Home is where the information is

How technology is changing marketing communications for the better

Listen. Do you hear that? That’s the sound of information moving about. In 2015, the ways in which we consume information sound a little different from the thud of the paper hitting the driveway or the low murmur of voices as you switch on the morning news and pour your coffee. Now it seems information has been reduced to a series of clicks, but with the vast space of the Internet, knowledge is louder than ever. Sometimes it’s hard to hear one thing over another. How do we turn up the volume on what’s relevant to our lives, our businesses?

Well, the good news is that there are people out there who get it. They are finding ways around the hoards of information we’re exposed to, but not necessarily interested in being subjected to on a daily basis. They are working with tools to get information that’s tailored to fit our Internet searching preferences. 

Steve Kleber, founder of Kleber & Associates (K&A), an Atlanta-based integrated marketing communications agency serving the home and building products industry, has joined that good fight. For 28 years, his company has helped create engaging content for audiences in the home and building industries.

Kleber is the immediate past president of the Center for Kitchen and Bath Education and Research. He’s also the current president of the National Remodeling Foundation – a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that gives back to the community by providing scholarships for students who want to enter into the plumbing, remodeling and design trades.
 
K&A is a team of 18 people who are not only familiar with residential and commercial building products, they’re passionate about them. They understand the features and benefits of all types of products, from gypsum to concrete to geothermal to water heating. They even have an architect on staff. Their motto is: “Building better brands that build a better home”
 
“We’ve been representing home and building products exclusively for many years and have avoided the temptation to diversify,” Kleber said. “We’ve built our equity in understanding the channel of distribution and influence. This is similar to the equity that you have in your home where you fix it up and maintain it, make sure you’re in the right neighborhood and surround yourself with the right neighbors. We’ve done the same thing for our business. So we don’t have anyone here who specializes in anything other than home and commercial and residential building products.”

According to Kleber, being able to market adjacent to real estate, and ultimately the improvement of real estate, has been a worthwhile business model. 

“In my mind there is only one sustainable product that a country has to sell, and that’s dirt,” Kleber said. 

Typically K&A represents manufacturers, but also pushes into distribution. Meaning, K&A develops programs that convince the wholesaler that the manufacturer’s product will bring them profit. They also speak to and inspire influencers – anyone from contractors to architects and specifiers. Essentially, K&A follows their clients’ products from start to finish. Each product they represent has a story to tell.

Satisfying the craving for customized content

One of the ways in which a product’s story can be told is through customized content. Marketing automation is one example of a tool that professional marketers have used to aid readers in their quest for content that relates to them. 

“This means that if a reader is clicking on water conservation stories more often than not, then you can feed that reader more water conservation stories because they’ve identified themselves as a consumer of a particular type of content. Marketing automation allows you to nurture that behavior and respond by giving them customized content based on their interests,” Kleber said.

Isn’t this invasive, many of us still ask. No, not necessarily. Not if it will help us cut through overwhelming quantities of information and ultimately find what we care about, Kleber argues.

Kleber and many others believe in something marketers call “permission marketing.” The phrase was coined by entrepreneur, Seth Godin. Godin first distinguished the difference between “interruption marketing,” meaning, interrupting a consumer’s attention by throwing information in their faces when they’re in the middle of dinner or watching their favorite TV show, versus “permission marketing,” when a prospect gives consent in advance to receive the marketing information.

“There’s too much information. I’d prefer some of that information to be screened out for me. You have to give up a little anonymity in order to get that. But you get a service in response,” Kleber said.

But as we know, advertising and editorial are not the only ways to tell a product’s story. One would argue the best businesses harness integrated communication, which includes new media and social media, platforms that have been really exciting for those trying to organize information and deliver it to readers in the most efficient and modern ways. 

The ‘anonymous blogger’ and other integrated communication

One of the more up and coming modes of transporting relevant products and trade information includes blogging. Bloggers are unique because they incorporate knowledge and hands-on experience to help educate on best practices. 

