We've seen our clients struggle again and again to nail down what architects want from them and deliver that content in a way that will communicate their products value and their company's reputation.
We wanted to take the guesswork out of marketing to architects, so I've put together the complete list of everything architects want from building materials manufacturers, where to market to them and how to market to architects in different channels.
Before you can market to architects (or any customer) effectively, you have to understand them.
It’s important to look at the full picture of their professional role, not just what they need from you. Outside pressures, job-site hierarchy, and internal politics can have a major impact on how and when architects decide to spec products.
We’ve put together a buyer persona for Junior Architects below.
Junior Architects are the guys and gals that spend the most time on your website. They’re the ones in charge of researching and selecting the products their firm will use on a product.
Let’s take a closer look at a Junior Architect and get to know him a little better.
Meet Mike the Junior Architect:
Mike has been working at his firm for just over a year, and he’s finally starting to feel like he’s settling in. He’s still the new guy in the office, but he’s made some good calls on products in the recent past, so he’s earned some respect from his Senior Architects (and he’s learning to trust his instincts).
Mike is a Millennial. Like most Millennials, he’s had the internet at his fingertips for most of his life. Cell phones, Wikipedia, and Google are second nature to him. It took some adjusting for him when iPads and touchscreens first hit the market, but now he can’t imagine going back.
Even though Mike is feeling more confident about his job lately, he’s still looking to learn about his industry. He’s not going to read typical print journals, and he’s definitely not using catalogs to search for information or products. Instead, he’s hoping that by searching for the product he needs, he’ll also be able to learn more about the product category and how it factors in with overall projects. He’s looking for brands that understand his need for on-going education and wants to find a handful of websites that he can come back to again and again when he has questions.
Mike subscribes to trade publications like ArchRecord, but he barely reads them and thinks that an online presence is more important than a good looking print ad. He’s more impressed by the amount of information he can find out about a product online and how that information is presented than he is impressed by glossy magazine ads and taglines.
He wants to be able to find quick answers, lots of supporting reviews, testimonials and insights from a range of perspectives. Mike does not want to call your sales team or fill out a contact form to answer a simple question.
Ultimately, he wants to find answers to all of his questions and be 95% of the way to a decision on whether or not your product is a good fit before he ever speaks to someone from your company. And the closer you can get him to that goal, the more confidence he is going to have in your products.
His ultimate goal is recognition in his company. He wants to impress Senior Architects at his firm with his knowledge and his ability to balance tried-and-true products with new and improved product choices. He’s looking to be loyal to the manufacturers that can help him reach both of these goals.
Architects need to convince quite a few sets of people that your product is the right one for the job.
If they want to spec your product over a product they’ve used a hundred times in the past, they’ll need to defend their decision to the senior architects at their firm, their contractors, and their clients.
They need to make sure contractors will be able to install it using standard installation practices. Even if you have an improved installation method, if a contractor has been doing the same thing for 30 years, switching to a “better” method is a tough sell.
Architects may need to prove to building owners that your product is the look they want, they quality they need and fits within their budget.
General Contractors also hold a lot of power but are often consulted late in the project about the products that the architect has chosen. So architects need to be aware of the GC’s timetable and worker availability.
The Architect's Relationship with Contractors
Architects are responsible for finding products that are high-quality, well designed, well priced and …
Easy to install.
If you want to help give architects confidence in your products, include information on your products pages about installation.
Even if your installation process is the same throughout your product category - it’s worth mentioning it so you get that question answered right away.
If you have a new, improved or somehow slightly different installation process, you need to
- Address it
- Defend it
- Provide easy access to installation instructions - including videos
Installation can be a deal breaker. Don’t leave anything to chance, and don’t leave architects guessing or assuming about how your product is installed. If you provide proper instructions - especially installation videos - architects will be able to defend your installation and your product.
Offer contractor-facing content & materials to architects
Contractors need to know more about your product than just how to install it.
Including contractor-relevant content on your site can benefit you in 3 ways:
- Architects can research what contractors will need to know before specifying your product - this gets them prepared for any objections contractors may have about using your product for the first time.
- It positions you as a go-to resource for architects and contractors.
- It builds loyalty between the architect and your company.
Contractor-relevant content would include:
Installation videos - Videos are an ideal way of demonstrating the installation process. And as more and more research for products is done online, architects and contractors are coming to expect manufacturers to have videos available on their site.
Take a look at the example below from Genersys Solar. Even though they're not a huge company, they've done some good things with their video.
First, it's clearly labeled as for installers. There are a ton of installation videos on YouTube, but most are geared for DIYers and Building owners. Their proper labeling helped me to find it among the millions of videos online because it ranked well in search.
Second, they did a straightforward video that just about anyone could produce. They didn't spend a ton of money on a full production crew. It's simply a step-by-step voiceover and instructions of a real installation job. They did include an intro to the video (which to be honest, I don't love), but if you want to keep costs and time even lower, you could skip the intro and cut straight to the installation.
Case studies & Testimonials that feature contractors - It would be ideal to have a testimonial or case study that features every voice and role involved in a project from the building owner to the architect to distributor, seller, contractor and more. Giving the complete picture shows how your product benefits everyone, not just one party over another.
In the example below, Marvin Windows & Doors includes key points in their case study that matter to architects, contractors & installers.
Notice how they point out the fast delivery time, zoning issues, budget savings and address installation concerns all while bringing their product to the forefront of the study.
If they wanted to take this one step further, they could include the contractor's name in the callout box on the right. But even without it, this case study firmly addresses the needs of all involved with specifying and installing their products.
Links to building code resources - Building codes vary from state to state and county to county. Architects have both design and engineering experience, but it’s difficult for them to track how your products will fit in with every single project they work on. And while you also cannot know the exact needs of every county in the nation, offering quick access to government websites that would know is an easy step that will set you apart from the competition and go a long way with building an architect's loyalty.
An added bonus of a resource like this is it will bring architects back to your site again and again. Offering information they need to know - even if it's not specifically about your company - is exactly how you become a go-to resource in the industry.
