Bridging The Connection Between Designers & Manufacturers

Building Brands Ep 25 - Jeff Carlson - Bridging The Connection Between Designers & Manufacturers

Jeff Carlson, Principal at My Resource Library talks about bridging the gap between the A&D community and manufacturers digitally, making designers’ lives easier, how to support dealers, and how a strong brand can help elevate the experience with a manufacturer.

Episode Links
Find Jeff on LinkedIn
Visit My Resource Library Online

Episode Transcript

Tim
Welcome Building Brands listeners. We’ve made it to season two. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Tim Bouchard. I’m the owner and CEO of a creative marketing agency Luminus located in Buffalo, New York that does a lot of work in the building materials and building products industries. If you’re new to the podcast, I encourage you to go check out 2020’s episodes with awesome guests from brands doing amazing things in the industry. For the first episode of season two, I’m joined by Jeff Carlson, Principal at My Resource Library. My Resource Library is the industry’s go to virtual library. What began is an easy online access to resources once found in a physical library has evolved into a rich project ideation, collaboration and visualization tool. In this episode, Jeff talks about bridging the gap between the A&D community and manufacturers digitally, making designers lives easier how to support dealers, and how a strong brand can help elevate the experience with a manufacturer. Enjoy the episode. If you’re an owner and marketer in the building materials, manufacturing, distribution, or contracting spaces, looking to set up your brand for success now and in the future, this is the podcast for you. on this show, we talk about brand and market strategies used in the real world that grow companies and truly connect with consumer audiences. So sit back, listen in and let’s get to it. Okay, welcome Jeff Carlson principal at my resource library. Thank you for being what is the first episode in season two. I’m happy to have season two. Thanks for everyone listening. So you are the first this year. Welcome. And thanks for coming on. It’s cool to have you.

Jeff
Thanks, Tim. I appreciate being invited on and I appreciate being the first for the new year Happy 2021.

Tim
Happy 2021. Hopefully it progressively gets better and better and better as the year goes by.

Jeff
Well, it certainly can’t be any worse than 2020. I think we’re on our way out of it. So yes.

Tim
All right. Well, let’s get into a little bit about what the episode is actually about. First easy question, which I always start everyone off on is tell us a little bit about you, and how you got into the world of building materials. And then we can talk a little bit about my resource library. After that we can get the background on the company too.

Jeff
You sure you have enough time for this. We can record all of this. Okay, perfect.

Tim
I have the editing power so.

Jeff
Well, let’s jump right in. So I’m actually a fourth generation furniture geek. My great grandfather worked for a company called Art metal out of Jamestown, New York. My grandfather started an independent rep group in 1952. in Cincinnati, Ohio. My dad still runs that rep group. My brother works for my dad, my mother owned a virtual or not a virtual but more of a Librarian service where she serviced all the designers and dealers in Cincinnati, Ohio maintaining their libraries. I met my wife on a cold call working for my family group at a design firm in Cleveland, Ohio. And my wife is now an independent rep here in Arizona. I have an uncle that works for furniture dealership, global furniture dealership in Cincinnati. And I have an aunt that works for an allsteel dealership in Cincinnati, Ohio. So you can kind of say that the furniture industry is kind of in my blood,

Tim
There was no way to avoid it.

Jeff
There was no way to avoid it. So unfortunately, the industry has stuck with me. I tried like heck to get out of it. But it just kind of what’s the famous quote from the Godfather? They bring me back in so

Tim
and Jamestown, New York is right near us in western New York. So two things. One is we have some clients in Jamestown, but also it is timely because this episode will be coming out on January 4 go bills and I think it’s super bowl year so we can move on from there. Hopefully I didn’t offend like half of my audience. Yeah,

Jeff
well, but really for the bills may have but that’s okay. We’re always welcome.

Tim
So why don’t you tell us a little bit about my resource library to you. I mean, you’ve been in furniture and sort of in this like product space. And of course that comes with design and design leads into buildings and all that the connection is there. How did my resource library come about? How long has the company been around? And what’s the purpose?

