In this “There is a Difference” interview we speak with Edie Kello, a seasoned marketing executive in the home and building products world. As we celebrate women in construction this month, Edie gives great insight into building products trends and her specific experience as a tenured professional working in decking and outdoor living spaces. She opens up about some of the shifts she’s seen in the marketplace during the pandemic, trends for the upcoming year and how she’s stood apart as a woman in a male centric industry.
WHAT IS ONE THING YOU ANTICIPATE BEING DIFFERENT IN MARKETING TRENDS AS WE BEGIN 2021?
Edie: I would say virtual meetings for large conferences. The digital technology that had to rapidly come into play last year for conferences has really become more sophisticated in the past year. I recently attended one and it actually captured everybody that came to our virtual booth. If they looked into our PDFs and reviewed content, it was captured there as well. We also had an “enter for a prize” to win a gift card from Amazon. I was able to capture over 180 visitors to the booth during four days and over 110 content views. These contacts are captured in a spreadsheet that I can actually put into MailChimp to thank them for coming to the booth, remind them they have a few more days to register for the gift card drawing, and continue to market to them. It was actually more effective than if I had been in person trying to capture people in the aisle to come and hear about our products. This gave them a way to do it on their time and for me to smartly market to them, based on their needs.
AS A WOMAN IN A MALE CENTRIC OR DOMINATED INDUSTRY, HOW DO YOU STAND APART?
Edie: Well, I was told when I was hired at one company that it would be interesting to get a woman’s viewpoint. I know that we all have different experiences, work histories, and backgrounds that we bring to a job that gives us perspective on how we do our work. I think a man or a woman will stand out if they offer value from their experiences and their skillset. Anyone in this role, man or woman, has to know the products, the industry and the competitors. I think when you know your stuff, you stand out. I think it was surprising to some men in conversations that I would talk about joist spans between PVC decking, composite decking and wood decking. They would say, “Wow, I didn’t know you knew that.” Or “I didn’t know that.” That makes me see how I stand out, but I think really, anyone that works hard and smart will stand out.
BEING IN OUTDOOR DECKING PRODUCTS FOR SO LONG, WHAT ARE SOME SHIFTS YOU’VE NOTICED THAT ARE RELEVANT TO HOME RENOVATIONS?
Edie: People are expanding their living spaces. Being in the repair and remodel market, homeowners want to increase their outdoor living spaces and enlarge their decks; and they’re either going to add the same type of decking on what they already have versus the expense of a brand-new deck and substructure. The number of products that have come on the market in the past 20 years offer so many choices of colors, styles, and types of decking. People are going to either want something specific, real wood, the lowest maintenance option, or they’re going to have to compromise due to price. However, contractors that I’ve talked with, because there’s so many options, only want to offer the homeowner the brands they’re familiar with, the ones they’ve installed, and ones that have good warranties.
HAVE YOU NOTICED AN UPTICK IN SALES SINCE PEOPLE ARE REQUIRED TO BE AT HOME MORE WITH THE PANDEMIC, AND WHY DO YOU THINK THAT’S THE CASE?
Edie: Yes, I’ve definitely noticed the difference and a lot of companies in the building product sector have as well. Our homes have become our havens and people are investing in renovations versus going on vacations. With more time, not having to commute, school and office closures, our homes have become our offices, our classrooms, our theaters, our gyms, our restaurants, and our expanded living spaces. People had a heavy demand this past year for treated lumber to build raised garden beds and also to expand their outdoor living spaces, like their decks. Dealers saw double digit increases in sales due to people spending more on projects for their homes because they are spending more time at their homes.
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOUR TEAM HAS DONE SPECIFICALLY TO CATER TO THE CHANGES IN THE BUSINESS CLIMATE?
Edie: Some of us are fortunate enough to be able to work at home. People that work in our labs are having to go into the labs to do their work. But we want to make sure that we’re in frequent contact with our suppliers and our customers to make sure the customer needs are being met. There were some issues last year, early on with transportation going into different states that had restrictions. So that’s of course lessening as the spread of COVID wanes. We did develop demo kits for one major retailer to give them a demonstration on treated wood-- ordinasry treated wood versus Ecolife treated wood. We got the kits developed, but we had to put them in storage. They’re still in storage until social distancing is no longer needed. Then we’ll ship them out to the stores.
DO YOU ANTICIPATE A SHIFT IN OUTDOOR DECKING AS PEOPLE ARE STAYING AT HOME AND SPECIFICALLY AS THE WEATHER GETS WARMER?
Edie: Yes, the outdoors is a welcome relief from cabin fever and from being behind a computer all day. I know families, friends and neighbors in their own bubbles are continuing to enjoy these outdoor living spaces, their porches, patios, decks, and even cocktails at the end of their driveways. People want social interaction. As the vaccinations quell the spread of COVID, some businesses may go back to normal operations; however, many companies have seen the value and how employees can work productively at home. We want to love where we live, and we will continue to invest in enhancing the quality of our lives at home. This pandemic has created a shift in putting a priority on our personal lives. I don’t mean just health-wise, but time with our friends and family who we were limited to seeing before, and I think this has translated to making our outdoor living spaces and our homes, the place we want to be.
Please click HERE to view the full interview with Edie.