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Why Architecture Firms Care About Your Product Certifications

The sales process in building materials can involve a few hurdles. Product certifications, though, might get your product in front of architects you’ve only dreamed of and prevent value engineering your product out of the project later on. But is a certification worth it? Let’s find out.

January 17th, 2022

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More About This Episode

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.

This week, we’re learning from sustainability expert Walter Lourie on how to use building materials certifications to stay ahead of the sales game and in the project. Walter gives us a couple of really smart strategies that he’s using to get in front of today’s top architecture firms.

Understanding What Today’s Architect Wants

Walter Lourie is the Sustainability Manager at mafi, an Austrian natural wood flooring brand. We highly recommend looking at their site, because the designs are truly drool-worthy.

158 Understanding What Todays Architect Wants

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We’ve talked about the importance of sustainable products before on the show. Sustainable, carefully-sourced products are a hot topic and trend today in the States, but mafi has been in the game for a while and is what Walter describes as rather traditional and conservative.

“They're very specific on what they do,” explains Walter. “They're quality manufacturers of natural surfaces and what that means is, they're just essentially making a wood floor that we can use for walls, ceilings and floors.”

The air-dried and oiled surfaces of the natural wood floors are what make mafi such a strong brand. “And it actually increases the health of the air in the space, and it is totally organic and natural,” says Walter.

The other differentiator is how mafi works with architects. “We're pushing an ideal. We're pushing a lifestyle,” he explains. “What we specifically do is target the architects because they're the ones that are going to be able to translate this message of introducing a healthy interior product to a client, where most marketing is focused through other dealers … where they're just pushing the color, they're pushing the cost.”

If you’ve heard us talk about architects before on the podcast, though, you know they’re not the easiest audience to win over. But Walter explains how they play a crucial role in the construction industry. “[T]he architect is the one that is culturing this education of sustainability and healthy awareness of a human-centered interior,” he explains.

So for manufacturers looking to reach architects with high quality and sustainable products, the key is providing that education.

The Demand for Sustainable Certifications

Today’s building owners (including homeowners) are looking for builds that prioritize healthier environments, and Walter is seeing proof of this every day.

“Everybody's hypersensitive about what materials are in their space,” he says. “And so people are looking for a product that is good for them. And they're buying organic foods more than ever, they're really hyper-focused on what's good for them, knowing that 90% of our time is indoors and that the air indoors is two to five times more polluted than exterior air.”

Architects are often part of the education process for homeowners and building owners. “And so the architects are the ones that are telling everybody about this,” explains Walter.

For manufacturers, that means creating products that meet the high demand for indoor health and sustainability. “We shouldn't be selling a product that we know is temporary,” Walter says. “We should be selling a product that is super resilient.”

But not all building or homeowners are going to understand what makes a product valuable and truly resilient. “Products that are normally in the market are sold because of the color and the cost,” he explains.

But a product certification gives manufacturers an edge: being a real solution. “I don't believe a long-term production scheme should include making products that are definitely going to fail, right? That's part of the transparency and the anti-green washing thing we like to do,” he says.

And it’s that tactic that’s making mafi (and their product certifications) so attractive to architects.

The Inside Scoop: Getting Certified

Walter gave us the scoop on getting a sustainable certification, the process behind it and the payoff. He works closely with organizations like International Living Future Institute, Mindful Materials and the Healthy Product Declaration Collaborative — all of which develop certification processes and labels for products.

“And that's been my job for the last three and a half years, is 24/7 trying to make sure that we have all the information that these organizations need to complete the paperwork,” says Walter.

Product certification paperwork isn’t like other paperwork, though. “You have to have a product and a manufacturing process that complies to those standards of low carbon emissions during manufacturing, and [know] where exactly do your products come from, and you need to trace it all the way back to every single ingredient,” he explains.

There’s a ton of legwork that goes into the certification process. “It takes a tremendous amount of transparency to get to the level that these certifications require,” says Walter.

But all the hard work pays off. “What has happened is we've been able to talk with architects that in our dreams, we would never be able to talk to,” Walter says. “We've taken those three years to really do the work of transparent manufacturing.”

As a manufacturer, mafi has done all of the work that the architects would have to do to find if the product is safe for building.

“And so when you have the advantage of the certificate, and it makes it so that it's impossible to VE it, that makes that end of the job a lot easier. And we're finding out that we're getting projects at list price,” says Walter.

But the job doesn’t end there, of course.

Tips To Leverage Your Product Certification

Getting the product certification is certainly a way to get your foot in the door and in front of architects. The transparency and investment of getting a certification will give a product distinction, but Walter gave us a few ideas for talking about your certified product with potential customers.

Leverage LinkedIn

“We are focused specifically towards those people that have the sustainability credentials, like LEED APs or WELL APs. People that are within those small, small circles of the organizations that we support are all pushing the whole industry in that direction. Those are the ones that we target. And then ultimately, it comes down to a you-and-me conversation.”

Get On the Phone

“So, we have a list of the architecture firms that are most interested in sustainability and we target those. And then when we get on the phone, and we actually talk to these people, then we get the presentation scheduled. And that's when I can offer the Green Build Certification Industry presentation’,” he says. “I've been doing it over Zoom for the last couple of years.”

Follow-Up

Attendees of that GBCI presentation provide their email, so Walter will follow up with those contacts. “Specific smart things that we're doing, new things that we're doing. We've always got new colors and things like that,” he says.

Low-Hanging Fruit

“There's one label that I think is the most important one and that is the Declare label,” says Walter. “And all it is is a transparency document that says what the ingredients are in the product. It's not expensive. And at least that's a step in the right direction towards a sustainable, transparent product.”

Want Even More Insight?

We could’ve talked with Walter for hours about how certifications can help today’s manufacturers, and we imagine it’s a conversation that we’ll continue to be involved in.

“I encourage more manufacturers to be [as] transparent as possible because that helps the industry grow,” says Walter. Whether you get your product certified or not, transparency is something we can all aim for.

“Maybe your product can't have that, but understanding the trend of, ‘Hey, what are architects wanting and how does certification play into it’ is important for manufacturers to be thinking about,” he says. And we couldn’t agree more.

Listen to the full episode for more insights on the future of sustainability in the building industry.

Check out more of what mafi is up to by visiting their site. You can also email Walter, or find him on LinkedIn or on Instagram.

If you have any questions about how you can further leverage your product certifications in your marketing to architects, send us an email at [email protected].

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