Jeff
So in 2012, I was working for a small furniture manufacturer as their national sales manager out of Seattle, Washington. And I was at a design firm in Omaha, Nebraska. And I of course did my presentation, I offered them my binder, and they said we don’t keep binders. And I got very excited because I was traveling around basically North America with a suitcase full of binders all the time, and I was kind of tired of lugging that around. So I was very excited. I said How are you doing it? let me sign up for whatever service that is. And they showed me an Excel spreadsheet. We proceeded to actually get into an argument of why that would never work in the design industry. designers are very visual people. And so that’s the part of the mystique of the library is being able to see the actual binder spines and relate to those colors, to the logos to the just basically the layout of the binder. We’ve seen this in, you know, you and I have chatted a little bit about it before this, but we’d seen it at a design firm in the East Coast, where they literally put up wallpaper of an image of their binders, when they got rid of their physical library to remind them, again, of the manufacturers that are out there. So we ended up I left that firm, I like to joke that I was thrown out of the firm, I’m not sure I’m welcome there ever again. But at the same time, I did leave. And on my flight home, I sketched up my resource library, I sketched up what I believed was the proper way of doing it, a virtual website that has all the manufacturers on it has all of their brands on it, and their brand identities, and then is the best search engine in the industry. so that people can find products quickly and easily without having to lug around three ring binders. It’s amazing how many startups and technical solutions have started from Excel spreadsheets, which has been you know, it’s it’s the visual version of a database, really. And it just takes understanding user interfaces and the experience that you need in getting that database into like a manageable platform that has all the flexibility that you would need to make it a tool instead of just a document. Absolutely. First off maintaining the virtual library takes 27 people on my team to do there is no way a design firm is going to be able to keep all that information accurate into an Excel document. Yeah, it’s just too much work. And so yeah, it is fascinating how much comes out of basically, you know, when a need is found. And you’re looking at an Excel spreadsheet, saying, Wow, this is just not the right way of going with technology to how it kind of blossoms into a full on company.

Tim
Yeah, my resource library, IT services, both sides of the equation, there’s manufacturers involved, you mentioned, they get to represent their brands, and of course, their products in the library. And then it’s the tool really, for the design side, what are the extra benefits that come for each one of those sides using a tool like this versus typical interaction, like getting physical samples, or binders or whatever. So

Jeff
it’s interesting, we decided that a long time ago that we didn’t want to just service one aspect of the industry, we really wanted to take complexity out of a very complex industry. So we decided to service all aspects of our industry. So not only do we work with manufacturers at putting their brand and their best foot forward inside of a virtual library, kind of leveling the playing field as it were. Now, granted, most manufacturers don’t want the playing field leveled. But at the same time, it is the reality of what the actual physical library did anyway, the second thing was we wanted to work with the design community, the A and D firms across the country. And so we made the resource free for them, free for them to go in and access and find products quickly and easily free for them to have all of the information, CAD files, Revit files, all of that information right at their fingertips. We also work with the dealer community. So this industry works off of a very kind of complex method. But the dealerships in our industry are a vital part of basically maintaining the orders maintaining the relationships within the A and D firms, as well as with the end users. So we work with dealerships across the country as well, then there are independent and factory direct reps, and we work with them in a very unique way. And we provide a value to each one of them. For the independent reps, for example, every rep group for free, we will actually create a logo for them for their email signatures, that directs them into all of their manufacturers binders. So whether they’re a part of my resource library or not, we can actually work with the firms to that when they’re out in front of their clients or emailing their clients that they’re sending their entire library of catalogs with every email that they send out.

Tim
You know, there’s two things that you mentioned in there that are very important that I think they have to contribute to this, the tool doesn’t solve this for them on their own. For manufacturers, they have to have some level of an organized brand and product offering and presentation the value prop to get into a system like this and be able to even operate within it. And then also from the retail and dealer side, they’re often left out of the equation. and for whatever reason it’s the manufacturers just they skip a little bit they go to distribution, they sometimes don’t trickle down all the way to the retail site to give them the proper tools and, and whether it’s a point of sale type of thing. or digital tool or resource access to resources. For some reason, the trail of brand assets kind of fades away when it gets down to retail. So that to bring the dealers in is a big connection, I think in in the industry too. But you’re also connecting the two most important sides, which is the manufacturers and their primary target audiences, which is the ad community.

