Architects have to wear a lot of hats when it comes to running just one single project. This week, we talked to an architect who helped us better understand what manufacturers can do to get in front of these professionals to get specified on their projects.
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The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.
In this episode, Zach and Beth talk with Eric Zuziak, President of JZMK Partners, about how manufacturers can be more effective in their marketing and sales strategies so that they connect with architects more successfully.
How Architects Are Designing Today
Eric Zuziak is with JZMK Partners, where he is president and partner of the firm. The company is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and while they’re based in Costa Mesa, California, they build homes and other buildings across the globe.
“And we focus on all ranges of residential architecture and urban planning from single-family, all the way up to high-rise residential and everything in between, including mixed-use,” he says. The firm does business everywhere from Central America to North Africa to the Middle East.
They work with developers to create a number of different types of properties. “I would say our expertise is both on the high-end, semi-custom single family, as well as the urban infill, mixed-use and high-density multifamily areas. That's what we're known for,” he explains.
For Eric and his team at JZMK Partners, the pandemic changed some of the conversations that they have around urban planning and how communities are designed today.
“The way that people are working from home now, that's a big trend. And that is impacting all different types of housing, from your custom home all the way up to your high density, small apartment and micro-unit,” explains Eric.
There are a few things that architects have to consider when it comes to building spaces that are functional and successful, which also means “spec-ing products that are much safer for this kind of experience that we're having in the pandemic,” he says.
He says that architects are asking questions about their designs that they hadn’t necessarily considered pre-pandemic: “How many units on an acre of land can we get, without having to resort to putting people in confined elevators and centrally loaded corridors? Can we have more exterior stairways?”
The way architects design for windows and building ventilation matters a great deal more now, because they have to ask how “we give people an opportunity to have more access to fresh air, for example, and less social contact just circulating through their building?”
How Manufacturers Can Engage With Today’s Architects
There are a few solutions that manufacturers can provide to architects like Eric. Because architects are asking more questions about building safer and more functional spaces, manufacturers should consider the following if they want their products to be specified.
Tip #1: Make Your Technical Data More Accessible
“I think one of the biggest things for architects is to make sure that we have access to technical data on the material that they are selling. Whether it's a product or a system or even a service — especially if it's a product,” says Eric.
And it’s key to make that information as accessible and easy-to-use as possible. “What would be most helpful is to have access to a Revit model or a SketchUp model. Both those are the two platforms that architects are really using now,” he says.
If an architect is going to select windows or doors for their project, they’re going to check out a manufacturer’s website for that kind of technical information. “We want to be able to go to their website and download a Revit model of their window or door and have every size that is available so that we can plug that into our model,” he says. “And that would really help leverage the specification of what we select in our client, the homebuilder's selection of that product for inclusion into their development.”
That kind of information helps architects sell the design to the builder more easily. If they can’t find that kind of technical data or model on a manufacturer’s site, it means more work for the architect.
”I think the smarter companies are providing those Revit models and those SketchUp models to architects through an architect portal on their website. And that just speeds up the process.”
That makes it more efficient for architects, who “have to perform on our budgets,” says Eric. “We want to obviously make sure we're specifying the right project, but if the manufacturers can make it easier for us to get that component, we're going to plug into them right away.”
When architects are presenting a model to, say, city planners, it helps them to have the clearest picture possible. “Things that are going to go on the exterior of the building that as architects, we're going to have to present to cities, we would really like to have the actual products that our clients would like to have on the project represented in our 3D model,” says Eric.
Tip #2: Give Architects Opportunities To Discover You
Because most connections are made today online or on Zoom calls, manufacturers have to come up with strategic ways to meet architects where they’re at.
“It's all Google searches. We're trying to find products or systems,” says Eric. And for architects who have a website and social media profiles, it’s important for manufacturers to meet them online. But remember that competitor manufacturers will be reaching out to architects, too.
“I am swamped with invitations to check out different products. If it is something that comes into my inbox that is relevant to a project I'm working on, I'm probably going to open up and take a look at it,” says Eric.
Architects are likely to do some research to find the products that are a good fit for them. “We're looking at all the builder publications, the developer publications, announcements of new projects. Sites like Urbanize LA, the Urbanize group of websites that focus on development in different cities and redevelopment. Sites like those,” says Eric.
Many manufacturers have found success posting on sites like Houzz and Architizer, to get in front of architects looking for specific products. Eric points out that it’s important to know the types of products that professionals like him are looking for. “Sustainability is something that is important to us. It's important to all architects. So that's something we want to see, is companies really thinking about how they're locally sourcing materials,” he explains.
He also encourages manufacturers to consider product samples. “I wish they would provide samples free of charge to architects. It's in their best interest to do so,” he says.
A free sample that gets to the architect quickly wins big points with Eric. “It just streamlines our process,” he explains. “Interior finishes, exterior finishes, getting samples of those in a timely manner is very important.”
Tip #3: Never Underestimate the Lunch-and-Learn
Lunch-and-learn events haven’t been especially popular with the pandemic. But as more vaccines are distributed and states loosen up on lockdowns, these types of events could result in a win for manufacturers.
“We're not really interested in talking with the sales representative,” explains Eric. “We're interested in talking with the manufacturer's representative about the performance of our product, like doors and windows for example.”
When the manufacturer is available to architects for a presentation, it can go a long way with architects. “That's going to put them to the front of the line of the other manufacturer's reps who are asking to give presentations,” he explains. “Here's the difference: If we call a manufacturer's rep and ask them to do a lunch-and-learn, we've already narrowed them down.”
If the lunch-and-learn event includes an opportunity to get AIA continuing education credits, that’s even better. “Because we have an obligation to have so many continuing education credits to meet their licensure. So it's very easy for a product manufacturer to get a qualification through the AIA to present their products,” says Eric.
If you’re not able to do an in-person event, architects will still want to talk to the most knowledgeable person about the product in question. “We don't want to waste their time or our time with just a salesperson,” says Eric. “Bring in the manufacturer's rep because we're going to ask technical questions about the product that a salesperson might not have the ability to answer that question.”
Architects will want to know how the product is rated and if it will meet building code standards. And when manufacturers can have that information readily available and show how their product comes with solutions for the architect, they’ll be more likely to specify that product.
Want Even More Insight?
When product manufacturers find ways to help architects solve problems on a project, you’re establishing a connection and partnership with them.
“And it's the greatest depth of understanding of the product from a technical aspect, because we're going to dive deep and ask some serious questions about what's your fire rating? What's your assemblies? Things like that,” says Eric. “So we're going to dive really deep, technically, because we have to make sure that the products we’re specifying meet some tough code parameters.”
If you’re looking for more insights into reaching architects so they’ll specify your products, listen to our full interview with Eric.
You can learn about JZMK Partners and the kinds of projects they’re working on by visiting their website.
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