. Your clients may not have compatible systems. No word yet on how or when the change-over will start, but expect that clients with computers more than a few years old may not be able to access IPv6 websites. When your company makes the change, talk to your web host about keeping the old version available. I will keep an eye out for news on this subject, and post updates as they become available. For now, though, just plan on having the conversation.

More than anything, this is another reminder to maintain a high degree of flexibility in your online presence. It has become a virtual constant that every few years there will be some major shake-up that will require a fundamental reworking of how we put information online. Sometimes, as in this case, the change is technological, and once we get past the transition point there should be no interruptions in communications with your clients. Sometimes the change is in how and where people access information, and we must change format and delivery method to fit. In either case, flexibility and adaptability are key.

I am especially amused to see the WSJ describes IPv6 as allowing "for a near-infinite number of websites and devices." We've had such a good track record at predicting these things in the past that I'm sure it won't become a problem in the future. Not this time; not again.

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.
This is the dichotomy of high-tech/high-touch marketing predicted 15 [now 35] years ago by John Naisbitt in his book Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives.

"The more technology we introduce into society, the more people will aggregate, will want to be with other people," Naisbitt wrote, "We will eventually do some shopping by computer, but only for staple items of which we have a very clear sense and experience. It will be no substitute for the serendipity and high touch of shopping for what we want to be surprised about."

Several building product marketing executives have recently told me that more of their customers are bypassing sales reps and dealing direct with the factory, entering orders online, exchanging CAD drawings by e-mail, and teleconferencing. These marketers are spending money to build Web sites, but they continue to allocate funds for trade show booths to maintain a face-to-face presence with customers.

Industry shows enable an exhibitor to build brand awareness, identify prospects, and shape consumer attitudes. The opportunity for customers to see and handle your products and shake hands with your salespeople makes trade shows a powerful marketing vehicle.

If marketers aren't convinced of the continuing value of face-time, customers are. An architectural specifier I know keeps a list all year of' the products he wants to investigate and the contacts he wants to make when he gets to the Construction Specifications Institute show. His sense of purpose is not unique. Even those who attend just to walk around and see what's new go anticipating serendipity.

To increase your odds of benefiting from that serendipity, you must attract attention. At a recent show, I watched a leggy female model invite attendees to take turns on a putting green in a booth. Although she attracted a crowd by bending over to retrieve golf balls, few attendees inspected the power tools in the booth.

Other efforts to involve customers are more successful. Consider, for example, how Davis Colors used a trade show to launch its Mix-Ready packaging for concrete additives a few years ago. The new package could be tossed into a concrete mixer without opening, weighing, or pouring the dusty powders, a significant advantage for ready-mix producers.

To get the point across, Davis decorated its booth like a basketball court, but with a graphic of the back of a concrete truck instead of a basket. The salespeople wore striped referee shirts and had whistles hanging from lanyards around their necks. They held up basketball-sized Mix-Ready bags and offered attendees chances to "score with Mix-Ready" by tossing bags into the truck.

Show goers greeted the invitation with humor and relief that it wasn't another booth crammed full of product information. It didn't need to be; just tossing the bags into the mixer was enough to create an indelible impression and communicate the benefits of the new admixture system.

The booth also facilitated personal interaction between buyers and sellers. From the free-throw line, the "ref" would hand off the customer to a salesperson who could discuss product benefits one on one.

Tactile tease

Cresset Chemical Co. also uses a high-touch approach at trade shows. Cresset places placards urging visitors to "Feel me" on concrete samples so attendees can understand firsthand the impact of the company's form release compounds on concrete surfaces. Cresset's hooked-up spray equipment lets customers develop a visceral feel for operating the products. While other trade show booths are as passive as a department store window, Cresset's is more like a science museum's hands-on exhibits.

Cresset also does an especially good job of interacting with prospects in the booth. In addition to collecting names and addresses, Cresset's booth staff conduct quick interviews. They use a customized questionnaire to record prospects' current brands, product interests, buying authority, and purchase plans, and decide on the spot what follow-up actions are best. By collecting this information, the staff can make best use of their time with each prospect at the show, and can build a prospect database for later use. The interview takes a few minutes, but I suspect it makes attendees feel they have been properly attended to.

