Worker's Memorial Day

 "Workers' Memorial Day is observed every year on April 28. It is a day to honor those workers who have died on the job, to acknowledge the grievous suffering experienced by families and communities, and to recommit ourselves to the fight for safe and healthful workplaces for all workers." OSHA

I urge you to use Worker's Memorial Day, an annual international event, as an opportunity to improve:

1. Safety in Your Operations:
  • Review your business operations and safety procedures.
  • Provide training to your employees and co-workers.
  • Recommit to total safety in your business.
2. Safety of Your Products:
  • What can you do to make it safer for builders to handle, install, and use your products? 
  • Redesign it to be safer.
  • Improve installation instructions. 
  • Provide more effective warnings on labels? 
  • Provide better training to installers?
3. Safety Awareness Throughout Industry:
  • Incorporate safety messages into your advertising. 
  • Dedicate part of your website to safety awareness. 
  • Provide superintendents with resources for job site training programs. 
  • Send your crews out into the field as ambassadors for training.
  • Submit safety-related stories to the media.
  • Organize safety-training programs at your distributor's warehouses.
  • Create safety posters for job trailers or site signage.
2014 Construction Industry Fatalities
Using Worker's Memorial Day as a stimulus for doing good can also improve your business's success. Safer operations reduce liability. Safer products improve customer satisfaction. And being a Safety Champion helps create a positive image for your customer.

Continuing Education's role In Building Product Evolution

USG recently launched an online portal for their continuing education programs,
Looking at the site, I reflected on the role of education in the company's history. They built their drywall business, in large part, through education. Gypsum board was a paradigm shifting concept and it took lots of education to convince contractors, code officials, insurance companies, designers, and engineers to embrace each step of the product's evolution.
I was a consultant to USG in the early 1980s and worked for Vince Waropay, director of architect services, and other individuals that were approaching the end of their long careers. They shared stories about the many challenges they faced, such as inventing metal framing, drywall screws, and tools for installing the screws. Then the challenge was to convince plasterers to use screw guns, since there-to-for the hallmark of their craft was the skillful trowel use. Hence, the need for education in their promotional efforts.
The site offers a course called, Evolution of Lightweight Building Materials. It makes the case for the company's new, lighter weight gypsum board products. To do so, they inserted their pitch into the larger context of the evolution of architecture, tracing construction techniques from the earliest stone-on-stone methods through the development of modern ultra-highrise buildings. They then extrapolate into the future by speculating on the impact of bio-mimicry, pointing out that nature has produced elegant and lightweight structures through 4 billion years of evolution. 
This approach, making a new product seem like an inevitable step in the evolution of the industry, works well with many architects, especially "designers" as their work draws upon the "idea" of architecture as well as the "tectonics".

Donating materials to TV shows

There are entire television networks devoted to remodeling and home design shows. In addition to advertising and sponsorship opportunities, many of these programs offer product placements that can give a product or brand valuable exposure to an audience of potential buyers.
The more popular shows can command payment for the placements. Less popular shows, however, rely on donated materials to keep production costs low.  While a manufacturer may not have to pay for the placement, the exposure they receive can exemplify the adage, "you get what you pay for."

Ceilume, one of my clients, was recently invited to donate ceiling panels for a restaurant make-over show.  Here are some of the criteria my client used to decide whether to participate.
  • Our product name must be mentioned/discussed within the context of the show as part of the "This is what we're going to do" portion.
  • Our product packaging, with logo, must be featured (e.g. opening box, removing product) during the "Now we're doing it" portion.
  • At least one section of the "reveal" at the end must focus on the product, with the product name repeated in conjunction, during the "Look at the cool thing we did" portion.
  • The show must fit our brand's image and reach an audience with appropriate demographics and audience size.
  • While there is no "pay for play", the costs associated with providing materials, shipping, technical support, and the rest must be reasonable.
  • Will we be able to use photography and footage from the show and the show's logo on our website and promotional materials? Will there be costs for this?
  • Can we send someone to be there during the shoot?  Products with "on-site" representatives get better coverage AND better usage.
  • Do we have confidence the product will be installed properly? Will we have warranty exposure?  For example, the show's production schedule allowed only 24 hours for on-site remodeling work.  This would have required shortcuts, such as applying products before substrates had fully cured.
My client's sales manager says, "It's worth noting that no one has fully met our requirements.  We expect producers to meet several of them or offer some other incentives.  It shows they're actually interested in featuring a unique product, and not to just 'get the job done'. We accept lesser offers for more popular shows and networks, such as prime time shows."

