Uncovering the Secrets to Architect Specification
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If you are reading this publication you likely are keenly aware of the important role architects play in the decision-making process pertaining to which building products make it into the plans (specification) for any given building project.
While we have a close association and many partnerships with companies in the BPM industry, along with our penchant for effectively communicating with architects, we thought it was about time to survey the architect sphere and share with you precisely what communications methodologies serve to most effectively influence architects toward specific BPM products and brands as they move along the road to specification.
Earlier this summer we launched an electronic survey, polling approximately 2,500 architects, targeting a wide array of firm types (specializations) and sizes and throughout all 50 states. We asked this professional audience nearly a dozen questions ranging from what communications mediums tend to influence their awareness, to some of the most relevant reasons for why specified products may not make the final cut, and of course what social media platforms they tend to find the most influential. This paper provides an analysis of those questions and ultimately leads to uncovering how BPM companies can and should adjust or tweak their marketing efforts to far more effectively communicate with (and influence) architects.
CONTENT & MEDIA
Which types of content most influence you when you are researching products for projects?
Here we asked architects to let us “peek under the hood” and better understand what content is most effective in helping them uncover and determine the most applicable product(s) for a given project. In the “most influential” category, the vast majority of our architects surveyed find that technical data about the product is clearly of great import, while they find cost (price) of the product and photographs and references to the product in use in other projects to be equally moderately influential. BIM content for the product registers as barely influential to no influence at all among this audience.
Ensure you have ready and easy access to technical data (e.g. – post technical data about your product(s) on your website and include in any literature).
Provide references to other projects in which your product(s) has been used.
In the case of a new product or product launch, give examples and results of testing, and provide potential use cases.
Case studies or project “showcases” work quite effectively to provide the references architects are seeking.
CONTENT & MEDIA
Given a product that you have not used before, what types of media are most effective in raising your interest and making you aware of the product?
Our second question in the survey investigates how architects like to familiarize themselves with BPM products that they have never before used or specified in plans. In the category of raising interest and awareness, ads in physical trade publications seem to be the most effective. This is closely followed by product reviews and on-line ads (e.g. – ads in online trade publications, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc.). Direct email promotions – ads or campaigns from the manufacturers – are moderately effective among this group in raising awareness, while social media and blogs tend to be two mediums our architects do not find particularly effective in driving interest.
Participate in the trade – specifically ensure you are consistently engaging with appropriate and relevant trade organizations and have a presence either editorially or through advertising or both.
Email is cheap and it is an effective means to communicate one-on-one and indeed measure its effectiveness. While it’s not highly important to architects in raising awareness, they still find it to be moderately effective. Be sure to employ a consistent email marketing program as a tactic within your strategic marketing framework.
Social media and blogs may not resonate with this group as an effective awareness generator, they are nonetheless critical in driving SEO effectiveness.
KEY FACTORS INFLUENCING SPECIFICATION
Please rank how influential these other methods are in making you aware of a new product.
This next question in our survey examined the effectiveness (1 being the most effective and 4 being least effective) relative to some very specific vehicles (or people) in driving awareness of new products. Here, our goal was to understand the level of influence the following have on creating mind-share respective of new products: Trade shows & conferences, lunch and learns, word-of-mouth, and manufacturers’ sales personnel or reps.
It is probably not surprising that architects rank “lunch & learns” as the most effective means to create awareness around new products, while sales reps are very nearly as effective.
Although it should be noted that most lunch & learns are conducted or at least facilitated by a sales rep. Interestingly, our architect population finds trade shows and conferences to be the least effective in generating new product awareness, but this is likely so negatively biased because not everyone from a firm gets to or can attend trade shows. In fact, trade show attendance may very well be limited to firm leadership or a select few within the firm, while a lunch & learn, for example, addresses a majority of the staff within the organization.
Architects place a high value on lunch & learn programming, especially as it relates to instilling awareness for new products. Ensure you have a conduit to facilitate lunch & learns.
In lieu of physical (and expensive) lunch & learn programming, webinars can prove just as effective.
Trade show exhibiting should remain a pivotal tactic in your marketing mix, especially relating to new product introductions. There remains no better venue for introducing new products en masse to distributors, retailers and other industry business relationships, while lunch & learns can help to more intimately reinforce your messaging.
KEY FACTORS INFLUENCING SPECIFICATION
When choosing between products you consider equal, please rank the factors that most influence you to select the product that will be the basis for your design.
Architects by and large value advice from a peer or input from the client whenever considering specific products of equal performance for the basis of the design for a project. While the product cost also weighs fairly high in importance, surprisingly, knowledge of the product used in a prior or referenced project holds little value among this survey group.
Architects very much value peer input, especially when faced with a choice of BPM products that are or appear to be equal in performance and other attributes.
Manufacturers should ensure their products have well communicated key points of differentiation in order to avoid the “commodity” effect – the point where the choice between any set of given products is a non-event because they are perceived to be products of equal value, performance, etc. It is vital to ensure that architects, in particular, know, understand, and can in-turn communicate the difference between one manufacturer’s seemingly similar product over another.