Bring the computer to the show 
The high-touch marketing environment of a trade show is also a good place to showcase your high-tech marketing. Though products still deserve center stage, a computer in the booth lets you demonstrate your Web site and explain its cyber benefits. This is especially important if you hope to make the Internet a central component of your customer service program. The more you spend on your Web site, the more you might want to spend on showcasing it at trade shows.

Have a question you'd like us to answer?
Send an email to

By Michael Chusid, Originally published in Construction Marketing Today, ©1997

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 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

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)."

Some manufacturers fear that dating their literature will out-date it more quickly. But without an issue date, a specifier is likely to assume that your product is old until proven recent. When this happens he may call you -- or may select another product with more reliable dating. In either case, you have increased his uncertainty about your product.

Dating literature also helps your product liability management. By alerting a specifier to the date of publication, you are sharing responsibility with your customer to determine whether or not a piece of literature is acceptably current. When you do not provide that information, you may have increased liability for conforming to claims made in old product literature.

Copyright dates alone do not provide sufficient information to establish issue date. That's because several versions of the same document can be issued in a single year. Also, literature may he issued in preparation for a change that may not take effect until the following year.

Clearly dated literature makes it easier to discuss products over the telephone and to verify that each party is referring to the same data sheet. Dates also make it easier to refer to specific pieces of literature in a specification, contract, or shop drawing submittal. A dating program should be implemented during the normal revision or reprinting process.

Have a question you'd like us to answer?
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By Michael Chusid
Originally published in Construction Marketing Today, Copyright © 1992

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.

In brief, net neutrality is the idea that all information should travel through the internet at the same rate, as opposed to giving preferential transfer rates to preferred sources. Internet data travels in packets; as things stand now, and have for the history of the internet, every packet travels at the same speed, regardless of origin or destination, limited only by your connection speed and hardware.

Removing net neutrality means ISPs could slow down traffic to or from certain sites based on whatever criteria they wish. The common argument is that high bandwidth sites, such as YouTube, create a bigger drain on their resources and so should be A) slowed, or B) charged premium rates for high-speed traffic. But this also means ISPs could force content providers to pay high rates or have their data slowed so much their site becomes unusable.

This is, essentially, the model we have with TV and radio: certain companies control the bandwidth, and we have to pay to have our message distributed on it. Problem is, that is contrary to the way the internet developed, and destroys much of what is currently making the net so powerful and innovative.

Most building product companies would not have to worry about direct competition - there will be few cases where a single large manufacturer buys all the space in a given niche, but the indirect consequences will be very important, because removing net neutrality would restrict the way your customers can use the internet.

Consider a small example: imagine Hanley-Wood buys premium data speeds with AT&T, and McGraw-Hill buys premium speed with Verizon. Your decisions about where to buy online advertising will now have to take into account what ISP your target audience uses. Since this data is rarely reported, and hard to collect, you will have to guess. And probably lose half your potential audience.

Even worse, many neighborhoods still only have a single ISP, so the geographic distribution of your audience now matters, neighborhood by neighborhood.

The bigger prize, though, is future innovation. BIM and mobile computing are changing the way designers use the internet. Right now architects don't use nearly as much data streaming as something like Netflix, but that could change in the next few years as architects need to send entire building models between offices, or from their smartphone. We need to maintain net neutrality so these innovations can develop according to the needs of our industry, not the needs of an ISP.

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.

The problem is simple: we are using social media to become part of our clients' online networks. We are becoming the trusted people that get access to their profile. Which means it is incumbent upon us to ensure we are not endangering their privacy through our own actions.

This requires a higher level of scrutiny than merely maintaining your own digital privacy hygiene program. You may have gone through all the Facebook privacy settings and throttled the data fire hose down to a drippy faucet, but if your clients have not done the same then any apps you install may have access to their data through you. Other sources of risk include forwarding messages to the wrong people, tracking cookies, and sharing publicly something given to you in confidence (or in assumed confidence). Not to mention one of the classics: having Facebook notifications pop-up when using your computer for a presentation.

Avoiding Little Brother is not about anti-malware programs or privacy settings so much as it is about developing certain behaviors and awareness. Privacy breeches happen online (see my key rule on internet privacy), that's a given. But if your clients feel the breech came through your action or inaction, you lose them as a Friend. And lost Friends are lost clients.