The Architect’s Relationship with the Contractor
Contractors care about 3 things:
- Labor costs
- Their bottom line
Contractors may be even more reluctant to try new products than architects, and can actually refuse to install the products if they’re uncomfortable with the choice.
Architects can be convinced that your product is the best fit, but contractors are going to feel the pinch more because new installation and new products mean time spent on training that could be spent on building.
Help your architects win their contractors by offering airtight proof that your product has more pluses than minuses. Emphasize the need for change or even inevitable change. Show them how putting in the time for training now will save them money in the long run.
Don’t leave it all on the architect to draw these conclusions themselves. Document anything contractors will want to know on your site. Offer architects downloadable materials labeled specifically for contractors.
The Architect’s Relationship with Building Owners
It’s important to know how your products function in new construction and in remodels. If architects are working with a building owner directly, it often means the building owner is taking on a major home project that requires their help.
That means they’re dealing directly with a client who is both responsible for determining if the project is successful or not and has little to no experience with the design/build world.
In our recent survey of architects, we heard time and again about their frustrations that their end-customer puts on them that manufacturers don’t seem to understand. One architect specifically wrote, “sometimes we really are limited by price.” Meaning, they aren’t trying to nickel-and-dime you, but sometimes there really is no more money in the budget, so your product just may not work.
So how can you show architect’s that you understand their relationship with building owners?
Train your sales team
Your sales rep may be the only person from your company that an architect ever speaks to. Train your sales team to understand the strains building owners put on architects and how to handle them.
Empower your sales team to work around common restraints like timeline, availability, and of course, price. That means they need to be able to promise that they can rush a product if they need to (or say they can’t rush it) or be able to give a firm, exact delivery date for a purchase.
And when it comes to price - winning a project based on price alone is never ideal. You don’t want to be put in the position of always cutting prices to win the same architect over and over. However, it should be something to consider if it seems that price is the only thing keeping an architect from specifying your products for the first time.
Put it on your website
92% of customers say they trust recommendations from other customers more than brands.
When you include testimonials from other architects and building owners, website visitors see your products from several perspectives. They’re able to see how your product makes everyone in the channel happy and that’s important.
Be clear about where your product works best. Tell them how your products compliment remodel projects or work well in new construction. Or, if you know your product is really best for new construction projects then just come out and say it.
It may sound counter intuitive to come right out with your weaknesses, but saving an architect hours of research will instill goodwill with your company and help to keep you at the top of their mind for future projects where you will be a good fit.
Offer Building Owner-Facing Content
If you want building owners to ask for your products then you need to have a website that meets their needs just as much as the pros who buy your product again and again.
Building owners need to know everything from the ground up about remodels, new construction, your product category and your products.
But there is great news about putting this kind of info on your website:
- Architects can use it as a sales tool for pitching your products to building owners.
- Junior architects also want this kind of information. So you’re winning over two important customer groups with one set of information! (see the Junior Architect's buyer persona in chapter 1 for more info on these guys).
If you want to really build loyalty with architects, you can provide them with customer-facing sales materials, brochures (that people will actually want to read), infographics, case studies and more.
Take a look at how Pfister is meeting the needs of its architects in the screenshot below. They're offering sales tools in the pro section that will help pros close the deal with their clients.
This page is also a great example because they're not wasting any space. Check out the 3 great calls to action at the bottom. This page is a valuable resource not only for architects but the for sales funnel of Pfister.
What's the one simple key to becoming an architect's go-to resource?
Be an industry expert, not a product seller.
Allow me to explain ...
There is good news and bad news when it comes to marketing to architects.
First, the good news:
Architects view manufacturers as experts. If you put something on your website or in your print communications, they generally believe that it’s true.
Now the Bad news:
The days of traditional marketing with ads and flashy commercials are gone. So even though they believe you, they won’t automatically buy from you. They also no longer care to hear standard brochure language that makes all building products sound like a poem.
They're looking for educational material that tells them exactly what the product is, what it will do, what it will not do and how much it costs.
Ok, back to the good news ...
Most companies have a certain burden of proof. They need to convince their audience that what they say is true. With manufacturers, that trust is already established.
Like all trust, the trust an architect has in your company can be broken. Unfortunately, it can even be broken by someone outside your company.
For example, if an architect was recently burned by another company in your product category, they’re going to be extra wary of trying out another new product.
In cases like these, you will have to work extra hard to overcome that burden of proof.
Even though architects believe manufacturers are experts, that doesn’t mean they won’t have questions or concerns about your products. And, it doesn’t cut down on the amount of research they’re going to do.
Content Marketing is the key to winning more architects
If the days of traditional marketing are gone, how do you reach new architects? And if you can’t use clever ads, how do you stand out from the crowd?
The new answer to standard marketing is Content Marketing. Now, I could give you the technical definition, but let me show you an example of content marketing in action through a story that Shafqat Islam, CEO of Newscred recently shared:
“Last year I found out I was going to be a father. Turns out I knew absolutely nothing about babies, so like the (barely) millennial I am, I turned to the internet to figure out what to do. Suddenly I was bombarded with ads for everything from toys to baby formula. But none of this content actually helped me make any decisions or learn how to be a better father.
But then I came across the Huggies Mommy Answers blog. I’m not saying this because Huggies is a client, but their blog is incredible. They walk you through the parenting process from pregnancy to your baby’s first steps, and their content is intuitive, helpful, and easy to understand. I finally felt like I wasn’t going to totally screw this up.
So when our baby arrived in January, we bought Huggies products. They had already brought me this far, and they were top of mind when it was time to buy. Their content strategy turned me into a loyal customer.”
This story is the textbook definition of Content Marketing in action. Content marketing doesn’t scream “Pick me! Pick me!” Instead, content helps customers navigate the gray area between having a problem and being ready to buy a product to solve that problem. So that when your potential customers arrive at the time to purchase, they want to purchase from you because you’ve carried them through the confusing gray parts.
Be an industry expert, not a product seller
Salespeople get sent to voicemail. Sales meetings get rescheduled.
But strategists and experts get their calls answered every time, and their phones are ringing off the hook with questions and inquiries about their expertise.