KEY FACTORS INFLUENCING SPECIFICATION
What percentage of products named in your specifications end up being installed?
In a similar survey of architects conducted last year by Dodge Data & Analytics (Dodge), the research firm queried both BPM manufacturers and architects.1 A majority of the BPM manufacturers surveyed in their poll believe that architect specification leads to a 76% - 90% install rate.
The architects surveyed in that year-ago poll were in near lock-step alignment with those numbers. However, nearly one third of the architects in that survey reported greater than 90% confidence in installation if they specified a BPM product. The manufacturers were far less bullish at that level, revealing that only 10% of the producers thought architect specification led to a 90% or more installation rate.
In the Cre8tive Logic survey, nearly 42% of the architects reported a confidence level of installation of 50% - 74% when a product is specified in plans, while approximately one third of the architects reported that installation occurs 75% - 90% of the time when products are specified. In a divergence from the Dodge findings, only 16% of the architect population in our survey group reported that greater than 90% of their specified products make it to actual installation if/when specified.
1 Johnson, Ben. “Understanding How Architects Research and Select Building Products.” www.construction.com , Dodge Data & Analytics, 5 Sept. 2018, www.construction.com/toolkit/how-building-products-are-selected-1of4.
Product specification by architects is vital to ensuring BPM products are purchased and installed. According to our survey results, a BPM manufacturer enjoys a greater than 50% shot at achieving installation if their respective product(s) is architecturally specified.
If there was ever any question to the importance of creating and maintaining brand/product awareness among architects, simply look to the Dodge report or this Cre8tive Logic survey analysis as cause and effect, or proof positive that specification more times than not leads to installation.
It’s time to ramp up your engagement with the architectural community.
SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT
How would you characterize your level of participation in or engagement with the following social media platforms?
There isn’t one social media platform that stands out among architects with respect to “very high” engagement. However, this community is moderately to highly engaged with YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, and to a lesser degree, Instagram. Snapchat, Pinterest and Twitter do not seem to resonate particularly well with this group. In fact, most reported “no engagement” with those three particular forms of social media.
Architects, like most people, participate in social media. In fact, nearly all respondents reported moderate to high levels of engagement with Facebook, although this is likely a platform they use regularly in their personal lives.
YouTube and LinkedIn are very popular among these professionals, and it is probable they use YouTube to research and learn about projects or products.
Be sure to stay engaged in social media. Not only does it contribute to amplifying your company’s SEO presence, but it will help to build and maintain top-of-mind with the architect community. BPMs should focus their social media programming around YouTube (meaning video production and posting), LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
Video is an important and growing communications medium. In general, users prefer to consume information by video over reading whenever given the choice. Make sure to include an ample amount of storytelling, product information and simple communications via video within your marketing programming.
PHYSICAL VS DIGITAL
How often do you read or browse print trade magazines?
Like in most industries, trade organizations are valued for the resources they offer in terms of industry information, and trade publications form the basis for industry-specific information dissemination. Architects are expected to “know their craft”, and therefore must be diligent in keeping up to date with industry trends, new products, and indeed new, innovative technologies or materials. It is certainly no surprise that nearly all our architects in this survey report regularly reading trade publications. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, however, the majority (over 60%) engage with trade publications in a physical (print) form as opposed to digital.
Architects read trade publications, and like most professionals, they read them with regularity. BPMs are well served to ensure they are actively engaged with the trade organizations and their respective publications.
Print is NOT dead. So, if your marketing mix includes promotions or advertising in trade publications, make sure you are including ads in both print and digital versions.
PHYSICAL VS DIGITAL
How do you prefer to receive product literature?
This question in the survey is looking at the preference of architects to consume digital or physical forms of product literature. Like trade publications, where this architect audience skews toward print versions, they likewise want to receive product literature in physical form. There is a cautionary note here, however, as the data is much tighter than what we experienced in the trade publication question. Here, 45% of our architect respondents prefer consuming product information in physical form, while nearly 36% are partial to digital.
Be sure not to limit product literature to digital form.
When designing product literature, it is fine to present it in HTML form on the company website, but make sure to have a “printable” option with a conspicuous link to select printing the information.
Offer print versions of product literature on sales calls, lunch & learns and certainly as part of a trade show/conference exhibition.
IF YOU ARE A MANUFACTURER OF BUILDING PRODUCTS, YOU KNOW HOW IMPORTANT ARCHITECTS ARE IN INFLUENCING THE USE OF YOUR PRODUCTS IN THE BUILDING SECTOR.
It can, however, prove to be a difficult task to both communicate with and influence the architects within your sphere of the industry. So, it’s important to understand how architects think, what motivates them and the means by which they prefer to consume information. Now more than ever it’s vital to stay engaged with the architect community, but that means serving up relevant information in the manner in which they wish to consume it. So, make sure you include plenty of technical information, photos, videos, project references and/or case studies, reach out to them consistently, both electronically and in print. Perhaps most importantly, however, marketing communications programming, especially to architects, should not be conducted in a piecemeal manner, rather it should be planned out, pre-programmed and part of your organization’s broader strategic framework.