Jeff
Yeah. And that’s our biggest goal is manufacturers all have the capability of kind of building their own brands. But they do it through my resource library in a very unique way. They bring their information in digitally. So it’s basically it’s a secondary website for them, you won’t find a manufacturer on my resource library on their website, directing traffic to my resource library, but we can direct traffic to their website. And so we tell manufacturers all the time, they want to help us they want us to grow. Because, you know, when you’re looking at the search engine, for example, the search analytics that come from this, they see how often their products are appearing in searches, they see the impressions, they see the number of times that the products get clicked on. These are things that you cannot do in the physical world. So they were printing and having huge print costs associated with three ring binders, and sending off $100 binders that they had no way of knowing whether they were ever opened or not open,

Tim
or physical product books, which actually have the product itself in it, which is can be even more expensive than the binder itself, or the catalog or whatever you might be doing from that print piece.

Jeff
Yeah, we’ve seen printing dropped dramatically, especially because you know, this year of 2020, with COVID, you just can’t be in front of clients. So you need to do the virtual and the virtual world has really set foot because of 2020. You can’t be in front of clients, designers don’t want you coming into their buildings anymore. It’s very hard for manufacturers to present their products. And there’s only so many webinars you can get people to join. So it was really important to have this kind of secondary website where, hey, if they know of your brand, they’re going to your website, great. If they don’t know of you, and they’re doing a search in my resource library in Europe hearing, that’s even better.

Tim
And then you talked about these two sides and bringing them into the equation for my resource library. How did you get the audience built into this to make an invaluable tool because you need the designers to make it valuable for the manufacturers to be in there. But what designers are going to sign up without manufacturers being in the library, it’s a little bit of a, which one comes first kind of situation? The old chicken in the egg? Right?

Jeff
Let me tell you, when we launched the company in 2013, we launched it at Nia con in Chicago. And we had a small booth on the seventh floor. And I have great pictures of it and how ugly our logo was. But what was really interesting was, that was my biggest fear, it kept me up at night, we could create this amazing website. But how do we get manufacturers to want to pay to be a part of it when there’s no users? And how do we get users when there’s no manufacturers? So it was a it was a process? Literally, I think the one thing that really helped us is we’re not a technology company. We have deep roots in the furniture industry. So over 80% of the people that work on my team are either designers, they worked at dealerships, they ran dealerships, or like myself were independent reps. And so again, when we have that, that kind of web underneath us of working with independent reps, factory direct reps, manufacturers and ad firms and dealers, it was really kind of easier to build it because once we had a few champions out there a few designers, or even a few rep groups that were really promoting us, we noticed that the sales started coming organically. So there wasn’t as much outreach on our end. In fact, today, we’re still reactionary in all of our sales.

Tim
So we started actually segwaying into this already, but let’s dive a little bit deeper into it. Why is it so important to make it so readily easily available for manufacturers and designers to communicate like this flexibly through a digital landscape? I’m we did talk about how COVID is affected that there is some printing cost stuff, tangible costs, you can redirect to better things. But what makes let’s talk about the designers, why is this so valuable to them? How does it affect what they’re doing? Well,

Jeff
it’s it’s really interesting, the World Wide Web has been in a steady decline for the contract furniture industry. So going out and searching chairs or going on to Pinterest or a lot of the tools that designers started utilizing to find inspiration. Don’t always show you products that are real products or products that are actually mass produced or Have bifma standards. So a lot of the products that you could find on the internet may come from China, or may come from other parts of the country or the world that literally are not suitable for commercial grade, 24 hours a day, seven days a weak usage. And so a lot of the information that started surrounding our industry with the World Wide Web was corrupting the industry. And so the manufacturers fought, they created their own websites, they drove a lot of traffic to their own websites. But then you saw a lot of manufacturers start joining Pinterest, starting joining these visual platforms. And now they’re fighting against products that maybe are made in my garage. So literally, it became a big problem. Another really big problem was, designers would find a product online, they had no information about the product, they would show it to their client, the client would get excited about the product. And then when it came to the dealership, here’s an image of a product that we want, go find it. And the dealerships are not suited for going and researching all that information. So it was literally creating a lot of problems through the actual channels. My resource library kind of removes that, because any product image that you see in our binders or in our hub section, those are all products that are actually commercially graded. They’re actually suitable for the commercial side healthcare, hospitality. We don’t do residential furniture. But we are involved in all other markets. And that’s this, these products are vetted by my resource library. So not just any manufacturer can pay us to be a part of our library, which I think sets us apart and makes it really valuable for them.

