BtoB Top Markter: Greg Salah, USG

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Building materials companies didn't use to rub elbows with TV show clips, but they do now. Surf over to YouTube and watch a Sheetrock installation video in Spanish on the USG Channel, which features about two dozen videos from the Chicago-based building materials company. Some of the USG video-on-demand tutorials have attracted more than 2,000 viewers. And while those videos are just a fraction of the content available on USG's Web site, the great thing is that they “just don't live at USG,” said Greg Salah, senior VP-sales and marketing for USG Building Systems, who's driving the company's integrated marketing efforts. Years ago, he said, USG might have had one print campaign running, while today its marketing might encompass print and online trade advertising, sports marketing, product placement, public relations and promotions. “The mix has changed,” said Salah, who joined USG in 1985. One of the challenges for the 106-year-old company is reaching an increasingly diverse customer base, Salah said. For instance, contractors, which represent a significant revenue stream for USG, now include more than 9 million Hispanics in the U.S. workforce. To reach this group, USG went grassroots by sponsoring soccer teams in local communities, as well as providing customized educational seminars and promotions such as last year's El Mero Mero Drywalero, a contest with a $5,000 award going to the fastest drywaller. Sports marketing continues to be important, Salah said, as USG marks its 10th year as the building products sponsor of NASCAR. But advertising is still key, as shown by USG's 2006 print and online launch of “Down With Dust,” an integrated campaign from HSR, Chicago, to introduce Sheetrock brand dust control joint compound, a patented wallboard compound that minimizes dust. The campaign, which won five ProComm awards from the Business Marketing Association, among other honors, is periodically updated with viral components. The ads drive visitors to the USG Web site where they can view testimonials from contractors that have sampled the building compound, as well as print out coupons for a sample of the popular product. USG is also employing quarterly webinars to more effectively reach its customer base. “It's a great opportunity to get in front of hundreds of customers,” Salah said. “The response ... has been phenomenal. It's better than having our salespeople running around the country” trying to get the word out. Webinars take the form of online briefings with USG's sales staff and dealers, as well as online meetings in which the company briefs up to 25 trade publications on a particular subject or new product launch. —P.R.
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