Technology for the Builder

In the past, we’ve discussed the use of technology in construction from a homeowner’s viewpoint. It is true that the Internet of Things has blossomed wide open for homeowners to have “smart” homes. But tech is not only transforming the construction experience for the homeowner – it’s changing the way builders work as well. We will examine several innovations which will make your job, as a builder, easier.

Digital Pen

Headgear

Wearable gear is one way to use technology to both enhance your capabilities or to increase your safety. For example, Augmented Reality glasses or a visor can superimpose 3D models on a live site, can allow the builder to see where electrical cables, pipe or ductwork run behind an existing wall and can merge plans with reality. An example of this sort of technology is the Microsoft Hololens (https://youtu.be/AQOGBPYf2Mg). Another type of tech gear is the enhanced safety helmet. While most construction professionals wear a hard hat on site, this gear takes the hard hat into the 21st century. The DAQRI Smart Helmet (https://daqri.com/products/smart-helmet/), using Google Glass technology, has sensors and cameras, which it uses to gather data about the immediate environment. It includes a clear visor, lenses and 4-D Augmented Reality. This helmet can warn the wearer of possible dangers and also assist in task completion.

Wearable Technology

Another type of wearable technology designed for construction are devices you wear, such as GPS-enhanced safely vests or gesture-activated wristbands. The safety vests use GPS technology to track movement and location on a job site. This in turn can notify a worker who is entering a hazardous area. Wristbands connect to devices which are digitally enabled, such as the Augmented Reality glasses discussed above. Through gestures, the wearer can control those devices without touching.

Airborne Tech

Drones are also offering assistance on job sites. A drone can perform a multitude of functions, such as surveying land, mapping a job site, documenting job progression, and securing the site from theft and vandalism. If a drone records footage of the site, that recording can be used to project job completion and to update job progress to customers. The tech industry is now creating specialized drones designed specifically for construction and industry.

On Your PC and Phone

A recent improvement in computer technology is Building Information Modelling or BIM. This technology merges various data about the project and create high-detail, interactive 3-D models, which are far more informative than a simple blueprint.

As regulations and codes change, your PC and phone are valuable tools for staying abreast of all those changes. Apps also can assist you in streamlining your business. For example, some builder productivity apps are BuildCalc, which includes equations and calculations for hip roof construction, Fast Concrete Pad Calculator, which figures out how much rebar and concrete you need for your project as well as a cost estimate for those, DeWALT, which is a calculator for volume, length, construction materials (such as quantity of nails or number of drywall boards), PlanGrid, which allows contractors to save PDFs of project designs and to share them to workers’ devices, and Estimate ALL PRO, which helps you estimate materials costs after you input the item and the cost per unit. Additionally, apps are usually quite affordable comparative to their functionality.

Another great tech-related tool is … drum roll … the 10-Year New Home Warranty, from American eBuilder! Did you know that we are now mobile-friendly, and you can order your warranties straight from your smart phone or tablet? From its start, American eBuilder was prescient in this area; we were providing the convenience and ease of warranties purchased online before anyone else! But with the mobile-friendly site, we’ve taken our technological convenience a step further. “On-line, on-time, un-equaled!”

Are You Plugged In? Part 5: Go Mobile!

In this 21st Century world, being digital and online is a must for growing your business. Yet many of us, who did not grow up “plugged in,” find it difficult to know where to start in generating a presence online. But from customer service to lead generation, the internet is really one of your best resources for building your reputation, name-recognition and ultimately business. Let’s take a look at how you can get started … with mobile technology.

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MOBILE DEVICES:

Nearly every person in the US owns a cell phone of some sort, and most are smartphones. Another mobile technology device is the tablet.  These are instant communication devices that you cannot pass up using to market your brand. Whether it’s texting, QR codes or apps, all of these mobile venues can increase interest in your homes.

TEXTS:

On your yard signs at construction projects, on ads in local publications, and anywhere you advertise, consider including a number for potential customers to text message. Texting provides an easy and fairly anonymous way for the consumer to get information about your construction. In fact, most of the younger generation will opt to text rather than make a phone call. Neglecting this venue could cost you sales!

QR CODES:

A QR code is an image which can be read by a smart phone app such as Red Laser or a QR reader. You can see a sample QR code in the photo above – it’s a square filled with little boxes that create a pattern. If you scan the QR code, it will take you to a website. The QR Code above links to American eBuilder … if you have a smart phone, try scanning it! You can convert any web address to a code at a site such as the QR Code Generator. The convenience of scanning a QR means not having to type in a website address; it’s simple and easier to just scan. After you create a QR code for your website, add it to your marketing materials, to signage and to ads.