Ceilume decided to pass on the present opportunity.

Registering dissent about registering on websites

Members of Specification Consultants in Independent Practice (SCIP) are in charge of the specifications of billions of dollars in construction annually. Their ranks also include thought leaders with enormous influence in our industry. When they speak, building product manufacturers would be wise to listen. And this is the message they announced at the recent Construct 2014/CSI Conference last week in Baltimore:
 Don't ask us to register before getting access to your website.

Their objection is that the registration process takes valuable time, asks for information that is not germane to the issues at hand, is an intrusion into their privacy, can lead to unwanted sales calls, and may harm a building owner's need for confidentiality in a real estate or construction transaction.

Ready access to information is the life blood of design and construction, and the registration process hinders that.  Specs are often prepared under the pressure of deadlines and many architects will simply go to another site if it is difficult to find the info they need with just a few keystrokes.

Some manufacturers claim that registration prevents competitors from accessing trade secrets. Yet every building product manufacturer I have ever served had figured out how to get into your website. True trade secrets, of course, require security, and names and addresses have to be collected when requesting samples. What SCIP members are objecting being asked to register to see essential product selection information. 
Typical of SCIP members, Mitch Lawrence (left) works for a Altoon Partners, an architectural firm active on three continents. Stephan Nash (right) is a consultant writing specs for many of the major Hawaii-based architects and projects. If you want their business, make it easy for them to get onto your website.
There is a better way to collect data: make a compelling offer.  This could be an entry into a competition, coupons for discounts, vouchers for special events, registration for a webinar, or other promotional items. When I worked at Ceilings Plus, for example, we offered to send an "Idea Book" with a portfolio of design ideas, finish samples, and design tools in a neat, compact package. The trick is to offer something that will be of interest to bona fide prospects but of no interest to pursuing swag.

Please share this page with your web designer.
A friend in the industry adds:

"What is even more infuriating is to try to go back to a manufacturer's website that you may have registered at years before... and discover that you need to try and remember the password you used... and the site won't allow you to access unless you remember that password!! This usually happens at 10PM when you're trying to finish up a project specification and there's no way to call the manufacturer!!"

A comment about this post, from a registered architect, says:

"I absolutely agree with the hassle of registering on a manufacturer's web site to get information. Proprietary information - I can't imagine a manufacturer is so stupid to allow me to access their proprietary information off of a web site so the excuse that it protects them from competitors is, on the face of it, absurd. If possible I switch to a competitors web site rather than register. AND I remember when I write specifications for a project - if you are going to make it difficult for me (register OR charge for information such as referenced ASTM standards or minor verification/selection samples), I simply do not include that product/manufacturer in the list of approved equals."

A variation on the registration them:

"I was researching a fire curtain. When I clicked on a link labeld "Brochure", the link opened an email browser so I could send a request. That is just as much a nuisance as having to register.  Pooh on you!"

A Quick Response from an Exhibitor at Trade Show

Lynn Javoroski FCSI CCS posted this on the CSI LinkedIn Group:  "Did y'all know that "No registration" pins were handed out at CONSTRUCT2104? And that the exhibitors were asking about it? Some of us received thanks from ClarkDietrich with a picture of the button and 'ENJOY THE ACCESS WITHOUT THE OBLIGATION. With no registration required, ClarkDietrich offers you access to a wealth of product information and tools' written next to the picture. At least someone listened."  


Lynn wrote me about how the No Registration button came about:

"What started this whole thing off at Construct was this: I went to a manufacturer's website needing to know in what color(s) their laboratory countertops were available. When I clicked on the "color" button, a pop-up appeared and stated 'You are not authorized to view this information without registering'. Needless to say, they were removed from my spec. Sometime afterwards, I was corresponding with Colin [Colin Gilman publishes] and mentioned it; somehow we got to the idea of buttons and he said "send me the graphic and I'll have them made up and shipped to you". So I did and he did. "
See more discussion about this topic at CSI Group on LinkedIn.

