Standing out from the competition is getting harder for brands. So our first guest of 2021 was someone who finds creative, impactful ways for building materials manufacturers to promote their products. Linda Weinstein, creator of the popular One Room Challenge, talked with us about how you can tap into influencer marketing to establish your brand, grow your audience and build authority.
More About This Episode
The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.
We’re thrilled to welcome our first guest of 2021 in this episode: Linda Weinstein from One Room Challenge. It’s the world's largest online interior design event, and for the last nine years, she’s expanded its community of DIYers, online influencers, architects and designers. Today, it has a reach of 14 million viewers.
One Room Challenge: Design That Empowers
Linda created the One Room Challenge nine years ago, and its success has grown year after year. After 19 seasons of producing the event, she’s still excited about the possibilities in this online community.
Designers, DIYers, architects and product manufacturers are all welcome to participate in the twice-a-year challenge: to remodel one room in a house. “It's really an opportunity to empower people to transform one room,” says Linda.
The One Room Challenge is a fast-paced, six-week event, where participants makeover a specific room and weekly document the progress of that redesign on their blog and/or social media platforms. “The community is the participants. So that would be anyone from a DIYer to a professional licensed designer, an architect, or it could just be someone who thinks it would be really fun to play along and transform a room in their house,” says Linda.
The ORC connects the invited designers and DIYers with product sponsors to help them achieve a successful new look. What’s more, media sponsors like Better Homes and Gardens add to the reach of the event.
Manufacturers can participate by sponsoring the event. This gives you the opportunity to provide products to the handful of invited higher-profile influencers, who will cross-promote each other for added exposure. There is also the ability to individually partner with designers and DIYers (the guest participants) who are choosing to participate in the event on their own.
There are also several smaller influencer hosted challenges amongst the design community that can allow a building materials manufacturer to sponsor participants and dip a toe into the world of influencer marketing and events with amplified brand exposure.
The Growth of Influencer Marketing
Influencer marketing can help to better establish your product and brand name with a larger audience. That doesn’t just help attract customers: It makes your brand stand out from competitors.
“In terms of reaching the designers and reaching architects, you've got to be online,” Linda emphasizes. “You've got to be online. If your product has a competitor, and I don't know many that don't, then you've also got to build your name.”
Working with an online design influencer can bring big returns to manufacturers looking to build an online presence with authority. “The only way you're going to build your name is by having people speak it, talk about it, use it, show it,” Linda explains.
Some manufacturers have caught on to the trend of influencer marketing and are doing this well.
Linda shared her experience with installing skylights in her own home a few years ago. At the time, she didn't have a brand in mind because there weren't any brand names that resonated with her. The landscape has changed, however, as brands have learned the value of working with influencers.
“Now, look at it today; Velux works with so many influencers,” says Linda. “You see all the designers using it, and that has to translate to consumers asking the architects ‘what type of skylight are you spec’ing in,’ or getting more involved in the name recognition.”
One of the leading indicators of purchase intent is knowing the name of the company that you intend to purchase from. It’s the difference between a potential customer Googling “vacuum cleaner” vs. “Dyson vacuum cleaner.”
“I think that's the piece that can really easily be looked over because often I think influencer programs or influencer partnerships can be looked at as fluffy add-ons, instead of really being positioned as the value that they add to your brand. Plus, the incredible credibility that they give to your brand,” explains Beth.
“Getting credible professionals, certified architects and designers to talk about you, promote you, be excited about your product, is so incredibly powerful,” she adds. “Maybe even more so than 10 high-level, generic conversations you might have at a trade show. Let's let the architects lead the conversation about why your brand is so important.”
So how can manufacturers connect with online influencers and other professionals, and what should that relationship look like?
Linda shared how manufacturers might start the conversation with online influencers and grow that connection. Working with Linda in the One Room Challenge is a great start, but there are some tips she gave us around finding influencers so that manufacturers can establish a meaningful, sustainable partnership.
On Finding Designers:
“The professional designers, in general, don't have the large following that some of the online professional influencers might,” explains Linda. “However, they might have a better, authentic one-on-one relationship with their followers.”
In other words, if you’re scanning Instagram for influential designers, you can’t judge them by their follower count. “They might be working on large projects behind the scenes that will translate into immediate purchases in a different way. You just can't judge anyone by the immediate cover,” says Linda.
Working with a designer, architect or DIYer who is also an influencer could give manufacturers an opportunity to have their products used in unique, bold or unconventional ways or applications. It could also lead to some traditional media exposure if the spaces are featured in design publications.
There is even potential that a design influencer could provide you with a more cost-effective way to obtain before, during and after imagery of your products.
“That's where the influencer gives you the better bang for the buck, because that was a job site, a remote site that most likely the entire location had to be rented,” says Linda. “The cost of that to replicate is probably a hundred times what it would cost you to partner directly with an influencer, who will give you, arguably, I'm not talking about the same quality one for one, but maybe a more realistic view, real products in real homes.”
On Fair Partnerships:
“What you should really think about is a mutually beneficial, fair exchange,” Linda says. Influencers are spending time and energy building their audiences, sometimes as a full-time career. So think about the value of what you’re selling, and how that will translate for the influencer you’re working with.
“What is the monetary value of your product? You should be trying to match something similar in exchange,” explains Linda. “If you make a $200 pillow, then your ask list should match a $200 pillow. If you make a $10,000 door, then your ask list should match a $10,000 door. It really needs to be fair for everyone.”
On Commercial Product Manufacturers:
Still not sure about influencer marketing or if it’s right for your manufacturing brand? Linda poses a simple question: “Does your product go in a home?”
Think about where your products are used and the people that might purchase them. Maybe you haven’t traditionally worked in the residential space. The One Room Challenge has featured successful residential and commercial projects in the last few years. Photographer Gray Malin, for instance, redesigned his own company’s office space for the Fall 2019 challenge (with gorgeous results).
In other words, think outside the box when it comes to how to connect your brand with a larger community. A few of the brands that have sponsored the One Room Challenge include Novo Building Products, Bertazzoni, Emtek, Lifecore Flooring and a few other well-known names in the industry.
How We Can Plan Ahead in 2021
We were excited to wrap up 2020, after a challenging (but informative) year in the building materials industry. There are some trends that we were especially interested in when it comes to influencer marketing, and Linda touched on one of the most important insights we’ve gained from last year’s experience.
“I think that we learned in 2020 that we really all need value,” Linda said. When it comes to adding value, in the most tangible and immediate way, homeowners have turned to home improvement this year. “I know that all the interior designers that I speak with are incredibly busy, which obviously is the huge shift from everyone being stuck home.”
Even before stay-at-home orders were in place across the globe, we saw trends in home-basing and staycations in the last several years. People are staying closer to home these days. And Linda sees that trend lingering for the long haul.
“We realized we want to spend more money in our homes, which I love because I really do think that your home is the best place you can invest in. I think it's going to just be a lot of focus on home,” she says.
Want Even MORE Insight?
The One Room Challenge gives designers, DIYers, architects and product manufacturers a way to collaborate and create, and the projects that come out of the event are truly inspiring.
Finding the right influencers in the industry might take some leg work, but we’ve seen it translate as success for manufacturers. Connecting with the right influencer means you can leverage their professional opinion, collaborate on an inspiring project and stay on top of trends that keep you ahead of the competition.
Get involved and learn more about the One Room Challenge by visiting their website.
Stayed tuned into even more trends and tips to kick 2021 off right: subscribe to the podcast here.
Show Notes and Resources
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