APPS:

Whether the smart phone is iOS or Android, it will have apps. Of course, it would be difficult for you to create your own app, but why not get your work featured on apps that already exist? Four Square, Yelp, Trulia and Zillow are all apps which can feature your new homes and your business. For example, Four Square is an app that allows customers to “check in” to their favorite businesses. But they can’t find your business if you’re not listed on Four Square. Yelp is similar, with customers writing reviews and recommendations on businesses. If you have satisfied customers, why not ask them to create positive reviews of your business on Yelp? Trulia is an online market for real estate. Having the homes you build listed there and on Zillow will put your properties literally at the fingertips of interested buyers.

Hopefully these posts on plugging in to your market via technology have been helpful. When you decide to implement getting involved in these venues, just take it one step at a time. Trying to do everything at once would be overwhelming. But if you start small, with the basics of a website, and gradually expand from there, you will find that your business will benefit immensely from the added exposure technology will give you.

Are You Plugged In? Part 3: More Social Media

In this 21st Century world, being digital and online is a must for growing your business. Yet many of us, who did not grow up “plugged in,” find it difficult to know where to start in generating a presence online. But from customer service to lead generation, the internet is really one of your best resources for building your reputation, name-recognition and ultimately business. Let’s take a look at how you can get started … with LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr Social Media.

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SOCIAL MEDIA: As with Facebook and Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr can provide additional exposure to your business. Each platform is uniquely suited to express some facet that should increase interest in your construction. For example, LinkedIn is a professional network. There, you can network with other builders, professional trade organizations and potential business partners. YouTube is a great medium to post video of your work, perhaps in its finished form or perhaps to show a time-lapse of the construction process. Finally, Flickr (along with Facebook and Twitter) will let you post photos of your work to entice clients.

LinkedIn: As we mention above, LinkedIn is a networking platform. It is great for making connections with industry professionals and for building your resume. As with Facebook, to have a business page, you must first create a personal profile page.

Begin by going to LinkedIn and complete the pop-up that requests your name, email and password. It will then allow you to add contact information, a personal photo (think professional-looking), your educational background and your employment history. Your next step should be to search for people you know to be your connections. Consider colleagues, anyone whose business card you have, friends and new people you meet through the LinkedIn feed.

After your personal page is set up, move on to your company profile. Add your logo, a brief background history, description of what you do, specialties, location and contact information. You may optionally add a number of employees, upcoming events, and job openings you have.

When everything is to your liking, add a status update. You should post a status update at least every two weeks. Another option LinkedIn gives is to add a poll to your profile. Think about a topic related to the building industry and craft a poll that might pique the interest of the entire community.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn is a professional Social Network community, and never post questionable or spammy things.

American eBuilder is on LinkedIn! Find us at american-ebuilder and connect with us!

YouTube: YouTube has great potential, if you have a way of capturing video. You could use your smart phone, but to present a professional face, you probably should have someone with high quality video equipment help you. Consider a virtual tour of one of your completed homes, with commentary that points out the workmanship and details that a potential buyer might appreciate. Or think about doing a time-lapse construction video with commentary that highlights your foundation work, your framing and other features which make your building distinctive.

Once you have your video in hand, you will need to create a YouTube account. Go to the YouTube site and click on the words, “My Channel,” in the right-hand menu under the Home button. If you already have a Google account and are logged in, it will allow you to immediately create a channel. But if you read the small print, that same box gives you an option to “Use a business or other name.” Click on that. Next, you must name your channel and select a category under which your business falls. Then click “Done.”

Now you can customize your channel. You may click to add artwork across the top of the page. This artwork must be size as 2048 pixels wide and 1152 pixels tall. You may upload your videos as well. Click on “Upload Videos” and then select the video file on your computer. You should also pick your audience. Public will give you the most exposure. Finally, add a title and a description to your uploaded video. Just a note about posting video … while YouTube imposes a 15 minute limit, best practice indicates that your videos should be between 1 ½ to 2 minutes long.

These videos will be a valuable asset not just to potential customers, but can actually serve to market your homes to out-of-state clients looking to move as well.

Flickr: While YouTube is good for video, Flickr is great for still photos. The advantage to posting photos on Flickr is that because Yahoo owns it, your photos will be easily indexed and found by Yahoo search. As with the other Social Media platforms, you must first create an account. Click on the blue “Sign Up” button on the top right. If you already have a Yahoo ID, you can create your account with that. If you do not, you will first create a Yahoo ID. Then you will be able to add a profile photo and customize your Flickr url (as your business name).

