Contributed by Michael Chambers
I recently had the opportunity to discuss specification marketing strategies with a former publisher of a national architecture magazine. I mentioned that a very powerful strategy was to ensure that the appropriate competitors are named in manufacturers guide specifications. A look of abject horror greeted that remark which, of course, caused me to launch into a primer on specification marketing to design professionals.
Additionally, there has been a significant discussion on 4Specs.com about what specifiers want in manufacturers guide specifications. Interestingly, naming appropriate competitors was mentioned numerous times.
Specification marketing is second only to continuing education presentations as the most effective branding and marketing tool for construction product manufacturers. A product representative must be a good educator and highly knowledgeable about specifications to be truly effective with design professionals.
While the industry understands competitive advantage in terms of faster, better, or cheaper, a product representative's competitive advantage lies in the following 3 critical elements:
It is critical for specifiers and designers to understand how not to use or apply a product or system. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive but it is not. Many, if not most, product failures begin with the designers and specifiers not understanding how to appropriately use and apply a product or system. More than anything else help specifiers avoid mistakes.
Every competent manufacturer and product representative intimately knows and understands who the competition is and how their products and systems stack up. Share that information with designers and specifiers and instantly you become the go-to expert and resource.
Sole source specifications are a powerful magnet for substitutions. Make certain that specifiers and designers clearly understand why you are suggesting competitive products and why you consider them equivalent. Remember, there is no such thing as “equal” products, just equivalent.
Offering specifiers a list of equivalent products allows product representatives to level the playing field and narrow the competitive arena. Be careful to ensure that appropriate competitors are named or your reputation may be damaged.
Solutions NOT Products
The final, and arguably, most important element of competitive advantage is the product representative=s relationship with designers and specifiers. Provide solutions not products. Sell yourself, your expertise, your industry knowledge not your products.
Whenever possible, request a copy of the specification and offer to review and comment on project specific information. Any specifier worth their salt will provide project specifications for review. This is a significant opportunity to expand relationship, build credibility, and find out what the specifiers knows about your product.
In the final analysis, what a manufacturer may reasonably expect from a specifier is a well-crafted specification that lists the appropriate competitors. Who better to help the specifier accomplish that task that a knowledgeable product representative?
Protect your competitive advantage by supporting specifiers in producing complete specifications that contain appropriate requirements and truly equivalent manufacturers and products.
(Editor's Note: Michael D. Chambers, FCSI, FAIA, CCS is Associate Vice President and Senior Project Specifier for HGA and is responsible for the specifications in the four California offices and is principal of MCA Specifications. Michael also sits on the CONSTRUCT Education Advisory Council with Let's Fix Construction Co-Founders, Cherise Lakeside and Eric D. Lussier.
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The NEW Product Rep University Program has been designed to meet the needs of Manufacturer's Representatives of Architectural Building Products, as integral members of the project team. The program features a full day of education (6 sessions) to help you stay up to date on current trends in the industry, and refine your interactions and relationships with design professionals. Get additional details on the Product Rep University here: https://www.constructshow.com/en/education/ProductRepUniversity.html
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