By: Kendall Jones on September 15th, 2020
5 Tips for Increasing Your Specification Rate
As a building product manufacturer, getting your products specified is key to getting them sold. You need to understand how architects are researching and selecting the products they specify. To get inside the mind of an architect, you need to answer these questions:
- What role do architects expect BPMs to have in the design and specification process?
- What resources and information are architects looking at when specifying products?
- What drives the decision-making process for specifying building products?
- What expectations are there when it comes to advising about products and writing specifications?
In the American Institute of Architects’ report, The Architect’s Journey to Specification 2019, members were surveyed to answer those questions and more regarding how architects select the products they specify. Based on the responses to this study, we’ve put together five tips for increasing your specification rate and building better relationships with architects.
Since the last Architect’s Journey to Specification in 2016, there have been some notable trend shifts in how and why architects go about specifying products, including who they are getting advice from, where they are learning about new products, and changing digital needs.
Key takeaways from the 2019 report include:
- Consultants are seeing their role as an architect’s trusted advisor rise while BPM’s role is decreasing.
- Architects are using social media more to learn about new products.
- Architects are becoming more willing to experiment with what products they specify rather than just relying on brands they are familiar with from past projects.
- Architects are copying and pasting specs from past projects more than they were three years ago.
- Architects feel that BPMs are not meeting their needs during the specification stage.
- Architects are most likely to specify a manufacturer brand even when specs aren’t closed.
- Younger architects are relying more on digital product libraries and less on digital product descriptions and product specifications.
Update & Optimize Your Website
Architects are still primarily responsible when it comes to researching new products and building materials at their firms. The top sources of information they turn to for researching products are your website, continuing education offering, and your reps. It’s important you make it easy for them to navigate and search your website to conduct research. Your site should be optimized for search so architects can quickly find your site when doing web searches.
Make your website easy to navigate, architects don’t want to spend hours on your site trying to find the info they need. If they can’t find what they are looking for quickly, chances are they’ll go somewhere else. Contact information should be located on every page of your website, either in the footer or header.
Each product you offer should have its own page. At the very least, your product pages should have downloadable product specifications, high-quality images or video of the product, product descriptions, downloadable digital models and digital libraries of your products such as CAD and BIM, and CSI formatted specifications.
Warranty information, environmental ratings, technical product descriptions, installation instructions, availability and lead time, pricing information, design guides, and case studies are also pieces of information architects feel BPMs should do a better job of providing.
Other information that might help architects select your products include product comparison charts, building product declarations such as environmental product declarations (EPDs) and health product declarations (HPDs), quantity calculators, and online tools.
Promote Your Products on Social Media
While still not a primary source of learning about new products, architects are turning more to social media for design information and to research new building materials. Use images and videos to showcase your products on social media, highlight projects using your building materials, and focus on key selling points when describing your products. Make sure you include links back to your website or product pages so architects can do further research.
The AIA report doesn’t mention what social media sites architects are using, the top seven in 2020 according to Search Engine Journal are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Reddit. This doesn’t mean you have to be on all of them. Do some research and find out where your competitors are and where the architects you are trying to reach are and focus on those to start with. Facebook might have the most users, but LinkedIn will probably put you in front of more decision makers. With a little experimentation, you’ll find the best mix for your company and your products.
Providing Continuing Education
Architects are required to obtain a certain number of continuing education units to maintain their licenses or fulfill (AIA) membership requirements. Architects are turning to continuing education less to learn about a specific BPM but are using them increasingly more to do product research.
Webinars, lunch and learns and other continuing education offerings are a great way to get in front of architects and build brand awareness. These presentations should help educate architects about your product category or provide other information to expand their knowledge base. They should not be glorified commercials about your specific product offerings.
Again, the goal is to establish your company as an expert and be a go-to resource of information for your product category, not just your products. This keeps you top of mind when decision makers are choosing who gets specified on a project. Make sure your continuing education offerings have been registered and approved by the AIA through their Continuing Education System (CES).
Become a Trusted Advisor
Manufactures are facing an uphill battle when it comes to having influence over architects during the design and specification stages. Consultants have greater influence over architects when it comes to product selection than they did just three years ago, according to the report. BPM influence is declining as a result of not meeting expectations of architects.
Architects are expecting more from BPMs than they have in the past. In addition to providing advice about products and whole product categories, architects increasingly want BPMs to write specifications for them. There is also a growing demand for BPMs to review and edit specifications for architects.
With architects becoming more experimental and more likely to research products before they specify, BPMs need to take advantage of this opportunity to reestablish themselves as trusted advisors to gain more influence over what products architects specify.
Be Responsive to Architects
We’ve already covered two of the main areas where architects feel BPMs could improve, websites and support with specifications. Improving rep responsiveness is the third way that BPMs can improve architect satisfaction.
Reps should be experts on their products and product categories. Your reps don’t have to know every technical detail about every product, but they should be knowledgeable enough to speak confidently about your product offerings when meeting with architects. If a rep doesn’t have the required information when meeting with architects, they should be able to produce it in a timely fashion. Better yet, they should be able to quickly navigate your website and provide that information.
Final Thoughts on Getting Specified
Trends are changing rapidly at architecture firms when it comes to specifying products. With more architects copying and pasting specifications from past projects, consultants having greater influence, and architects relying heavily on products they are familiar with, it’s harder than ever for manufacturers to get their foot in the door to get their products specified.
BPMs need to take advantage of the fact firms are growing more open minded and experimental. Staying on top of these changing trends and improving the areas that architects feel BPMs are falling short of expectations is going to be vital going forward to ensure your products get specified.
Want more insights into the specification process through the minds of architects? Download The Architect's Journey to Specification from the AIA and ConstructConnect.
About Kendall Jones
Kendall Jones is the Editor in Chief at ConstructConnect. He has been writing about the construction industry for years, covering a wide range of topics from safety and technology to industry news and operating insights.