Turn your product into jobsite advertising

"BROADCASTSM custom printing, another SystemComponents® advantage. Not only are SystemComponents products exceptional roof underlayments, they’re also available with industry-leading BROADCAST custom printing, with the following features:

  • FULL COLOR: A full range of vivid colors.
  • MAXIMUM-SIZE: The largest print area available.
  • ALTERNATING MESSAGES & IMAGES: Select multiple messages.
  • FLEXIBLE ORDER SIZE: Industry’s smallest custom print minimums.

  • "Hundreds of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians pass a building site each day. BROADCAST custom printing turns them into your audience, and a building into a billboard — a vivid, multi-colored, multi-messaging platform with numerous messaging possibilities. Advertisers can now connect with residential and hard-to-reach on-site venues. BROADCAST custom printing might be used to advertise a contractor’s company, services, or building benefits. It could even be sold to a local business, such as a landscaping or painting company. Or it could be offered to the client to advertise a coming business or community

    What a great idea.

    Video Documentary

    When Silvi Concrete set a production record of producing and placing 7000 cubic yards of concrete in just 12 hours, they had camera crews at their plants and on the site to document the job.  Now, when someone asks, "what can you do for me", they have a ready reply.  While it hasn't exactly gone viral, 1,000 views per month on YouTube is not bad.

    Court demands clear specification of a "2x4"

    A Superior Court in Marin County California ordered Lowe’s, a nation-wide retailer and distributor of building products, to pay a $1.6 million settlement over a lawsuit alleging the inaccurate description of structural dimensional building products. Lowe's promoted lumber as 2x4 even though the wood measured less than 1.5 x 3.5 inches, the dimensional criteria established by industry standards. Click to see Order

    The judge ordered that Lowe's state dimensions as follows:
    • "Common descriptions" must be followed by actual dimensions and labeled as such. For instance, a 2x4 must be followed with a disclaimer that the wood is actually 1.5-inches by 3.5-inches and include a phrase equal or similar to "actual dimensions."
    • "Popular or common product description," like the word 2x4, must be "clearly described as 'popular name,' 'popular description,' or 'commonly called.'"
    • Dimension descriptions are required to use the "inch-pound unit," meaning they must include abbreviations such as "in., ft., or yd.," and can't use symbols like ' or '' to denote measurements.
     These guidelines are compatible with good construction specification practices; measurements and criteria of any kind are only meaningful when the criteria is defined.  To say that a piece of wood is a 2x4 is an incomplete specification unless I reference NIST Voluntary Public Standard 20-10 - American Softwood Lumber Standards or another standard.

    While the Superior Court's decision is applicable only in California retail trade, it puts building product manufacturers on notice that their sales literature, invoices, and product labels need to meet truth in advertising standards. In fact, the Court states that the retailer is can rely on manufacturer's claims.

    Humor Educates... and Sells

    A ceramic tile promotional group has, for years, been using a cartoon series to educate contractors and specifiers. It is model other building product manufacturers and promotional groups can emulate. The group's website explains:
    "TileWise cartoons were developed under Donato Pompo's leadership for Club '84 (Ceramic Tile Action Group). Club '84 was a non-profit organization of accomplished individuals from all segments of the ceramic tile industry. The group's mission was to develop and distribute educational aids to educate, train and bring quality awareness to the distributors, specifiers, installers, and consumers of Ceramic Tile.
    "The TileWise cartoons were created to communicate issuses and concerns in the business of using ceramic tile for all segments of the industry. The objective was to educate to promote the quality use of ceramic tile. In each cartoon the screen exagerates what you shouldn't do or emphasizes an issue or concern, then George the Bucket (named after CTI founder George Lavenberg) says what is correct. The cartoons ran for twelve years in each issue of the Tile Industry News, a major industry publication, published by the Ceramic Tile Institute until 1999 when it ceased
    "Use these cartoons to educate your customers and employees to help avoid potential problems, and to promote a positive image of your company through newsletters, posters or mailings.
    "We hope you can put these cartoons to good use to help your industry and your business, and we know you will certainly benefit from them if you do. Good Luck!"

    Chusid is "Innovator of Century"

    I am posting this from World of Concrete trade show in Las Vegas.