No one likes to be sold to. But everyone needs a solution.
If you’re a problem solver in your industry, you’re going to get more than architects who take your calls. You’re going to get architects who can’t stop calling you because you have the solutions they need.
Architects want an expert guide
Every project is unique. Every area of the nation has a different building code. And even though your product is great, it isn’t a perfect fit for every project.
Architects are searching every day for solutions to small hiccups and big changes in their projects.
You can become their go-to resource by offering information that will educate them about your product category as a whole, not just your products.
This type of strategy will position you as an industry expert. You will still accomplish everything you hoped to accomplish with traditional marketing - staying top-of-mind, proving your value, becoming a go-to resource, building loyalty - but you’re doing it without having to ask for the sale.
You’re bringing them to the information they need to have a successful project - so why not lead them to your website to find what they need. Even if what they need isn’t to buy your product right at that moment.
This type of marketing moves you from product pusher to partner. Partners don’t have to overcome objections. They’ve been there through the whole process, so when it’s time to spec products, architects will want to pay you back for all your help by using your products in their project.
Sell solutions, not products
Now that we’ve established how to talk to architects before they get to the buying stage, let’s talk about how to talk about your products once they are ready to buy.
Start with the problem ...
Ask yourself: What problem does my product solve?
Hint: The problem you solve is deeper than the literal part your product plays in a building project. Meaning, if you sell decking then you’re not just solving the issue of not having a deck.
Does your product cut down on lead times, improve LEED scores, improve insulation, prevent dry rot or resist mold?
People purchase solutions - not products
When architects land on your product page, they usually have a specific need in mind. They don’t just need roofing materials. They need roofing materials that can withstand salt blasts from the ocean and are made to withstand the high winds of hurricanes.
So imagine yourself coming to a roofing product page and seeing the text below:
Are you in the right place? Are you going to find what you need here?
What does “superior performance and longevity” even mean? How long is long?
It’s important to view anything you write from your audience’s shoes. Of course, you know how amazing your products are, but your audience doesn’t know that yet.
Now, compare the above content with the solution-central content on Fiberon Decking’s products page:
Notice how they’re leading with problem solving - they’re not leading with products (we have this kind of deck and this kind and that kind) they’re leading with solutions (our deck saves time, it’s Eco-friendly).
By leading with solutions, you’re bypassing the thought in an architect’s mind that says “Yeah, yeah. Show me the fine print. I want to know what you can’t do.”
Instead, architects are going to read the solutions as check boxes:
Easy installation. Check.
According to our latest architect survey, architects are spending a lot of time on your website.
They’re looking for different types of information in different formats (downloads, articles, videos, infographics, etc.). If they can't quickly find what they're looking for, they’re not going to stick around for very long.
It's also important to think about how architects evaluate products when you're creating your website. Essentially, aesthetics matter a great deal to architects. They expect both high-quality products and a high-quality website. That include a pleasing design, intuitive navigation, content that's easy to find and information that's easy to digest.
Why your website needs to look awesome
Architects spend their life looking for the coolest designs most refined products. Their eyes are trained to pick out uneven lines, inconsistent colors, random changes in tone, imagery and so on.
Put simply: architects are design snobs. That’s what makes them good at their job! You wouldn’t want an architect to sketch a building and think “meh … good enough.”
Your website is often your company’s first impression. If your website is dated, confusing, overloaded with text or otherwise frustrating to deal with, architects are going to lose confidence in your products.
The Exact Content Architects Need to Find on Your Website
If you’re a building materials company looking to market and sell to architects then there are some absolutely critical things you need to have on your website.
Your website is on the front lines of marketing to architects. Architects need a lot of details about products when they're choosing which product to spec, so the goal is for your website to offer them everything they need to know and deliver it in an aesthetically pleasing manor.
Yes, they care about product images and specs, but you’re going to successfully market and sell to architects through your website, you need to address all of their pain points and concerns.
Our recent survey of architects showed that the number one place architects go to research a new building materials product is on the manufacturer's website. So I’ve listed the top 10 things your website needs to have in order to meet their needs and get them to spec your products.
1. Architects need downloadable digital models
If you want to make an architect’s job easier (which you should!) then provide downloadable digital models on your website.
This is an absolute must.
In fact, I would go one step further and say BIM or Revit are the way to go. Architect firms across the nation are starting to see the 3D capabilities of BIM as the standard. And as more and more architects come to expect this type of technology - especially from high-end brands - if you can't offer a 3D model, you may be out of the running.
3D models aren't just helpful because they are the latest technology. They give architects insights into unforeseen issues in the project that 2D imaging can't provide.
Check out what David Brown, Senior Associate at Parkin Architects Limited has to say about BIM and Revit models:
BIM allows a building to be constructed virtually, prior to putting a shovel in the ground. This process permits us to discover interference and construction related problems before they arise – saving project costs and delays. (You can read his full article here.)
Without a model, it’s difficult for architects to even consider using your product on their next project. So give them access to digital models for any products you’d like them to spec.
Take Kohler for example. They offer nine different files for architects to download for just one sink!
Notice that Kohler doesn’t require architects to register to download their digital models. If you’ve read any of my other articles, you know my team and I are always talking about capturing more leads, so it may seem surprising to hear me say you shouldn’t ask for an email address to download digital models.
The big difference in giving digital models away versus other types of content is that by giving these away you’re both getting something out of it:
The architect needs quick easy access to models and the manufacturer gets their product specified more often because they’re offering easy access.
When it comes to digital models: Give them as much information about your product as they want. Worry about getting their email address later.
2. Architects need product samples
Even if the pictures on your website are the highest quality possible, there is still no substitute for seeing a product in real life.
Architects want to see, feel, touch and understand products. Of course they care about how it looks, but they also care about how will it stand the test of time, how it will perform on their project and how it will work with the other products they’ll be using.
Giving an architect the ability to see your product in the flesh scratches that itch for any aesthetic and durability questions they might have.
When you offer architects the option to get a free sample of your product, you are winning on multiple levels:
- You are getting your product in the hands of people who can use it on multiple projects.