“Bloggers give a certain amount of authority that you or I may not be able to possess. The role of a blogger is to help create a texture or fabric in the larger ability to influence. They are craftspeople, tradespeople. That’s different from a journalist or a marketing communications firm. They serve a unique role in that they actually use these products,” Kleber said. 

Advertisers want to be able to quantify and qualify who exactly is reached. They want to know the blogger’s job title, what area of the country are they in, and if their readers match the distribution channels. Who they are is important and often one of the first questions asked.

“Like editors, ethical bloggers are obligated to tell the truth. This is why making sure they have credentials is so important. They have to be able to speak from a position of authority, but to also be honest and fair. Not just give a product a rubber stamp because they got paid for it,” Kleber said.

The good news is that like everything in the digital world, bloggers can be measured. 

“We measure things like their Alexa score, Klout score or MozRank. Though it doesn’t always seem that way, the digital world is organized,” Kleber said.

He continued, “Very similarly, a blog can be scored, based on how many eyeballs it reaches. Reaching an audience is everything.” 

Some bloggers are highly influential. The more views and followers, the more authority the blogger wields. Marketers are able to locate bloggers who are able to test products, in exchange for sponsored posts and even free samples. 

Just as important as the quantitative assessment of the audience is the qualitative assessment. Not only who they are talking to, but their message. The question remains, what is the emotional connection that a blogger has to his or her audience?

Home Construction & Improvement is a website run by blogger Todd Fratzel that provides expert advice on construction and home improvement. 

Fratzel is an example of a tradesperson who is immersed in every facet of his line of work, which makes the blogging perspective that much more influential. He’s full-time custom homebuilder, chief engineer and project manager for the building division at United Construction in Newport, New Hampshire. He’s also the founder and editor of several web publications including: Home Construction & Improvement, Tool Box Buzz and Today’s Green Construction. His site reaches an average of 120,000 visitors per month.

Another example of a blog that aims for the heart of the home industry is Remodelaholic, which is run by the bloggers and DIY enthusiasts, Cassity and Justin Kmetzsch. 

The Kmetzsches themselves are the personality of the site, and they have a family-oriented focus and artistic appeal at the center. Their message is to “reduce, reuse, recycle, re-purpose and remodel,” and to ultimately expand the horizons of creativity in the home for everyone. Their site features a host of home projects from oak cabinets to shower décor, and includes active contributors who share their projects. This inventive couple has a wide range of readers, including interior design enthusiasts to crafters. 

So how do the Kmetzches measure up? They reach an average of 449, 067 visitors a month and have a MozRank of 5.6. A MozRank means your link popularity score, which is measured by the number of quality of links. A “normal” score on the Internet is around 3. 

Yet another example is the Bathroomguru Review, operated by Eric Spurt and a community of bath decorators who have been serving the DIY enthusiasts since 2008. On their site, they cover the latest news on bathroom design ideas, remodeling insights, renovation instruction, trends and new and innovative products. They reach an average of 37,968 visitors a month, with a MozRank of 4.6.

Agencies like K&A have developed a form of currency with bloggers. They developed a database that operates much like the Apple iTunes store where they control not only the content, but the cost of distributing the content.

“A blogger may come to us and say they want to get paid x amount of dollars for a post,” Kleber explains. “We’ve done our homework—we know a lot about them and their audience, and how they compare to their peers. This is something we bring to bloggers in our negotiations with them. More often than not, they’re appreciative of it and in turn want to play ball with us.” 

Many bloggers, once they establish their audience and credibility, take the next step, which is leveraging their audiences of different platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Google and HOUZZ. HOUZZ is similar to Pinterest, but is designed for residential real estate. Though these are the big platforms, Zillow, Angie’s List, Home Portfolio and Home Advisor are also important resources for the cross functioning of a blogger’s influence.

“It’s very exciting for a company like us. We participate on those platforms where those influencers in the building and home arenas participate. We tune in. We show up,” Kleber said.

The established community in this industry knows more than a thing or two about people-centered business. “Showing up” in any virtual arena is not necessarily better, but it’s the next step to getting closer to the integrative heart of information in order for our businesses to thrive. 

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