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.

How to use white papers effectively

White papers used correctly
are powerful marketing tools
White papers have emerged as a powerful marketing tool in recent years. Existing somewhere between sales literature and article, a well-done white paper provides useful background information on vital topics in an objective voice, creating an air of expertise, while allowing you to control the conversation and increase web traffic through viral distribution; packaging the information in pdf form, instead of incorporating it into your website, makes it easier to share and distribute.

I recently received a very effective white paper from ASI Sign Systems; their email caught my eye as I was cleaning out my inbox, itself no mean feat. The subject line was: "White Paper: The Benefits of Campus-Wide Wayfinding". Short, eye-catching, and effective for reaching people interested in wayfinding or educational design. The email was attractive and well-crafted:

ASI then took the most important step in white paper marketing - gathering contact information:

In addition to getting my name and email address they request company name and title, incorporating a level of prospect pre-qualification. Leads that do not match their profile can be ignored or de-prioritized. I have personal dislike for any use of Captcha, but this was at least easy to use and non-intrusive. Beyond that, my only concern is that there is not a box to opt-in to their e-newsletter, which means they either missed the opportunity to subscribe me, or they will auto-subscribe everyone. That course of action could alienate potential prospects, and get them in trouble.

The white paper itself was simple and attractive. At 6 pages, and most of that graphics, it was a quick read. The information was very top-level, making it useful for people just getting into the field. It defined key terms and issues in wayfinding. Reading between the lines, I am sure every topic relates directly to an ASI product offering. Despite that, it is presented in an objective, non-proprietary manner so I did not feel I was reading sales literature. The tone could be slightly more informational, but is within the correct range for this target audience.

The layout and graphic design reinforced the company's branding. It is clear this is an ASI document. And, crucially, at the end is an invitation to contact a representative for more in-depth training and information. 

All in all, very nicely done. A good model for effectively creating and using white papers to market your products. 

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.

Seeing the Social Media Light...At LightFair

The editor of Architectural Lighting, Elizabeth Donoff, posted the following comment about the recent Lightfair tradeshow:
"What did excite me about Lightfair this year actually had nothing to do with lighting. Rather it was the way so many in the industry—both on the design and manufacturing side—were embracing different forms of social media. For example, a year ago if you had asked someone if they were on Twitter, they would have looked at you with a blank stare. This year lighting manufacturers galore had set up Twitter accounts and were Tweeting from the show. In fact Architectural Lighting organized the first ever Tweet-up at Lightfair. A chance for people who communicate regularly via this social network platform to meet in person and connect, about a dozen folks gathered at the Design Lounge on the show floor A|L was sponsoring this year. It was a fantastic way to connect with our readers and stay true to what A|L is all about: promoting dialogue through different forums."
She is probably ahead of the digital media curve, due to her experience publishing an electronic newsletter and a robust online edition. The question, however, is: What is the most effective way for you to embrace the new media?

iPad Apps: Channel to Reach Designers

The arrival of the Apple iPad on April 3 was followed, just 5 days later, by the arrival of the first BIM app for the iPad. Structural Engineering & Design reports that goBIM is the first iPad-compatible app to enable users to navigate models and review data tagged to model elements (such as materials, manufacturer information and volumetric information).

Apple's iPad has a large, bright, colorful screen that is likely to be very useful to design professionals.

This early entry of A/E tools to the iPad platform is, perhaps, an indication that the device will have broad appeal in the design community.  That big, bright, highly portable screen could be replacing both the clipboard and the laptop in many meetings and site visits.

Businesses in all corners of industry and commerce have found it advantageous to create apps for the iPhone.  Some of these apps are simply brand promoters, such as the brilliant sponsoring by Charmin toilet paper of a free app that locates public restrooms in the user’s immediate vicinity.  Some serve a function directly related to doing business, such as a dedicated insurance quote app for a particular insurance carrier’s agents.  Some serve as an electronic catalogue, or a purchasing device.  This last idea lends itself far better to the big-screen iPad, where it can display architectural materials at a pleasant scale, and explain design problems and concepts with readily accessible illustrations.  The iPad-based catalogue not only weighs nothing, so it can be carried anywhere, but it can go conceptually where a hardcopy catalogue cannot: interactivity, video displays, and far more.

