Dwell shares insider tips after consulting architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world.
You’ve decided to join the shipping container revolution. Your plans are drawn up, your site is prepared and your welding torch is ready to transform a discarded steel box into the durable, stylish and sustainable home of your dreams. Now what?
To help you get started, we asked architects, DIY home builders and shipping container experts from around the world for their insider tips on bringing home the best possible container for your building needs.
The first step, they agree, is to find a reputable distributor. “Shipping companies don’t want people calling them for one or 10 containers. They prefer to sell to dealers,” says Barry Naef, director of the ISBU Association (ISBU stands for intermodal steel building units, the term for containers used specifically for construction).
He recommends checking the extensive international list of dealers on the Eco Green Sources website. And don’t despair if you live far from the ocean. Thanks to a network of inland distribution hubs, says Naef, “there are as many [containers] in the mid-U.S. and Canada as there are at the ports, at nearly the same prices.” A dealer can help arrange for overland transport of your container via 18-wheeler truck.
Other sourcing options exist, too. In Zambia, a local NGO supplied Tokyo-based architect Mikiko Endo with old containers it had used to transport donations (she transformed them into maternity clinic housing). In Israel, architect Galit Golany purchased a refurbished container from a prefab construction company, then fixed up the turnkey unit with timber cladding, roofing, a deck and stone base.
Stephen Shoup, founder of Oakland’s building Lab, agrees that looking for a distributor that will do some basic modifications prior to sale is a good idea.
“It’s tons of fun to be standing there with a plasma cutter and a welder and be hacking into these things and pasting them back together, but if you’re encountering engineering issues, then you’re going to need licensed welders. That cost is much more controllable when done at the fabrication shop or shipyard,” says Shoup.
Another option is to purchase a container manufactured specifically for building, like the ones from Toronto-based MEKA or Silhouette Spice in Tokyo. These can be cheaply transported using existing global shipping networks, but are tailor-made to meet building codes (Japan’s are especially strict).
If you do decide to purchase a genuine seafaring container, you’ll need to keep a number of factors in mind. First is size. Although dimensions are generally standardized, your safest bet for projects that join multiple units is to purchase a single brand (perhaps one whose logo you fancy). Houston-based architect Christopher Robertson, who has designed both upscale residential and disaster-relief housing using containers, recommends choosing “high cubes” (HQ), which are about a foot taller than standard, because the smaller size can feel claustrophobic after installing insulation. Lengths vary from 8 to 53 feet, with 20 feet and 40 feet being the most common.
Whichever you choose, Robertson cautions that the costs of transportation and modification quickly add up. “There’s a real misconception that building with containers is absurdly inexpensive. Unfortunately, that’s not true at all,” he says.
Assuming you’re still hooked on the many other benefits of container construction, you’ll need to think about age and condition. Options range from virtually unscathed “one-trippers” to eight-to-10-year-old retired containers, with varying degrees of rust, dents and warping. Your choice depends on your design goals.
For Brook van der Linde, an artist who built a DIY container home with her husband in Asheville, cost and sustainability were more important than perfect condition. “Our goal was to use materials that were headed for the landfill. Our containers were constructed in 2005 so they had a good long life going to China and back,” she says.
Robertson, on the other hand, sought out one-trippers for his residential project. “They’re a little more expensive but they look a lot better,” he explains. “If they start having a lot of dings and rusts, you lose the aesthetic pleasure.”
Although a container’s history is trackable via its serial number, the best way to assess its condition is through a visual once-over prior to purchase. Arrive at the lot armed with a level to check for excessive warping and a checklist of potential problems, such as holes, dents, damaged door seals, and corrosion (a little rust is par for the course). Don’t forget to use your nose, as well. The wood flooring of most containers is treated with toxic pesticides, which you’ll need to seal or remove, and others may have been used to transport unpleasantly odiferous contents.
Finally, once you’ve made your choice, take a deep breath. The toughest — and most enjoyable — phase of building your container home is still to come.
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve been hearing about various mobile trends in integrated marketing. And maybe you’ve entertained the idea of how a mobile app could help your business. If you haven’t figured out whether you can afford to build one, or how to go about it, this brief overview will give you a few places to start.
First determine how an app would benefit your customers. For example, the hair-cutting franchise Great Clips launched an app that allows customers to see estimated wait times in their area, and easily make an appointment without calling. Consequently, stylists also save time by not having to interrupt haircuts to answer the phone so often.