Tim
Yeah, and a platform like Pinterest can still be useful from an exposure standpoint, but it does mix you in with a lot of garbage posts. And it to some degree, if you get picked up and start getting ready to start to get represented through other people’s posts, the connection between the inspiration image and the post to actual product information and being able to convert a sale or find a product information, whatever it might be, really is a dead end. And we you know, we use Pinterest as a design form all the time, we’re doing logos and brands and, and websites and product packaging. So we’re using that to build inspiration boards, but we don’t necessarily need a connection, direct connection to a manufacturer or a product to be able to use that tool. So that is really probably the the biggest difference between using like an open source social platform and like a concentrated, curated, basically information platform,

Jeff
I would agree. And that’s one of the things that we’re really proud of. And a lot of the things that my resource library creates are based off of a pain point, or an inconvenience kind of factor that I look at and say, Okay, if all these designers are using it, I’m picking on Pinterest, unfortunately. But if they’re using Pinterest, I decided to go on. And one day, I was looking for Murphy beds for my daughter on Pinterest, I was going to build her a Murphy bed. And so I’m googling it, I’m looking through Pinterest, finding things that I like I’m clicking on it, and it’s taking me to candle websites. And I got really frustrated with the fact that it just wasn’t tied to the right information. So that’s when my resource library started creating the hub. So the hub is inspirational images that all the manufacturers can provide free of charge as many as they would like. And when you click on it, it’s tagged literally to all the products that are in the images. And it’ll direct you right back to a manufacturer’s binder, where then you have pricing and all their information. And so it was kind of a everything that we’ve done is built off of kind of a Why does it work this way? It’s worked that way for years. So most people don’t question it work question in the industry.

Tim
And like that you talk about pain points, too. We do pain points and persona analysis for our clients. But persona I talked about this a couple times in a few episodes. So far, personas get a bad rap, because everyone thinks you’re just saying like, Oh, it’s a 25 to 45 year old male in rural, you know, America that makes X amount of dollars and has this personality. That’s great. That’s fine to know from an ad standpoint, but from an actual marketing and sales process and building up a buyers journey or whatever you want to call it. Depending on your marketing strategy, you actually need to understand pain points, so you can build the tools and resources and content to support buying, exploration through research, consideration and all that stuff. So painpoints definitely huge thing. The other thing I was thinking of while you were talking about this was there is a lot that needs to go into my resource library to make it useful for the brands that are a part of it. So you need to be organized to go into it, you need the right visual identity to be able to present well against the competition, you need to have your products organized, you need to have resources that are paired with those products to make sure that you have the right information there. And you should have all the the visuals and things that go into being able to participate in something like the hub to draw the inspiration interest into your section of my resource library. And then off onto your own website, as you said, like, that’s one of the things that you are trying to do is to move people into a sales type of experience of going off site.

Jeff
Absolutely, our goal is, we can’t show a direct ROI for manufacturers of saying, hey, they solve this, and now they’re going and they’re buying it. Like those lines aren’t able to be drawn anywhere in our industry. So we don’t actually we’re not lead generation. So the manufacturers do get reporting on their binders, something that they never would have gotten on a physical binder. But it tells you the firms that were looking at it the what their products were being viewed how often they were in their binders. But there is no way for a rep or a manufacturer to pick up the phone and call that firm and say, Hey, I saw you were looking at this product. So we’re trying to keep Big Brother a little bit out of it. But at the same time give the manufacturers some quality information that they can actually build off of and leverage when they’re actually considering what products are working for them. And what products aren’t

Tim
the aluminous we do the same thing for our client websites to what we call mid funnel conversions, which is interest conversions, like maybe not even pageviews. But are they downloading documents from certain products? Are they clicking through image galleries? Are they using interactive 3d models that we have that you can click and spin around on some of our sites that we’ve done. And it’s just a way to show interest in an area where you can either tie that to a digital marketing campaign that’s out there, because the campaign is doing well the interest is there. So the to correlate, you can then take that further down the funnel to see if there’s a sample request or something metric that’s starting to move with that too. But any analytic any data is good data, if you’re trying to validate where consumer interest is what is working in your marketing strategy to make sure that you’re still putting dollars and effort into the right channels and products that you’re trying to push. But let’s switch it back to the designers for a second. Sure. What are some of the cool features that they can use that it’s just probably not something that manufacturers are supplying on their own, but they can do this type of thing, or these type of things through my resource library. So