Apps have powered the mushroom-like growth of the iPhone, and can be expected to have a big effect on the popularity of its larger sibling, the iPad.  The device will in all likelihood attract design professionals, which will attract developers to make apps for those designers to buy.  This means the device will probably be in their hands in large numbers by this time next year. Put the pieces together, and it suggests that iPad apps could be a golden road to the hearts and minds of architects and engineers.  

A thoughtfully designed app that is both useful and free will always be popular. We believe that developing such apps, to give away from promotional purposes, is a great opportunity for building products marketers, and we are working with our clients to take advantage of it.

"Scriptio Continua" Online Addresses

When telling someone about this website, I explain the address is, "building product marketing dot com, written as one word without spaces or punctuation."

"Written as one word without spaces or punctuation" has become common in daily language as we exchange e-mail and website addresses. To my ear and tongue, the phrase sounds and feels clumsy and inefficient.

Fortunately, there is a more elegant way to say, "written as one word without spaces or punctuation," and that is the Latin phrase "scriptio continua."

"Scriptio continua" means "continuous script" and is a writing style used in ancient Greek, Latin, and other languages. For example,


(This is written in scriptio continua.)

I believe it its time to bring back the term. It allows me to say, simply and concisely, "Visit my website at building product marketing dot com, scriptio continua."

My proposal will not work, however, if I have to explain "scriptio continua" every time I use the phrase. One person, alone, cannot change the language or reinvigorate an archaic term. But working together, it can happen very quickly.

If you feel my proposal has any merit, I invite you to embrace and use "scriptio continua" in your spoken communications. More importantly, please use the power of social media to spread the word about "scriptio continua."

Repost this on your blogs and facebook page, twit it, digg it, share it with the other tools of cybermedia to make "scriptio continua" part of our common language.


P.S. A Google search on "scriptio continua" today returns about 24,300 hits. I will report changes in this result from time to time on this blog.

‘Connected’: Social Networks, Connection, and Contagion

Interested in a deeper understanding of social networks? Social networks are not just the online kind, but have been driving human behavior since well before those great patrons of architecture, the Medici family, ruled Florence. In today's Boston Globe, Michael Fitzgerald reviews Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives, by Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler. Fitzgerald writes:

The book centers on two concepts: connection and contagion. Connections bring us together in myriad dynamic, constantly changing networks of people. Contagion happens when things - germs, of course, but also ideas or money - flow across our connections. They look at how our extended networks and our interactions with other networks influence our decisions, our health, our careers, our politics, and most other facets of life.

At Chusid Associates, we often talk about using social networking (the online kind) to augment and expand your human network. This book may help you think about that human network in new ways and understand how closely we are all Connected.

Connected offers a new way of thinking about social networks and the world - The Boston Globe

Email List Servers for Building Product Marketing

Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing medium. This is also true in the online world; there are many places where the issues of your market segment are being discussed and where people are sharing their experience with or opinions about building products and manufacturers.

While new platforms such as Facebook and Twitter get more notice these days, the "automated mail list server," a concept first developed in the 1980s, is still an important medium. Google Groups and Yahoo Groups are types of list servers, and they exist in many other formats as well. When an email is addressed to a list serve mailing list, the email is automatically sent to everyone on the list. The result is similar to a newsgroup or forum, except that messages are transmitted as emails and are therefore available only to individuals on the list. The owner of the particular list server can determine whether inclusion in the list is open to anyone that subscribes or to only a controlled list.

EXAMPLE: I have subscribed to the ArtConcrete list server for many years.
Most of the subscribers are artists or artisans that use concrete in their work: sculptures, landscape installations, furnishings, and even jewelry. The moderator of the group, Andrew Goss, is the author of the seminal book, Concrete Handbook for Artists, making him an important figure at the nexus of art and concrete.

I joined because several of my clients make products for decorative concrete. While the total amount of material actually purchased by concrete artists is minuscule compared to the tonnage consumed in building or civil engineering construction, monitoring the group has provided valuable information and opportunities. I have:
  • Identified prospects for my clients.
  • Gotten early market intelligence about new products.
  • Learned about technologies and products not used in the US.
  • Heard concerns and about experiments that have stimulated new products, market niches, and distribution channels for my clients.
  • Discovered new uses for existing products.
  • Corrected misrepresentations about my clients' products, and provided an alternative perspective about competitors.
  • Found examples of "artistic" uses of my clients products that provided unique case studies and illustrations for our clients' sales collateral.
  • Gotten my clients' brands discussed by a global audience of "early adopters" and innovators.
RECOMMENDATIONS: Monitoring sites like this is an increasingly important part of an overall social media marketing strategy. I recommend you identify and monitor list servers that relate to your market sectors. Postings come right to your email box, so they are easily accessible. Depending on the amount of traffic on the list server, it may take only a few minutes a day to follow; if necessary, assign the task to someone on your team or to a marketing consultant.

