Construction is about building things, and construction products are things you can touch, see and sometimes drop on your foot.
So it is something of a contradiction that so much architectural specification is carried out without actually seeing the objects; that is why it is important to remember that for the specifier, the publication, web or paper itself is the product.
This is why the form of your communication and its quality are deciding factors in influencing specification and purchasing decisions.
Your product quality, benefits and appropriateness will be inferred from how your information is presented and what it contains.
This directly affects the effectiveness of your sales message, establishing difference, maintaining price margins and increasing your capacity to reach, inform and persuade.
Your brochure, website or technical download must be as good as your product or service. If it is of inferior quality then it can actively dissuade specification.
There are some basic items that should be included in, or at least considered for, your marketing materials. You don’t have to put every one in, but if you don’t then it should be left out for a good reason.
The right information
Your construction audience must be reassured that choosing your product or service is the best and safest.
Specifiers will often need your information to show to others in what is effectively a hidden purchasing group; your information must also inform and convince that group as well as providing support for the specifier’s choice.
Conveying benefits, whether to the specifier (for ease of use or safeness of selection) or the purchaser (for price or speed of delivery) is vital.
In most situations providing hard facts and data is essential, but all too often this information is presented in an unattractive – or worse – unintelligible way. Skill is needed to do use technical data convincingly and attractively.
Your data varies in usefulness, accuracy and authority. You must understand your own data before you can turn it into information which will become the evidence that influences others. Consider each of these categories and how your own data corresponds with them.
Background information Your company, its reputation and strengths.
Quality controls Great importance is attached to neutral evaluations – for example, British Standards, Agrément Board certificates, etc. Their findings substantiate your product claims.
Service back-up The assistance that you are capable of and will provide to the project team.
Track record It is of great reassurance to buyers to know that your product has been successfully used by others, particularly where relevant to the buyer’s own project.
Design inspiration Examples and ideas to prompt selection of not only your type of product, but your specific product. You should show what has been achieved, what the possibilities are and which techniques are used.
Technical guidance Enabling the specifier and user to know about and comply with factors associated with your products, such as fire resistance, sound absorption and so on.
Selection criteria Describing your range, with an overview of products and their attributes, options, benefits and applications.
Product information Data specifically relating to individual products. Sets of product information should have a clear and common structure and contain convincing technical evidence.
Detailing examples How your products can be successfully incorporated into projects.
Specification texts Methods for properly documented product specification, using a recognised industry format such as NBS.
Economic arguments Figures relating to price, cost in use, lifetime cost, availability and so on.
Environmental credentials This is of ever-growing importance and for many construction clients environmental considerations are paramount in the specification or bid process. You need to demonstrate that you are aware of the environmental impact of your product and are actively working to mitigate that impact.
Site processes Off-loading, storage, handling, installing, protection, cleaning and maintenance are things that specifier and contractors need to know about.
Drawing styles differ between production engineering drawings and architectural drawings. Therefore your drawings must be prepared to suit the needs of your market.
Architects are very aware of and like looking at drawings so it is a task that requires knowledge and understanding.
Construction is about building things that people can see, touch and experience. Therefore photographs of real products used in real buildings are essential.
Your photograph must carry the message that your product actually exists, it functions, it is attractive or durable, its material is of this nature or colour. Photographs must present the product in the best possible light.
Thus a photograph featuring your product will undermine your efforts if the lighting is poor, the foreground is untidy and the building unattractive or badly presented.
To sum up:
- Ensure your information reflects your product’s inherent safety, reliability and ease of use;
- Convey benefits, benefits and benefits;
- Positive first impressions do not depend upon gimmicks;
- Boring technical data is offputting – properly presented technical information is vital.
Rick Osman is a partner in Highwire, a design and marketing agency that specialises in the construction industry, and one of the team that created www.hotel-standards.com as well as being a CIMCIG committee member. For further details about construction marketing visit www.cimcig.org.