Below are a few sites that can easily and cost-effectively help you build your own mobile app. Most of these, plus others, can be found in the book “Go Mobile: Location-Based Marketing, Apps, Mobile Optimized Ad Campaigns, 2D Codes and Other Mobile Strategies to Grow Your Business” by Jeanne Hopkins and Jamie Turner.
This free service focuses on the tech novice who wants an app for a specific event, like a conference or wedding. It includes directions, news, updates, and photo-sharing features. Yapp is limited in its functionality, but requires little-to-no technical know-how.
Authors are turning books into apps. Bands are turning albums into apps. If you’ve got the content, the MyAppBuilder team will create an app for you for $29/month. No tech experience necessary. They’ll also upload it to the app store for you.
This web-based editor is designed to let you quickly create your own iPhone app. The basic tool is free. Advanced features are available for a $79/month fee. AppMakr works on the iOS, Android and Windows operating systems.
The Mippin platform lets you create apps for Android, iOS and Windows, and offers app designs for individuals, small businesses, media owners and products. Native apps can cost as much as $999/year.
A cloud-based mobile Content Management System (mCMS) that helps you create live-content apps with no programming and “zero total cost of ownership.” Apps can include monetization options, such as ads, coupons, and subscriptions. A three-month trial is free. Pricing then depends on app features.
When Facebook claimed the title as the biggest IPO in Internet history, social media officially segued from a consumer fad to a business fact. Although the abundance of Internet cat memes could make anyone wonder if social media has business validity, the emergence of the concept of social business has tangible value for any integrated marketing program.
Research firm Altimeter Group defines social business as the deep integration of social media and social methodologies into an organization to drive business impact. In a recent study, Altimeter pinpointed the two most important criteria for a successful social business strategy. First, you have to align it with the strategic goals of your organization. Second, you have to put the resources in place to execute the strategy.
What Social Business Can Do
Knowing what you want to accomplish with social business can help you make it a viable part of your integrated marketing strategy. Consider these benefits; by using social business effectively, you can:
The Art of Conversation: How to Build a Social Business Strategy
Most experts recommend you think of your social business strategy in seven stages. This process stresses brand alignment and continual feedback.
First: Align Your Efforts.
Before beginning any social business activities, your first step will be to review your company’s integrated marketing activities and assess how these other methods are working. If you haven’t done so yet, define your company’s brand personality, sales channels and target audiences. Also, document how your target audience typically engages with your organization.
Second: Refine Your Listening Skills.
Companies engaged in social business marketing should listen to their online communities more than 50 percent of the time. That means asking questions, responding to their answers and prompting conversation.
Third: Define Community Expectations.
During this stage, try to outline your program by asking your target demographics what they want to experience in a social business program.
Fourth: Determine Assets.
A common misconception is that social media tools are free. Although many do not charge for service, they really aren’t free because they cost a lot of time to maintain as a part of your integrated marketing efforts.
Fifth: Measure Your Methods.
The goals of a social business program should evolve over time. During your initial program, track goals and metrics against your overall integrated marketing and business plans.
Sixth: Select Your Channels.
It’s tempting to try out every social network available, but that isn’t strategic. Go where your customers spend time. A pin on Pinterest might buy you more than a tweet on Twitter, depending on your target audience’s activities.
Seventh: Engage in Conversations.
Online conversations must mirror real-life conversations to be effective for company branding, sales, customer satisfaction and even employee recruitment. Be transparent and authentic. Focus on your industry and always observe any industry standards or regulations. When appropriate, tie your efforts to pop culture or “news of the day.” Thank your community profusely and, most importantly, have fun with it.
Wary integrated marketers should look carefully before leaping into SMS (short message service) marketing. It may feel like the Wild West of the new mobile frontier, but there are still rules that must be followed. If you go off half-cocked without knowing the boundaries before you hit “send,” you could end up shooting yourself in the pocketbook. Learn from these expensive mistakes others have made so you won’t have to repeat them:
1) Spamming Your Customers
Don’t abuse the medium. Simply having someone’s cell phone number does not mean you have permission to text them. They need to opt in. Then once you have permission, you need to maintain it. Don’t forget to give people the option to opt out within your message, every time.
2) Forgetting Disclaimers.