Jeff
we’re kind of like Pinterest, what they can do there is create a board inside of my resource library, designers can create projects, where they can actually combine all the different manufacturers information into kind of a board or a project, and then send that off to their client for viewing and for kind of evaluation process. Those are some of the quick and easy things that designers benefit greatly by using my resource library. The main thing is the search engine. So the reality for the for the designers is when they’re looking for products, they’re not sure exactly what they’re looking for, they may have a look or feel in their mind of something that they want. But there is no way of just typing that into a search engine and miraculously finding exactly what’s on their mind. The language is always different. There’s so many different jargon language problems in our industry. But when they go into my resource library, and they do a search for say, even like a lounge chair, you would think lounge chairs are fairly easy to kind of identify. But when you do a search in my resource library across the top would be all the brands, but then underneath would be all the images. And so now it’s basically allowing them to look through almost like a Pinterest kind of way of scrolling through all the different images that are available. Or they could say Oh, that’s right, this manufacturer has it, click on their binder and see all the different lounge chairs that they have. So we’re really kind of tightening the funnel down and helping them find the products that they’re looking for a faster. And that’s probably our number one benefit to them.

Tim
The beauty is in that search capability. And the way it’s being presented, the perk is that they get the organization of having like projects, folders, not even just brand folders. But here’s a client or projects within a client so everything can stay organized to Yes. And I I believe that there then they have also the unique, shareable links to so it’s very easy to get that stuff in front of clients.

Jeff
Yes. So Well, as you know, everybody’s kind of fed up with emails and zoom calls these days.

Tim
Yeah, and some

Jeff
had some. So literally what this is, is it’s not attachments. So a lot of times you know, designers may pull down images and then want to send them off to the client. Those are attachments. Now you’re requiring the client to create on something downloaded onto their computer, so it’s viewable projects or something that they can put the images into, then they send them a link to it. They don’t have to have a Dropbox account, they don’t have to have on my resource library account. They can even upload videos into these files. And when the client clicks on the link, it opens up and videos will autoplay images are all there, they have all the information and they decide what they all want to put there. And it’s branded to the design community. So each designer has their own branding inside of there so that when they send it, the clients not seeing my resource library, but they’re seeing the basically the design firms logo, they’re seeing the business card for that designer, so it’s all about brand awareness.

Tim
The other thing that designers have relied on and we talked about this a little bit earlier, is physical samples to is there. Does this replace visit physical samples in your mind? Or is this a complimentary piece to get you to the spot where you’re not wasting getting too many physical samples? What’s the interaction there between the design resource and binder replacement and where physical samples come into play?

Jeff
Well, that’s a really great question. And so we’ve been evaluating that for probably the last couple of years trying to figure out just what that does look like, it will never replace the physical samples, you will always need a physical finish sample or a fabric you need, designers need to touch and hold things, that it’s a very tactile industry, if they want to know what they’re specifying. And when, depending on the settings on your computer, you know, a cherry wood could look like a maple I’m in so it really, you need to hold the actual finishes. So kind of letting the little cat out of the bag here. But the first quarter of 2021, my resource library is integrating with a product sampling. So you’ll be able to actually put together a cart of all the finishes that you want from the manufacturers. And it’ll actually parse it out to all the manufacturers. So instead of going manufacturer to manufacturer to order the samples, you’ll be able to do it once on my resource library and then send it off to everybody.

Tim
And that’ll split off to each one of the ones that are in that. That’s that’s pretty cool. And that is something where to set up a resource like that individually for a manufacturer might be a very large undertaking to do a custom sampling cart or something like that. We’ve done that for clients before. But it sounds like you’re trying to help make that an easier, more approachable thing for someone that wants to integrate two tools at once and then send people off of their website to my resource library or vice versa. Yeah, I

Jeff
think that having it on the manufacturers website is critical. manufacturers have to make it easy for designers or for salespeople in which to sell their products. So having that built in portal onto their website where they can order the samples and make it easy. That is vital. However, again, that requires the people to actually go to your website. So do they find you on my resource library, then go to your website and then enter the information? Or because I’ve already got their information? What’s integrate into that system? So that basically, um, pre filling your site information? Yeah, so so it looks like it’s coming from your website, but it’s actually coming through ours. And we can parse that information in a magnitude of ways.

