Chris Ashworth of Competitive Advantage takes a look at the potential communication channels available to manufacturers targeting architects, and offers tips and a guide to best practice.
The members of the construction Decision Making Unit (DMU) are busy individuals, who are not always office based. This, together with the fact that the DMU rarely, if ever, meets as a complete group, means that influencing the specification of building products is a distinct challenge. A challenge that sales and marketing consultancy Competitive Advantage has tried to simplify through its research and publications. In this article Chris Ashworth, Managing Director of Competitive Advantage Consultancy shares his knowledge on how to engage with architects.
The architect is probably the most important member of the design team, distilling the requirements and advice of the other members. They act as the node between the client, main contractor, specialist contractor and other specialists to ensure the right products are selected and installed correctly.
The role of the architect
The architect starts with the client’s needs in terms of how the building is to be used and how the client wishes to be perceived. This then has to be developed to meet the requirements of the Building Regulations and other performance aspirations, of which sustainability is often one. Finally, he or she must take into account the views and advice of quantity surveyors, the main contractor and specialist sub-contractors as they will often be well positioned to suggest ways of saving time, money and reducing environmental impact. For the architect this is a challenging role. It often requires compromise. To make the right decisions he or she will need high quality information and advice.
Providing the right information in the right way
When marketing to architects remember they are well educated, hold a high level of responsibility and are very busy individuals, who have a creative yet practical approach; pitch your product information accordingly. To help with your marketing strategy consider developing customer personas. Developing personas is a really good way of understanding your construction customer and tailoring your marketing to answer each of your customers’ needs. We have a number of templates for each member of the construction decision making unit.
As well as providing the right information, consider how you deliver the information. Architects are often ‘small businesses’ so are time poor and consequently hard to get hold of. Choose your channels of communication carefully and present the appropriate product information in an easy to access format.
The internet is often a starting point for architects seeking construction product information. Search engines, product directories and manufacturer websites all provide useful data. Our research, the Construction Media Index shows that architects use product directories significantly more than contractors, yet contractors are more active on social media than architects, for example. And that architects are keen readers of industry magazines and journals. It is a great source of information to inform your communications strategy, looking at online and hardcopy journal readership, the use of: blogs, online articles, social networks, devices, apps, product directories and attendance at technical seminars.
Providing specification guidance
The decision to specify a product is based on many factors, some of them conflicting. The overriding concern is that it is fit for purpose, performing its role effectively and throughout the design life of the building.
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For architects’ tools that help them to specify correctly are of importance, particularly since Grenfell. This is where the product manufacturer can provide BIM objects, or specification documents. Making it easy for the design team to have a greater understanding of how your product can be incorporated into their design and the benefits they will enjoy.
Well written specification documents are a very important tool in the sales and marketing of construction products. Developing standard specification clauses provides a means of saving the specifier time, enabling easy inclusion and ensuring that a construction product is correctly described as the manufacturer’s original intention. Competitive Advantage can help you develop strong product specifications. Providing specification support makes the architects life easier, as well as saving them time and ensuring the contractor installs what was intended.
Another channel to reach architects is via CPD certified seminars. CPD seminars are invaluable for introducing your company and demonstrating your technical expertise. If held in-practice it has the benefit of enabling you to meet multiple architects at the same time, which can itself often lead to a discussion about specific projects. To be effective the seminar must have the correct content and be well presented. The team at Competitive Advantage have helped many manufacturers develop and maximise the benefit of CPD.
Getting a practice to invite your company to present a seminar is a challenge. Our recent CPD research demonstrates that most practices have a structured approach to organising CPD. They will look at their internal needs based around projects they are working on, new legislation, and the development needs of their architects. So, with consideration it is possible to utilise this tool to gain specifications for your building product.
You need to find a way of getting the architect’s attention, and then reassuring them that your product ticks all of the boxes: functionality, reliability, sustainability, availability, aesthetics and value will be just some of their requirements. Channels such as CPD seminars are invaluable for this. But other more standard marketing channels can also be used, such as product information, directory listings and trade publication coverage.
Remember though that architects are often short on time, so it is important, when presenting your product, that the information is easy to understand and to the point. By providing the right information to the architect, such as standard specification documents, you can make their life easier and save them time.
Competitive Advantage provides a number of marketing tools to help you develop your strategy for communicating with architects:
Or if you have a particular question for your architectural customer then consider participating in our upcoming Architects Omnibus.