Your message should always include the standard caveat that “message and data rates may apply.” Remember, some people don’t have unlimited texting or data. If you send a link that takes them to a video, they could easily exceed their limit. Don’t upset your customer! Be diligent about following the rules and respecting the recipients of your messages.
3) Meager Incentives to Opt-in.
Give your customer a reason to want to text in and give you their phone number. It could be a free report or valuable information for a B2B audience. For a B2C consumer audience, the incentive will usually be some type of discount or offer.
Be aware that the same offer in an email may not work on cell phones. People guard their cell phone numbers more than emails. You need to make it worthwhile for customers to give out their cell phone number.
4) Mobile-unfriendly Destinations.
Your audience is going to view your message on their mobile phone, so send them a link to a webpage that has been optimized for mobile devices. Be sure your message works on a small screen by testing it first.
5) Using the Wrong Text Message Provider.
Businesses looking for a texting company need to know whether the provider is using a good system. To do so, it helps to understand the difference between SMTP and SMS. According to mobile marketing expert Jean-Michel Bernstein of Emarcom, “Some providers use SMTP, or email protocol. Although it costs less, your message could get blocked as spam. SMTP is like a non-toll road, there’s lots of traffic and messages are not guaranteed to go through—SMTP has a 60% failure rate! If a provider offers unlimited texting for a flat rate, this is a red flag! It means they’re basically sending emails to cell phones.”
When a carrier sees a large block of messages (e.g. 100+) going out via SMTP, they may block all the messages. However, your test message will go through because it’s only a single message.
Be sure your SMS campaign goes out on the cell phone carrier’s data network. By using the data network, you guarantee the message will be delivered within 60 seconds. Using the data network costs 3-5 cents apiece.
6) Buying Lists of Phone Numbers.
This is our last big no-no. Never buy a database of cell phone numbers from a list provider and then use it to send out text messages. Cold call if you must, but don’t spam people. If you violate an anti-spam law, the penalty could result in a fine of as much as $175 per cell phone number, per incident.
You’re just going to have to build up your list of cell phone numbers the old fashioned way. Expect to spend 30 to 60 days developing a sufficient cell phone number database. Give people a good enough incentive for giving you their number and your list should have no trouble growing.
B2B mobile marketing, including text message marketing (SMS) and multimedia message service marketing (MMS), can be effective additions to your integrated marketing mix, says Target Marketing magazine, providing you follow some simple but vital planning and delivery tips.
Versatile, Flexible, Instant
SMS marketing is an “opt-in” service, in which those interested in your company, product or offer give (by texting, of course) their permission to send short promotional messages to their mobile device.
SMS-enabled retailers, restaurants and service companies use text-message marketing to send in-store redeemable offers and discounts. Airlines and event planners use SMS texts to dispatch alerts and confirmations.
MMS Slideshow Combo
A multimedia message service (MMS) is similar, but more engaging, because MMS texts can contain a timed combination of images, messages, audio and video. They’re more work to produce but can provide a bigger lift in response rates.
According to MobileMarketer.com, nearly 98% of all text messages are read within five seconds, and 67% of business owners who use SMS marketing find it more effective than regular email.
These tips summarized from the Target Marketing post will help you use SMS/MMS to jumpstart or enhance your mobile marketing program:
Combine these tips with others we’ve recently posted and you’ll be on your way to a stronger, more successful mobile marketing program.
“Awesome” is one of those words that teenagers overuse and abuse. So it’s a little odd to hear it so regularly from a respected business speaker and author who has guided companies such as PepsiCo, Adobe, Red Cross and Saks Fifth Avenue. But Scott Stratten has made it his business to help other businesses be awesome.
The man who brought you “UnMarketing” has followed it up with The Book of Business Awesome. But it’s really two short books in one, with opposite-sided front covers, so that when you finish one side, you flip it over and read from the other side.
From Awesome to UnAwesome
Scott is best known for being one of the top 5 most influential business people on Twitter. But rather than another social media book, Awesome/UnAwesome focuses on key business concepts and how they relate to integrated marketing, branding, human resources, public relations, and customer service. The Book of Business Awesome showcases different examples of successful businesses that have benefitted from being awesome and effective. In one humorous case, it shows how the Red Cross used social media to turn a mistake into an opportunity for awesomeness.
The opposite side, The Book of Business UnAwesome, is filled with cautionary tales of business train-wrecks illustrating what not to do, or how not to do it.
