Know Your Audience: How to Sell Products Through Architects
At the risk of sounding reductive, every marketing and sales professional on the planet has the same job: to influence decision making in the direction of their product or service. Most of those brilliant marketing and sales minds would agree that, no matter the industry, understanding the target customer and the circumstances surrounding their decision-making processes is essential to closing the deal.
This idea is fairly straightforward if you sell consumer goods, but it becomes far more complex if you’re in the business of commercial building materials.
Throughout the long, complicated process of commercial construction, the decision-making role shifts between each major player—architects, engineers, contractors, designers, specifiers, and owners—and each brings to the table their own set of expectations, needs, and preferences.
In this article, I will focus on the decision-making habits of architects and how building product manufactures (BPMs) can accelerate buying decisions in favor of their products. You can also watch our video, “The Architect’s Buyer Journey,” for a quick overview. Because architects are deeply involved in the design and documentation phases of construction, where the vast majority of product selection takes place, understanding architects and why they select certain manufacturers over others is fundamental to growing your commercial business.
Let’s start by taking a high-level look at the lifecycle of a commercial construction project, and where BPMs fit into the equation.
How Architects Select Products for Commercial Projects
The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) standard contract outlines five phases of architect involvement in a commercial project:
- Schematic Design (15%): Owners and architects discuss concept and start work on preliminary drawings.
- Design Development (20%): Architects select materials including interior finishes and products such as windows, doors, fixtures, and appliances.
- Construction Documents (40%): Technical drawings and engineering are finalized; HVAC systems, plumbing, electrical, gas, and all products and materials are selected and/or scheduled.
- Bidding/Procurement (5%): Architects share highly detailed design documents with contractors, who bid for the job.
- Construction Administration (20%): Architects oversee progress and assist with problems or questions that arise onsite.
In order to select products that meet the project requirements, architects need access to product data, or technical product content. As the building design becomes more detailed (Design Development) and those details are expanded, approved, and finalized (Construction Documents), manufacturers play an important role as the primary resource for technical product content.
During 60% of any given contract, architects spend painstaking hours searching for and downloading product files for use in their design rendering—from floor and ceiling materials down to fixtures and faucets. They are goal-oriented, not browsing, and they need fast access to accurate product information. The manufacturer who provides it first will almost certainly be specified in the construction documents, which increases the chance of product procurement significantly.
How Manufacturers Sell More Products Through Architects
1. Become a Product Content Resource
Technical product content is an umbrella term that includes:
- Technical product descriptions
- Product specifications
- CAD details
- Sustainability documentation
- Design guides
- Photos or drawings
In our research into AECs’ work habits and preferences, we found that BIM, CAD details, and specifications were consistently cited by design professionals as the most important content to provide. Of these, Revit files are in the highest demand and are oftentimes the most-downloaded file type among our platform adopters.
Our research shows that if your website is hard to use or missing important content, AECs are about 50% less likely to select your products. While many factors can influence product selection, such as owner preference and design requirements, easy access to technical product content is an important part of the equation—and the only factor that you, the manufacturer, can control outside of your products themselves.
2. Eliminate Friction in the Architect’s Buyer Journey
According to a 2016 study by AIA, “The Architect’s Journey to Specification,” 85% of architects searching for product information visit manufacturers’ websites as opposed to aggregate libraries like BIMobject or BIMsmith. In the same study, AIA’s #1 recommendation for manufacturers who want to foster and maintain relationships with architects is to improve websites.
Let’s drill down on “improve.”
Architects want websites that:
- Are clear, concise, up-to-date, and easy to navigate
- Include robust technical product content, especially BIM
- Consolidate that content in one, easy-to-find “pro portal”
- Require no sign-up to view product content
- Make it easy to connect with product experts or sales reps
Because websites are one of the most-used ways architects get product information, BPMs who provide simple, easy access to technical product content on their websites have a higher chance of being selected for a commercial project. If an architect can’t find the necessary files on your website quickly, they will likely leave with a negative experience and try their luck on your competitors’ websites.
3. Foster Brand Loyalty
I maintain that the opposite is also true: If an architect can access the files they need quickly and easily via the first place they look—your website—then they will have a positive experience that encourages product selection indefinitely. They will use the technical content you provided in the design documents for their current project, and they will return to your website for the next one because you gained their trust through positive experience.
In fact, AIA found that 74% of architects are more likely to continue to use manufacturers they have a good relationship with than to explore alternatives.
Key Takeaways & Conclusion
- 85% of architects visit manufacturer websites to find technical product content when selecting products.
- Architects are 50% less likely to select your products if your website is hard to use or missing important content.
- AIA’s #1 recommendation for fostering and maintaining relationships with architects is to improve websites.
As a marketer of commercial building materials, your website is capable of fostering long-term customer loyalty or ending the buyer journey before it begins. However, adapting your website to an architect’s complex professional needs is extremely difficult if you rely on a traditional CMS.
At Concora, we create solutions for both manufacturers and their AEC customers. Our Commercial Engagement Platform is the industry’s only comprehensive solution designed for manufacturers to optimize the commercial buyer journey and simplify the delivery of technical product content.
By becoming a resource for architects, you’re providing an experience that leads to more specification, fierce brand loyalty, and continued growth in the commercial sector. We build that experience directly into your website, making it easier than ever for architects to do business with you.