    BASF has a gimmick in their booth that actually makes sense from a promotional standpoint.  I stood in-front of a greenscreen while my portrait was photographed. Then I was offered my choice of Las Vegas-themed backgrounds, each of which had a BASF branding message. By the time I got back to my hotel, I was able to download the image.

    By putting the prospect into the frame, BASF created a piece of promotional literature the prospect will keep forever. I bet I am not the only booth visitor that posted the photo to Facebook or sent it home to the family, helping to spread the BASF brand. 

    To see site in action, go to Photographic mosaics may have other applications in your business. To learn more, visit the developer,
    The promotion was so much fun, I visited booth a second time.

    Speed Dating Architects

    Instead of flying from city to city to meet with key architectural specifiers, imagine having them congregate in one location in a format that allows you to have one-on-one meetings and networking opportunities.

    This is the "speed dating" concept of building product sales calls.  Like the social speed-dating programs where the ladies get in without charge, specifiers will attend these junkets on an all-expenses paid basis. Manufacturers pick up the tab.

    Key to the success of the events is that the attendees select the slate of manufacturers on their dance card. Your tête-à-tête is with someone that has a specific interest in your product, and probably a project on the boards.

    Here are two of the leading matchmakers:

    Bond Events
    Bond says its mission is to "To create effective one to one meetings forums which educate, stimulate and assist principal architects & interior designers from the largest firms to better serve their clients. To facilitate high-level product discussions with senior delegates from manufacturing and solution provider companies." They currently have three events:
    • Arc-US - for principals of design & specification from North America and Canada.
    • Arc-interiors - for heads of interiors from Interior Design magazine's list of largest firms.
    • Arc-Middle East - for principals from the biggest firms in the Middle East and North Africa.
    The next Arc-US will be in 2014-November in Southern California and costs start at $8800. For more information, contact Chris Pond or +1 617 792 5253

    Construction Specifications Institute
    CSI's "Master Specifiers Retreat" is similar. The gathering is more intimate and, I suspect, more congenial since many of the participants will know each other from other CSI activities. Attendees have titles like "director of specification" or "specification consultant" and fewer people with titles like "director of design" or "project architect". This more technical and product-oriented cohort is invaluable for manufacturers in many product categories.

    Their 2014 event is sold out. The next is scheduled for 2015-January in Scottsdale, AZ. Costs range from $7000 for non-CSI members to $6000 for CSI "corporate partners". For more information, contact Susan Konohia, or +1 703-706-4744.

    Credit for drawing.

    Promote The Right Thing

    Promotions – which usually means giving something away free – can be a great way to raise awareness, build a relationship with a potential customer, and give them a chance to experience your product first hand...

    ...If you do it right!

    Case in point:  I downloaded a free iPhone app that helps you learn German.  Like many free apps, it's a "lite" version designed to expose potential customers to the product and entice them to buy the full or 'pro' version.

    It's a nice little app.  Every night at midnight, a new German word arrives on my phone.  The app will pronounce it properly for me.  It will show me examples of the word in use in German, and (usually) supply the English translation for the phrase or sentence.  There's often a picture of it, too. (Which can present an interesting challenge at times.  Today's word is actually a phrase, "ich verstehe das nicht" – "I don't understand" - and the picture of it is a woman facing a geometry figure on a blackboard and scratching her head.)

    All good.  After using it for about three weeks, I got several cool words, a number of useful words, and a couple of close English cognates that made me feel more confortable with German. I began to think about buying the full app.  But it was $14.99, a little expensive for something I wasn't yet particularly committed to, so I decided to use it some more.

    That's when the app designer lost the sale.

    The longer I used the app, the more close cognates I got.  For example, in the past week, I've gotten Komodie ("comedy"), Japanische Yen ("Japanese Yen"), oft ("often"), and Los Angeles ("Los Angeles").  More than half were close cognates, some laughably close.

    Now, I no longer feel like the cognates make me comfortable with German.  I feel like either the app developer is deliberately giving me educational junk-food to force me to pay up to get more substantial education (bad impression of the brand), or else German is so close to English that it's hardly worth $14.99 (doubting value of the product).  Neither of these feelings makes me want to buy.

    What do we learn from this?

