The International Builders’ Show
by Kent Baker
Over the past twenty years in previous roles with Maytag and Jacuzzi I regularly attended the International Builders’ Show, many times with the responsibility of being an exhibitor. I learned to be a supporter of the show as result of the benefits (including PR, new product introductions, and customer and supplier development) that I saw both Maytag and Jacuzzi derive from being an exhibitor at IBS.
Attending IBS this month after my absence since 2006 I found that the show had changed dramatically with the decline of the builder industry. The bottom fell out of the industry after 2006 with U.S. housing starts going from over 2MM starts in 2006 to slightly less than 600,000 starts in 2010. In parallel, the IBS show I last remembered had attendance of over 100,000 in 2006 and had dropped to 47,000 attendees this year. Exhibitors were over 2000 in 2006 and this year totaled 1130.
In spite of such precipitous declines, I found there was optimism among most I people I talked to at the show. The industry seems to have bottomed out, with U.S. housing starts actually increasing from 442,000 in 2009 to 555,000 in 2010. U.S. starts are forecasted to be up over 21% in 2011, largely due to more credit availability for builders (especially smaller builders), increases in consumer confidence, and an improvement employment picture. The optimism could be seen in the large amount of new product innovations that were on display. Some highlights I saw included Lennox’s new Sun Source Home Energy System – a new solar-powered central heating and cooling system that uses solar energy; Formica Corporation with its latest laminates, Premiumfx™ finishes, and solid surfacing including Calacatta Marble; and Owens Corning’s EcoTouch™ PINK™ FIBERGLAS™ Insulation product platform with PureFiber™ Technology.
There also appears to be upside potential to more accurately market against specific segments — for example, against the 55+ market and females markets. Females now influence 91% of sales. A joint study by the 50+ Housing Council of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the MetLife Mature Market Institute shows baby boomers are seeking housing better suited to their lifestyle. 55+ communities are expected to rise in 2011 by 30% from 2010 and projected to be up another 46% in 2010, although on a smaller base. Households including someone 55+ will be as much as 45% of the households by 2020.
What was surprising to me was how, in spite of the one of the worse industry downturns in history, so few manufacturers and builders have made the transition to the digital marketing world. Although there are some who have implemented social media marketing, I talked to very few marketers who were either monetizing their websites by retargeting to their current site visitors or using outside databases to expand their marketing reach in a targeted manner. Since the consumer today is including the web as a part of the purchase process, there is now opportunity for smart marketers in this industry or strong brands supplying products to builders. The opportunity lies in starting immediately to retarget to their own site visitors, segment and identify their target audience, and find those consumer segments through available databases to start a dialog with a broader — but targeted — base of consumers. Implementing these elementary steps for any organization, regardless of size, is not difficult or expensive. Plus the benefits of talking to those consumers in market, instead of using older traditional marketing vehicles that merely built brand awareness, is being proven by those marketers wise enough to have embraced digital marketing and retargeting.