- You can grow your contact database of architects because they are literally giving you their contact information!
- You get the perfect segway to a follow-up call to ask how they liked their sample.
Take 3Form for example, they place an option to order a sample right at the top of their list of calls-to-action on their product pages.
Many building material companies hide the “Get a Sample” link on other pages instead of their actual product pages. Don't make architects go searching to figure out how to order samples. There should be a clear path to ordering samples on all product pages and your home page.
3. Architects need product specifications
Specs might seem like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many building materials companies either don’t include these on their site or make them extremely difficult to find.
The reassurance a spec can provide is invaluable. Product Specs should include everything from sizing dimensions to warranty, and most importantly - remember to organize the specs so architects can find them quickly.
Moen has an excellent call-out for architects to download product specs. When you click the Download Specs link, you’re immediately brought to a one page PDF that has everything an architect might need from this kind of document.
4. Architects need videos & image galleries
I guarantee that one of the first things architects want to do when they are considering whether or not to specify your product is to look at pictures and videos of it.
The brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text.
Architects care deeply about how things look because what they are designing is a direct reflection on them. So in their mind’s, the quality of your videos and photography is a direct reflection on you.
If you’re trying to sell your product to an architect and you’re telling them that you have a top-notch product but your visual assets say otherwise then what is this going to make them think?
It’s also important not to forget video. 80% of people will watch a video, but only 20% will read content.
For example, Huber’s AdvanTech Flooring has an extensive library of videos on their website that includes everything from testimonials to product demos.
These videos do more than just show off the product. They help AdvanTech to reaffirm that their product can be trusted and it's worth the investment.
5. Architects need testimonials
92% of customers say they trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising.
When an architect hears you (the manufacturer) say that your product is the right fit it only goes so far. But when they hear their peers talk about your product, it goes a much farther.
Architects who are using your product for the first time need to be reassured that you can be trusted in the industry. They are putting their reputation on the line.
Look at the example of Fiberon Decking’s testimonial page below. They have the person’s name, their picture, and a quick quote that leads to the video of that individual. Including the names and faces for testimonials makes them more personal and allows architects to connect with the review better.
It’s not rocket science, but it is one of the most effective ways to build trust with potential customers and reinforce that people love your product.
In fact, Fiberon doesn’t just have a testimonial page. They interweave these videos throughout their entire site. This re-purposing of content ensures that Fiberon’s testimonials are seen and used to their full potential.
6. Architects need code requirements & certifications
Having up-to-date code requirements and/or certifications can make or break whether or not an architect uses your product.
When it comes to code requirements I use what I call the “3 Easys” to ensure that our clients give Architects what they need:
- Easy to find
- Easy to understand
- Easy to share
Architects put their name on the line with the buildings they design, so providing accurate and easy-to-find code requirements is crucial to keeping your product on the table for potential projects.
Certifications like LEED and SEED are becoming increasingly important to architects. Their industry is constantly evolving, so by staying ahead of other competitors in terms of what certifications your products comply with, you increase your chances of get specified.
A great example of a company who follows the 3 Easys is GAF. Each of their products has a link to a documents page that includes all the information they need.
The documents page is well organized, so architects can quickly find the code requirement or certification information they need.
Did you notice that the documents page also includes testimonial videos? This is brilliant! People who are viewing this page are evaluating whether or not GAF can meet their needs. The testimonials reinforce their decision to use GAF.
If you’re not giving architects everything they need in one, well-organized place, follow GAF’s lead. Don’t make architects work for the information they need. Make sure they can find anything they want to know about your product and make sure it’s neatly organized so they’ll want to visit your site again.
7. Architects need interactive tools
Interactive tools are near and dear to my heart because they provide one of the most effective ways to market and sell to architects.
Interactive tools are places on your website where architects get to “interact” with your product in some way. They can be anything from a calculator that estimates the amount of product they'll need for a job to animations that show them the layers of your product.
They could also be an animated tool that lets architects choose the color and dimensions of a product and then see how the completed result will look.
Interactive tools are an audience engagement gold mine. They keep visitors on your website for minutes at a time, and they help them better understand why your product is so incredible.
They also provide valuable content in an interesting way which makes it easier to absorb and easier to remember.
And, if you construct them properly, they can be turned into a lead capture opportunity in a way that makes architects want to give you their information.
If you go back to Moen’s website you’ll see they have an excellent interactive tool right on their homepage that does all three of these things.
Notice how Moen also gives the option to save a room so a visitor can come back to what they’ve designed.
Hint: This is how you create tools that make people want to give you their information. You can check out my recent video series on turning 20% more traffic into leads to find out exactly what I’m talking about here and how best to nurture the leads you capture this way.
8. Architects need to know where and how to buy your products
Architects might not actually go to a dealer to purchase a product, but they will want to check on the availability of your products.
One of the number one concerns architects have when specifying a product is availability. They need to know where they can get it, how much and how soon.
Most manufacturers have a contact page for their dealers and distributors that architects can contact. However, very few of these contact pages offer much more than a name and phone number which can be really frustrating to architects who live in a high-volume area.
GAF is doing an incredible job of taking the guesswork out of the Where to Buy search results:
This saves architects from calling around to each number listed trying to find out if they are a retailer or maybe even just a showroom.
Segmenting your search results in this manner is a quick and easy win.
9. Architects need a search bar that actually works
While researching this article, I spoke with a number of architects to find out what they are looking for when they go to Building Materials Manufacturers websites. They each gave me a number of different things, but they all said that if they cannot find what they looking for they use the search feature on the website to see if the company has what they need.
Some went as far as to say that they don't even use the main navigation. They start with the “search bar” because they know exactly looking for but aren't sure where it would be on the site.
If you market and sell to architects you must have a search bar and it must work well.
Just having a search bar isn’t enough. Your on-site search needs to focus on helping your website visitors find what they are actually looking for.
For example, if you sell lumber and someone searches for "2x4" on your website then they are probably looking for your 2x4 products. This means you shouldn't have your blog posts that talk about 2x4s be the first thing listed on the search results page.