Tim
There’s two things to remember with samples too, that are worth mentioning, since we’re on this topic. One is it does cost money to produce samples to send the people but it is, as you say, such a vital part into not only gaining their interest, but helping them close a sale for a spec for one of their projects to be able to not only see it themselves and have confidence in it, but put it in front of the client and say, This is why we’re using this material or this product over the other ones because it is vastly superior, despite the cost or whatever might, whatever else might be involved with it. It’s just critical, but does cost you no money to give people material and to ship it to them. But it’s such a good conversion tool and sales tool. And secondly, it takes internal logistics to make that happen to you have to have someone that can package samples, what’s the packaging look like? Are you trying to make that an experience? Or are you just sending people stuff in a brown box? even getting the samples to them is useful, but maybe you can make that experience better. But someone internally has to package that stuff, pick the right samples out, put them in, or you know, the other way you could do it is to have a pre packaged sample pack, but that’s not quite as interactive as an experience for the designer.

Jeff
Yeah, I would say that one of the big challenges that our industry has, and there have been several companies that have tried to do this, where they’ve literally tried to sign up all the manufacturers to be a part of their program. ship them all of their finishes. And then they warehouse them. And then when the orders come in, they go and they pick them, and then they put them in a nice box for their company. And I caution our industry on some of this, because literally doing away with a manufacturer’s brand identity is a very dangerous and slippery slope. If there is no brand awareness, then what happens to the 2000 brands that are out there, it just becomes a race to the bottom. And so margins will keep eroding. manufacturers will keep making less money, eventually there’ll be less manufacturers. I’m not saying that that’s a terrible thing. I think it’s a bad thing. But I think when a manufacturer sends out a sample to a client, they know the project, they now can follow up with the designer, is they have their information, now it is a lead, it is officially a lead for the reps to follow up on. But when that designer gets that package, I certainly hope that it’s got the manufacturers brand on the box, and not just a box that’s leftover in their warehouse. Mm hmm. For sure, it needs to have their brand on it, it needs to have a business card in it, it needs to, it needs to be an experience. Even though I know that’s costing the manufacturers a lot of money, these other companies that have been coming about trying to fulfill that, that cost them a lot of money as well. And so I think putting the money into the resources that they already have, and already do. Because half of those companies that have come out, don’t have all of the finishes, they only have a curated few finishes, the rest of them still have to come from the factory. So now the factory and this other company are sending out samples that cost, it just doesn’t make sense. Hmm.

Tim
And it is such a good conversion tool, when you get a sample into someone’s hands. You know, the sales cycle, depending on if you’re the product side of the material side could be anywhere from a few weeks to a year and a half to two years. But if you get that into someone’s hands and make it part of their design scope and their client interactions on their side, it’s a vastly higher sales closing percentage than someone that’s just poking around online and grabbing images to put into a scope or even just grabbing BIM files and Revit files or whatever. But it is worth the investment. Especially if you are someone that is at the higher end of the price point for your category of the industry and your typical orders or five to six figure orders. a two digit two three digit sample costs should not be a hurdle that you have to get over to be able to make that $50,000 sale for your commercial project, have a high quality material,

Jeff
agreed. And there is costs that are affiliated with all everything that happens in our industry. I mean, in all fairness, that amount of technologies that exist in our industry, just to get a project done. You know, you’ve got you know, we’ve mentioned Revit, we’ve mentioned, AutoCAD, we’ve mentioned SketchUp, we’ve mentioned, you know, manufacturers have to support all of those BIM models. So you know, they also have CET designer, which is configured as a design element for dealers, then you have Giza, you have 2020, project matrix and project spec five. So there’s so many different programs that are out there that manufacturers have to it’s a cost of doing business. And unfortunately, you need to be where you you need to determine who is actually specifying my product. Is it the dealerships that are putting my product in on projects? Or is it that AMD community? And if it’s a indie community, then you better actually give them the tools in which to put your products into their projects?

Tim
Yeah, their pain points are I need it to be easy to scope and put into my spec files. And I need to be able to show the client why I’m choosing this and get it approved. Yes. So in terms of the industry itself, how do you see it changing? You know, you can relate this to whatever you want COVID or technology or just the economy in general building trends? How do you see the materials or product industries shifting over the next five to 10 years?