    1) If you're going to give something away, think through the way it will be received and used, and what that experience will say about your company.  The best promotional item I've ever seen is a simple plastic stick-pen, bent into a dog-leg and imprinted with the name of a chiropractor.  Every time you use the pen, you think about your back.  If the shape of the pen makes it hard for you to use, it will also make you think about your body being nonfunctional when it's bent up.

    2) If you're giving away a product sample that's intended to be utilized (as distinct from just sitting on a shelf looking pretty), give away the quality and quantity of product adequate to producing a great result.  It could be a small great result, but it better be great.   One of our clients gave away samples of a new concrete coloring treatment.  The sample was just right: the perfect size for coloring one 2-car garage floor.  Our client knew perfectly well that no intelligent decorative concrete contractor would use an untried product on a client's job, but they all test products out in their garages.  This way, they could get an entire nice garage out of it (not just a 4'x4' patch in the corner), and end up feeling good about the product and the company they got it from.

    If you're giving away freebies, there's a temptation to try to limit the expense.  Understandable, but don't limit the $$$ in a way that undercuts the object of the promotion.  Whatever you give away, make it represent the quality and intelligence you want associated with your brand.

    Friends with Posts

    Wouldn't it be great if this was part of a promotional campaign by a light pole manufacturer!

    Image found on Facebook, creator unknown.

    This Weekend Only -- Testing Social Media

    You can read the following to save $48, or you can read it for insight into using social media to channel the promotional efforts of your customers.

    It is from an email sent to CSI members with blogs, asking them to publicize a "this weekend only" discount on CSI membership.  Check back next week for feedback on the effectiveness of the promotion.

    And in the meanwhile -- please consider joining the Construction Specifications Institute. It has done wonders for my career, and will do the same for yours. (You can also forward this to others in your network.)
    This weekend, we’re going to offer 20% off of a professional membership to people who join between 9am ET Friday and midnight Monday. (Shhh…. Don’t tell anyone until Friday!) CSI leaders will receive this information in a separate email.

    I’m writing to ask you to help us. Please post this information on your blog after 9am ET Friday, along with your view on who should be a CSI member, and why. Even if you just refresh an old blog entry that touched on CSI, it would help us out. If you want to promote your favorite chapter, by all means, do!

    If you tweet this, I’m using hashtag #JoinCSI for this promotion.

    I know this is short notice, and I appreciate any help you can give me.

    Here are the exact directions for getting the discount:

    Don't miss this special offer! Join CSI by October 31 and pay only $192 for national dues -- a 20% savings.

    1. Visit
    2. Select "Join Now", and then click "Sign Up as a New Member"
    3. Enter Promotion Code 1220ARCH when prompted
    4. Click the "Add Discount" button

    We recommend you also join a chapter, where you can attend local education sessions and networking opportunities (chapter dues are not included in this promotional offer).

    Your dedication to talking about construction, architecture, and CSI has made a huge difference for the Institute during the past few years. CSI’s newsletter has high open rates because we link to your blog entries, and CSI members who can’t get to a meeting tell me that they feel they’re part of CSI’s community because they read “so-and-so’s” blog. Thank you for all the time and energy you put into your blog, I really appreciate it.


    Joy Davis, CSI, CCPR
    Communications & Web Community Senior Manager
    800-689-2900 ext. 4795

    Union Training Centers

    Today's trainees.
    Tomorrow's customers.
    A recent visit to the Cement Masons and Plasterers Training Centers of Washington ( is a good reminder of how important it is for building product manufacturers to work with labor organizations. The center provides vocational skills and business training and stress safety and craftsmanship.

    I visited the Training Center as the guest of a product manufacturer. From the way he was greeted by the center's director and staff, it was clear that he was important to their program. In turn, the manufacturer got to use the Center to train its customers.

    The Center had just had a series of classes on how to install self-leveling cementitious toppings. Building product manufacturers got to donate materials and to have their experts come and do the training. The results were instructive as the students got hands-on experience with a variety of products. Inspecting the work afterwards, it was also clear which ones performed, and which had shrinkage cracking or other defects. You can be sure, each of the participants shared their observations with their colleagues out on job sites.

    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

    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.

    New way to reach prospects.

    Concept: Pay your prospects to read your email.