One of the best examples I’ve found of a manufacturer whose search is focused on helping visitors find what they are actually looking for is on Behr’s website. I typed in “orange” in their search bar and here are the results I found.
Notice how they don’t just give me text links to their product pages. The search results show me images for all their orange paint color options.
Clearly Behr knows what people are searching for on their site. Providing a similar feature that shows the product on the search results can be tremendously helpful to architects.
10. Architects want pricing information
Before you skip over this point because you think you can’t post pricing on your site ….
You’re right. I know your products will vary in price depending on geographic region, time of year, etc.
But, that doesn’t mean that architects aren’t looking for pricing information.
If you ask me, almost everyone is losing sales because they are going about the “pricing issue” totally wrong.
There is a general industry standard of including a text box where architects enter their zip code and are given a list of contact phone numbers for distributors, your sales team, showrooms, etc. Asking architects to move from online to on-the-phone is a big step, even if they are expecting it.
It’s your job to make that transition as seamless as possible.
So here’s what I suggest:
Have a dedicated phone number specifically for pricing inquiries. The number should ring straight to your sales team. Don’t make architects “Press 0 to contact the operator.” The sales team will know when they answer the phone that the person calling is specifically interested in pricing.
By the way … This is also a MAJOR hint that the architect is interested in your product, so offering them a little extra effort so they can know if your product is within their project budget is well worth it.
The sales rep should go right into asking whatever specifics you need to know in order to give a price quote. If you’re not comfortable giving a binding quote over the phone, which is totally fine, offer them a price range quote.
Now, do you know what you’ve just done?
You’ve earned loyalty from the architect because you’re giving them what they need.
You’ve gathered a TON of information about an architect that is interested in specifying your product - including the project they’re working on. This is like a sales team’s dream! Use that information to follow-up with this new hot lead and move them along your sales funnel until you’re able to close the deal.
The main idea here is ...
Don’t make it harder than it should be for architects to find the information they need. Your website should work with them to help them learn about and ultimately spec your product.
The information your site offers is only helpful if it’s organized in a way that makes it easy to find.
If you’re looking for help with marketing and selling to architects then I encourage you to schedule a chat with me and I’ll help you discover the other areas that are holding you back from getting more architects to specify your product.
Building Materials Manufacturers spend tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes more, on trade shows every year. Often they’re spending $10,000+ on just one trade show.
Sure you meet a ton of prospects, but … is it worth it?
It certainly can be, but it’s all about how you prepare and ultimately, how you follow-up with the leads you meet at the show.
First, let's talk about your booth ...
Your booth is like your calling card at trade shows. It's a delicate balance between standing out while still looking professional.
Align Booth Designs with Trade Show Themes
If you really want to grab the attention of architects at trade shows, keep your booth’s design in line with the theme of the trade show.
I know having a completely different booth at every show is unreasonable. However, making small changes like what literature you hand out, how your banner is designed and how you introduce or position your product in conversations can make a big difference.
For example, at Greenbuild, focus on green - highlight your eco-friendly features on your banner or brochures and make sure your opening conversations lead into the green aspects of your company.
If you attend KBIS, it’s all about form and function.
While architects at Dwell are looking for products with incredible design.
There’s no need to have a completely different booth display at every show, but keep in mind you’re running into a lot of the same architects again and again. And you want to show them how well you fit into each of the categories they are looking for.
Make You Products the Central Attraction
You want your booth to by eye-catching. You don’t want it to be an eyesore. And you don’t want to be remembered as “That one booth all the weird balloons.”
We’ve all seen the gimmick-filled booths that are packed with people. But how many of those people are turning into customers? And how many are just curious about why there’s a clown in a concrete manufacturer booth?
Take a look at Kirei’s booth below. You can see their products from a mile away. You want to stop by their booth because there’s so much to touch and see, but their entire inviting display revolves around their products.
When you leave a booth like this, you remember the awesome products, not the awesome cheese plate.
Booths are the perfect opportunity to let architects get to know your product. Make sure to have plenty of ways they can touch, handle and see the different aspects of your product. As you're talking with them and walking them through your booth, be sure to connect how the aesthetics of your product factor into the quality, durability and reliability of your products as well.
Before the Show
Before you head off to the trade show, take some time to create a plan of action. If you’re going to get results like you’ve never seen before then you’re going to have to plan and strategize in a whole new way.
Trade shows can be deceiving because it’s a rare occasion where your leads come to you in the flesh and ask about your products. But architects are meeting hundreds of new companies and products in a very short time.
So you need to have a plan in place that will help you keep those meaningful connections going long after the trade show ends.
The best follow-up strategies are formed before the first architect hits your booth.
As part of your trade show prep, define the following: define the following questions with your team:
1. Who will be in your booth?
Are these the people that will be continuing to have consistent contact with the leads? Or do they need to reference the people they will refer the leads to? It’s important to know who will be there in case a lead asks to speak to a specific person or someone in a specific role.
2. Who will follow-up emails come from?
Your CEO? Sales rep? Company? Knowing who follow-up emails will come from allows you to work that information into the conversation so people continue to feel the personal connection with your company even if their follow-up email isn’t coming directly from you.
3. Define Cold, Warm, and Hot leads for each product/product category.
For example, a hot lead would be a decision maker who says to you “We’re in the market for your product to solve X in our latest project. Give me a call next week so we can talk more about it.”
4. Define your lead capture process.
What badge scanning technology will you use? Is it provided by the Trade Show or can you use your own? Will you have more than one or is everyone using the same one? What customized features are available to allow you to better tag leads as they come in?
Understanding how you can get as much information as possible in an organized way is essential to improving your follow-up strategy. It’s important to know how the technology you’re going to use will work before you get there.
Trade show prep tip: All of your follow-up communications should be written before the show. Make sure to leave space to add personal notes so the lead knows you remember your conversation.
During the Show
I know it's a total whirlwind of conversation after conversation while the trade show is going on. It's difficult to find time to grab a drink of water let alone take down detailed notes about every lead you meet. That's why it's so important to have a plan of action before you get to the trade show.