Jeff
I think that we’re gonna see a lot more from a marketing standpoint of our industry, more than we’ve ever seen before.

Tim
I like that that’s good for me.

Jeff
Yeah, that’s good for you. That’s good for me as well, too. But I think you’re gonna see that shift. So right now even we’re doing something called programmatic advertising, which we’ve presented to about 12 manufacturers out of the 380 that are a part of our program. Nobody’s ever heard of it. So programmatic advertising does require people to go to their website or go to their binder and then retarget them that’s retargeting. programmatic advertising is taking our entire database of curated specifiers of our industry, and finding them on the internet and showing them an ad without them having to go anywhere. So it’s a really big challenge for our industry to reach the audience that it’s specifically targeting. So they could do like Google AdWords and, you know, do a bunch of optimization. But the problem is, when you put in the word designer, you’re getting graphic designer, you’re getting residential designer, you’re getting all sorts of industrial people, you’re not getting the ones that are specifying products. So there’s a lot of waste, that manufacturers are currently doing. And we’re loving the idea of programmatic because it’s basically utilizing our database, which is a little over 83,000 people, and it’s promoting their products directly to them. So directly to specifiers. It’s closing that loop. And I think you’re gonna start seeing a lot more of that type of advertising. I think you’re gonna start seeing manufacturers getting smarter with what they’re doing. As far as sending people around the country to promote the products versus trying to do an outreach to them and unique ways. I think you’re gonna start seeing that bubble kind of increase.

Tim
Yeah, I like what you’re talking about with the programmatic stuff. We always say that marketing and brand initiatives need to be relevant. That’s where the pain points and audience personas come into play, too. But what you’re doing is, is someone say, Okay, so now you’re going back into the big brother aspect, well, sort of, and sort of not, if you put something that’s relevant in front of someone, they won’t bat an eye at it, because it’s something that they’re used to seeing, oh, you know, here’s this really cool design thing that’s floating by in my LinkedIn feed, or wherever it might be in a retargeting platform or something on a blog or whatever, it just makes more sense to them. So it doesn’t interrupt their viewing experience, it might actually catch their eye and it doesn’t catch them off guard. So that is relevant. And it’s a good way to spend money. And in a fashion, that makes sense, because your click through rates and conversions and interest will be higher than even a self selected marketing platform, which is still fine to use. And we use it to with our clients, like, you know, Google ads, where you’re, you know, they are self selecting by doing the search, but you’re also competing against other relevant search terms as well. So and who knows what the the bid costs are in those clicks, depending on which phrase you’re going after?

Jeff
Well, and that’s somebody so everything that you just mentioned, we’re learning it like kind of warp speed right now, because the click through rates, and nobody ever really thought of those in our industry. So you know, the furniture industry that we play in is only about 16 $17 billion industry. So we’re not a huge industry. So a lot of these mega companies are not going to come in and actually change the way things have been working for the last 60 years. So we just need to find new ways to keep product relevant and in front of people. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s one of the biggest challenges that we’re going to have moving forward is, if you can’t send a rep group in to actually present a product, which, by the way, independent rep groups, they don’t make any money unless they actually sell product. But during COVID, when everybody was in lockdown, you couldn’t do anything. I have seen, basically, independent reps show a ingenuity that I’ve never seen before. And there’s so many reps that are doing unique things, like even, you know, parking their, their van in a park, putting out blankets and having people come over and have some wine or have some wine and cheese or whatever else that kids can play at the park. And then they put product out so that they could still be showing designers product. But yet social distancing, and getting creative on how to do things. I’m fascinated that this industry has started to make those turns,