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:  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.

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.

Publicity – getting news outlets to give editorial space to your story – has always been a marketing bargain.  You pay to create the publicity materials and interface with the editors, but the page space or air time is free, and you get to tell your product's story in great depth and often at great length.  This is in stark contrast to advertising, where you pay (usually big bucks) for very limited space or time.

In the digital age, publicity has become a better bargain than ever, as this incident dramatically demonstrated.  When newspapers and magazines were still only in print, and TV and radio news were only available as they were being broadcast, the shelf-life of publicity was pretty limited.  Magazines tended to hang around for very long after issue, but the likelihood that any particular article would be casually read - months or even years after it wass printed - decreased with every month, and searching for something in an old issue was cumbersome or impossible.

In the digital world, every communication potentially lasts forever.

Things stay on Web servers a long time.  They get copied from one website to another.  They get posted on Youtube. They get linked all across the globe.  And they can all be searched in ways that would boggle the minds of analog-age index-writers.

I guarantee that the engineer who called me would not have found this information by Googling – three years later – if the information had been in an advertisement.  I'm not even sure you can google the content of ads in the current 'digital editions' of magazines.  The article, which appeared on about seven pages of the magazine, cost a little more to write than one full page ad would cost in some of the major trade magazines.

By an extraordinary coincidence, the inventor of Ecolite was sitting in our office when the phone call came.  Everyone was floored by that bit of serendipity.  Later over dinner, though, he commented that his being there at that moment may have been coincidence, but the engineer finding his product by searching and reading that article was not coincidental at all.  It was exactly the way it’s supposed to work.

Greenwash of Week - Office Noise

LogiSon offers sound masking systems to help eliminate unwanted noise in the workplace. But if you click on their website, you will get dosed with a high volume talking head. By the time you have found the turn off sound button, you will have disrupted the quiet productivity of your co-workers.
The person shown above walks into the screen unannounced, creating uninvited noise.

If you are going to sell sound solutions, please don't contribute to the problem by generating unsolicited noise in my office.

Chusid Associates De-Filed

When, recently, our storage room was defiled by water from a ruptured pipe, I decided it was time to de-file Chusid Associates of as many paper-based documents as I could. This process has helped me measure how far and fast our industry has come in the shift to digital media.  Here are some of my observations:

With each passing year, our hardcopy project files have gotten slimmer. Most of the communications and notes for recent projects are online, without a tangible paper trail.

Just four years ago, we conducted a major investigation that produced two file cabinet drawers full of correspondence. The project manager had built an impeccable written record of every phone call, every transmittal, and every document revision, all neatly organized and cross referenced. I have retained the final reports, but recycled the rest of the files. It occurs to me that I may never see such a large, paper-based project again.

I recycled almost all paper-based product literature, technical documents, industry standards, and other material. It is just easier to get the material online now, and I assume that paper-based documents more than a few years old are out of date in our rapidly moving industry. This is quite a change from the training I got as a specifier. Before fax and overnight delivery, specifiers needed a well stocked library at their fingertips. I used to spend countless hours as office librarian keeping our precious technical resources organized and accessible.

There are concerns about de-filing. I was able to find, read, and understand 30-year old memos that were still in my file cabinets.  But I can not find many digital assets from just a few years ago, and no longer have the programs necessary to open and read them.  Heck - I don't even have a computer that with a floppy disk drive anymore, so the box of old project records I have in that format is useless (even if they haven't been demagnetized).

Some things are worth saving. While Sweet's catalogs are about to become an extinct species, I still keep several old sets in my office that go back three decades. They remain valuable resources to help understand the evolution of product technologies and markets. (I was even able to help a client win a patent infringement case. The old catalogs proved the patent claims were not enforceable as the product had been in use prior to the patent's filing.)  In the future, where will we be able to find information about how they "used to build back in 2010?"

There are other things I haven't thrown away either. For example, I have kept a file drawer of articles that I have been accumulating since college -- full of clippings that remind me of who I am, and who I want to be. Articles or reports that have inspired me, or made me rethink assumptions. Items like this, I want to be able to take out from time to time, fold back the yellowing paper, and read again. Some make me remember. Some make me think. Each time I read them, I learn more from them. The papers have become my friends.