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Test Your Understanding of Technical Marketing

Mar 2014

Over the years we have conducted many training sessions for building product manufacturers. Simply stated, their goals are usually to influence design professionals and the specification process, and to get their products specified and sold on the project. It’s all really very easy when you say it fast!

The reality is there are many moving parts to this process. Designers don’t actually buy anything from manufacturers and the world is full of substitute technologies and brands within those technologies. Design professionals have to ‘find’ a manufacturer’s product, before they can ‘choose’ it. And getting chosen has to occur before they can ‘use’ the product by specifying it on the project.

Your product may be designed to solve problems related to sustainability, energy use, fire or acoustics, color or texture, reduced installation cost or many other aspects of design. But before you ever have the opportunity to convey to the design team just how important your product is to them (and ultimately to the building owner), it helps to have an understanding of big picture issues important to all manufacturers, regardless of what they make.

In working with manufacturers and their sales and marketing people, we often use a detailed quiz to assess their basic level of understanding about how these parts and pieces all work together. Here are a few of those questions and potential answers.

1.) Which of the following is NOT one of the primary changes affecting business today?

A Changes in the information economy
B Changes in practice and industry
C Changes in having more leisure time
D Changes in the value of time and money

It’s been said the only constant is change and that rings especially true for businesses. Changes in the information economy, in the practice of design and in the economics of construction are fundamental to understanding how to win in the specified construction products marketplace. ‘More leisure time’ is clearly not a problem for most people, especially busy design professionals who struggle to keep up with client needs, continuing education requirements and changing codes and sustainability standards. The correct answer is C.

2.) Which one of the five must generally be licensed to protect the public’s health, safety and welfare?

A Building Owner
B Designer
C Builder
D Supplier
E Regulator

Licensed design professionals are members of a learned profession that provide services based on the public’s health, safety and welfare with regard to the design, construction and maintenance of the built environment. The State expects licensed professionals to exercise their learning to make judgments about compliance. It does not expect licensed professionals to advocate for personal views or beliefs. Licensed professionals are held to a higher standard of care and have a duty to care for their clients and the public at large. Non-professionals do not have this wider duty. The correct answer is B.

3.) Which of the following is generally NOT characteristic of the builder?

A They ‘think’ rather than ‘do’
B They are risk takers
C They have a contract with the owner
D They must build according to the contract documents
E  They are entrepreneurial

Several characteristics of builders immediately come to mind when we think of the contractors who will be involved on any given construction project. They are known to be risk takers with an entrepreneurial view of the world, otherwise why would they do what they do? They have a contract with the owner that calls for building according to the contract documents, the plans and specifications prepared for the owner by the design team. The point is we want them to perform under the contract and carry out the wishes of the people who pay them to get the job done. In that sense we want them to ‘do’ rather than ‘think.’ The correct answer is A.

4.) CSI’s MasterFormat is the most widely-used master specification system in the industry.

A True
B False

CSI is an organization with membership made up of design professionals, product manufacturers and contractors. MasterFormat is a series of six digit classification numbers used to organize and classify building product information and structure specification documents used on the project. Knowing where your products are categorized is important but the point here is that MasterFormat is not a master specification system, like BSD’s SpecLink or AIA’s Masterspec for example. MasterFormat is simply an organizational format upon which many information tools are based. The correct answer is B.

5.) Which of the following is NOT one of the main recognized methods of specifying products?

A Reference standards method
B Proprietary method
C Performance method
D Installed cost method
E Descriptive method

There are four recognized ways of specifying a product, system or technology. The performance method describes the requirements that will be used to measure what the product must do. Then there are three forms of prescriptive specifications; they may list industry reference standards, or they may be descriptive in nature, describing systems in generic terms. The proprietary method may be used where a brand name is associated with the product. Overall, we find the best project specifications use all four methods. So a “Basis-of-Design” specification containing performance requirements, reference standards, generic descriptions and proprietary brand names usually makes for strongest specification. The correct answer is D.

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