Tim
I will say whether you’re on the product side or the material side. The reason we like working in this industry, the reason I have this podcast is there are a lot of people that need to catch up with their brands and their companies. And that’s okay. But there’s a lot of the success in this industry has been built on. The old way of doing business really established sales networks with reps and in person visits and big catalogs of clients design clients. And eventually, when something like this hits and across the board industries have flipped overnight into becoming more digital and more flexible. But you start to see where your weaknesses were that people are trying to urge you to move into and that’s what I continually try and urge on this podcast and with our clients is make it flexible digital, you can still wrap some in person experiences and things around that but you Need to make your marketing initiatives and your sales processes more flexible and, and remote as part of that, but also the digital interactions that you can have online? Why should I have optimization? Why should I do Google ads? Why should we have a huge product library on our website that has resource downloads on it, because eventually, you’ll need to start shifting from those in person visits, phone calls, sample books, binders to your let me get you this stuff quick. But as we develop a relationship, I’m gonna see you in person once in a while, and that stuff’s still gonna exist. But here’s all these great ways I can support you remote and quickly now to like, you send me an email, I got you a file and like an hour, versus whatever the alternative was in the old fashioned way of doing business. So I like that point. Because it, it’s close to my heart, it’s close to what we do at luminess. So

Jeff
yes, and I think that that’s going to be the trend moving forward. So I’m really excited about the future. You know, back in December of 2019, we were averaging about 3000 logins a day, into my resource library. In March, that number doubled and went over 6000. We have been maintaining over 6000 logins since March, it has been absolutely crazy activity in the library. We’re seeing we’re seeing way more searches 1.9 million products are viewed every month on my resource library. So we’re experiencing kind of a vindication that we actually are moving the needle for our industry. And I’m super excited about what the future is going to hold.

Tim
And look, that’s not going to go away. Once someone gets a taste of it, it just becomes part of what they’re doing. But they’re not going to stop doing it that way anymore. Once you get that as part of your workflow. You just don’t abandon it.

Jeff
No. And we’ve been signing up new accounts. I think one day in April, we signed up over 1000 interior design students in one day. I mean, it was absolutely crazy. And it’s still going that direction. And again, we’re offering the service to the industry, for every aspect of the industry. A lot of people actually assume that I’m just getting rich and having all this fun times. It is not about the money. It’s all literally about making a change for our industry, and kind of setting it up, right. So our margins are really small, just like the dealers. And we actually continue to grow. And we’re growing organically versus, you know, taking on seed money or anything else. We’re not doing that we we do all the programming in house. We have four programmers that work for us, we have 24 people that actually work for us, doing binder updates, working with reps working with dealers, working with designers, and then you’ve got the leadership team that’s doing sales and kind of constantly evaluating new opportunities to keep moving that needle. Cool.

Tim
Is there anything else you want to touch on? Before we wrap up, we’ve gone through a lot of different topics.

Jeff
We sure have, we covered a lot more topics than what I thought we were going to talk about. But I know I think we’ve covered pretty much everything that my resource library is doing for the industry. I love the direction of where the entire world is going. But again, you know, my resource library is really participating in trying to get to a point where it’s just easy to do business. And I think we can get there, we now offer e commerce as a service, we now offer all sorts of things that we can do for dealers, designers, reps, and manufacturers.

Tim
I would say this, with this episode coming out right after New Year’s, let’s talk about some resolutions for the building materials industry in the building products industries. One is build stronger connections and resources for your audiences, designers and retailers and, and men bring that manufacturing support further down the channel. I think that’s a really good one to get more digital and become an actual asset to the people that you’re you’re trying to sell through for your projects. And three, make sure your brand is up to date. Because when you know, when it hits the fan, you’re going to be left with Why should I choose this company over other companies? Did they support their employees the right way? Are they active in the community? Have they always been there when I needed them? Or are they just someone that I you know, paying for a product they sent back because that stuff is just going to be incredibly important. Now as we go through the last bit of the survival phase and 2021 to get out to the other side where the herd is thinned a little bit and you better have your game stepped up. So now’s the time to make the investments in time and potentially in money to get yourself in the right place for when that stuff turns the corner.

Jeff
couldn’t agree with you more Tim and I could not agree with you more. That’s just the perfect statement. perfect way for us to wrap up.

Tim
All right now before we actually wrap up Why don’t you drop the information about my resource library one more time and maybe where people can find you if they want connect with you.

Jeff
So I’m on LinkedIn. I’m also my email is just Jeff at my resource library Comm. I’m the principal of my resource library. We’ve got 380 I believe now manufacturers we keep growing pretty much weekly. So I’m not exactly sure the count anymore, but we work with 380 manufacturers, and we provide unique services to every aspect of the contract or hospitality industry.

Tim
Well, I’ll put some info for that in the posts online. And thanks for coming on. This was awesome conversation.

Jeff
Thanks, Tim.

Tim
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