I can tell you now you won't be able to execute on 100% of your plan, but by starting to think a little differently about how you're talking to people and how you're following up with them is a great start.
Just do your best to record whatever info you can about hot leads. Any level of improvement from just lumping everyone on the trade show contact list into your monthly newsletter is a win.
Think Follow-Up Strategy First
Everything about your follow-up strategy should be aimed at taking your trade show connections to the next level.
That means, when you’re creating your follow-up strategy, think about the natural conversations you have at trade shows. Think about the brochures and collateral you’ll have available in your booth. Now, think about tying all of those things together and consider what is the next piece of information leads would want from you after they looked over your trade show handouts?
Connecting what goes on in your booth with how you'll communicate with leads after the show will help you take leads to the next level where they are thinking about buying from you.
This means that you need to change your thinking while in the booth. You’re not just having an isolated conversation with a new prospect. You're warming them up for the email and content you'll send them when the show is over.
Everything you’re talking about should be getting them ready to hear from you again.
Everything they are saying should be helping you file them in the right list segment:
- What products do they want?
- What level of influence they have in the purchase decision?
- What size is their company? What kind of jobs they do?
- What are they working on right now?
- How much do they already know about your company/products?
Obviously, you won’t be able to capture every piece of information for every person you talk to. My point here is that if you go in with a solid game plan, you’re more likely to come out with solid leads.
Drive your conversations to answer as many of these questions as you can in a natural way. Or, if the lead you’re talking to takes the conversation in a totally different direction, make note of what they’re interested in that they brought up or, make note that maybe they’re not actually interested in your products at all.
Connect with leads on social media ... right away
If you make a great connection with a lead during the show, connect with them on Twitter or Facebook right away and send out a “Great meeting you John!” tweet while you're still at the trade show.
Social media is a great, non-threatening way to connect with a lead. It’s also in-line with the generally relaxed and community feel of trade shows.
Use twitter lists before, during & after the show
Anyone that you connect with on twitter should go into a twitter list so you remember where you met and how you first connected. This connection should also be noted in your CRM.
Twitter lists are essentially mini-twitter feeds that you create based on categories you choose like architects, competitors, trade publications, celebrity gossip, etc. You get to choose who goes into each list and who you remove. This is really helpful for targeted research as well as competitive analysis.
If you're not familiar with Twitter lists, check out the example I've included below. And if you really want to get the most out of them, check out how to automatically add anyone using the trade show hashtag (or any other customization you'd like) to your twitter list using an "If This Then That" recipe. You can find out more about ITTT here.
Additionally, you could make a twitter list for anyone using the trade show's hashtag to look for ways to leverage social media advertising in the months following the trade show.
Immediately schedule calls for the most eager leads
If someone is sending you signals that they are a super hot lead, take out your phone and put time on the calendar to call them after the show right then and there.
Then, as soon as they walk away, jot down or voice record as much information about them and your conversation as possible in whatever brief window of time you have. I know you think you’ll remember them when it comes time for the call, but you won’t. Give yourself more details than you think you’ll need when you’re making notes about your conversation.
Avoid vague references or shorthand that you may not remember.
Bad Example of lead information:
- Mike H. - Hot Lead
- Needs sinks for office building
Good Example of lead information:
- Mike Hanney - Hot Lead
- Architect in Philly
- Has used Kohler sinks in the past but finds buying in bulk from them clunky
- Looking at Moen sinks but isn’t sold on their modern design
- Wants a call Monday after 10am to talk sinks for their new housing project - Large neighborhood. 150+ houses.
If making notes on your phone or creating a quick voice recording sounds like it will take too much time - practice. Don't let the trade show be the first time you open and try to record a note. Practice in your office and at home as much as you can before you get to the real thing.
It's also helpful to think about accessing, opening and saving notes: Place the note/recording app icon in an easy to access place. Find out if there are quick entry shortcuts for adding a new note or voice recording that could help speed things along.
Segment leads at the end of each day
At the end of each day, segment the leads you met into hot, warm and cold lead lists for each of your products or for your company as a whole. Follow up with hot leads immediately. Send warm leads case studies, installation videos and other relevant content once the trade show is over. Put cold leads on your newsletter contact list and make a note to send them content from your warm leads follow-up strategy in 6 months to see if they're closer to being ready to make a purchase.
It’s important to do this at the end of every day while the leads are still fresh in your mind. Include as much personal information and information from your conversation as you can.
You think you’ll remember everything you talked to everyone about at the time, but by the end of the 3rd day, you’ll barely remember your own name.
Documenting everything as you go along is the safest way to protect your follow-up strategy and make sure you continue to make personal connections with leads after the trade show ends.
Fill in personal information in pre-written emails
Because you’ll already have your follow-up emails written, start filling in the personal information for your hottest leads at the end of the day before you go out to the evening’s festivities.
Adding in just one or two lines “I saw that the Dodgers won on Saturday.” Or, “I actually met one of your colleagues after you left the booth …” something so the lead knows you are actually talking to him/her, not just sending out one of the 500 “Thanks for stopping by” emails.
Send your notes to an intern and get them to start writing, filling in the blanks and getting messages ready to send. The more personal a message is the more likely they’re going to remember it.
Nurture Campaigns for After the Trade Show
Your leads will be receiving HUNDREDS of follow-up emails the week(s) following the trade show. The goal of your follow-up email is to remind them who you are and prove to them you know who they are.
- Personalize the subject line of your email with at least the name of the trade show.
- Keep subject lines light. You’ve met these people so don’t approach them like a cold call.
- Great meeting you at Green Build
- Have you recovered from Green Build yet?
- Your email branding should be one of two options:
- Right in line with your booth branding so recipients are able to remember who you are and what they chatted about with you.
- Or, Include a picture of your booth in the first email
Following up with super hot leads
There are two basic camps when it comes to follow-up timing:
- Follow up right away so you stand out from the laggards
- Follow up in a couple weeks so you don’t get lost in the shuffle.
We’ve found immediate touch points to be the most effective. If you wait to follow-up, you’re risking that lead being contacted by a competitor. And while you may not get lost in the shuffle, you may look like a company who realized everyone else was sending follow-up emails so you should too.