Now you are ready to add photos of your work! You may upload individual photos, or you may create sets of images. Be sure to give every image a title and description, since that will help Yahoo search to find it.

In terms of Social Media, you’re all set! Just don’t forget to occasionally update all of your online venues with an updated post from time to time, to keep your site and your brand in top search engine locations.

Are You Plugged In? Part 2: Social Media

In this 21st Century world, being digital and online is a must for growing your business. Yet many of us, who did not grow up “plugged in,” find it difficult to know where to start in generating a presence online. But from customer service to lead generation, the internet is really one of your best resources for building your reputation, name-recognition and ultimately business. Let’s take a look at how you can get started … with Facebook and Twitter Social Media.

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Social Media: Facebook and Twitter

SOCIAL MEDIA: What do you think of when you hear the words, “Social Media?” While the thought of communicating through this medium can be a bit intimidating, you can use Social Media to advertise, network, inform, update and do customer service. Each Social Media platform has strengths in one of these areas. Some platforms which might be useful to you as a builder include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr.

FACEBOOK: Facebook has over 10 million users, so it is a quite powerful resource to get your name out there, to an audience that is targeted to need your services. Before you can create a company page for your business, you must first have a personal Facebook profile.

To set up your personal Facebook profile, you will need to provide contact information, such as your phone and email, your work history, your website(s) and your photo. Some info is optional. Next, use the “search” option to find people you know and click on the green “Add Friend” button. After you’ve found 25 “friends,” you will be able to create a company page. Just a caveat – your business page will be related to your personal page, so don’t post anything on your personal page that you wouldn’t want potential customers to read.

The company page is called a “fan page” on Facebook. To create one, go to your main news feed and scroll down the page. Look on the left side for a menu called “Pages,” and under that, click on “Create a page.” This will take you to a page with 6 icons. The one you should click on is the first: “Local Business or Place.” It will ask you what category your business fits into. Select the closest to what you do. You will not be able to change this after the page has been created! Next, you will need to input information about your business, such as business name, address and phone number. Then, click on “Get Started.”

After creating the page, you will be able to customize it with links, video, photos and contact forms. When your page looks and works the way you like, start to collect fans! First, click on “Suggest to Friends,” and choose the friends you know might be interested in your page. Also post the link on your personal page by clicking the “share” button. Finally, email customers to like the page by the “send a message” link. When you are gathering fans, keep in mind that although you may have other builder friends, they probably are not the best to be fans of your business page. Instead, target those who are realtors or existing homeowners who have been happy with your work.

TWITTER: Twitter is a far more succinct and brief platform. A post on Twitter is called a “tweet.” You have only 140 characters to express yourself. If you add a photo or a link to your tweet, that addition will take away characters from the 140 total, so you will necessarily need brevity in what you post.

To get started in Twitter, create a new account. Choose a name that makes sense in relationship to your business. Your name may only use 14 characters, so again, think short. Next, complete your profile with your name, your website address, a background about your company and what you do and your logo or photo representing your brand.

When you are ready to tweet, try to be catchy. Tweet about your business, about maintenance tips, about business news, and ask questions and engage in conversations. If you post a link to your site, make it shorter at TinyURL or at Bitly. That way, it will not use up all of your character limit! Don’t make everything you post an advertisement. People will grow weary of those posts and unfollow you.

To get followers, look for people who have bought a home from you, Realtors and title companies to start with. You will notice that, as you post tweets, people and companies will begin to “follow” you. Do not automatically return the favor by “following” them – investigate first to see if following them will benefit your sales and business.

If you see an interesting and relevant tweet by one of your followers, you can “retweet” it by clicking the icon with two arrows in a circle. You may comment on it by clicking the single arrow below it. You can also “like” it by clicking the heart icon under the tweet.

A final facet of Twitter is the hashtag (#). When you put a hashtag in front of a word, it will file your tweet under that tag. Then people searching for a specific subject will see your post. For example, you might begin with “#Homebuyers” in your tweet. Your message would then appear, along with any other tweets that contain the hashtag, #Homebuyers.

Check back tomorrow for insight into the other Social Media platforms of LinkedIn, YouTube and Flickr.

Are You Plugged In? Part 1: The Website

In this 21st Century world, being digital and online is a must for growing your business. Yet many of us, who did not grow up “plugged in,” find it difficult to know where to start in generating a presence online. But from customer service to lead generation, the internet is really one of your best resources for building your reputation, name-recognition and ultimately business. Let’s take a look at how you can get started … with a website.

