As a building materials marketing and sales professional, you have to keep a lot of plates spinning to be successful -- I get it.

You’re on a constant lookout for new prospects. Engaging new and existing ones on social media. Making sure you get your face out there at the trade shows.

Plus you need to…

  • Provide awesome customer service once an architect specifies your product and it’s going into a building
  • Make sure the building owner is happy and make sure you get all their questions answered
  • Follow up with your existing clients and keep your relationship fresh for that next project

Like I said – I get all that. I’ve been an architect for about 19 years, and I see how hard you’re trying.

I see you standing there at the tradeshow booth trying to catch my attention. Trying to keep that attention once you have it, and making sure I remember you afterward. (You are following up with me, right?)

I see you carrying those lunches into the office. Making darn sure you've entertained and educated my fellow architects and I enough to remember you and make the right choice on my next project.

You make sure whatever you leave behind is useful and something that doesn’t make its way to a landfill before you have a chance to see me again. (You are doing all that, right?)

I know you’re thinking, “Yes, Neil! I get it, too! There’s a lot to do to stay ahead. And I realize I’m not making every one of the right moves. Any suggestions?”

I’m glad you asked. I’m committed to helping bridge the communication gaps that exist between you and my fellow architects. I’ve seen so many great products ignored because the marketing or sales person didn’t take a few crucial steps.

I’ve also seen building manufacturer reps and salespeople who do things right. That’s why I’d like to distill and share those steps with you here, today.

*Important Note: You should understand these recommendations only work if you’re truly genuine in your desire to provide value. It takes a bit of finesse. If you just “go through the paces” and rush to get them on board, it won’t work. We architects are a fickle bunch and don’t like to be sold.

With that warning, here are the steps to take right now to start building a network of architects who look to you as their go-to expert on your building products:

Step #1: Identify your ideal prospect ‘The Architect’

Focus on just one.

If you’ve been following any of the great marketing advice out there, I hope one of those is to focus your efforts on one ideal prospect at a time -- your customer avatar.

By that, I mean – when you’re writing a blog post or writing copy for your marketing materials, imagine yourself sitting across from your ideal prospect. Give that person a face -- even a name if it helps you.

Are they male or female? Is he a young buck? Is she a hardened veteran? What part of the country (or world) do they work and live?

For the case of this post, we’ll call our ideal prospect “The Architect.” (I know – clever, right?)

Case in point: As you’re reading this post, I hope you feel like I’m talking to you… Because I am.

I have an image of you in my head right now as I peck out these words on my MacBook Pro …

I imagined you walked into my office; sat down on that ratty old chair across my desk (no, I do not know what that stain is from), and I started talking through this list with you.

That’s what you need to do for each of these steps. Fix that image of the architect in your head and move on to Step #2.

Need help picturing the architect? Checkout this Junior Architect Buyer Persona.

Step #2: Research ‘The Architect’ to understand his wants & needs

Develop the picture of your target prospect

Get out there and research the bejeezus out of that architect. Talk to them. Survey them.

Find out what they're looking at every day. What’re they reading? Where do they like to eat lunch? What kind of design do they look to for inspiration? What are their career goals? Are they more technical and detail oriented, or more of a free association type?

Where are they going online? What LinkedIn or Facebook groups do they belong to?

There are different types of architects you could be focusing on. It depends largely on what building product you’re marketing to the architect. Finding the answers to these questions can help ensure you’re focusing on the right one.

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Step #3: Submerge yourself in what they read & where they go

Build the relationship with your prospect

This step is all about putting yourself in their shoes… almost literally.

It’s not enough to just know the names of the magazines or books they’re reading. Or where they spend their time. You should actually read them yourself. You should go to those places they are and sit in the same chairs where they sit. Walking down the same aisles.

It’s only in this way you can start to appreciate what’s important to them... What’s influencing their decisions?

…OK, let’s stop here for a minute…

At this point, you should take a step back. And take stock of everything you’ve learned about your ideal prospect, “The Architect.”

Do you feel you have a stronger understanding of their needs? Are you feeling like you’re a bit closer to finishing their thoughts and sentences?

If not, go back through a couple of those steps to make sure you’re ready to go on.

We’ll wait here for you… Ready? Good. Let’s start digging deeper.

Step #4: Be there (wherever they are)

Take the platform & be the expert.

Now this is advice you must be hearing from other marketing experts: Establish yourself as an expert. If they see you as the authority who can help answer their questions and provide trusted guidance, you’re on your way.

You can start to do this in the online forums they frequent. If you see a question you can answer, this is a great place to do it… without trying to sell anything. That’s the key. Use this opportunity to educate, but not sell them on your product.

Another excellent strategy that I don’t see done often enough…

At the next trade show you’re planning to attend - give one of the seminars. Don’t just hang out in your booth. Get up on the stage and teach the attendees. Can you imagine a better way to get an architect’s attention and show your knowledge?

