Great Construction Equipment Video

Video, above, gets its point across without words.

Behinds the scene video, below, reinforces the point with words.


Health and Safety for Trade Workers

A circular with a title like, "Diet, Lifestyle, and Wellbeing" probably won't go viral among "tradies", the Australian word for "construction trade workers". But a video like the following might:

According to, "The Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and Steel Blue have declared August is Tradies National Health Month. Throughout August we focus on educating tradies on the importance of full body health & safety. All month, Steel Blue and the APA will promote body health and safety tips for tradies."

In addition to videos, the website has games and fun infographics to get across their message.
View the video, laugh, and then think about what you can do to encourage your staff and customers to take better care of themselves.

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.

Best construction product video - No Bull!

Video, above, gets its point across without words.

Behind the scene video, below, reinforces the point with words.


Your factory can earn during off hours

Michael Jackson's Thriller was shot on the street behind Davis Colors, Los Angeles, using the factory's distinctive masonry wall as a background. (photo credit)
Film makers, producers and advertising agencies frequently rent existing buildings or properties to use in videos, TV shows, advertisements, and other projects. Shooting their projects "on location"saves them the time and expense of building custom sets that may only be needed for a few minutes of screen time. While location scouts will sometimes drive around town looking for suitable sites, they usually begin their search by going to online directories of properties offered for shooting.

Industrial Acoustics Company, Bronx, NY is listed in a location database.
Building product companies can list their properties in these directories and to generate a bit of revenue during evening or weekend hours when the shop is not needed for the company's own purposes. Film production companies mobilize quickly and will work through the night, if necessary, to be out of the way by the time you crew shows up.

Your plant, like IAC's, may be useful for a variety of locations.
Location scouts are usually willing to negotiate to accommodate your needs, and issues like insurance and damages for delays have to be resolved in advance. Your employees may be able to get overtime paid if they are necessary to operate the plant's equipment during the shoot.

On most shoots, both you and the producer will want to sanitize the site so the location is not recognizable. In other cases, when the film project is compatible with your branding, you may want to have your brand recognized and can stipulate that your logo, product, or company name is visible on screen. In advertising, its called, "product placement".

A Multitude of Materials

The quantity of individual components in even a simple building is enormous. A recent TV (and online) commercial makes this explict, extracting each screw, shingle, framing member, and other building elements in a dramatic animation:

Imagining this animation in reverse suggests the complexity of the material culture necessary to support our era's buildings. I am in awe of the ingenuity and dedication of the folks in the building products industry that make this type of complex assemblage possible.

Info-opera: Presenting charts as...songs?

A recent episode of NPR's Planet Money started in a very interesting way. They were discussing home prices over the past decade, a common enough topic, but this week they chose to present the rise and fall of the market as music. So this:

became this:

As a life-long singer, this struck me as a great way to present the information. It was novel, first of all, and I was able to quickly pick up on information that would have taken much longer to read on a printed chart. Part of that is because of my training, granted, but it still reveals an important issue: many of your prospects are probably auditory learners

Recent studies suggest 20-30% of adults learn better by listening to information than by reading it. I suspect this is one of the reasons podcasts and audiobooks have become so popular; advances in technology have made it easier for auditory learners to get large quantities of spoken-word education. In the pre-iPod era, many people had limited access to that level of resource after graduation. 

Now obviously most of your technical information will not convert easily to song. Or at least not one anyone would want to listen to. But you can tell a lot of your product's story using video, which will usually include an audio track. 

You may already be doing this, after a fashion. Consider, for example, a video demonstrating maintenance for concrete saws; one of the key diagnostic tools is the sound the blade makes on the concrete. Rather than try to explain the difference in sounds, this video can play the actual sound, explaining what each one means and how to address it. 

As another example, imagine a video about staining concrete. Color layering could be explained by having a single tone or instrument represent each color, with the combined chord representing the final result. Variations in volume could represent color intensity, demonstrating how changing relative levels of individual components impacts the final product,  or different rhythms representing various brush techniques. 

You can see - hear? - how excited I am about this idea.

Great use of YouTube by a building product manufacturer

YouTube is one of the top five most frequently visited websites; considering how many of the videos on Google and Facebook are hosted on YouTube, it's probably even more popular than the numbers suggest. More importantly, it has set the standard for online video sharing. Given its popularity, posting videos to YouTube can be a great means of drawing more traffic to your company's website.