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WEBSITE: Does your business have a website? It’s easier than ever before to get a professional looking website to give your customers an easy way to contact you. While you could hire a web design company to make a flashy site, if you have just a smidge of tech savvy, you could build it yourself. Hosting sites such as GoDaddy, WordPress and Webs all have gorgeous templates that are simple to customize by dragging, dropping and typing in the text you’d like to use. Plus these hosting sites provide the place to “store” your site so others can access it. To get started, all you need is a valid email address and an idea of what you’d like to say. Of course, there are fees involved with creating the website, but they are quite minimal (and are tax deductions!). You will need to rent a domain name (the name people type into their browser to go to your site) and you will need to pay for web hosting (the place your site is stored online).

If you don’t have an email address, you can set up a free account at Gmail, which is Google-based email or Hotmail, which is Microsoft-based email.

Another consideration when you are creating your website is whether the hosting site allows you to create a site which is responsive. What that means is that the site will resize and look great even on mobile devices, such as tablets or smartphones. More and more people prefer mobile devices over desktops, so it makes sense to be sure your new site is responsive.

To get a little more advanced, once you have your email and your website set up, consider adding a contact form to your site. This will allow not only current customers to get in touch with you, but will give new customers a way to reach you as well. In addition, be sure to offer potential customers YOUR contact information, such as your phone number, your mailing address and your location.

Website templates also often have a place for photos. This is a great place for you to brag about your work! Why not post pictures of your best work, along with customer testimonials? They do say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

A final step to take in creating your website is to add SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. Hosting sites, such as Webs, will prompt you in setting up the SEO, so don’t panic if you have no idea how to do it. Basically, you add “hidden” words, called tags, to the photos and posts in you site – hidden to a person viewing the site, but viewable by search engines so that when someone searches for those words, your site is one of the results they receive.

Over the next few posts, we’ll examine others ways you can “plug in” and utilize all the internet has to offer to expand your building business! ‘Til then, happy website building!

Maximizing the Millennial Market

As you may know, Millennials are the generation which was born between 1980 and 2000. They currently range in age from 16 to 36. A large portion of them are just hitting the age when they start to consider buying a home. Statistically, this market is even larger than the baby boomer demographic was. How can you, as a builder, make the most of marketing to this up-and-coming generation?

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The first consideration is communication. Because they have grown up with technology as an integral part of their lives, Millennials do not enjoy talking on the phone as much as they are comfortable with texting. In addition, when they search for a builder, they will use the internet to not only locate, but also to evaluate your work. If you do not have a solid online presence, you must develop that to capture this budding market. Also include testimonials from satisfied customers. Keep in mind that when they search online, they will likely do it from a tablet or smartphone, rather than a traditional desktop computer. Be sure that your website is mobile-friendly by having it converted to a responsive site.

The second consideration is technology. Having technology incorporated into a home will entice and pique the interest of Millennials. While there are whole-house technology hubs which control everything in a home, from lighting to security to utilities, if you’d like to just start small in the tech-savvy home building market, a few easy upgrades will make your homes much more appealing to this demographic.

First, consider installing a Nest thermostat for the heating and cooling systems. This type of thermostat can be synced and controlled by a smartphone. Not only that, but it also is intuitive – it “learns” what the homeowner likes as the temperature and programs itself to accommodate that. It also will light up when it senses a person nearby. A smart thermostat will appeal to eco-conscious Millennials in a huge way!

Next, while most of these are not a hard-wired device, consider installing a few smart outlets in strategic locations. Smart outlets plug into a normal wall outlet and feature the ability to turn on and off or dim lights from a smartphone app. Some brands also include programmability, motion sensing and built-in surge protectors.

A third technological venue to increase Millennial appeal is having keyless entry doors. Some keyless entries use a numeric pad, others use a fingerprint sensor, and still others have a remote fob. The appeal of a keyless entry is twofold. It frees the homeowner from fumbling with keys. It also adds security against unauthorized entry.

The third consideration is eco-score. Millennials have grown up with the admonition to protect the environment. They like to think that the home they are buying will help, rather than harm, that effort. Install a home energy monitor, which will track energy consumption from every electrical device in the home. Also, document the eco-score of your windows, insulation and other home components so the buyer can see the efficiency. Millennials love data!

If you follow these steps, you will set yourself apart from the competition in the Millennial home-buying market.