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

    Background: A new website,, conducts what they call an "Attention Auction." Their site explains:
    If you are a busy person? Receive too many messages? Forced to spend a lot of time reading crap but still lose useful information? Sell your attention at auction.

    If you want to contact an important or busy person but never had chances to deserve his or her attention. Buy attention at auction. purports to provide a way to contact celebrities. For example, movie star Jim Carrey will read an email from a fan for $2.50. But for just $1.99, you can also bid to buy the attention of Jim Bonenfant whose profile says, "Designer/Architecture residential design/modern commercial design/Gourmet Kitchens and Baths/Real Estate investment." A manufacturer of gourmet kitchen appliances might find this a cost effective way to communicate with Jim, since the charge only occurs if Jim actually reads the email. is in a beta release and is very crude. For example, there is no way to search for an individual by trade or location. But I can imagine an the concept being developed further to provide deep coverage of the A/E/C field.
    • As the database of participants is enriched to indicate the types of projects and level of professional responsibility, the system could become being very targetable. 
    • By including various response options in the email, such as clicking through to your website, you could measure the effectiveness of various copy.
    • Advertisers could develop algorithms to determine which prospects to contact. If you need to reach a star architect, perhaps you would be willing to pay $50 to assure that Zaha Hadid reads your email. But if goal is to support a new sales rep in Peoria, Il, you could bid for professional specifiers in town for $1.50 each.
    With current economic conditions, I suspect many designers and builders would be delighted to supplement their incomes by being paid to read your advertising. If the idea catches on, it would lead to the end of spam email blasts; prospects will start ignoring the junk mail once they realize their time is worth something to other advertisers.

    Instead of waiting for to attact a critical mass of construction industry people, some smart publisher will figure out how to do this. (If you are inspired, please contact Chusid Associates to help you roll out this new service.)

    Watch for further developments.

    Direct Mail Still Works

    There was no way to ignore this package when it arrived in our office via USPS. The presentation works because the new foam product needs to be felt and handled to be understood. More, the outer sleeve is targeted to support a local presentation, and the fan-deck cards invite more interactivity than a plain brochure would.

    And to make sure the message was received, Owens Corning also sent an email announcement about the local event. It arrived within a day of the package.

    One suggestion to improve the presentation:  The cover letter was set in 8 point type, almost impossible to read. They could have said more, by saying less.

    Remember the Convention?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    PR & Social Media Success Story

    Here is a great example of how publicity and social media combine to create market awareness and produce leads.

    I monitor the online discussion group on behalf of several clients that are suppliers to this field. The group links artists and artisans from around the world that work at the leading edge of decorative concrete. While the collective buying power for this group is not huge, the members of the group are often at the cutting edge of innovations in concrete.

    On July 18, Deborah asked for help:
    I know there are issues combining concrete and glass...  I want to set old bottles into bases of concrete. Will I get degradation of the concrete segment that holds the bottle? Is there a additive I can use to eliminate the problem? I do use metakaolin in my mix; will this reduce or cure the issue?
    Two days later, Andrew responded:

    I found this great article that speaks to the problem and solves it
    with metakaolin: They replace up to 20% of their cement with metakaolin when using all kinds and colours of recycled glass in their concrete.
    I wrote the article over six years ago -- a reminder of the enduring value of getting published. At the time, I was a consultant to BASF, producers of MetaMax brand High Reactivity Metakaolin (HRM). The article includes a great case study and explains how HRM makes it practical to use glass in concrete mixtures. The article cites my client's brand names and includes a link to their then current website.*

    I have now jumped into the conversation. Even though I explained why Deborah would not need metakaolin for her project**, the online discussion was a chance to reiterate the key benefits of metakaolin and point readers towards my client's product.

    My contribution will have high credibility among this online community as one of their own has cited my article as a great resource. This word-of-mouth, peer-to-peer communication is an invaluable addition to a building product marketing communication program.

    * The link is no longer valid.  Companies should periodically search the internet for obsolete links to their website. I suspect that Precast Solution would revise the link on its website if BASF requested it.

    ** The short technical explanation is that concrete reacts in a self-destructive manner when exposed to crushed glass. The bottles Deborah wants to do not have enough surface area to create the reaction.