We recommend following up right away, and then sending a second follow-up email about two weeks later to anyone who hasn’t engaged with your follow-up communications.
Getting the pace of your follow-up strategy just right can be tricky. Below I've mapped out a possible strategy for contacting your hottest leads the week after the trade show.
Example hot lead nurture campaign
- Touchpoint #1 - Email - Intro sales rep and schedule drop-by
- Touchpoint #2 - In-person - Rep comes to office. Introduces himself/herself to lead, drops off samples, catalog and schedules product demo for following week/weeks.
- Touchpoint #3 - In-person - Drops off samples & product demo
- Touchpoint #4 - Email - Case Studies
- Touchpoint #5 - Email from Rep - I’ll be in your area next week. Can I buy you lunch?
Keep in mind that even the hottest leads you meet at trade shows are probably 2-3 months (or more) out from specifying products.
Use this time to establish yourself as an expert guide for the other pieces of their project, and help your reps make connections with the architect so that when it does come time to spec, your company is on the top of their mind.
Social media follow-up strategy
The week after a trade show everyone is still reliving the great time they had, they great companies they met and the relationships they built. Keep that good feeling going with your Social Media strategy.
- Don’t just track the trade show hashtag before and during the trade show. See who’s still talking about it after the events are over, and get in on the conversations that companies and leads you want to work with are having.
- Have a couple posts loaded with pictures from your booth and events around the show. Be sure to tag anyone from outside your company.
- Ask questions to increase engagement “Raise your hand if you’d rather be back at Greenbuild right now!”
If you’re reading this section of our article because you just can’t figure architects out, you’re in good company.
Most manufacturers, even those with solid buyer personas for architects, can’t figure out what the secret is to getting architects to spec their products. Even when architects do choose their products, they're never 100% why they made the final decision.
Did you send the magic number of emails?
Did the architect read that one case study you spent months putting together (and $1,000 designing)?
Did their sales rep just knock the price down?
Was the distributor an old buddy of theirs?
The truth is, there’s not a secret formula that all architects are waiting for you to discover.
However, there are some things you can do that will signal to the architect that you’re a good candidate for their products.
The 3 Musts for Getting an Architect to Spec Your Products
- You must deal with their objections: Offer Case Studies & Testimonialsthat back up your claims with real projects and people.
- You must let them get their hands on your products: Samples are the key to getting your quality product into the hands of architects and moving your product into the realm of possible spec choices.
- You must make it easy for them to use your products: Specs & Models are essential to showcasing how your products function as part of the bigger picture.
1. Use case studies & testimonials to overcome objections
In our most recent architect survey, architects told us that Case Studies are the most important piece of content they need on a manufacturer’s website when they’re looking to spec their products.
If you want architects to select your product for their projects then you need to prove to them that your products are going to work. And you do that by showing them how your products have worked in projects just like theirs before.
Make your case studies easy to read and something people want to share.
You’re speaking to a very visually-centered audience. Everything you communicate to them should tell them you understand their priorities. One of the ways you do that is by giving them beautiful documents.
Take a look at the example case study below. Granted, it's not perfect (and a little text heavy), but they use multiple images to tell the story. And as a bonus, their headline at the top perfectly outlines the problem their product is solving in the study.
Architects trust other architects. In a recent study by Architizer, they say that 64% of architects trust peers when making a decision, versus 40% who trust brand websites alone.
Testimonials not only showcase your products, but they showcase the relationships your products have forged. If an architect is willing to put their reputation on the line for your products, other architects are going to take their statements seriously.
Videos are the perfect medium for testimonials. They’re easy (and inexpensive) to create, and they get awesome results - 60% of visitors will click to watch the video before ever reading a word.
Get creative to get in the door : How to create a Case Study when there isn't one
If you don’t have a ton of case studies yet, you’re going to have to get creative to win your first few projects.
Let me illustrate this with a quick story ...
One of our clients was having a hard time breaking into a specific region of the Asian market because no one wanted to use their product first.
They knew they had great products. They knew their products would improve the value of the buildings where they’d be installed, and they got really close to closing a deal on several occasions.
But each time they were in the final stages of negotiation, their prospect would ask where else their products are being used in that region … and then the deal would fall through because the answer was nowhere.
So they had to get creative.
They bartered with prospects and exchanged their products for whatever services were offered in the building where the products would be used. (Hotel rooms, food services, etc.)
All it took was a couple of these bartering trades to have an established name in the region. So the next time a prospect asked where their products are being used, they could say three or four other places!
And boom … they were in.
This region is now one of their biggest markets.
2. Let architects get their hands on your samples
If you’re noticing a theme by this point about how often we mention giving architects samples, it’s because we really believe in it … and your architects really, really want samples.
Don’t just include a samples form page. You should be linking to your sample form on every product page.
Give as much access to the resources architects need as possible.
Never charge for samples. Ever.
Architects who request samples are close to making a decision about which products to spec. When and how you follow-up with them after they request a sample is crucial.
Get them in touch with a rep or distributor soon after they receive your samples so they have a personal connection to your company.
Keep in good contact with your reps so you’re able to know if and when the sample turned into a sale.
3. Make it as easy to choose you with spec sheets & models
If architects can’t easily find everything they need to know about your product, they will leave your website and find a competitor who will tell them.
AutoCad, BIM, and Revit models are some of the most crucial information you can offer.
By providing these insights, you’re showing architects immediately how your products will work with the other products they’ve specified, with their projects landscape, timeframe and more.
The easier you can make an Architect’s job, the more likely they are to choose your product. Plus, you don’t ever want to be in the position of not offering information they can find elsewhere about your competition.
Lead Gen Hot Tip:
Specs and models are too valuable to Architects to put up any barriers.
Never put product specs behind a form. You don’t want anything to keep them from looking deeper into your product.
If you have multiple downloads for one product like technical specs, a case study, and installation instructions - let architects get each individual piece without a form, but offer to email all 3 to their inbox.
By positioning it this way, you're offering to help speed things up rather than slow them down. And, you’re giving them a very easy way to avoid giving you their email if they don’t want to.