Even better… Partner with an architect or another designer to give the presentation. Ideally, it might be a happy customer who can help give you some credibility to your prospects.

Another key point -- be sure you have a mechanism in place to collect contact information from attendees to your talk. This could be as simple as a sign-up list, or have them shoot you a text during your presentation to have you send them some educational piece or helpful tool that they’ll want.

An example could be a simple checklist they could use to make sure their project complies with some relevant and critical code or standard.

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Step #5: Educate them about your field like nobody else can

Continue to deliver value

Once you’ve got their attention, don’t squander it.

After your engaging presentation at that trade show in Step #4, I’m sure you got their contact information. Of course you did!

Within the next week or two, send them whatever tool or report you promised in your talk. (The one that convinced them to give you her e-mail.) Also take a few moments to thank them for attending and then, provide even more value, if you can. Share a relevant article you saw that you think might be of interest to them.

It doesn’t even have to be your article… Sharing knowledge from another source shows them that you are looking to provide value. It shows that you’re keeping current with the latest information about your product. Maybe you can be a trusted resource for their questions.

Your main goal at this point it to use what Gary Vaynerchuk refers to as “jabs.” You need to give, give, give and then you can ask.

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Step #6: Be a trusted advisor

Position yourself as the one they turn to for guidance & help

Now that you’ve started to build a rapport with them, make yourself available. Offer to review their current project. Invite them over for lunch and give a tour of your facility (if they’re local).

Become a familiar face in their office. Stop in from time to time to see if they, or any of his co-workers, need anything. Your goal here is to be top-of-mind the next time they have a question you can help with.

Once again, this is where you need to exercise a certain amount of finesse. You don’t want to be a pest - just a friendly face looking to provide value.

Step #7: Always be searching

Look for opportunities to contact and reconnect

Keep your radar on for reasons to touch base. If you’re a smart (and organized) marketer, you should have a database that keeps all your prospects’ details at your fingertips.

Birthdays, anniversaries, new projects. It could be anything. Always look for the chance to let them know you’re thinking of them and appreciate the trusted relationship you’ve built.

Joe Girard, the world’s greatest salesman, has some great advice on how to do this better.

If you’ve already been able to get onto one of the architect’s projects, here’s an idea:

Offer to sit down and review your shop drawings with him to answer questions, get some clarifications, and smooth that process. (I’ve seen several building product manufacturers do this quite successfully.)

Step #8: Remove obstacles

Find & address all questions/concerns they have when specifying your product

Always welcome and ask for feedback on your product information. If you’re getting the same questions over and over - take note. You want to make sure that your website pages and one-sheets clearly address these questions.

Especially if your product isn’t the leader in the marketplace. You want to be sure you highlight the unique benefits of your product, so there are fewer barriers to getting specified.

This goes back to finding out what’s important to the architect. Is it certain test data? Is it making sure your product helps the project meet all the relevant codes? Are there concerns for first costs versus lifetime costs?

Find the questions and be sure to spell out the answers as clearly and succinctly as you can. Work those answers into your presentations and website content, so he knows you understand them and their concerns.

Step #9: Future projects

You now have their ear for product suggestions – Use it!

This is it! You made it to the finish line. Now you can stop and celebrate…

But just for a minute. There is no actual “finish line” to a successful marketing strategy in our industry.

Once you’ve properly built a trusting relationship with the architect, you need to keep cultivating that relationship. You don’t want it to grow cold after all that hard work.

Let them know about new options or updates you’ve added for your products. Keep your eyes peeled for new uses or applications for your other products you think could help them succeed.

Work closely with your local building product reps to make sure they are looking for and suggesting opportunities to pair your products with their other lines.

Conclusion

Now that you’ve developed all this invaluable knowledge about your prospect, the Architect, and have positioned yourself as a trusted resource to them, you need to make the most of it. For you, for them and for our industry.

Work with your copywriter and your marketing team to ensure you’ve aligned and coordinated all your marketing material…

To continue educating and speaking directly to your ideal prospect’s needs and concerns.

And once you’ve got all that in place, it’s time to turn your focus to your next ideal prospect.

Maybe it’s a different type of architect for a different product you carry.

Or maybe it’s a different type of client you need to include in your sales net. Contractors? Builders? Homeowners? Do-it-yourselfers? Facility managers?

They each have their own unique set of concerns and goals. Go through this process again for the next prospect, and the next.

You’ll still be spinning plates, but with a system to follow, it’s my hope that they’ll all be spinning in better harmony.

About the Author: Neil Sutton is a Registered Architect, Copywriter, Content Strategist, and Lead Generation Specialist. Neil helps companies within the building industry who have great products and services to communicate better with their clients and prospects. Through more effective lead generation strategies, websites and marketing materials. You can find his new blog and website at www.suttoncopywriting.com. Or you can reach Neil directly at [email protected]