Question is, how can building product manufacturers accomplish that? Products that are visually stunning or experience-focused can use finished project videos, and technically interesting materials can draw viewers using installation videos, but many products are too small or focused in their use to make either type of video engaging enough to go viral.

Staticworx demonstrates that you can create an engaging YouTube channel even for products that few people would otherwise be interested in. Staticworx provides static control flooring solutions; static is an increasingly important issue, especially in high-tech manufacturing, but few people would spend more than a few minutes considering the issue unless their job related directly to it.

Staticworx solution? Find a bunch of fun videos that use static electricity.

As I write the post, Staticworx has five original videos uploaded. These short videos - most are only about three minutes - have good production values, and clearly explain fundamental concepts ("What is Electro Static Discharge (ESD)?" and "Making Sense of ESD Standards", for example). These videos are great sales tools; after watching just one or two I feel very well informed about ESD, and, more importantly, would probably make Staticworx my first call if I needed more information.

In addition to these videos, the channel hosts a playlist called Fun with Static Electricity, featuring Mr. Bean, Mythbusters, Bill Nye, and several cats, dogs, and pranksters playing with static electricity. This is a great idea; I went to the site originally because I wanted to see the Static Electricity Cat video they tweeted about. Once I got there, it gave me a reason to stay and play, which then encouraged me to learn more about the company.

They also did a great job designing the channel. Graphically, they kept it simple; the color scheme matches the company website, black and yellow, and the avatar is a still from a recent video. The name of the channel is fun and interesting; usually I would recommend going with "The Staticworx Channel" to help strengthen brand presence, but this was a well chosen alternative.

I don't know if this will help draw additional search traffic, or if many laypeople searching for Mr. Bean videos would turn out to be purchasing ESD flooring, but it does make the channel a lot stickier. Professionals looking for information will spend more time on Staticworx's website, YouTube channel, and Twitter stream, which greatly increases their likelihood of making a purchase.

Signs of Change: Our changing cameras

Two articles came out this week that underscore how much camera use is changing in the smartphone era.

First, Cisco announced they were discontinuing their Flip line of camcorders. Flip had emerged as the dominant brand name for ultra-portable consumer grade camcorders; the video equivalent of point-and-shoot digital cameras. For about a hundred bucks you could get a camcorder that fit in your pocket and took YouTube-ready video. Most models even have USB adapters for easy charging and one-button uploads to your website of choice.

I got one last summer, and my experience foreshadows Cisco's decision to end the line. It was a great piece of technology - worked well, easy to use, and took high enough quality video for what I needed - but I could not get in the habit of carrying another dedicated piece of technology at all times. If I need a quick spur-of-the-moment video, I use my iPhone. If I need something more sophisticated, I usually have enough advance notice to bring a full camcorder along. Apparently this was the general consensus, and the Flip is joining the list of useful-but-obsolete gadgets.

The second article shows how design firm Artefact is moving in the opposite direction; their goal is to create the first "smart camera".

Working on the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy, Artefact's plan is to make digital cameras more like smartphones. This would introduce such features as wireless handheld viewfinders (that look suspiciously like a smartphone), touchscreen controls, accelerometers, and dedicated apps.

The idea of integrating apps is potentially the most revolutionary. The primary reason most people use their phone instead of a stand-alone camera is the phone makes it easier to edit, organize, and share photos without having to transfer files to a computer first. If my camera had a direct connection to Facebook (or Picasa, or Flicker, or my company's website) and native photo editing software, the smartphone loses that advantage. Now the decision comes down to the photo quality I need; for most consumers the smartphone will be enough, but for professionals and hobbyists the full camera - complete with interchangeable lenses! - wins hands down.

What is notable about both these articles is that the changes they describe were motivated or inspired by smartphone adoption. We are evolving towards increasingly multi-functional, omnipresent, always connected devices. As marketers this should influence whether you create your sales tools as stand alone resources or dedicated smartphone apps.

The Computerized Jobsite

Contractors use metal containers to store their tools on a construction jobsite. This practice has been updated for use with the newest tools on the jobsite, computer and other digital communication tools.

For example, the BIM Kiosk from Modulus Consulting takes the computer out of the job trailer and puts it into the middle of the action. Instead of using large tables stacked high with a printed set of water stained and wind blown plans, the crew can refer directly to digitized versions of all the project documents and access all the resources on the web.