List servers, generally, are not the place to be overtly commercial -- for example, don't post press releases here. Etiquette calls for peer-to-peer sharing. Within this guideline, however, I can join discussions about my clients' products, suggest solutions, refer people to information that is posted on my clients' websites.

I can also post requests for feedback, for example: "My company makes [is considering] a new product. We think it has X, Y, and Z benefits, but we don't have much experience in this regard. If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear from you, either via the list server or directly at my email."

Decision-Ready Information

What information do you bring to a meeting? Does it help drive design and construction decisions?

I heard architect Scott Simpson speak several years ago, and he described a concept that has stuck with me ever since. He was speaking on HyperTracking, which The Stubbins Associates (now KlingStubbins) called a team structure we now call Integrated Project Delivery (IPD). The concept is key for this collaborative project approach, but its importance is more universal. The phrase that stuck with me was “decision-ready information”. Decision-ready information consists of the key facts required for a meaningful, final decision about a subject to be decided.

In an IPD project, major decision-makers are expected to attend every meeting, so that decisions made in the meeting have meaningful buy-in and closure. These meetings can be intense, not to mention very expensive. It’s the responsibility, therefore, of each team member to bring decision-ready information for the decisions on the agenda. If the owner, lead design professional, and contractor are all present and ready to make a decision between two systems, and no one has brought a cost comparison of the two systems in contention, the decision can’t be closed until the information can be found. Team members all have to do their homework, before the meeting, so that the meeting is effective and the project can stay on schedule.

This concept contains a lesson for product representatives, as well as the rest of project teams, regardless of the team structure. Before a meeting, try to anticipate the decisions that should or could be made. (Can you ask? Ask.) What key facts will be required to complete these decisions? Prepare that information well, and bring it to the table.

Even if the key players aren’t at the table, well-presented information can be carried up the chain of command by the people in the room. These key facts will become the decision-ready information in the next meeting, where you may not be present. Clearly stated, decision-ready information helps your teammates look good to their teammates. Design professionals love representatives who help them look good. (This is also the old-fashioned way information "goes viral": good information gets carried along.)

And manufacturers, are you arming your representatives with decision-ready information? Think about what information about your product might drive project decisions, and make sure it's available in an easy format for your representatives to bring to the table.

Classic Viral: "You Have A Very Bad Hotel"

A colleague sent this to me today; it's one of the classic examples of what a few unhappy customers with a web connection can do.

You Have A Very Bad Hotel (Use Internet Explorer to view)

I found an interview with the writers, and found a few of their answers very insightful:
Q: Why did you spread it all over the Internet?

In truth, we sent it initially to the hotel; two clients/friends in downtown Houston, and Shane's mother-in-law. That was it. Yes, the last screen says: "And we hope they send it to THEIR friends!" Call us naïve, but we figured that meant perhaps twenty or thirty people. We never dreamed it would get passed around like this. Trust us. We had NO IDEA. The website postings, including the one at urban legend clearinghouse, was done by others without our permission or approval.

Q: How far has it gone?

Well, we've heard from five continents. Most hospitality professionals seem amused and sympathetic (though one former hotel manager suggested we get psychological counseling). We have had a couple of stern lectures from fellow road warriors/"civilians", though, who explain how out of line we were to expect our "guaranteed" rooms held for us. About 2 percent of correspondents call us jerks and worse.

Q: So... what's it all mean?

Hopefully, that while $#!@& happens, service matters — and hand-to-hand email has power...Perhaps, now that "Yours Is a Very Bad Hotel" has attracted attention in corporate offices of many hospitality providers, managers and customers alike will be a little more aware of the power customers wield.
There are over 130,000 pages that mention this slide show, in several different languages. Several print articles were run in small outlets like the Wall Street Journal. It's not clear how many people have viewed it because the original site got so much traffic they had to take it down; all the current sites are fans who reposted it, articles written, and aggregation sites such as Digg or Slashdot.

This was written and published in 2001. Imagine how much bigger the response could be today.