Bridging The Gap Between AECs And BPMs
Kip Rapp: Bridging The Gap Between AECs And BPMs
Director of Product Graham Waldrop and CEO Kip Rapp take listeners on a journey through Concora’s Digital Experience Platform and how it helps bridge the gap between architects, engineers, contractors and building product manufacturers.
Graham: Product Director Concora
Kip Rapp: CEO Concora
Hello, and welcome to the Concora Corner, a podcast dedicated to telling you all about the happenings of our company, Concora. Our job is to make it easy for architects, engineers, and contractors to specify building product manufacturers products through our digital experience platform, and we’re here to give you an inside look at what we’re doing to make that a reality. I’m Graham Waldrop, one of the directors of product here at Concora, and today we’re going to talk about all of that and more with our CEO Kip Rapp. Kip, how are you today, Sir?
Doing good Graham. That was a great opening, thanks for having me here.
Oh yeah, absolutely. So Kip, before we take an inside look at the DXP as we call it, the digital experience platform, let’s talk a little bit about your background and what you’re bringing with that experience to Concora in terms of how it’s helping us deal with both of the industries you serve such as the architects, engineers, and contractors, as well as building product manufacturers.
It’s been a fun ride and a long journey. I would say it’s been four years since I’ve been with the company and I wouldn’t expect where we were four years ago and where we are today. It’s been definitely surprising, and I’d say my roots has always been in product management and understanding customer feedback and being able to understand what they need and how to solve that.
A lot of customers are great people, they’re just missing a means, resources, domain knowledge, technology, and that was really interesting for me to come join Concora because as a lot of people know, construction, I would say it’s not the most technology or digitally service industry, and this whole journey that we’re on in helping commercial building product manufacturers sell more products as it’s a fairly common goal for big companies and small companies, and here at Concora we’re able to help them sell more products to commercial buildings by making it easier for their design community, such as architects, engineers, and contractors do business online.
So can you talk us a little bit through our main offering, the digital experience platform and how it really helps the BPM get their products out there to AECs and then how it also enables the buyer journey for the AEC?
Yeah, absolutely. And for folks that are listening, a BPM is building product manufacturer and it’s effectively a manufacturer that sells into the commercial buildings that sells to architects, engineers and contractors, and that’s the other term Graham’s using is AEC, which is, the design community, it’s architects, engineers, and contractors.
And going back to when I started, we really didn’t have a solid idea of what value we’re providing. And I’d say could be common with companies that have a good product and they sell some of it and it’s providing value in various places, but what is the real business outcome? And we’ve been on that journey for the last four years, I wouldn’t say it was like a straight shot North, but certainly I think in the right direction, and it does come back down to what is the value you’re providing to your customers and it’s these manufacturers.
And what we know they’re trying to grow commercial sales commercially, and they have a residential business and a commercial business, and as we alluded to earlier, it’s harder to sell to the commercial side, it’s a two to four year sales cycle from when projects get built like if it’s a hotel or a bank or something, and there’s multiple constituents, there’s architects that design it, there’s building owners that want to sponsor the project, there’s engineers and specifiers.
And so if we really look back to that, we found a good problem we could solve, which is in a digital world, when an architect is designing a hospital or a hotel versus 15 years ago, they want to go to the manufacturer’s website. It’s all digital today. They build 3D buildings, they have digital content, it’s not a paper catalog, it’s not a blueprint, and that requires the architect to do business differently if they want to make money.
And by the way, they don’t have a lot of time to do that, their time to design a building has shrunk in half and therefore the profitability every hour is money that they’re losing. And so the main method today is that based on the behavior of what the architect and the engineer contractor wants is by far, they need to go to the manufacturer’s website.
They’re not calling them, they’re not visiting them as much. You don’t have sales reps go to the architecture’s site with these physical samples or paper catalogs. It does happen, but it’s a very digital experience today. And so we’ve realized that a lot of manufacturers, if they want to do business online and attract these architects, we know if your web experience doesn’t provide that architect or that engineer what they need, 50% of the time, they’re just going somewhere else because it’s too many clicks, it’s not the right content, not the right tools.
And so for us, we’ve understood that problem, and we looked at a solution for our manufacturers of how we can white label or bolt on a web experience that makes it very easy for those AECs to do business online. And what we found out is that a lot of our manufacturers, they understand that they need a great digital experience in today’s digital world, but a lot of times they’re challenged, they don’t have the right tools. So they have CMS, which doesn’t really understand that buyer journey for the commercial experience. They have WordPress, they don’t really have the technical knowledge of a 3D model, for example, or sustainability.