For the building product manufacturer, this is yet more evidence that your product literature, shop drawings, technical data submittals, Material Safety Data Sheets, and other information has to be ready for digital use in the field. For example, it becomes more practical then ever to use video instead of print for installation instructions, and for your customer service and technical advisers to use Skype instead of relying on phone calls.

Good advice, in any language

Watch this:

This short video from Vodafone is remarkable for two reasons.

First, it's an excellent reminder to us all to be more aware of our computing environment. (As I type this I realize I've let myself slouch in my chair again. One moment please...that's better!) We as a species are still adapting to our sedentary lifestyle, and the stresses of sitting and computing all day can be very damaging to your body. Please take care of yourself: give your workstation an ergonomic upgrade, take regular breaks from your computer, stretch and move around, and stay well-hydrated.

In addition to the importance of the message is the way in which it is delivered. The video's title, descriptive text, and most of the comments are in Spanish, but the content is delivered so it transcends any language barrier. Using simple, clear animation they make a frequently confusing topic simple and universally accessible.

Qwiki turns data into stories

Qwiki is a new web service that turns your search results into a narrated presentation, complete with photos, graphs, timelines, and videos. It draws content from the appropriate Wikipedia page and uses a text-to-voice program to provide the narration.

Not sure what that means? Watch this Qwiki about building materials:

Qwiki is already being billed as a "Google killer". I suspect this is an exaggeration, but that does not change the magnitude of Qwiki's potential impact on the web. Especially once the technology grows beyond Wikipedia and can create these presentations from any online content it is fed.

Why is this a big deal?

Leaving aside the technological implications, Qwiki is potentially a big deal because most people respond better to messages delivered as stories. By creating the slideshow Qwiki feels more multimedia than a static webpage, even if both contain identical content, and the voice is close enough to human to make it feel personal. Like having someone explain a subject to you, rather than reading the webpage.

This makes it a great tool for marketing. Video is currently the fastest growing online medium, but most companies still have very small video libraries, if any at all. This is largely because of the cost of video production can get so high. While Qwiki will probably never reach the production level of a full-scale video, it will eventually allow you to, almost instantaneously, create a video version of your sales brochure or LEED sheet.

Check Qwiki out. Play around with it for a bit, get to know its features. Then go make sure the Wikipedia pages related to your products are up to date, go visit one of your clients, and show them your Qwiki.

Recession Changes Where Designers Work

One result of the recession may be a further decentralization of architectural practice. This will create new challenges for sales reps wishing to make calls on design offices.

I began reflecting on this after receiving the following email from an architect that had closed his small office after 25 years of practice at the same location. While his direct impetus was a downturn in workload, he points out the shifting nature of practice as follows:
"We have seen the tools of the trade evolve from Phones, Pencils, Parallel Rules and Paper - to black and white computers, fax machines, and pagers - to color computers and mobile phones the size of bricks - to 3D CAD drawings, remote access, and multi-media cell phones. Over the past several years, staff and I have taken advantage of this technology to work more and more from homes where we have ready access to our server and speedy graphic communications. So we have now moved our operations into our home offices."
Another friend, a construction specifier, opened a home-based consulting practice after being laid off by a large A/E firm. After getting use to more flexible hours and being more available to her children, I doubt she will ever again take a job that requires her to commute into the city.

These two examples are being replicated throughout the country. The recession is accelerating a fundamental shift in design. More online bandwidth allows easier and speedier collaboration among far-flung project teams. Even as the recession recedes, it is likely that corporate offices will remain leaner while more employees work from the field or from home.

In the past, a rep could visit four or five design offices in a day and potentially see dozens of architects and specifiers at each. It would be a challenge to have as many face-to-face contacts with people working out of home offices or remote locations.

Unless, that is, the sales rep embraces the same communication technologies that designers are using: email, social media, file transfer protocols, webinars, computer-to-computer video links, mobile applications, and the rest.

The other response available to a sales rep is to take advantage of professional society meetings and other events that attract large numbers of designers.

Happy Hunting!

Social Media and the Paradox of Choice

On the way to work this morning I was listening to a 2008 episode of Radio Lab about choice. The lead story had Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice, discussing that for most people decision-making capability drops sharply when they are confronted by more than seven options. Listening to him as I walked, I realized this could also explain one of the major obstacles to social media adoption: there are too many channels for businesses to make effective decisions about which to use. And if there are too many options for businesses, what is that doing to our customers?