How to Position Your Products
Even if you have the perfect, non-intrusive marketing strategy for architects, if you don’t position your products correctly or know how to talk about them then you’re not going to get very far.
Form, Function, Price ... It all matters
In our recent architect survey, we asked architects what matters most to them about the products they spec (quality, design, price, etc.)
In short, they told us everything matters - and the first place they look to find everything they want to know is on your website.
Good construction requires high-quality products that perform exactly the same every. single. time. Good business practice means choosing products within the project’s budget.
If you can’t prove that your products are high-quality, reliable and competitively priced, you’re going to get looked over.
Don’t be better, be consistent
My brother is always the first in line when Apple releases a new iPhone (or a new anything). He’s the first to know when they're going to update iOS. He often stays up until midnight just clicking refresh on settings waiting for the update to come through.
He’s also suffered the consequences of loving new technology so much. He’s deleted all his contacts through one buggy update. Miss-filed all his music and has been locked out by his own fingerprint.
Watching him get burned by his first-in-line mentality has made me cautious. I want new stuff, but I want the proven version. I want all the bugs worked out and I want to know what will still be hard to work with and decide if it’s worth it.
I like new gadgets as much as the next guy, but I don’t like being a guinea pig.
Architects don’t like to be the guinea pig either. Even if your new product or method really is better than the old one, early adoption in building materials products is slower than most other industries. Their name and reputation are on the line. If something goes wrong they're legally responsible and will lose credit (and possibly destroy relationships) with their contractors and fellow architects.
Instead of selling architects on what’s new, focus on what’s proven.
Your new product wasn’t created out of thin air. It was (hopefully) created out of need. It was created to solve a problem, close a gap, lower cost, cut down on time.
Lead with the problem you're solving to pull architects to your new product instead of pushing them away.
Use proven products as the starting point of the conversation
If your products are new to the market, use products that you know architects will be familiar with as the foundation - even if the products are from other brands.
“Our product is installed just like X, but it has a shorter lead time and improved water resistance.”
Using proven products as the measuring stick means your product is starting where the other product left off. You’ll overcome baseline objections by fast-forwarding to the issues you know architects have with current brands.
Put Them on a New List
Every company has a list of potential sales, closed deals, contact information for people you wish would use your products and a list of architects who have already specified your products. Whether your list has meticulous notes and details and is managed through Salesforce or it’s just a running list of emails and names in an Excel Spreadsheet, your contact list is what keeps your sales pipeline going.
Even if you haven’t cataloged every interaction with every contact on your list, you know that not everyone on there has the same needs or even works for the same type of firm.
List segmenting will allow you to communicate with each of your architects based on their specific preferences, habits and needs.
It’s vital to know who has used your product, when and where so you can continue the conversation where you left off. It also keeps you from sending everyone the same generic email about your products.
Once you have your architects into their list segments, you can create content and emails to fit each of their needs. Writing content for an architect’s needs rather than sending them just another newsletter update keeps you as the expert guide and keeps the architect happy to hear from you.
Continuing the conversation after your product is included in an architect’s project is about taking the “Expert Guide” to the next phase.
You’ve been a partner to them throughout the specifying process, and now that the project has begun, you want to continue being their partner.
By continuing to offer your expertise without asking for something in return, you’re on your way to moving them from customer to loyal customer.
Keep the Content Coming
Don’t let a closed sale be the last time architects hear from you.
Consider what an architect using your products might need once the project is underway.
You could offer tools and alerts to help them keep their project on track:
- Updates on where their shipment is and when it will arrive
- Alerts about issues that could affect the building process like weather, material shortages or even strikes in certain parts of the world
- Timeline calculators with milestones to help them keep their project on track
Or it can be as simple as blog articles that are relevant to the projects they're working on:
- Top 5 Time Killers for Hotel Construction
- The Best Way to Earn Your General Contractor's Trust
There’s a delicate balance here. You don’t want to overwhelm an architect once they’re using your products, but you also don’t want to back off too far so that you have to start the process from square one the next time they have a project.
The real key that will keep them wanting to hear from you is the quality of your content. Whether you're giving them videos, downloads or calculators - it needs to be highly relevant, highly effective and cost them nothing.
Talk to Architects Differently After the Sale
Architects that have specified your products should never receive the same ole’ “Get to know our products” email that you sent them when you first got their email address.
These architects are now well acquainted with your products. They’re going to be receiving feedback from other architects, from their contractors and GCs about your products.
They’ll know exactly how your product works on a project, and that can either be a good and a bad thing.
If your products really work the way you say they do then you’ll be moved to the top of their list for products to spec when a project comes up.
However, you’ll need to re-introduce your product for new types of projects. If an architect knows your project works well for houses, they may need to be convinced at how it will function on commercial projects and vice versa.
Give Them the VIP Treatment
An easy way to keep architects feeling connected to your company is by meeting up with them at trade shows.
Before you attend a trade show, send an email to your list of architects that have purchased from you in the last 12-15 months - and maybe a few you’re working really hard to close.
Let them know you’ll be at the show and you’d love to buy them a drink or you're hosting a small event for your loyal customers. You don’t have to spend $10,000 on a booth event that everyone at the show will partake in, and you’re able to have some great conversations with people you know like your products.
Turn Happy Customers into Testimonials
You put a lot of hard work into capturing and winning that architect. Getting the sale is awesome, but take that hard work one step further.
Take a look at the architects who have specified your products recently. Whose project went exceptionally well? Whose project is a great example of other projects you’d like your products used for in the future?
Have the people who’ve established the best relationship with those architects reach out and ask them to submit a testimonial or participate in a case study. They’ll get a boost because their name and company will be featured, and your future leads will benefit from their insights.
Once they agree, send an email with a couple example testimonials or case studies. You should also include a template or guideline for them to follow so there’s minimal effort on their part. Plus, including a template also ensures that you get the talking points you want.
Special thanks to Mark Mitchell from seethewhizard.com for his help and insight into writing this article. If you want to know more on How to Sell Architects you should check out his article that tells you exactly that.