And that’s how we’ve helped, and we’ve seen a lot of growth over the last year really making it simple and keeping it to good website, good tools, good experience to help that architect do business online with the manufacturer.
Yeah, and I agree with all of that. That was a lot, but I agree with that. I think one of the cool things for us is that Kip and I have been with the company since we’ve done this digital experience platform. And I think where it started, or what was really interesting when we started was figuring out initially how is a building product manufacturer going to maintain control over their data?
Because like you’re saying, in terms of how the industry is changing and in terms of how business is being done online, even more so now in particular with the COVID-19 stuff going on, how important it is for the BPM to have a place to go where they can manage their content and be able to distribute that content in a really fast and efficient manner.
And I think that was really the foundation was figuring out, okay, on back end side as we call it in terms of the manufacturer, how are we going to make it easy for them to get their data into a system and how are we going to make sure that they’re able to distribute it in a way that makes sense?
And also that works with their brand when their products are pushed to the AECs online. And I just want to get into that for a little bit, Kip, in terms of how we try to make that as easy as possible for the BPM also for them to be self-service as well in terms of managing their content.
We talk to the customers a lot, both on the manufacturing side. We’ll do surveys, phone interviews, emails. We also do a lot of research on the design community side. So the architects, engineers, and contractors, and after you talk to enough of them, you get the pickup what’s important to the design community, the architects, what’s important to the marketing group of a manufacturer.
And quite a lot of the times, any given manufacturer doesn’t know that completely, and therefore it’s hard. And then if they do know it, it’s really hard because they need then an engineer or software developer to be able to create that, and most marketing agencies aren’t well equipped to build these journeys, these web experiences for the building product manufacturer.
So if I had to sum it up again, it does come down to if an architect’s building a hotel and they want to place all these products, it could be a bathtub, a sink, it could be the lighting, you can imagine there’s like 100 of these, or a couple hundred of these manufacturer’s products they have to design and put into a 3D model, may meet sustainability requirements.
Every time they do that, they want to go to the manufacturer’s website and find content that they need, and its specification, 3D models as we talked about, sustainability information. And what we know, if they’re spending too much time, if it’s missing or inaccurate, they’re leaving and we’ve boiled it down to what is a good web experience? And what is a web experience that’s really geared towards the commercial design community, the architect versus the residential customer? And it’s a little nuance, right?
So by enlarge, an architect and engineer is looking, they already know what they need, and they’re looking away to find it on your site with the minimum amount of clicks. Sometimes they do research, so it’s very important that you put case studies, metadata, project information, technical information about your products. They are a homeowner that just looks at a photo, looks at the cost, they have more technical requirements, so we call that good content. So good web experience, good content.
And the other thing that we want to be able to provide that design community on the website for the manufacturers, good tools. And if it takes an hour for them to do what they need on your website versus two minutes, that’s very appealing. That drives loyalty, and an example would be a subcontractor.
If they’re wanting to bid on a project, let’s say they’re a plumbing subcontractor and they’re bidding on that hotel to the GC, then they’ll say, “Hey, I want to use this company’s plumbing product, so I have to create a submittal,” which is a selection of products, and you put them into a document and you submit it to the GC for approval.
That can take a long time, and for a manufacturer to realize I can help support that and make that easier, make it efficient, so that’s an example of tools that we can provide. So between the good website, good content and good tools, we see that all our feedback from the design community falls under that, and that’s what we’re trying to provide to the manufacturer.
Yeah, and I think another thing that’s great about the overall platform experience is for the manufacturers, we basically enable the ability for the manufacturer and the architect or the engineer, or the contractor, to connect via the platform. So I was wondering if you could take our listeners a little bit through our analytics suite and how that’s been efficient for our manufacturers.
Yeah, absolutely. And so as you alluded to Graham, first and foremost is providing a good buyer journey on the manufacturer’s website, it’s white labeled, the URLs, the manufacturers, you’re providing a good website content and tools, that’s 90% of the battle, and it’s your digital storefront. So that’s what we provide.
And what’s also very nice is because we know if you want to grow commercial sales, it’s not about people going to your website, and definitely that’s going to help because they’re going to specify your product, they’re going to purchase your product, you may not know who it is.
And so for us, we want to be able to further close the loop. And as Graham mentioned with the analytics, we want to enable that marketing team and sales people with those people that are downloading 3D models, CAD, three-part spec. If you look at any given manufacturer’s website, I would suggest 95% of them don’t know who’s downloading important technical content.