The answer is not to limit choice, but to sharpen focus.
A new client recently asked me what I considered "essential social media" for a B2B company. Off the top of my head, I listed (in no particular order):
  • Blog
  • Twitter stream
  • Facebook fan page
  • LinkedIn profile for key executives and company
  • Email newsletter
  • YouTube channel
  • Online photo gallery
  • Website optimization
  • Wikipedia editing
  • Mobile landing page
...and then I paused to take a breath. Is it any wonder my client felt overwhelmed? Seeing the panic on his face, I considered the list and refocused. The first thing we did was narrow the list down by combining similar items:
  1. Website overhaul (which includes blog, mobile page, and SEO review)
  2. Online media gallery
  3. Social networking
  4. Email marketing
  5. Online brand monitoring
Suddenly we had a manageable list.  Sure, creating an "online media gallery strategy" takes more work than starting a YouTube channel, but it made it easier to see the full picture and start our next step: prioritizing.

We began with goal setting; what was the purpose of this online campaign? The client's experience showed that their existing sales network was very effective; the major needs were brand awareness, education, and maintaining customer loyalty. That suggested a single technology to me: email newsletters.

E-newsletters can be very effective at keeping your brand top-of-mind for both new prospects, who need education and awareness, and existing customers, who are reminded of past positive experiences. With the right set-up it is even easy to send multiple versions of your newsletter at once, each customized for a particular audience. Better yet, all of the other online options we discussed suddenly became part of a single project by contributing content to the newsletter, building awareness of it, and building a subscriber base.

It is also important to remember that no company can be successful in every social media venue, so it is always acceptable - encouraged even - to pick the few you want to focus on and ignore the rest. Redesigning the social media mix is fairly simple, so there is little opportunity cost involved. Still, this experience with my client was a good example of how asking the right questions and focusing on goals can change a seemingly impossible list of options into a single manageable project.

Safety - Always

Construction is one of the most dangerous industries. Too frequently, however, building product sales literature inadvertently promotes unsafe practices.

This is especially a problem with photographs. Art directors and graphic designers that are unfamiliar with the hazards of construction are often attracted to images that show reckless practices. For example:
  • A model is posed in a heroic stance, high on a scaffold or exposed structure... without a safety harness.
  • A power tool operator shows a smile and steady, confident eyes... but is not  equiped with goggles or dust mask.
  • A video shows an inspector closely examining a product rolling down an assembly line... but does not wear a hair net to prevent his or her long tresses from getting tangled in the conveyor belt.
  • People are installing a product at the bottom of a trench... that is not shored.
Marketing communications can help to establish a culture of safety in construction. Sales literature should not show dangerous practices.

Keep your customers alive!

State of Online Video

Exciting data on online video use, in an easy-to-understand format. Key facts:
  • Age 18-29 is still the top demographic, but 30-49 has caught up:19% to 17%!
  • 14% of net users have posted a video.
  • Social media sites narrowly edge out YouTube/Google in uploads.
  • Most common viewer has a college degree and earns over $75,000.
Check out the full image below:

5 Essential Social Media Tools for Manufacturers

With so many social media options available, the biggest challenge in starting a campaign is deciding which systems not to use. Most successful social media campaigns will be multichannel, but starting with too many platforms is overwhelming. For most companies it will work best to start with a small, focused campaign, and gradually grow to include new networks and technology. With that in mind, here are five tools I consider essential for a successful social media launch:

  1. Photo Sharing: A recent study by Architect magazine found that most architects begin the design process by searching images online to find inspiration. I consider a good online photo gallery the most important, and most overlooked, part of your online presence. The big players right now are Flickr and Picasa. Photos should be clearly named and tagged to enhance searchability.  
  2. Video Sharing: First the web was about linked documents; text. As bandwidth increased it became about graphics. Now the big thing is video; more importantly, it's mobile video. Estimates suggest over 200,000 new videos are posted on YouTube per day, and that number is growing. Installation videos, project case studies, and video product announcements are all great material for video. The goal should not be to create the next big viral video, but to provide useful, searchable video information.  
  3. Blog: A major contributor to improved SEO, a forum for getting your message out, and a place to demonstrate your industry expertise; a successful blog is all of these. The topic of your blog is essential; if  it feels like an advertisement or a collection of links and fluff, no one will subscribe. But pick a topic that gets to the core of your message, and provide content that helps your audience do their jobs better, and you can build a community that sees every update, reads them, comments, and comes to you for more information.
  4. E-newsletter: It may seem archaic given the range of media now available, but email is still one of the most widely used internet technology. Constant Contact estimates that 90% of internet users use email (personally, I wonder about that other 10%). As I've discussed before, creating a newsletter can be very simple; use the most popular posts from your blog, add in important news and upcoming events, and be sure to include links to the rest of your social media activities. Pick a regular update schedule and stick to it, and be a firm believer in opt-in marketing.
  5. Wikipedia: Have you searched for your product category on Wikipedia? Does the page exist? If so, is your product properly represented? Remember that anyone can edit Wikipedia, so add your information if it's not there. Play fair, though. Wikipedia's community of editors will zap you if you don't, and the backlash can be worse for your reputation than missing information would have been. Read Wikipedia's guidelines, and when in doubt ask the community for help.
Conspicuous by their absence from this list are all the major social networking platforms. These networks can be very powerful tools for developing customer relationships with your brand, but for most buliding product manufacturers and reps providing useful content will be more valuable and beneficial than building a list of friends. Once you have developed content, however, use these tools to spread your message across the net.

Which social media tools are most valuable for your company?

Content & Relationships: Which One Is The Egg?

The Chicken & Egg of a successful blog are Content and Relationships. Think of your blog as a local restaurant; do you go there every weekend because the food's great or because the staff is friendly and all your friends are there?

Think of Cheers.

The "everybody knows your name" effect is a huge part of social media success. Engagement has replaced ROI as the primary measurement of social media campaigns. As one speaker put it at DigiDay Social, "What's the value of a conversation?" The point is to maximize the time and ways your audience interacts with your brand. While this type of thinking lives mainly in the B2C marketing world, B2B companies are slowly figuring out that people can build relationships with their brands too. Big Ass Fans does a great job of this, with an engaging website and strong presence on Twitter and YouTube. They make ceiling fans - always an exciting topic - fun!

On the other hand, the food still needs to be good.Otherwise people will leave, and take their friends with them. Or, even worse, never come in at all. Fundamentally, useful content is why people view your page. Remember, though, that "useful content" can be defined many different ways. It could be educational, helpful, entertaining, or bizarre; all meet some need and are therefore useful. For most building product manufacturers, content is "useful" if it helps make the sale. For example, CalStar and Ceilings Plus provide LEED calculators, a useful tool for architects focused on sustainable design.

Ideally you will develop both content and relationships with your readers. The two feed off each other; consistently posting good content builds your relationship, and building your relationships, which means listening to your audience, helps you create better, more useful content. For manufacturers, however, content will almost always be more important. Architects have plenty of places to socialize; what they need from you is information that helps them design better buildings.

Get More Value Out of a Trade Show

Nowadays, we have so many available means of marketing.  If you're not taking advantage of them, you may be left in the shadows. Trade shows are expensive, so you don't want all of your hard efforts to be wasted by not marketing properly before, during, and most importantly -- after the show.

Filming your company's events at trade shows is a great way to extend your presence in the trade show even after you've returned home.  

The video above was featured in an email that was sent out to everyone registered for World of Concrete. Once you click on the video, it links you to a page with a dozen other videos.  Some of these videos contain demos or events, whereas others contain sponsor videos.  Having a sponsor video is an excellent way to get your company publicity and it doesn't even have to be high quality footage.

By uploading videos from trade shows to your company website, other video hosting websites or by sending videos via email, you get the benefit of search engine optimization (key word searches that link others to your video) as well as familiarizing your customers with your brand. Videos on the World of Concrete and NeoCon websites are just two examples of the many marketing campaigns that are using video footage to publicize their brands.

My First Sales Presentation on an iPhone

This may be old news for many of you, but a watershed event for me occured yesterday.

A building product sales rep said, "Let me show you how my product works." He then handed me his iPhone on which a video about his product was being shown. The screen was large enough, and the resolution high enough, that several people were able to see it simultaneously. The one minute video was well produced and provided a convincing demonstration of his product's performance.

Welcome to the brave, new world.