Having worked in marketing to the construction sector for over 25 years, I am often asked what is it about architects that sets them apart? Basing this on my own experience and the latest research, I see that architects definitely inhabit a different space within our industry.
We know that architects require a real breadth of understanding, needing to draw and do maths; to juggle with angles and calculations; make things look good; understand the properties of materials; conform to regulations; keep up with trends; make buildings that are efficient; comply with planning; enhance people’s lives and continually learn about new processes, materials and changes to building regs. No wonder then that to become an architect you need to study for 7 years. Yes, the same period of study required as doctors and vets.
Having to continually balance all these requirements, it therefore stands to reason that architects need your help, as a manufacturer, to keep them informed about the products and services you offer?
At this point you have to factor in two things. Firstly, architects are the most sold to profession in the construction industry. Secondly, they are not superhuman. They have so many things to consider (as listed above) that they will only want to hear about your products and services when they have a relevant project.
This is why having an ongoing communications programme to architects is so important in keeping your brand and products top of mind when they need to find you.
If your brand is strong and you continue to invest in the touchpoints where architects are going to be exposed to your brand messaging, then you’re more likely to be specified as part of an architect’s project detailing.
So, what are those key touchpoints?
Recent research, The Construction Media Index 2017, tells us that the vast majority still read hardcopy magazines and journals more than they access online publications. Articles and case studies are a good source of quality content and information, with case studies, especially in the younger cohort, being valued for the inspiration that they can provide. Unsurprisingly, those under 35 are more likely to read online blogs and articles, with more than half of respondents reading blogs and online articles at least once a week.
The pace for professionals to use social networks has increased over the last 3 years, with 84% of respondents using social networks for work, compared to 2015 when only 60% used them in this way, with the three main platforms, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter being used by 81%, 75% and 45% of respondents, respectively.
When it comes to accessing information and learning, a high percentage refer to the leading product directories, with many attending conferences and exhibitions, mainly to learn about new products and services, but also to be updated on current thinking.
CPD continues to be a very important method of learning and therefore a key tool for manufacturers, with 90% of respondents attending between one and six during the past year. The preference is still for CPDs to be delivered in their practice, but organised events and online CPD’s are also widely used.
This all points to a need to invest in quality content. Whether that’s placing feature articles, case studies, or writing and disseminating white papers or compiling and presenting CPD’s, specifiers will seek them out, at the time of their need. Leveraging the key architectural media, both in print and digitally, through forming strong editorial (and commercial) relationships will gain you site visits, extended case studies and comment pieces that give you valuable brand visibility.
But as well as looking at how you gain greater traction for your brand, it’s what you do as a supplier which is key to gaining an architect’s trust and ongoing loyalty.
From recent research by NBS, it is clear that many specifiers want a relationship with manufacturers. Nearly four out of five respondents considered their ‘relationship with, and previous experience of, the manufacturer or product’ when deciding which product to choose. A similar number were influenced by the available ‘manufacturer support or assistance during design and construction’.
On an ongoing basis, the same set of results show that specifiers valued a good relationship with manufacturers, with a high percentage agreeing that ‘the process works best when manufacturers are involved at an early stage’, and that they ‘rely on manufacturers for help and support when selecting products’.
This is a point of focus for manufacturers. The more accurate, standardised and up-to-date the information provided to the specifier at the point of specification, the easier it is for the specification to be defended. Similarly, any strong technical advice that manufacturers can offer will help specifiers to create a robust specification ensuring their original design intent is retained.
So, what makes architects unusual and what can you do to make the difference? Architects are complex individuals with an extensive knowledge base facing requirements that seem overwhelming at times. They need all the help and assistance that they can get, but, only on their terms. From an architect’s perspective, the added value elements and technical back up you can provide is crucial. So, create the visibility, be credible and nurture and continue to invest in your relationship with them. Once their trust is gained and, as long as you don’t let them down, they will come to trust and rely on your continued support.