Marketing Is A Verb
What comes through in nearly every example in book is the importance of hiring good people and training them to uphold your brand’s values, because marketing is more than a logo or commercial; it’s every experience a customer has with your company. Scott emphasizes that “marketing is a verb” because it’s something that everyone in the company does (or should be doing), all the time.
The Awesome Extended Vacation
During a speaking appearance in Irvine, California, Scott began his awesome talk by recounting how a friend had recently spent a family weekend at a Ritz Carlton hotel. When the family returned home, they discovered that their seven-year-old son’s precious stuffed giraffe, Joshie, had been left behind at the hotel. In a moment of weakness, the boy’s dad fibbed that Joshie was just on an “extended vacation,” then called the hotel in a panic. Fortunately, the hotel found Joshie. Not only did the hotel staff ship Joshie back home, overnight, and at no charge, but they also included snapshots of the giraffe relaxing poolside on a lounge chair, nightclubbing it with other stuffed animals, and generally enjoying his extended vacation.
So now when Scott sees the Ritz Carlton logo, it might as well be Joshie, because that’s what the hotel reminds him of. Pretty awesome, eh?
Virtual Real Estate Assistant
Finnair Ads Use New “Swipeable Gallery” to Allure Tablet-toting Travelers
Google’s new swipeable tablet ad formats use special templates that make it easy for advertisers to easily deploy highly interactive videos and ad galleries across mobile (and other) platforms. Formats are aimed at helping companies better engage (and sell to) today’s skyrocketing number of tablet users, 65% of whom Google says spend at least one hour per day using the devices.
The Chongqing Connection
In its recent foray into swipeable tablet advertising, boutique Nordic airline, Finnair, sought to entice travelers with its new Chongqing, China route launch. Their challenge was promoting a virtually unknown destination, to highly particular customers, on a limited marketing budget. The upside for Finnair? Chongqing is actually a very desirable destination, and Finnair is the first to operate non-stop flights between that city and Europe.
Knowing its prospects well, Finnair’s first goal was to create a highly visual, educational and interactive user experience. It also sought to drive visitors to check fares and/or purchase tickets on the company website, and register for a special contest.
Solution & Results
Finnair chose Google’s swipeable gallery to tempt prospective passengers with a compelling range of browseable Chongqing imagery, including: modern cityscapes, ancient architecture and sculptures, sumptuous local cuisine and stunning nature photos. Results revealed that:
Finnair marketing manager, Emmi Teräs’s conclusion about advertising on tablets? “No other tool enables you to engage with targeted users with so much ‘wow’ factor…”
What You Can Take Away
Learn how to get a swipeable tablet campaign off the ground by reading Google’s complete Finnair case study.
Virtual Transaction Coordinator
Many people live in smart homes, drive smart cars and use smart phones. REALTORS® should be no different, especially with all the tech tools at their disposal nowadays.
While some brokers still use paper documents, fax machines and push button lock boxes, mobile and connected agents can manage deals from their car using their iPad or other tech tools in their arsenal.
If you’re looking for an entry point into the connected world, here are the Top 10 tech tools to help you become more productive, efficient, and current.
1. Yesware. This is an email tracking add-on. It alerts you when the emails you sent have been opened. The mobile version of the software provides push notifications alerting you when an email you sent was opened. Yesware works with Gmail, but it’s also compatible with Top Producer® CRM, so you can track emails to groups.
2. Market Snapshot®. Create “Just Sold” and “New Listing” alerts for current, future, and past clients with this tool that works within Top Producer® CRM. Designed for mobile, Market Snapshot® sends agent-branded email alerts to deliver timely and accurate information, with your name and logo prominently featured.
3. HelloSign. This app targets those who want to go paperless. It lets your clients sign documents electronically. You can then send them to the co-op agent without ever printing, scanning or faxing a piece of paper. It works seamlessly with Gmail and Google docs. There’s even an option to create a form you can host on your website or send via email.
4. Vidcaboodle. Creates a video channel for your website from your phone. All videos can be displayed in one place fully integrated into your website. Video drives traffic to your site, not to YouTube.
5. EasilyDo. This is your personal assistant without the monthly expense. This free app accesses your digital life, finds the most important stuff and surfaces it for you. It gives you a daily snapshot of important reminders: flight information, order confirmations, and appointments. It even scans your social media presence to let you know when past clients have a job change, get married, or have a life event you can use to reconnect with them.
