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Building Product Manufacturers: Test Your Understanding of Technical Marketing

Apr 2014

This article follows a previous one that focused on building product manufacturers and their goal of influencing design professionals. The purpose then as now is to help manufacturers understand the design and documentation process and to get their products specified and sold. As we said previously, designers don’t actually buy anything from manufacturers. Since the world is full of substitute technologies and brands, architects have many choices as they design and document the buildings they work on.

It helps to remember this sequence; design professionals have to ‘find’ a product, before they can ‘choose’ it, before they can ‘use’ it. A product means something to a designer because it solves a problem. But before manufacturers set out to tell the design team how great their product is, it helps to understand the kinds of issues important to all manufacturers regardless of the products they make.

In working with manufacturer sales and marketing teams, we often use a quiz to assess their level of understanding about how some of the technical marketing pieces fit together. Here are five more questions to think about. Once again — spoiler alert! Cover up the paragraph below the question until after you have thought about it and considered the answers provided. Good luck.

1.) Which piece of information is generally NOT found in the working drawings?

A  Plan view
B  Submittal requirements
C  Building section
D  East elevation
E  Hardware schedule

One of the important work products of the design team is the project documentation that becomes part of the contract between the owner and the contractor. The drawings say ‘what’ to do and the specifications say ‘how’ to do those things. The drawings consist of dimensioned, graphical information that conveys physical relationships, enabling building elements to be measured and counted. Common to drawings are plans, sections, elevations and schedules. One would expect to find ‘submittal requirements’ in the project specifications. These might be documents or certifications or other elements of information that the contractor is obliged to submit to the owner through the architect. Submittals might include warranties, maintenance recommendations, and labeling certifications. (The correct answer is B.)

2.) Building Information Modeling (BIM) has great potential and its adoption will come about as clients demand it.

A  True
B  False

Design professionals are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to deliver better productivity and this has led to responses such as BIM. This is an outgrowth of 2-D computer aided drafting or CAD. BIM is a technology in its infancy in terms of techniques and adoption by the industry. 3-D BIM objects can carry with them a stream of information that might include cost, size, color, or part number. BIM objects can be used to calculate the energy consumption of a building or to generate 3-D visualization drawings of the project, or to generate specifications, construction schedules or cost estimates. This technology has huge potential and will continue to grow and firms will convert to BIM as their clients demand it. We recommend manufacturers monitor growth of BIM and be prepared to respond. (The correct answer is A.)

3.) Whenever possible, why should sales representatives call on specific projects at the design firm?

A  It’s the best opportunity to meet sales quotas
B  Time spent with the representative can be billable hours
C  Firms like to have someone buy lunch
D  Everyone in the firm is available to meet
E  Everyone in the firm can take a break to attend Design professionals are busy people.

They are responsible for keeping up with an amazing amount of information in order to get projects designed, bid and built, so they have no interest in helping sales representatives meet their quotas. There is a long history of ‘lunch and learn’ presentations in design firms and this is a great way to get their attention and deliver continuing education content. But the point here is that design professionals invoice their clients based on the time and resources expended on the project. If the time they spend with a product representative can legitimately be applied to the project, in theory everybody wins. The owner gets a better building. The firm learns something and can deliver a better design solution. And the manufacturer potentially gets their product specified on a current project and perhaps future ones as well. (The correct answer is B.)

4.) Which of the following determines whether or not a product will be successful?

A  Personal relationships
B  Technical support
C  Product reputation
D  Company reputation
E  All of the above

Company reputation often correlates with time in the marketplace; companies with longer experience tend to have better reputations. Company reputations are hard to win, but very easy to lose. The product’s reputation is different from the company’s reputation. This factor is about the history of the product, its reliability, and past experience that members of the firm have had with it. Personal relationships come down to the level of trust and dependability of the company’s representatives and these are based on complex relationships between people that develop over time. Effective technical support is measured by whether promotional and educational input is of high quality and delivered during the right phase of the project. Effective follow up has to be done at the right times. Architects want to be innovators in design but they don’t want to do product development for manufacturers, so they depend on technical support in the product selection and documentation process. (The correct answer is E.)

5.) Which statement is most correct about design professionals?

A  They don’t buy anything from building product manufacturers
B  They are eager life-long learners
C  They are required to get annual continuing education
D  They are sensitive to liability
E  All of the above

Under the category of design professionals we place architects, engineers, interior designers, landscape architects and specifiers. Depending on the nature of a product and who specifies it, manufacturers may need to reach out to different individuals. The business of design is about solving problems which might be related to acoustics, fire safety, structural strength, visual appeal, energy consumption, durability or any of hundreds of other types of design issues. It also helps to understand that the only reason a product means something to a designer is that it solves a problem. Designers don’t buy anything from manufacturers but they are voracious consumers of information about products. And they are eager life-long learners because they are required to receive continuing education hours each year to maintain their license to practice and membership in professional associations. Design professionals are highly sensitive to liability, so understanding this will help manufacturers build relationships. Not being sensitive to this can drastically shorten those relationships. (The correct answer is E.)

How did you do on the quiz?