Marketing to Specifiers – Part 1

Marketing to Specifiers – Part 1

Posted 18th August 2016 by Joanna Marshall

In the first half of this two-part article, we set out the history of marketing in construction products and how it has developed (or not!) over the years. Part 2 will offer ten ideas as to how a marketing plan can align to a digital age.

The successful marketing of construction products and materials is essential to the growth of a brand.  Manufacturers want specifiers to not only to be aware of their product but to also understand it. This is a crowded marketplace and the products are complex, so often it is hard to be heard.

In years gone by, the marketing of construction products was very one dimensional. Display ads were used in magazines such as the Architects Journal or Building Design and manufacturers would then produce spectacular ring binders to shout loudest on the library shelves. These libraries were installed by the RIBA and updated through monthly visits by an efficient librarian. The printing of binders and brochures was huge and incredibly wasteful - the strategy was usually to throw enough at the target and some will stick.  Technical support was at the end of a phone and the specifier would have to call to ask queries and wait for the specification would be "faxed" over. Sales reps would make visits to specifiers offices, drinking coffee and bringing samples.  Trade shows were also very popular. The bigger and better the stand the more impressive your product was. Giveaways were an essential part - you would return from events laden down with pens, mugs, notepads and even the odd Gonk.

All of this cost millions but no one ever stopped to think if it was actually having any impact - it's just what everyone did.  If your brochure was a little bit shinier or your stand was a little bigger or your freebies a bit more expensive, then you were leading the way.

The reality is, as the generations have changed, the marketing hasn't kept pace.

Due to increasing technology and recession, much of the experience in the industry has moved on. This means the industry and its specifiers are younger.  Specifiers are increasingly Generation Y, however, marketers from the manufacturers are often baby boomers or older Generation X. They don't understand Generation Y or their dependence on the Internet.

In a recent meeting with a leading manufacturer, they were very keen to show me their new campaign which revolved around a mug, coaster and glossy brochure. They were somewhat surprised when I told them what happens to the tens of thousands of pounds of investment into their campaign.  Most of the mugs will go into the back of the office kitchen cupboard with the thousands of other identical mugs. The coasters will probably just go in the bin. Why would you put a flimsy branded coaster next to your £600 iPhone - which you have bought because it looks great?

Your beautiful brochure will at best be flicked through, left on a desk for a while because they don't think it is right to throw it out straight away, then around two weeks later it will go in the bin. There may be one or two baby boomers in the office who might keep hold of it just in case - they will put it in their drawer where it will probably stay until their retirement. This information is out of date as soon as it is printed and would never comply with any quality process.  Even if someone did want to keep the brochure there would be nowhere to put it. Designers no longer have libraries. They have come across a thing called the Internet. They can get everything they want by typing in a couple of words into their computer. Not only can they get an up to date brochure but they can get a digital object and all of the data which can be used to design the building.

No longer do specifiers want this information available just at their desk - they need it everywhere, anywhere and all of the time! This is how they get all their information. They don't keep takeaway menus in the drawer anymore they order online from the car using an App.  If they want to specify a tap, they want to do it when they think about it not, when they get to their desk.

We are in a digital age where emerging generations expect the Internet of Everything. This has affected every industry.

Many in construction have seen this change coming and are ready. They are taking market share because they understand what their customers want and how they want it served. They are the companies who have a culture of innovation and who will prosper in the future.

Unfortunately, there are many others who are dominated by people who don't want to understand and will not be around in a few years time. They will pack up their trade show stand, bin their branded pens and burn their glossy ring binders.

RIP.

Part 2 coming next week...

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