This is one in a series of articles from the Baublitz Briefs, quick-study guides to LBM marketing and communications. Click here to see a list of other articles.

In the building materials and construction industry, advertising and marketing communications typically rely on a traditional formula: show the product, discuss a few features ... and hope for the best.

But in an increasingly competitive marketplace with increasingly sophisticated audiences, this old-school approach simply isn't enough to differentiate you from the crowd.

By rethinking your advertising strategy and design, you can both elevate the perceived quality of your brand and create a deeper connection with your target audience. All of which will also boost sales.

In fact, there's a clear link between design and sales--or lack thereof. Even if you identify the ideal outlets and invest enough money for consistent placement, you are simply wasting resources if your design fails to connect and persuade.

Your company (and your designer or agency) should consider a few guidelines that will help ads and marketing materials best do their job:

Focus on Strategy

Before your creative team gets started, be sure you have developed a sound strategic platform for design. Without it, your ad, brochure, web site, or direct-mail piece may look great, but you still risk failing to generate the results you want.

First, define your audience as clearly and narrowly as possible--both who they are, and what they want. Next, consider relevance; that is, define exactly how your product or service will help the target audience, make their work easier, or make their lives better. Consider your "buying triggers"--those compelling, almost irresistible, responses that make someone want to buy a product or adopt a service.

Also, before beginning the design process, it's important that the creative team clearly understands the experience of using a product. Often, we will send our creative director or an art director into the field to see a tool used or a product installed. The closer your team can get to seeing or replicating the end user's experience, the more the resulting design will resonate with your audience.

Get Noticed

In a hyper-competitive marketplace, here's a succinct bit of advice that applies to almost every building-industry advertiser: "Go bold, or go home." When designing your ad, or providing guidance to a designer, remember that Job One is to get noticed.

All too often, ads suffer from death by committee: one person wants to take the "safe" route, another wants to be sure to include every product detail, a third person likes the color blue. Soon, you've got a diluted ad that might satisfy the committee, but fails to attract the audience's attention.

Here are a few rules that keep your ad firmly linked to its purpose--driving sales.

First, stick to very few elements. Include images and words that entice the audience to change attitudes and behaviors--and omit everything else. One of the biggest mistakes advertisers make is to crowd their ad with irrelevant visuals and type.

Next, pick the right visual. An image that's bold or arresting--even incongruous or jarring--will draw more interest than a run-of-the-mill product shot or stock image. But remember: that image must engage your audience in a positive way, and say something meaningful about your product or service.

Third, pay attention to copy. The image pulls a reader into an ad, but strong copy is what pushes them to act. Make sure your copy gives them a reason to buy, and not just a few product features. If you have done your homework during the strategic planning stage, you should understand what compels the audience.

Finally, maintain high quality. Think about it: can you tell the difference between a professional design and an amateurish attempt, just by looking? Well, so can your audience. By employing high-quality images and an experienced designer, you're saying something about the quality of your product and maintaining the hard-earned stature of your brand.

Include Ways To Measure

When you engage in a direct-response program (for example, e-mail or direct mail), you have a pretty clear mechanism for gauging the success of a campaign. But it can be much trickier to measure the results from your advertising in a publication or in broadcast. Still, there are ways to overcome the challenge of gauging audience response to an ad.

For example, savvy advertisers will often craft a powerful call to action that ties into a measurable activity: for example, a visit to a Website or a call to an 800 number for a brochure or video.

The key: brainstorm how you'll track response early in the development process. A strong, well-planned design can elicit measurable behaviors from customers and prospects.

Design as if Life Depends on It. (Because It Does.)

Ad space costs the same whether you design an electrifying ad that works, or a warmed-over ad that doesn't. A tired approach to design costs money in two ways: first, it wastes the budget you've spent on buying space; second, it fails to do an ad's job of boosting sales.

By understanding your audience, planning carefully, and employing noticeable images and motivating copy, you'll set yourself apart from your competition--and from other ads competing for eyeballs. So design with these three critical goals in mind: stay on target, be bold, and keep score.


Case Study: Fabral

An Ad Campaign Designed to Sell
Fabral's goal: Differentiate its product line of architectural roofing, siding and specialty metal products--and, of course, boost sales. The problem: the market often approached metal roofing as commodity products with little difference among brands. Worse, manufacturers fueled this "commodity" position by producing uninspired campaigns focused on specifications rather than a more artistic appeal.

To solve the problem, the Baublitz creative team developed an entirely new creative direction that positioned the company as the category's leader. Baublitz based the approach on research that revealed a key point: designers and architects respond to products that offer style, beauty and flexibility--not simply utility.

Baublitz created a new market a position focusing on the contemporary and aesthetically striking qualities of Fabral, and a new tagline: It's time to look at architectural panels in a whole new light. Baublitz supported this branding campaign with creative that features tightly shot, dramatically lit panels placed at bold, interesting angles. Copy was minimal, thereby focusing attention on the product image, which often filled the entire available space. The creative approach was applied to a national full-page, four-color advertising campaign, as well as collateral material, trade show exhibits and other materials.

The result: Leads and inquiries from trade advertising rose, and Web site traffic shot up. Metalmag, a leading industry trade publication (and a sister publication of ProSales), featured one of Fabral's new panel shots on its front cover. And, in a sincere show of flattery, competitors began to adopt Fabral's approach.