6. Ginger. Never send another email loaded with misspellings or misused auto-corrections. Ginger is an app following you online while you type and automatically spell checks everything. It makes you look smarter, because your text messages and emails will be corrected for grammar, synonyms, definitions, re-phrasings, and punctuation.
7. Mailboxapp.com. Designed for Gmail and iCloud accounts, the Mailbox app redesigns your mobile inbox to make email easier to use on the go. Swipe to hide a message from view, snooze messages you will get to later, and organize all of your confirmations to list. Mailbox learns from your swipes and organizes your inbox—leaving you with more time to prospect.
8. Sitegeist. For those pesky questions you can’t answer due to Fair Housing laws, direct your clients to Sitegeist. They can discover local demographics, school data and bevy of other interesting tidbits. Referring your client to an app shows you’re not just an authority on local real estate activity—but you’re plugged into resources they can depend on for useful information, as well.
9. MileIQ. Make tax time easy. This app knows tracks your auto mileage automatically. It separates business trips from personal trips—all you need to do is just scroll left or right to file your trip under the appropriate heading. At the end of the year, print your custom mileage expense report and hand it to your accountant—your mileage is done.
10. Rapportive. This Gmail extension allows agents to quickly identify who is emailing them. With Rapportive, every email address is linked to the sender’s social media accounts. Instantly, you see what city they’re in, their job title, employer and their Twitter, Facebook and Google+ accounts. Rapportive allows agents to see who is emailing them and have a face to look for when a client requests a showing.
Maybe you’re a doubter. You don’t see the value in “tweeting” miscellaneous marketing messages out into the “Twittershpere,” never mind sharing random thoughts and what you had for lunch. Don’t worry; you’re not alone.
Scott Stratten was once like you. Today, he’s considered kind of a big deal on Twitter. But a few years ago, he was about to give up on Twitter as a networking and integrated marketing tool. He just wasn’t getting it. But before he gave up on it completely, he decided to give it one last effort. That’s when Stratten came up with his “30-Day Twitter Challenge.”
At that time, the “UnMarketing” author had about 2,000 followers. So for the next month, he ate, slept, and virtually lived on Twitter. That was enough to do the trick. By the end of it, he was “hooked.” Scott Stratten had become a true Twitter believer.
After his 30-day challenge, Stratten had built up a 10,000-strong following (now 186,042 as of this writing). As he attests, “I had made better and stronger relationships in that time span than on all the other social networking sites combined. I had built a loyal following, booked speaking engagements, and gained consulting clients, without ever pitching a thing.”
What’s So Special About Twitter?
One of the main reasons Stratten believes in the power of Twitter is the lack of any barrier to engagement. Twitter doesn’t require permission or approval for you to follow and engage with anyone you like. So if want to use it effectively, take some advice from someone who’s learned to master it.
Scott Stratten’s Twitter Ninja Tricks
Perform your own “30-Day Twitter Challenge.” See if you become a true Twitter believer like Stratten!
Every integrated marketer knows the world is going mobile. What’s surprising is just how much time people spend using mobile platforms.
eMarketer reports that this year, U.S. users will spend 23 billion minutes monthly surfing the mobile web. (If you’re wondering, a billion minutes roughly equals 1900 years, give or take a century.) By all indications, this number will only grow.
This increasingly mobile lifestyle, also fueled by meteoric mobile-app adoption, is driving demand for a more mobile-friendly experience in both B2C and B2B markets.
What Mobile Users Really Want
A recent study* of nearly 1,100 smartphone user revealed that nearly three-quarters want mobile-friendly websites when browsing and shopping. Sixty-seven percent said they were more likely to purchase on mobile-optimized sites versus non-optimized.
Lest you think B2B companies are immune to the rising demand, think again.
One Google survey finds that 28% of U.S. B2B C-level executives used a mobile phone to research business purchases, while 21% searched similarly on tablet-style devices.
Bottom line: The time for creating a mobile-friendly site is now. If you agree, first get some ideas from the Web Marketing Association’s best mobile websites. Then, work with a reliable company to implement the following best practices:
Free “Go Mobile” Website Checker
Google’s “Ready to Go Mo” website offers a “GoMoMeter” that shows how your current site looks on a smartphone—and provides best practices for creating a more mobile-friendly site.
Mobile technology and integrated marketing are officially inseparable. Check back with us often for more actionable integrated marketing tips.
*Sterling Commerce and SmithGeiger
Real Estate Transaction Coordinator