And that could be for large companies, 10,000 people that you don’t know who are potential customers. And we know through our studies, even if they download your stuff, inspect your stuff, there’s a 50% chance you’re not purchased, and so it’s really important that you have a conversation with that architect, with that contractor.
So not only can you secure that current project and purchase, but for future ones. And so how we help that is that when Joe the architect from New Jersey goes to the manufacturer’s website and they download a 3D model or a sustainability document, we then provide the manufacturer with that interaction.
So it’s a lead, it’s a top funnel lead that says, Joe just visited, they downloaded a 3D model, it’s for this project and this time. That is really nice. It’s a highly qualified lead. A lot of times when we talk to manufacturers, they get these generalized leads, maybe a question, or they have a project lead from Dodge or some other company where you’re not sure if they’re interested, you’re not sure if they need your products.
And so with our interaction data, you have really good intent, and that’s a lot of the battle with the sales and the marketing is knowing who it is and knowing that they’re qualified, and that’s how we help.
And I think that is one of the things I think really can separate us from other potential CMS or anything else that a manufacturer wants to use is the ability to continue, as you said, to potentially start and then build upon our relationship with someone who happens upon your products.
For a manufacturer, I think that’s just really critical and something that we’re constantly striving to figure out how to improve. How do we continue to embolden that relationship? I think is a really important thing for us from a product perspective is making sure that that is understood and iterated upon.
I want to ask you also about one of our more recent deployments, Cherokee Brick, and what went into building that relationship from your standpoint. Because you also work a lot in marketing, and you have your hands kind of all over the place in terms of you’re very hands-on in a good way I think as CEO.
With Cherokee Brick in terms of everything you worked on and the sales team worked on, and our team, on product side and engineering worked on, just sort of how that collaboration works together internally in terms of making sure that our customers are happy, and in this case, I think Cherokee Brick is quite happy with what we’ve done so far with them.
Yeah, Cherokee is a great customer, Cherokee Brick and they, I would say represent a lot of what I hear with other manufacturers, and we typically talk to the marketing group and its website and web experience is generally owned by the marketing group, and sometimes we talk to the sales group because they also have a partnership and an interest in what we do, because it grows their business and provides them with better contacts and possibly the owner and the founder, depending on the size of the company.
So for Cherokee, I’d say they’re very common in a way of other manufacturers because you have a marketing leader, they make bricks, they make a brick for home exteriors, for buildings, very awesome design and many different colors and patterns, and they’re challenged just like with any manufacturers, they realize the importance of the website, and they’re not able to provide that either because of resources or skillset or investment.
And so we, as with other manufacturers, we’re able to one, not only educate of the importance of this design and Sonia, by the way was very impressive at Cherokee Brick. Her sales team understood the need to have a digital presence so that these architects and designers can go to their site, specify their brick products and do more business.
However, their website was not capable of doing that today or months ago when we were talking to Sonia because of their CMS solution using WordPress and not being able to really publish the important content and the experience needed for architects and designers.
And so we talked to her, this was right after, I guess, when COVID became pretty prominent and what you were saying earlier, the need of having a digital strategy because of the face-to-face ways and trade shows, they’ve gone to the wayside and probably for most of this year.
And so she absolutely realized that, and after talking to us, understood that we could accelerate her objective of having this kind of digital presence for her commercial business, and we launched in about 30 to 60 days, we provided 3D content, wonderful experience. She had her sales team involved. We launched, it’s white labeled off their corporate website, cherokeebrick.com, and she’s a static. Their salespeople are involved, they’re able to point their designers and architects to this commercial portal that we’re white labeling for them and nothing but praise.
And we see the results because we can see the people that are downloading content, sending messages, requesting for quotes, and with our sales team involvement, it just provides that much more of a qualified interaction for those folks to go after. So we’re definitely looking forward to all the other innovations that we’re going to provide to Sonia and Cherokee Brick.
A few of them is a submittal package that is tailored to them, another will be the CRM integration, and there’s innovations that we’re making on curated search. Anything that we hear through the design community feedback of how we can make their life easier around good web, good content, good tools.
Definitely. And yeah, I think they’re quite happy so far and we’re going to do our damnedest to ensure that the happiness continues and gets better from here. And I think we’re going to wrap it up. And next week we’ll be talking with Jeffrey Cooper, our customer success program manager about what he does to keep our customers happy.
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